Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.

Falkirk Wheel, Panoramic view.
Image by Cameron Lyall, GNU license Wikimedia

12 July 2011

Summer Sociology Conference

My main research site for this course might be a bit different than most, if only because I chose to attend a conference at the University of Lancaster and treat the research itself as the postindustrial work that is being done. First off, I should say that my own interest in going to the University of Lancaster has to do with their Center for Mobilities Studies (CeMoRe) and the Mobilities Lab that has been set up there. Scholars like John Urry, Monika Buscher, Tim Dant, Adrian MacKenzie, and Elizabeth Shove have been pushing for the development of a mobilities paradigm in sociology research for about the last decade or so and their work has really begun to bear fruit. My interest in mobilities studies focuses on the basic claim that how we move in the world is a major factor in how we understand our world. Our access (or lack of access) to mobility structures a huge range of factors, from how we understand our networks of friends and family to the food we eat and the clothes we wear. Mobility, as a research paradigm, looks at these different forms and questions the impact they have upon our respective cultures and everyday actions. I think this work is almost entirely within our conception of postindustrial, as mobilities studies focuses on how humans navigate through place and space in their interactions with larger institutional, environmental, and social infrastructures. The work emerged from place/space literature and radical geography theory of the 60s, 70s, and 80s and really came from some of the pioneering work done in Actor-Network Theory, poststructural anthropology, deep ecology, and urban/cities research. My own research focuses on connecting the fields of rhetoric and professional writing with mobility research, in the hopes that rhetoric will be understood as a powerful force in recognizing how mobility networks function and how writing and communication help enable and shape these networks.

My goal at this conference, the Summer Sociology Conference was to present only some of the research I’ve been doing, as I was acutely aware that I was presenting to an audience that was focused on myriad sociology issues, not simply those connected to mobility, and certainly not those connected to rhetoric or professional writing. In fact, one of the conversations I had most often with other conference-goers involved me explaining what I was doing at the conference, since I wasn’t in sociology, and since I the UK doesn’t really understand rhetoric as a fields of research in the same way that it exists in the US.

My goals, I suppose, were to do several things in my 20 minute presentation. 1) I wanted to situate the work I was doing so that it could be understood by those in sociology, 2) I wanted to give sociologists the basics of the kinds of research I was doing in a different field, and 3) I wanted to explain and make an argument for the kind of research I was doing as complementary to the kind of work that these sociologists were doing. These three goals add up to the larger goal for me, which was a personal recognition as to how my research fit into a field of study that I am not entirely familiar with in a country that has a different conception of academic work than I am familiar with – it was, I guess, a way for me to locate my work within both an international and a cross-disciplinary perspective.

I’ll post more later about the exact nature of the presentation, but I thought it would be useful for me to explain why I chose a site that was a basically an academic conference for my research.

No comments: