RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014
||The academic self: reflections on co-production and knowledge
Stephanie Wyse (Royal Geographical Society (with IBG), UK)
Kelvin Mason (-)
||Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 4 (16:50 - 18:30)
||Sir Alexander Fleming Building, Room 119
Knowledge Co-production or Cultural Oppression? An Intercultural Approach to Research
Co-production within a research context requires researchers who already have knowledge of relevant processes and procedures to share this with participants. In theory, this type of approach should reduce the power differential that may otherwise exist between the researcher and participant, enabling both parties to function as equals. In practice, the complexities of the research process make true partnership working difficult to achieve. When researching with people with a learning disability (PWLD), the cognitive and communication demands of the research process may make this an even more challenging aspiration. This paper adopts and intercultural perspective and argues that whilst teaching people with a learning disability research skills and knowledge may have benefits, there is also a risk that the cultural norms of the research community may be imposed upon this client group. The academic community values a facility with words, and many PWLD have alternative means of communicating. For true co-production of knowledge to occur, the researcher needs to value the cultural expertise of the participant and explore the research topic using methods in which the person with the learning disability has strengths. These are frequently not word based. The author will draw upon her experiences of arts based research to explore means of minimising the risk of cultural oppression in research. In conclusion with will be argued that the principles of an inter-cultural approach to research may be applied to other participants who may have communicative strengths that differ from those of the researcher.
Achieving meaningful co-production of environmental knowledge: our experiences from practice
As researchers committed to researching agricultural environments with people, rather than on people, we have engaged with non-academics in a variety of ways, at different levels and using various methods. We have sought ways that enable participants to research and learn together and better link on the ground practice with policy.
We reflect on our experiences in two very different research projects. The first is an experimental European project that brought together civil society organisations (CSOs) and academics as partners in joint research on sustainable development in agriculture. The novel funding arrangement enabled academic researchers and CSOs to be more equal partners than is generally the case. Our second example draws on a UK project around new agricultural innovation that used increasingly more participatory methods to work with farmers and their networks.
We comment on the methods used - such as reflection diaries, cognitive mapping, workshops and diagrams. We note how the diversity of relationships and practices lend themselves to different approaches and the need to remain open to alternative ways of addressing issues as they arise during the research process. We argue that effective co-production requires academic researchers and funding bodies to be more flexible than in conventional research programmes.
Reflections on co-production – the community perspective
Co-production promises communities a more inclusive process, better engagement and an outcome, that because it is created by the people who will use it, is ultimately more sustainable. Because of the mutual benefits it can bring both researchers and communities it is increasingly being adopted as a research method. However co-production also presents challenges such as the issue of authorship and ownership, ensuring everyone feels able to contribute creatively, as well as many ethical dilemmas such as intellectual property, who benefits from monetisation and roll out into future projects.
"The Creative Citizen project, part of the AHRC connected communities programme, utilised co-production throughout the research to develop and test a variety of media with community partners, centred on the groups' local areas and the people they serve." The research team, consisting of designers and academics, developed a range of co-production methods including asset mapping, co-creation workshops, prototyping, walkshops, and exhibitions. This paper presents the experiences of some of the project’s community partners or ‘creative citizens’ on their role as co-producers in these. Drawing on a series of informal interviews or conversations with community partners after the research has ended the paper will present their perspectives on these challenges and how they felt these manifested within the Creative Citizen project.
It is important to understand how community participants perceive the value of these activities to themselves and the communities to which they belong. The paper explores what practical learning can be taken forward and how researchers and designers can develop and refine co-production methods for future research of this kind.
Entwined Research Relations: Blurring the lines Between ‘Researcher’ and ‘Participant’ in Travel, Tourism and Mobilities Research
When I set out to investigate the transformative potential of physical travel in 2005, I never envisioned that I was in the process of developing long-term relationships that would come to transform my own sense of self and identity. This ongoing study now spans 10 years during which I have reinterviewed participants from around the globe every two years. I have eagerly read stories of births, marriages, ongoing travels (corporeal and otherwise), deaths and everything in-between and beyond as my participants’ lives have unfolded. I have travelled with them through reading their accounts, my imagination, emotions, senses and memories being stimulated, and my reactions changing with each rereading as my own life experiences unfold. Beyond the ‘routine’ communications, several participants have kept in closer contact, emailing me with information over the life of the study. Some have read my accounts of travel, and my analysis of theirs, in various publications as a part of the interviews, and a few have even befriended me on Facebook – I have observed their lives unfolding through photos, comments and ‘likes’, as they have with mine – ‘strangers’ who know each other well, yet have never met, spoken verbally or communicated on a regular basis. I have also travelled extensively as a part of the research, observing my own experiences and those of others who I have met and sometimes travelled with for weeks on end. But I hesitate to call those who I have travelled with participants. We have shared each other’s company, rooms, beds and a whole host of sensory experiences, and our memories are entwined, making these individuals feel much closer than the label of ‘participant’ allows. Many have gone on to become some of my closest friends and, during various periods, we have been in daily contact through technological means – and these intimate relationships have allowed for an extra layer of insight into my topic of investigation. More than research, the study has become an observation of shared personal lived experiences, but in a more slippery way than conceptions such as autoethnography allow. It is in this context, and with the notion of co-production in mind, that this paper explores this blurring of the lines between ‘researcher’ and ‘participant’ in this style of research, and the implications for how tourism, travel and mobilites research is framed, conducted, analysed and presented. The paper will also look at the opportunities and limitations that such blurred boundaries and researcher/participant entwinements present, along with the potential ethical implications.