Strand 3 provides a central focus point for the project, drawing together the outcomes of Strands 1 and 2 through engagement with the varied methods they use, and data they produce: a mix of interviews, diaries, GPS data, visual materials and ethnographic notes and observations. In this strand we will seek to effectively explore ways of integrating these materials in a number of different ways which will recognise the complexity of decisions and practices around transport. This strand will begin with literature reviews before moving into the more complicated and multi-dimensional tasks and then feeding analysis of the data into Strands 4 and 5. In particular, this strand will have an iterative relationship with Strand 5, with new approaches to understanding people’s transport use feeding into the development of novel modelling paradigms and, similarly, thinking about new modelling paradigms feeding back into how we bring different data sources together.
Description of work
Task 3.1 Review of Current Literature This task will involve two preliminary literature reviews to establish the latest thinking on (i) Innovations in Mixed Methods and (ii) Innovations in Parallel Sectors to transport. The task is to explore whether there are methodological or conceptual resources from other sectors which could be drawn into this project and applied in the transport sector. We are particularly interested in some of the emerging literature on (i) domestic water use (Sofoulis 2005; Allon and Sofoulis 2006; Sofoulis and Williams 2008); (ii) waste (Hawkins and Muecke 2003; Hawkins 2006); and (iii) everyday and ‘ordinary’ consumption (Shove 2003; Shove and Walker 2007; Shove, Trentmann et al. 2009).
Task 3.2 Methods, Ontologies and Epistemologies Methods often carry implicit or explicit conceptual frameworks, ontologies and epistemologies. We are seeking to avoid approaches that prioritise a single set of methods or concepts. For example, the dominant social psychological approaches to social behaviour tend to focus on people’s values and identities, in order to see how consistent they are with forms of ‘sustainable’ behaviour, and then see if they are translated into practice. Such analyses focus on self-elicited accounts from interviews and questionnaires to garner data on self-perceptions. The problem with this perspective, amply demonstrated by symbolic interactionism and pragmatist theories of practice (e.g. Bourdieu, Reckwitz, Warde) is that people’s actions are often improvised and only weakly informed by self-conscious beliefs and values. An alternative perspective is therefore to focus on action and practice. This can be done by ethnographic fieldwork, as well as by transactional data on practices (e.g. actual travel behaviour). Such an approach does not commit one to the assumption that beliefs and values do not matter; rather it allows these to be discerned as they arise in everyday routines and practices. Specifically this strand would develop these ideas in the context of emerging literature and projects in transport and mobility studies which emphasise the limitations of traditional frameworks in transport studies and the importance of qualitative and ethnographic research in understanding people’s transport decisions and behaviours (e.g. EPSRC-funded ‘Understanding Walking and Cycling’ project). Much of this research has taken place within the framework of the New Mobilities Paradigm (Sheller and Urry 2006).
Task 3.3 Mixing Methods / Integrating Data Methodologically, we wish to avoid dismissing quantitative data in favour of qualitative data or vice versa. At the same time, our intention is to go beyond simple triangulation approaches that assume that ‘mixing data’ will either enable verification of data from different methods or that bringing data together will add up to something more. We are interested in trying to develop different ways to work with data that have been produced by a range of methods. Hence, as well as more conventional quantitative and qualitative data, we will be drawing on other forms of data including GPS data and visual data from video ethnographies. For instance, in paying attention to metaphors (see Strand 5) we are interested in ‘layering’ rather than ‘mixing’ data. Instead of adding data together in such a way that the differences and gaps are not visible, we are interested what it would mean to pay attention to the ‘incommensurabilities’ of data. Rather than explaining away gaps in the data, or in smoothing over any discrepancies between differently produced data, we aim to develop ways which hold on to these apparent discrepancies so that they become objects of analysis. We are also interested in ‘discontinuous data’, that is to say incompatible knowledges that do not even appear in the data (Harvey, 2009). We believe that this methodological attention to gaps, discontinuities and unevenness in methods and data is crucial, particularly in the context of developing understandings of the supposed gaps between people’s values and their actions and behaviours. By developing a research strategy that takes account of complexity, and which does not assume a direct fit between values and everyday practices and behaviours, we hope to reveal the key tensions and drivers for change towards a more sustainable urban travel environment. In particular, this strand would draw on and extend CRESC’s strengths with respect to mixed methods and working with qualitative and quantitative data, including Savage and Moore’s organisation of an international conference on ‘Narrative, Number and Social Change’ at CRESC in 2007 and the resulting special issue of the journal Cultural Sociology (3:2 2009).
Task 3.4 Changes in Transport Decisions over Time A key innovation of this overall study is in the attention to change over time. While numerous studies attempt to develop methods that can better explicate people’s everyday transport decisions, this project in unusual in its central focus on ascertaining how, and why, such decisions change over time. This task will have a number of outputs, producing (i) annual reports on the outcomes of data analysis, focusing on the use of rhetorical devices, such as metaphor, narrative, tropes, discourses, in the data, to feed iteratively into Strand 5 and (ii) a stand-alone paper. In addition it will produce a further outline report on accounts of transport in the future and the changes they envision which will lead to this future, for Strand 4.
References Allon, F. and Z. Sofoulis (2006). ‘Everyday water: Cultures in transition.’ Australian Geographer37(1): 45-55.
Harvey P (2009). Between Narrative and Number: The Case of ARUP's 3D Digital City Model. Cultural Sociology3, 257-276.
Hawkins, G. (2006). The ethics of waste: how we relate to rubbish. Lanham, Md. ; Oxford, Rowman & Littlefield.
Hawkins, G. and S. Muecke (2003). Culture and waste: the creation and destruction of value. Lanham, Md. ; Oxford, Rowman & Littlefield.
Sheller, M. and J. Urry (2006). ‘The new mobilities paradigm.’ Environment and Planning A38(2): 207-226.
Shove, E. (2003). Comfort, cleanliness and convenience: the social organization of normality. Oxford, Berg.
Shove, E., F. Trentmann, et al. (2009). Time, consumption and everyday life: practice, materiality and culture. Oxford, Berg.