On young political narratives of hopelessness, and Franz Kafka

Poverty

Poverty – a flashcard from my focus group methodology

The following is an adapted excerpt from a thematic literature review, following a pilot study, that I carried out last spring. I proposed the finding that young people’s experience during the contemporary transition to adulthood challenges researchers with a complex, dualistic relationship between narratives as young people make reflexive, self-narrative transitions to adulthood. The accepted narrative is something like Horatio Alger Jr.’s ‘bootstrap’ novelle about the heroic self-made man. I drew examples from Nayak and Kehily’s studies of young masculinity and femininity during the dual transition of individuals from childhood to independence, and, as a period effect, the transition of British society from an industrial one to a neo-liberalist economy (Nayak and Kehily, 2008) in which making one’s own way in the world represents both a newfound freedom and new post-industrial shackle.

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Progress!

Well! Here are two draft flashcards. Before I get stuck into writing about them, I have to cook dinner & paste a few more together – but for your interest:

>>>> edit: I should mention current bias on subjects due to random sample and unintentional, I do have lots of cars and soldiers too

who's that on the left, though

not shown: the funkadelic mothership returning to rethumpatize our unfunky system

not shown - a million billion torn-up drafts with the turbines done all wonky

only achieved unwonky turbines on this, the thousandth attempt. sorry trees

Eat my shorts, quantitative methods! 🙂

Numbers? Oh boy

Friday brings Quantitative Methods 2, a heavy class for an innumerate politics student like me concerning an alien language only highly tuned brains and computers can comprehend. Flashback to my New York high school Precalculus class as I blink at the lecture notes mind blank and thinking: Is that you, John Wayne? is this me?

Not shown: rude jokes on the production line

Work - a draft flashcard for my research

It’s tough to stick with quantitative methods given the effort I have to put in and the low pay off. I might never use these methods, and especially not for my research project. On the other hand, I am determined to give it a go. A skill learned might come in handy – presuming I actually learn anything – and it stands me in better stead when I argue that, say, politics and culture can’t be separated, not to separate myself entirely from another important part of the world, which is counting and calculating the things in it. But boy, is it a terrible experience to swing and miss at everything a teacher throws at you.

The above picture is a draft card for my research. It’s one of my better drafts, I think. Crude, in a good way. I’m not entirely happy with the face but I tried having a blank figure at the sewing machine and it looked more serious, somehow, like a logo for an Olympic sport, while the two dots and line mouth imply the person is a) ticked off with working past six o’clock and b) an honestly crappy drawing. I have sketched lots for Crime and Justice (or “Crime”, or “Law and Order”, etc.) and rejected them all. At first I drew a stick figure with a knife chased by police, then I gave him a hoodie, then I decided against the knife, and finally junked the hoodie as it makes him look a bit like a motorcyclist or Rastafarian. I guess I prefer to the old stick figure, which is not a bad thing.

Adapting and adopting methods

My big task at the moment is devising flash cards for my focus group method, which is supposed to be a development of Jonathan White’s from his Political Allegiance after Integration (2011), a crafty method for stimulating political content from a discussion. I guess I perceive a few challenges in adapting the method: first, to do the work and do it right; second, to make sure I have some ownership of the method, rather than performing a presto change-o switcheroo.

No time for plagiarism, Dr. Jones!

Above: a famous archaeologist demonstrates "the Switcheroo"

I want to adapt the method rather than adopt it, so it’s important I design important parts, like the flash cards used during the discussion, myself, not least because I’ll be able to make the method specific to my empirical intentions. The key to gaining ownership won’t be adapting the method itself but, instead, constructing a new method derived from the same basic ideas.

This is where things get difficult. To adapt an idea presupposes understanding. If you were looking to make a movie based on Romeo and Juliet you’d have to know what happened in Romeo and Juliet first, right? By the same token, if I’m to appropriate the essentials of someone else’s successful methodology I’m claiming to understand them. So that’s one thing: making sure that I fully comprehend the original author’s intentions and perspective and staying aware that his method, adapted, is an interpretation of his ideas.

Second, I have to actually sit down with some pens and do the work, pulling out my hair over trying to be sort of lackadaisical and cartoony with my drawings (it wouldn’t do to look like I tried too hard) while staying close to theoretical principles. Oh boy! I find myself looking back at my work and feeling either that I’ll show them to a group and they’ll scoff at me, or else I’ll turn up before the department and they’ll roll their eyes at my mindless doodles. Low confidence yields procrastination.

Third, it’s important that while doing the work and not trying too hard at it I keep a firm track of my ideas as they develop so that, step by step, I can explain my rationale to others and myself for the cards and topics I devise. Though the card exercise is not central to data collection I can’t simply ignore it: it’s important I am aware of the ideas I’m spreading around with my cards and those I have not included.

I am nevertheless happy about the methodology and its potential. It will be fun, too. I am not sure about posting example cards here but I am leaning towards doing so, just because I love the idea of open research. I will have to speak to my supervisor about it… peace all!