‘Smart’ spaces

A few weeks ago, at the start of this course, I was (widely) circling around a research proposal which would be focused on an area of study connected to digital gaming and/or narratives. However, I was flummoxed with regard to taking the next steps towards, as Cresswell  terms it, bringing my ideas ‘down to earth’ to a ‘researchable’ proposition; to developing what Jensen and Laurie term an ‘answerable’ research question

And then, out of the blue, another possible area of study has presented itself. I work – some of the time – as an education technology adviser for a large construction company. They are currently working on the development of smart, digital environments which will inform developments like this one. They are currently developing an in-house ‘smart space’ and will be introducing a range of technologies into it. I think there’s an interesting opportunity for research here: how the physical digital environment and working practices/learning/training are intermeshed/’entangled’.

I have a lot to find out about the space and the proposals for it, and I’ll be gathering more information next week. However, at this stage, I’d be interested in exploring the possibility of undertaking an ethnographic study, focusing on one group’s use of the space over time (if feasible). In terms of my epistemological framework/my research paradigm, I am interested in approaching the study from an interpretivist/constructivist position, and using the associated qualitative methods. At this stage, I think that this will include participant observation, semi-structured interviews and – possibly – surveys.

With regard to the primary method of participant observation, I’m interested in finding out more about workplace studies; the only ethnographies I have previously read are ‘Face of the Fox‘ and ‘Coming of Age in Samoa‘! I have a number of practical questions about how to approach an ethnographic study, from how to gain consent, to how to ‘take’ field notes (do I adopt a digital approach?). I would also like to consider and discuss how ‘involved’ I can or should become in the activities of the group(s) observed (although that will, to a greater or lesser extent, be determined by the group itself). The delimitations of an ethnographic study at this scale and focused on this topic, include the generalisability of any findings and the necessarily qualitative, subjective nature of the work. However, I need to read Williams and Letherby. I was interested in Letherby’s discussion of theorised subjectivity in the video extract and her discussion of the ‘demonization’ of subjectivity. I was particularly interested in her position that an ‘interrogation of the self in research, with reference to the other in research, gets us closer to a position that we might call objective.’ (17:15). The rejection of the binary definitions of objectivity and subjectivity is of interest here.

My key ethical concern at the moment is that my research might be susceptible to ‘confirmation bias’: I will have to be alert to a predisposition to be positive about a development to which I am professionally connected.

4 Replies to “‘Smart’ spaces”

  1. Hi Helen,

    Love the ‘out of the blue’ opportunity and it sounds like you can develop a research proposal from it.
    While I wasn’t able to access all the links you provided I’d suggest that you keep reading around the research topic and the way forward will become clearer.
    Look forward to more updates as #SOCRMx progresses.


    1. Thanks Sandra. Noreen – one of the tutors on our course – has helpfully sent through a list of readings to get me started. She did her dissertation on Twitter as a learning space, so has lots to suggest in terms of useful and relevant readings.

  2. Hi Helen
    This sounds like a fantastic opportunity for research and a really interesting area (pun!). Not only would it be interesting to research how people use the *smart space*, it would also be fascinating to analyse the proposal for it, what the company has in mind, the technologies they want to introduce, their discourse … and how all that will dictate to a certain extent how the space is used. Or it may not – users of the space might subvert or translate intended use in unexpected ways.

    1. Hi Cathy,
      Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post. It’s a great idea to undertake an analysis of the proposal in the first instance. It will be interesting to see whether it is being mooted that technologies will ‘enhance’ practice…

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