Methodological considerations

b) Subject Positions, Cultural Difference and Authority.

The question of being aware of the cultural framework and political interests from which researchers makes choices as to what to record, and that colour the interpretations they make, is part of what I have discussed as reflexive research.[1] The idea of a completely objective viewpoint is hardly tenable any more at least within the social sciences and humanities. The antidote to this myth is to make the level of objectivity apparent through methodological transparency and to be honest about the spin that is provided on the material at least to the extent that these things are consciously known.

Michael Agar argues that a clear distinction between the subjectivity of an ethnographer and any subject is no longer possible - the world is too culturally interpenetrated. An example is isolated tribes who might nonetheless watch the 'Discovery' satellite TV channel. But the position of the researcher is also a part of a claim to authority. There is the claim to speak an informed truth about a particular people that is socially validated by academic institutions, journals and learned rituals. The PhD itself is part of a series of rituals that can help confer such authority.[2]

My subject position as an artist committed to collaborative working, with experience of around ten cultural collectives clearly motivates my research and leavens my research with experience. On the other hand I am aware how my own preferred practice clashes with the Exploding Cinema formula. I would prefer to work in a more site-specific way relating to the locality[3] I'd prefer a less brash and more thematically unified style of decor, which would be possible if I made the effort but I feel would not have been popular. I would prefer such a group to be more mutually supportive around the making of work rather than being focussed only on shows.[4]

These sort of differences lead at times to a certain tone of discontent in my account which if taken a face value, would not be consistent with my role as 'detached' observer. At the same time I'm aware that any member of the group will have such 'moans' and that my own are probably not that unique. Because of my background, my experience is the experience of a collective member even if I am also a researcher. To have retained a cool distance would have been to miss the frustrations and discords that are integral to collective working.


[1] A discussion of reflexivity was part of the general introduction.


[2] See Pierre Bourdieu's Homo Academicus, (Cambridge 1988, orig. Paris 1984) for a full discussion of this from a French perspective.


[3] L1 p73


[4] Logbooks p66, 71, 81, 229, 331 & 349. Other members of the collective who regularly made films also felt this lack of support.