Selfish Research

It is likely that feedback interviews have now been completed and there have been some really interesting observations about digital media, heritage, narrative – all sorts of things!

Yesterday’s interview brought up something which made me think about my approach. As with everybody else, I asked the participant if the Digital Towneley representation made them see the park differently at all. The answer was ‘no’, because they felt that they were so familiar with the park that they had already engaged with the themes that I seem to have identified in the stories and other data.

This might be a good sign because it may act as a validation in a way of the legitimacy of my interpretation. However, with further enquiry the participant revealed that they had themselves collected stories about the park; that they had been involved in a project for the park which aimed to capture something of its meanings.

I was suddenly struck with a sense of my own academic egotism.

Despite my aims through Grounded Theory and phenomenological archaeology, feminist and constructivist approaches (all part of an aegis which I hoped would ward off the dragon bias and of Authorized Heritage Discourse and traditionalism) somewhere and somehow implicit in my approach was the idea that I had the right tools for the job for the first time in the history of the world!

The selfishness of my position was thrown into relief. The aim of a PhD (or other research) to strive for unique contribution, and the desire of the researcher to be a trailblazer and unearth new knowledges, can blinker their viewpoint beyond the academy.

This participant with others had already been researching the park. Sure, they haven’t been investigating the effects of digital heritage, but I feel now like my approach to explore the park overlooked the idea that others may have already done this and done it well.

Now, how do I best learn from this experience?