Making ethnography count – my grandpa, social justice, and me

Making ethnography count – my grandpa, social justice, and me

My grandpa – my grandpa once told me that it’s okay not to be religious as long as you are a good person. This statement may not seem that remarkable but for the fact my grandpa was Dean of Liverpool Anglican cathedral when he said it. He was busy supporting gay rights, race relations and women’s role in the church before I was even born. As a child I remember fantastic conversations about equality and social justice and the ‘religious sausage machine’ (his words not mine) that he was absolutely fine with me not being a part of. I learnt from my grandpa that you can be part of an established institution and at the same time a force for positive change within in it. I’m not a touch on my grandpa in terms of grandness but we share a pragmatism towards social change – a desire to influence from within as well as ally ourselves those outside – to be both insider and outsider. Inside or outside – the starting point for my PhD research is heavily influenced by all those childhood conversations with my grandpa. I am interested in insiders and outsiders; power and identity; stigma and discrimination; and specifically how social media may be complicating and disrupting them in the context of people providing and accessing mental health services. My grandpa was long gone before the birth of Facebook, but I’m sure the shifting nature of how we communicate would have fascinated him also. Ethnography – I’ve chosen to do an online ethnography – immersing myself in a social media site participating, observing and interviewing –...

Social media connections – can you help me with my research?

Whilst wading my way through my literature review, I’m also starting to think about the research I will be undertaking next year, and am keen to find a social media site to focus on for my study. I am interested in if/how social media affords the opportunity to shape, influence, deconstruct and do all sorts of interesting and disruptive things which challenge the received comfy and paternalistic order of things, that was once (and still largely is) perpetuated by large institutions such as the NHS. The new NHS Confederation briefing alive and clicking gives a glimpse into the potential (and threat in the eyes of some) of social media to niggle away at this relatively snug world. In my discussions, opinions vary from dismissal through to downright horror, with the odd bit of curiosity and occasional enthusiasm in the middle. I think it still holds ‘hobby’ status for most people i.e. not to be taken that seriously… but that is beginning to change. In my research I really want to get to the heart of what is happening in terms of relationships and connections (or not) between people experiencing mental health difficulties, mental health providers and mental health professionals online. I’m interested in themes of power, Iabelling, stigma and identity. The sorts of questions I’m interested in are: If/how are social media influencing and shaping relationships? What does it mean for those involved? To what extent do social media enable people to throw things out of kilter and re-order the shape of things? What disruptive forces are at work (for example, humour)? Is it just more of the same in...