I got back to Laos last month after my holiday and, keen to take advantage of all the groundwork I had already put in, lept straight into a month of hectic fieldwork.
In the last 3 weeks I have run 6 research workshops in 3 different organisations, made a good start on translating all the data generated by these workshops, trained 2 new translators, completed 14 interviews and set up another 15 or so for the next couple of weeks. I’ve also more or less completed a 60 page report that I’ve been working on for another organisation and fitted in some house viewings because Lis and I are thinking about moving house. Phew.
I do not want to sound one little bit like I am complaining. I love it. And I genuinely love all of the young people I’ve been working with. We have been having some very very interesting and open discussions and I am 100% appreciative of their enormous help and support and interest in my quest.
I’ve realised, however, that there are a few fundamental challenges in writing a blog about a research process.
The first one is about ethics and I’ve written about that in another post so I’ll skate over it just now.
The second is about being so close to the process that I have no idea what is interesting any more. After writing a fluffy post about my favourite things, is anyone going to care that I’m changing my research focus slightly? As a result of the time delays (and of using that time to do some more focused thinking) it is now most likely that I’m going to focus only on young people in Vientiane, and specifically those who volunteer or work with (so far loosely defined) development organisations. Do you care?
Anybody who has done a Phd will know that moment when someone asks you what your research is about, you start to tell them…and you see their eyes glazing over. I’m a bit worried that this blog could be like that, except I can’t even see your eyes to know.
Thirdly…social research is a messy process. I currently have lots of half formed thoughts and I know that my current ideas will go through a process of being torn apart, scrutinised and lovingly pieced back together in different combinations with different emphases. That is how I work and I do (at least on good days) trust that process.
So, I leave you with one promise and two qualifications about anything that I write on this blog in the next year.
1. I promise that whatever I write I will have agonised over the ethics of it.
2. I do not promise that you will find it interesting (although I do promise that I will find it interesting).
3. I do not promise that I will not change my mind entirely and write a paper in a year’s time saying completely the opposite.
As one of my young translators said to me the other day as we crawled over enormous flipchart papers with life-sized pictures of young people trying to read scrawled thoughts about happiness: I have a strange job. Wonderful…but strange.