Using Arts Practice to Research Young People's Orientations to the Future

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 14:30
Location: Hörsaal 18 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Dawn LYON, School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Research, University of Kent, United Kingdom
Peter HATTON, School of Music and Fine Art, University of Kent, United Kingdom
The future eludes us, in everyday life and as researchers. Yet our orientations to the future matter a great deal for how we ‘assemble’ the past in the present, inhabit the present, and for our modes of present-future navigation. Ann Mische calls for greater sociological attention to the ‘imaginative horizons’ in which the ‘multiple plans and possibilities’ of human action are envisaged, including ‘the future images that inform social practices’ (Mische, 2009: 696). Yet this is no easy task. In the project we present here, we discuss research which sought to both reveal and stimulate the future orientations of young people in verbal and non-verbal forms using arts practice. In Imagine Sheppey (ESRC grant no ES/K002686/1, 2013-14), a collaboration between sociologists, artists (the collective, Tea) and the young project participants, we sought to explore the future in a participatory, experimental, and performative way. In a series of animated arts-based workshops we created temporary installations using found or made objects and did improvised performances. We documented this process visually, material which was used to make a short video, and as the basis for elicitation in focus groups with a wider group of young people. In this presentation, we will show and discuss extracts of the project video and images used in focus group discussion. Based on the symbolic language of the performances and the interactional dimensions of the activities documented, we can offer interpretations of some of the moments and images produced, in relation to ideas of ‘reach’ and value for instance, but we cannot make strong claims about the young people’s orientations from them alone. We critically reflect on the opportunities as well as the limitations of arts-based methods for the production of sociological understandings.