Kip Jones

KIP JONES, an American by birth, has been studying and working in the UK for more than 19 years.
Under the umbrella term of 'arts-based research', his main efforts have involved developing tools
from the arts and humanities for use by social scientists in research and its impact on a wider
public or a Perfomative Social Science.

Jones is Reader in Performative Social Science and Director of the Centre for Qualitative Research
at Bournemouth University. Kip has produced films and written many articles for academic
journals and authored chapters for books on topics such as masculinity, ageing and rurality,
and older LGBT citizens. His ground-breaking use of qualitative methods, including
biography and auto-ethnography, and the use of tools from the arts in social science research and
dissemination are well-known.

Jones acted as Author and Executive Producer of
the award-winning short film,
RUFUS STONE, funded by Research Councils UK.
The film is now available for
free viewing on the Internet and has been
viewed by more than 13,000 people in 150
countries.

Areas of expertise
• Close relationships, culture and ethnicity
• Social psychology, sociology
• Ageing, self and identity
• Interpersonal processes, personality,
individual differences,
social networks, prejudice and stereotyping
• Sexuality and sexual orientation
• Creativity and the use of the
arts in Social Science

Media experience
His work has been reported widely
in the media, including:
BBC Radio 4,BBC TV news,Times
Higher Education, Sunday New
York Times, International
Herald-Tribune
and The Independent.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Alternative Thoughts for Researchers at Christmas


I have been thinking recently about a moment that happened at our Qualitative Conference in September.


In the tangential way that my world works, I came upon photographer, Freya Najade, serendipitously.


Several years ago now, I asked photographer, Richard Renaldi, to use some of his photographs of older people in a community project that we were organising in Leicester. I have also used his project, Fall River Boys, for a short audio/visual piece that I created.


Back to the present, or rather, almost a year ago now, I was reading Richard’s blog and he mentioned Freya Najade’s photographic series, ‘If you’re lucky, you get old’. Since we are currently working on our project on older gay and lesbian citizens in the British countryside and the film that will be the product of that research, I felt that her work might have resonance.


Part of my conceptual scheming for this year’s conference was to see how close to ‘Art’ we could move things, whilst still remaining within some construct of Social Science. For this reason, I invited an African drummer to open the proceedings, asked academic, Norma Daykin, to bring her Salsa Nova trio along to entertain and invited Freya to display her photographs, along with other ‘artistic’ expressions which peppered the conference.


Circumstances dictated that Freya couldn’t exhibit her actual photographs in a gallery setting; it would be necessary for her to ‘present’ them using PowerPoint in a more familiar academic seminar setting. Still, I thought that her work had a message for academic researchers and was willing to accept this more formal presentation.


Freya talked a bit about her photographs and shared them with the audience. Then it was time for questions. The key moment for me was when someone asked: “How did you go about deciding who to photograph and what the pictures would be about?” Freya replied simply, “I picked up my camera and began to shoot. It was through taking the pictures that the story unfolded”.


To me this is a key difference between the way we often work as researchers and the way that an artist works. Artists pick up their tools and materials and begin. They work out the problems through their media. They have an idea or concept, but very much allow the materials, the subject, the time and the place to dictate the outcomes.

Perhaps as researchers we spend too much time ruminating and worrying over the details of questions (semi-structured or not), ethical approval, our methods and so forth before we ever begin. Perhaps we need to pick up our tools and dive in more often. Margaret Meade went to the South Pacific with her questions but not knowing what to expect, then invented a method on the spot.

Romantically, perhaps, I hearken back to the scientist in her/his laboratory with all of its equipment, specimens and supplies. The scientist ‘experiments’ much in the way that an artist does. Perhaps as social scientists, we need to recall this and become ‘scientists’ again.


‘Art and science have a common thread—both are fuelled by creativity. Whether writing a paper based on my data or filling a canvas with paint, both processes tell a story’.

–Richard Taylor (2001), Associate Professor of Physics at the University of Oregon


I very much encourage researchers to pick up their tools and create. In order to begin to do this, we need to adjust our approaches to our work. I am grateful to one of the reviewers of my chapter in Phillip Vannini’s upcoming book, Popularizing Research, for making me think about how this happens. I responded to a particular question by stating: ‘Moving our work to arts-based procedures is not a series of isolated acts; it requires an adjustment in how we approach everything in which we engage—including writing for academic publication’.


With these thoughts in mind, I leave you with a holiday list of inspirations. Perhaps one or more of these will encourage you to pick up you brushes or camera, voice recorder or semi-structured questionnaire, and begin to experiment or at least find alternatives to the way in which we think of going about our work.

Happy Holidays!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Performative Social Science: What it is/What it isn't

A Seminar held at Bournemouth University on 13 October, 2010 presented my review of Performative Social Science (PSS) and a re-screening of one of my earlier audio/visual productions, 'The One about Princess Margaret'.


Actor/Director Sharon Muiruri, dressed as a Princess, greeted guests at the door royally with "How do you do?" and "Have you come far?" Bags of popcorn were waiting for audience members on each of their seats. The "Theme from Black Orpheus" played in the background and, at one point, Sharon sat down and pretended to play along to the sax solo on a toy saxophone.

My take on PSS then began as an audio recording. This was followed by the screening of 'The One about Princess Margaret'. The entire 50-minute production was pre-recorded as a Windows Media file, much as a Broadway or West End show is pre-programmed on computer. This amused me. I sat in the corner behind the computer, a bit like the Wizard of Oz.

This was accomplished in order to test some new ideas about presentation and audience, but also to expose, for the first time, my writing for my forthcoming (2011) Chapter, " Princess Margaret in Retrospect: the Story Behind a Short Film ", for a book entitled, Popularizing Research: Engaging New Media, Genres, and Audiences, edited by Phillip Vannini, to be published next year by Peter Lang Publishing.

The room was packed and an enjoyable time was had by all present. Listen to the audio recording, then watch the video below.

Audio Recording of
"PSS: What it is/What it isn't"


Monday, 13 September 2010

Negative Space and Chance Movement

This short film tells a story of the Bournemouth University
8th International Qualitative Research Conference, September 2010.


The brief to the filmmakers was to tell the 'B" story, the in-between, the over-heard, the negative spaces of the conference. Negative space involves concentrating on the background—an excellent exercise in observation and listening.


This film represents the activity between events and the inter-connectedness of these negative spaces. The delegates at the conference turn out to be the subject of the film. The soundscape becomes the dialogue.


Fluxus is intermedia. Fluxus creators like to see what happens when different media intersect. They use found and everyday objects, sounds, images, and texts to create new combinations of objects, sounds, images, and texts.


‘Creativity is that uncanny ability to work within rule boundaries while, at the same time, changing them’.—Kip Jones



BU Qualitative Research Conference 2010 from Kip Jones on Vimeo.


Producer/Director: Rob Jones

Sound: Henrietta Rowlatt and Mog McIntyre

Camera: Yasir Khan

Editor: Chris Taylor

Executive Producers: Kip Jones and Trevor Hearing

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Prime Cuts

Prime Cuts from Kip Jones on Vimeo.

By means of a short auto-ethnographic use of stock film clips, Prime Cuts creates a battery of visual memories which have become recurring themes in my own productions. They are, in a way, false memories that are created through the montage, collage and ‘mash-up’ of memory.

These visualisations have morphed and warped into what is now part of my personal visual arsenal of accumulated pictorial memories. These images form my personal visual biography and influence my visual work, directly and indirectly, consciously and subliminally.

As we observe throughout life, certain cultural images become private and iconic. They twist and turn and eventually morph in various ways to be included as our own graphic memories. These images are truly Ethno-Graphic. These visual memories become imbued with both intense cultural and personal meaning.
Godard is often credited with having once said, "It's not where you take things from—it's where you take them to."

Originally screened at Bournemouth University's conference on Qualitative Research, Sept 2010 in a gallery-like setting with other works of art. I wanted to see how visitors to the gallery space would engage (or not) with the continuously playing video on the large screen.

What are your Prime Cuts?

Music used in the Mash-ups:
Max Richter
Morgana King
Kylie Minogue
Rufus Wainwright

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

He didn't leave a note.



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Sometimes, when children are ‘rough-housing’, mothers will warn them, 'It will all end in tears'. What sound advice for life's emotional journey.


Exit: stage right. A haughty exit. The kind only dancers can make. There was not even a furtive glance in my direction in the audience. This is how the beginning of the end began.

I didn’t want to live in a dacha outside of Odessa anyway. I am not fond of borscht or pickled anything. I don't want to spend my last years hearing about your glory days on the stage and then watch you go off to work in an office in your brother’s start-up Russian construction company. I hate the cold.


I have always seen myself retiring to a Bedouin tent in Morocco—an air conditioned one. I would watch the goats all day. A young man, my ‘companion’, will bring me tea. Non, merci. Je préfère un jus d'orange, s'il vous plait’. A boy like the ones in the beach scene in Death in Venice. Young men who naturally put their arms around one another and give each other a kiss on the cheek. Not a French baiser, stylised and studied, but a natural, heart-felt kiss.

In my letter to you I said that I wished you had learned bravery from Masha.

When I was still at Art College, I was offered a job designing sets for a start-up dance company, The Pennsylvania Ballet, in its infancy. How different my life might have been if I had been brave enough then to take that gamble. It would have meant having to drop out of art school (which I did eventually, anyway). I wasn’t fearless enough, however. Or like the time Florence Dorn (of husband, Joel, who helped make Bette Midler famous) asked me to accompany her to London to buy a hat. She said we could stay with ‘the Harrisons’ (George and Pattie). I thought these were things other people did, not me. I wasn’t brave enough.

I was striking as a young man. I wish I had capitalised on my looks. Not in a calculating way, but in an intelligent one. I was too busy wallowing in my own emotional turmoil to see the potential of making the right choices and the right connections, and using my natural assets to help manage that.

So I wanted you to be brave. I wanted you to bridge the age difference, overcome the cultural and language barriers, and manage the impossible ever-changing geography of it all. I wanted you to believe in the potential of our connection.

In the end, your fears took over and made your decision for you.

Perhaps you and all of this so late in life were just cruel reminders of my own past mistakes.

Part of travelling again and seeing you for what I now know was the last time was to have some time away to contemplate my mother’s death. I wanted to be near you when I did that and to buffer any pain with your warmth. That never happened.

Instead, I wrote you a letter (in English and Google Russian) and left it with a book of photographs of you dancing that I had made. I came to your last performance (for me), sitting in the second row. I waited until you were a few feet in front of me, then stood up and exited ... stage right.

In terms of my mother’s death, I came to the realisation that no one would help me with that. My work colleagues mostly ignored it. The ones who did say something saw it as some kind of opportunity to talk about deaths in their own lives. Why do people think that this is comforting? Not one person mentioned ‘compassionate leave’. One insensitively suggested that I watch a documentary on Brian Epstein, ignoring the fact that the question pervading the film is, ‘Did Epstein take his own life six weeks after the death of his father?’

We will never know. He didn’t leave a note.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

My mother’s death/falling in love again



"The sweat on their bodies”


I was introduced to live musical theatre at the Valley Forge Music Fair. It was summer stock for New York actors, singers and dancers performed in a tent on the East coast of Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia.

I lived my simple, country boy life about 30 miles to the west. It was at Valley Forge that I saw shows like Pajama Game and Damn Yankees and, for the first time, fell in love with live musical theatre.


Theatre in the round and being so close to the sweat on the dancers’ bodies made me believe that there was a possibility of connecting somehow. As a teenager, these theatrical encounters were a part of my growing-up world of serious sexual awakening. I had put aside my childish desire to be Robin to Batman or follow Flash Gordon around in his lamé hot pants. These new experiences were comprised of all the senses; but mostly, it was the smell of the greasepaint mixed with the dancers’ sweat. I was breathless from the experience.


Every summer I would look forward to these performances under that tent, the actors in such intimate proximity, darting up and down the aisles, making their exits and entrances. The tension of wanting to reach out and touch them was palatable.


I would hang around the parking lot after the shows, hoping that one of the cast would come along and say hello. I lie. Come along and take me away with them. I wanted to join this musical circus; I wanted to fall in love and get laid. I still get these three things mixed up.


Spiegeltent has arrived at the Edinburgh International Festival with great success. This year it will host a new range of sideshow acts, cabaret and spectacles.


Spiegeltents are hand-hewn pavilions used as travelling dance halls, bars and entertainment salons since they were created in the early 20th century . There are only a hand-full of these unique and legendary ‘tents of mirrors’ left in the world today. The performances at Edinburgh’s Spiegeltent are live, in the round and under canvass.

Marlene Dietrich sang ‘Falling In Love Again’ on its famous stage in the 1930’s and, since then, its magic mirrors have reflected thousands of images of artists, audiences and exotic gatherings. It’s old Cabaret magic that has somehow become new again. It reminds me of my youthful awakening.

Speaking of Falling In Love Again, I did. Not that I expected to. He is a Russian dancer on a ship. We first met three years ago. I have been extremely guarded with my emotions since our first encounter. We see each other infrequently—two or three times a year. The story, retold as it heated up recently, unfolds below:


A conceptual narrative diary compiled from daily Facebook entries:

News Feed




. Time for the sea again....

· I should stop pretending it's luggage and just call them costumes.


· Sea day today. He is dancing his 'starring' role tonight. Me, organising my own costumes for the voyage. Stockholm tomorrow.


· Have to go now. Lunch date with the dancers tomorrow and not a thing to wear.


· 'The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.' –Marcel Proust


· He wants me to meet him at midnight. I am getting too old for this.


· Actually it was magical and moving. Overcoming my tendency towards inaction has been a theme in my life. In reality, it has brought me every reward.


· Having lunch with him today at the ship’s Ben Brittan restaurant; it's become a bit of a tradition.


·Things are getting very close to the edge.


· Someone said: 'Explain this to me'. I said, 'When I was sixteen I swam across a three-mile lake and back. These days I am happy when I can do a couple of laps in the pool. The same for emotional life, really'.


· In spite of all my best effort, planning and resistance, I am a bit lovesick.


· Remembering Carol K and her admonishment, after listening to my tales of love sickness: ‘Yeah, but did you get a painting out of it?’


· Time to forget, put aside and plough on with all of the projects and problems that I left behind. In a way, they will be a welcomed distraction.


· Do I dare? Have I lost my marbles?


· I constantly watch the ship’s webcam now. I watch the ensign change position on the bow. I make mental notes of the breezes. (Get a life, Kip.)


· Sunny, very little wind or activity. Ship in front is refuelling.


Fedor Tyutchev, Russian poet:

Я встретил вас - и все былое
В отжившем сердце ожило;
Я вспомнил время, время золотое -
И сердцу стало так тепло...


I met you and the past


came back to life in my dead heart.


Remembering a golden time,


my heart became so warm.


· The Baltic Sea is peaceful and blue, the sun refusing to set so far North. It’s almost 10:30 pm. He is about to start the second show, most likely.



· Should I be like a Brit and take a mini-holiday on the Bank Holiday weekend? Should I? Should I just turn up on the ship? Should I?


· Decision made. Нравится ли вам сюрпризы? (Do you like surprises?)


· Good-bye, Bette. You're with Dad now.


· ’Everything that passes away is only a reflection...' –Mahler’s 8th

______________________________________

Part of my intention in constructing a book out of a seemingly haphazard collection of notes was that these notes, by virtue of their accumulation and juxtaposition and patternation, would end up working overtime (not unlike what we might expect of the bits and pieces of a conceptual art’). –The Conceptual Novel: Michael Kimball Interviews Evan Lavender-Smith


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Navigating the personal ...

Someone said, 'Explain this to me'. I said, 'When I was sixteen I swam across a three-mile lake and back. These days I am happy when I can do a couple of laps in the pool. The same for my emotional life, really'.

What is it you want to write about here, Kip?
It’s Summer. Nobody wants to read about an old man’s love life.

A while back, I heard sociologist, Howard Becker, play the piano and I wept. How do these seemingly divergent interests in his life influence one another? I wanted to know.

I am known for banging on about how Performative Social Science (PSS) must be both art and social science, not one or the other. Then I went and invited some artists to present/perform at our upcoming Qualitative Conference: a jazz trio, an African drummer, a theatre director. I wanted to experiment and see how close to the edge (of art) we can go and still find meaning for social science pursuits. It will be interesting to observe the response/reaction of informal gaggles of conference-goers to this diversion from the expected. Audience is everything in my personal performative social science these days. The data and the audience. The researcher/scholar/performer simply acts as the vessel between the two, but also the interloper, the gadfly.

Prime Cuts’: I am compiling and editing short pieces from films and TV shows into a kind of montage/mash-up for my presentation at our conference in September, entitled, ‘Prime Cuts’. I am attempting to play with the auto-ethnographic by creating a montage of visual memories; not images from my life per se, but rather, images that heavily influenced my life and its work. This time, it will not be strictly ethnography through the lens of the personal observer or her/his experiences. It will be recollections of the graphic itself, those images from our pasts which compress and compel the personal forward and eventually transform into part of our own individual visual arsenals.

As we observe throughout life, certain cultural images become private and iconic. They twist and turn and eventually morph in various ways to be included as our own graphic memories (I shall always remember Mary Gergen’s recounting of Midwest grain storage towers in her interview with me). These images are truly Ethno-Graphic. These visual memories become imbued with both intense cultural and personal meaning. (A single example, previously written about here, is the notorious Kylie curtain, almost as personally iconic for me as her gold hot pants are to many by now.)

I plan to present my short film montage in a gallery setting at the conference. I want the environment to feel like one of those small rooms that you happen upon in museums where a film is playing on the wall in semi-darkness. You watch some of it, or all of it, or just walk by to the next exhibition/installation. I want to see if this contrivance from the curator’s toolbox has resonance for social science. I want to watch the audience watch the film (or not).

Busby Berkeley’s films were dark and aggressively sexual. What? I thought they were light and fluffy, chorus girls tapping to tunes from Broadway and silly story lines. If you think so, I suggest you revisit some of them, especially 42nd Street.

When I had finally decided that the gay world and gay bars themselves were not necessarily the ‘dens of inequity’ that I had been warned against, I ventured into my city’s most popular one, The Allegro, frequently. Because the bar didn’t get much business on Tuesday nights, they would show Busby Berkeley’s films on the third floor, using an old-fashioned projector. We would sit on the floor, sipping beers and watch that week’s Gold Diggers or other Berkeley films.

I became entranced with Berkeley’s intricate choreography and his particular way of filming it (and, of course, Ruby Keeler). The highpoint of 42nd Street however, is the longish title number. Dark and menacing, it tells a story of 1930-something New Yorkers out on the town, but also the darker side of the Depression, the casting couch, recreational drug use—all these things with the usual showgirl crotch shots which Berkeley became famous for. I was left with a lasting impression of how the presentation of seemingly light musical numbers could also tell a second, much darker story. A short clip from 42nd Street will be in Prime Cuts.

The editing of the clips themselves will not only reflect personal choices of meaningful images, but also, by the nature of montage, re-invent or ‘re-memorise’ the past through image to create something entirely new. Images from 1930s New York (I hadn’t been born then), for example, will ‘mash-up’ with more current footage. These montages will reflect, but deconstruct their originals, showing how remembered image can morph, change and enter the realm of the personal over time.

Compelling and repetitive, images of water and the sea will also be pervasive in Prime Cuts. Rather than representing specific memories, they become iconic and representational of particular personal emotional states. Derek Jarman’s use of a couple frolicking in the sea, for example, transfigures into more current footage of the sea with more private memories. Without my visual memory of Jarmon’s film, however, my own footage of the sea would not be imbued with the same meaning.

I have recently returned to the sea, or metaphorically that lake that I spoke about earlier, or at least the pool. Not actually, but figuratively. I have realised, somewhat late in life, that the love-sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs is the same, whether seventeen or seventy. The only difference now is that I have the visual reference points with which to tell that story again. If you observe Prime Cuts closely, Nureyev morphs into him, dancing enticingly.

Enjoy the rest of your Summer. ‘September Song’ can wait for September.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Writing performatively


I have experimented over the past ten years or so with writing performatively, or rather, representing in text what I am trying to accomplish visually and aurally. Several examples are available on my webpage and include the results of an interview with Mary Gergen, the script for an A/V production about Klaus Riegel and Ken Gergen, the script for my Princess Margaret A/V and a very early piece about Akira Kurosawa and Gerotranscendence.

The Kurosawa presentation holds particular memories for me. I took a slow boat to Bergen, Norway to present it at a conference. It was mostly me rambling on about my idea that Kurosawa's main character was a fine representation of Tornstam's Theory of Gerotrancendence; I played clips from Kurosawa's film, Ran, (with sound) behind me whilst reading my paper (I seldom do this anymore, read directly to an audience, that is), trying to build a 'performative' montage of sorts.

Those were early days. The audience didn't seem to get it at all. No one would sit with me at lunch following the presentation. I should have known then that I was on to something.

I draw attention to these early attempts at writing performatively for several reasons.

First, I think it is important to revisit the initial motivations behind these early efforts and even try to recapture a bit of their naïveté and enthusiasm for finding new ways of expressing our scholarship. As my work becomes more sophisticated (even 'skillful'), it is important for me not to abandon such initial struggles and uncertainties which represent the creative part of the process.

What was involved in all of these early pieces was creative problem-solving --being presented with a particular puzzle or challenge and then finding the tools from the arts (using text as graphic illustration; mixed media including TV, overheads, audio, etc.; radio script writing; and film as background montage) to respond to such questions. This is what Performative Social Science is about and should be doing. I am often reminding myself and others of this fact.

I did not suddenly decide to turn myself into a graphic illustrator, script writer or filmmaker. I remain a social scientist with a particular story to tell or message to get across who is exploring which media would best help me to accomplish that. I don't worry about whether I am very good at the use of a particular medium but rather, wonder whether the medium will serve the purpose. I then begin the struggle with the particular new means of communicating. This process itself holds many of the joys and frustrations of each project, but also the opportunities to really explore the creative process.

I have mentioned recently that the 'writing up' of our projects should be ancillary to our work, not the main reason for doing it. For me, more interesting are the scripts themselves, the notes, the diagrammatic evidence that our projects leave behind as a kind of record. If we must publish, these would certainly hold more interest for me.

(I have a coffee table piled with beautiful books; I do love publications, especially ones with pictures! Illustrated above.)


Publish or perish drives much of academic life. It has its origins in hard science where the first to get his experiment, finding, theory, etc. into publication won. Other academic disciplines followed suit by imitating this system. It has developed both a 'style' of academic writing as well as a vetting process that are both by now antiquated and suspect.

Recently, I had an email from an academic who was exploring the performative and experimenting with the means available to him. The enthusiasm in his message was palpable and I expectantly opened the accompanying published paper that he had attached to his message. I was met with pages of dry 'scholarly' justifications for what he was trying to accomplish performatively, instead of anything I could really find inspirational or even helpful to the work of others.

We have all been caught up in this bind from time to time, me included. Fortunately, publication itself is being forced to change and more and more, multi-media is now often requested as part of the publication process. These changes are driven mostly by economics, but that doesn't mean that it isn't a good time to take advantage of the opening up of narrow prescriptions for publication of our work. Even 'tenure' requirements are beginning to include not just X number of published papers but also the possibility of outputs through alternative media. Funders are looking for outcomes from their investments in us and want to know how we will affect change in the wider world; i.e., the world beyond the very few other academics who happen to read a journal article. This time of flux should be seen as an opportunity to get our alternative responses to dissemination of social science data out there.

I enjoy writing here for this blog. It began as an experiment for me; once again, I started out not sure of what I was doing or how I would go about doing it. I was uncertain of the outcome as well.

One result for me is that I am less and less interested in writing that does not communicate more directly with an audience and include my 'self' in that process. All I really have to share with anyone else is my own experience. It may be flawed and/or of little value to anyone else. For these reasons, I try to find a way in which what I write here will be both of some usefulness to others in their own work, but also attempt to write it with some skill and craft at the same time.

Nice to chat. Gotta go.
Kip

PS Hope to see many of you at the Bournemouth Qualitative Conference in September! About one-third of it this time is performative!