Of fieldwork and formulating ideas.

It’s ¬†been a while since the last update of coffee and wifi (yes, two months!). In that time, a lot has happened, and probably a lot of things that didn’t necessarily warrant being blogged about in a warts and all fashion.

So here’s the bullet-point update to get you up to speed with how the project has progressed.

  • I read. And read. And read. There is so much literature about cafe ethnographies (Habermas, Laurier, Wakeford) to get through, then there is literature about actor-network theory (Latour) to read closely and then digest. To cap it all off, there is a massive chunk of reading around methodology (Hine, Murthy) to read and think about to shape my ethnographic approach.
  • I devised my methodology. It’s a multi-modal ethnography comprising observations, interviews and Twitter scraping. There were a few other things I prototyped that won’t make it into the finished work.
  • I spent a lot of time in Manchester. My field is in Manchester, so it was excellent in that I could easily divide the field from the rest of my life in London. The five-hour bus commute each way wasn’t so excellent. I got a lot of reading done.
  • I observed and interviewed. I gained a lot from being in the field – in fact it was my favourite part of the project so far. Apart from the obvious joys of doing legitimate research in a cafe, I learnt a lot about being a participant-observer (this is one of the key discussions on the ethical side of doing ethnography). People in the field were incredibly supportive, generous and receptive. They had a lot to say and I’m looking forward to sharing it with you in the coming weeks.
  • I thought. Even when I’m not in the field and when I’m not reading and not interviewing, I am chewing over what I’ve observed or heard or read. This means eureka moments in the shower, on the tube and in the office. There are many benefits of studying (sociology in particular, but I’m sure it’s the same for other disciplines), but one of the best benefits is being able to slowly consider a concept and build on it over time.
  • I almost gave up coffee. Yes. There was one horrible Friday in Manchester where I seriously entertained the thought of giving up coffee for a while once the project came to an end. Thankfully, I reconsidered. But I will be taking it easy on the coffee front come September.

What now? It’s time to start analysing and writing. More on that in the coming weeks.

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