For a virgin blogger, this virtual terrain seems hard to navigate. It is 22.44, I should be going to bed, but instead I have got to the final step in setting up my own website and feel like I should finish the task by writing an inaugural blog entry. But what, and indeed how, to write? Perhaps I should start with the reason I have set up this blog. Over the last year, three parts of my world have begun to collide: my doctoral research (now finally complete), my paid research work and my voluntary work. Since my research work was, until July 2013, completely unrelated to either my PhD or my voluntary work, I kept them quite separate in terms of my practice and thinking, and certainly writing. The aim of this blog is to change this by bringing these now very complementary areas of my life together. In brief, these are:
- My doctoral research, which explored the use of participatory photography as a research method. I looked at how staff and patients in a mental health hospital used cameras to show what they thought of their surroundings. I looked at the process of participatory photography but also at the process of interpretation, and in particular what various types of text added to the meaning making process for visual images.
- My paid research work, which until July 2013 was mainly in public health, process evaluations of health interventions and systematic reviews, but since then has taken a significant step change. I am now working on a fantastic project at Cardiff Institute of Society, Health and Wellbeing (www.CISHeW.co.uk), funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, exploring how the arts and humanities can be used to construct knowledge, evidence and representations of certain communities in the UK (http://sites.cardiff.ac.uk/representingcommunities/).
- My voluntary work, which consists of chairing Adamsdown Arts Association, or A3 (find us on Facebook, website under construction!), and being co-treasurer for Making Minds (http://makingmindsblog.wordpress.com/), an arts and mental health orgranization. I can truly say that I love A3 with all my heart; we are a tiny group of activists in an inner-city ward of Cardiff, trying to bring the arts and creativity to as many people in our community as possible. It is exciting, opportunistic and joyful being part of this fantastic group.
The overlaps between these three parts of my world are many and complex; I am meeting people through work that know people we’ve worked with through A3, and now Making Minds as well, which is a far younger venture. I am working as a community activist / development worker / commissioner / fundraiser for A3, whilst thinking critically and academically about participatory arts, aesthetics and representation in my role at CISHeW, as well as having an eye on the emergent Arts and Health field (which is actually where I landed my first ever research post at UWE, Bristol with Professor Norma Daykin, who went on to supervise my PhD and remains a massive influence on my research practice).
So I am looking at the arts, humanities, culture and creativity from several different perspectives. This blog will hopefully become the place where I can unpack what this means for me as I trek through this relentlessly inspirational landscape, trying my best not to get completely lost in the multi-disciplinary wilderness!