My workshop, "Studying Religion and the Internet - Challenges and Opportunities: Theoretical, Practical and Ethical," at the HEA Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies' "Exploring New Challenges and Methods in the Study of Religion" day at Birkbeck went okay. I definitely think that my topic could (should?!?) have been given an entire day in itself, which meant that I had a lot to get through in my presentation. They sprung on me that it was going to be recorded, so you should be able to download the mp3 soon... if you particularly want to listen to me nervously speaking! I usually speak using less notes and I think you can tell, as I felt rather beholden to using the phrases I'd written down rather than speaking more off the cuff. Oh well, lesson learnt!
But it was good to meet up with old and new colleagues, and I particularly enjoyed a presentation by Helen Purcell (Open University) on her position as a Pagan academic that also reflected on narrative. Another conference delegate mentioned an academic who decided to write a novel instead of a thesis because that seemed to better reflect the experiences of her participants and her time spent with them. It generated some more thoughts in relation to my own concerns about having to "represent" the "truth" about my participants, whose notions of "truth" are often neither "representational" nor "non-representational," but are of what I'm calling "undecidable representationality." This dilemma leads to interesting questions about the literary dimension of the academic presentation of research "findings." Anyway, enough of that...
It was ashame that I missed fellow Lancaster PhD student Janet Eccles' paper on the "pitfalls and possibilities" of conducting an interview-based study in her local community. But I was good to hear about some of the PhD students just starting out in internet-based studies, like Anna Rose Stewart (University of Sussex). It was also great to catch up with Gordon Lynch, whom I haven't seen in a couple of years. Susannah Rigg (Birkbeck), me and Sim's housemate when she was at Lancaster, was on hand in an organisational role and it was good to chat over coffee.
Anyway, here's the powerpoint presentation from my workshop. There's a very illustrative list of resources at the end of it.