Know-how: Do-it-ourselves research (course outline)

A new term starts this Thursday, 26th February, 7-9pm at the Renew Involvement Centre, Mint Lane, Lincoln. Anyone is welcome.

Below is an outline of the planned sessions. Readings in advance of the class will be circulated on our course mailing list. Please get in touch if you wish to be added.

Week 1: (26th Feb) Introduction to Academic Research

Week 2: (5rd March) Is co-operative education an antidote to the neoliberal political system of academy schooling?

Week 3: (12th March) The Academic Guerrilla

Week 4: (19th March) Co-operative Higher Education

Week 5: (26th March) Urban poverty: Space, time and inequalities

Week 6: (2nd April) Break: Reading, writing and contemplation

Week 7: (9th April) Rhythmanalysis – after Henri Lefebvre

Week 8: (16th April) Questioning Historical Research

Week 9: (23rd April) Research Design and Social Innovation

Week 10: (30th April) Home Reading Project

Week 11: (7th May) Seeing power

Notes for Know-how (session nine): “Shall we start a movement?”

18th December 2014. Attending: Joss, Tim, Martha, Gerard, Laura.

We talked about:

  • Alternating each week’s session so that we discuss our own research and learn from the published research of others.
  • How do people understand the role of research so that it helps them make choices?
  • How do researchers get access to their area of research? Isn’t that part of research?
  • We need to spend more time discussing people’s research ideas and identify the research projects that are going on within and outside the SSC.
  • How do we change the outside by changing the inside of the SSC?
  • How does theory constrain research?
  • Research interventions as a “dare”.
  • What happens when a teacher says to his students: “Shall we start a movement” (after Larkin)
  • Action research has emancipatory aims, not the building of models.
  • If our research aims to develop models, are they “models of…” or “models for…”?
  • How to work collectively on individual interests? Sharing ingredients vs. sharing meals.
  • We’re looking forward to the Fun Palace Party on the 20th December.

Notes for Know-how (eighth session): The Value of Value

11th December 2014

Present: Mike and Wendy

Wendy is studying Marx’s labour theory of value and brought to the session some of the writings of I I Rubin (1886 – 1937), a Soviet  economic theorist and historian who contributed greatly to our understanding of Marx’s critical political economy.

The significance of Rubin’s exposition of Marx is his insistence that Marx was not an economist concerned with the allocation of resources or technical inefficiencies of production; but, rather, why the social relations of production take on the peculiar social forms in capitalism as labour, capital, commodities and money;  and how, based on this arrangement, the working activity of people is regulated in capitalist society. Following Marx he sought to provide a sociological and historical explanation for processes that have become so longstanding that they appear to be naturalised and, therefore, incapable of transformation. Rubin, following Marx, refers to this particular ontological project of capitalism as commodity fetishism.

For an appreciative account of Rubin see Samuel Perlman’s introduction to Rubin’s expostion of commodity fetishism, written in 19681

For a more critical account nof Rubin read Moishe Postone’s Time Labour and Social Domination 1993 145-148 and 186 – 188. This more critical account suggests that even Rubin did not grasp the full significance of Marx’s labour theory of value. Postone points out that Rubin saw the fundamental problem of capitalism as the lack of rational decision making in the allocation of resources, a deficiency that could be eradicated by popular planning and new rules of public ownership, rather than problematising the real nature of value as the essential characteristic of capitalist life.

Wendy is going to apply her own understanding of the labour theory of value to research into cooperative schools.

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Notes for Know-how (seventh session): Literacy, food, community, curriculum


Attending: Lucy, Tim, Laura, Mike, Gerard, Martha, Joss, Wendy, Ken

One scholar shared his paper: ‘Using the Sociological Imagination to Investigate a Theme’. An attempt to find a ‘sociological prism’ to understand the complexity of the world.

He shared details of his health survey and research proposal and said he’d had 1000 responses to the survey, which is now being analysed by the local council. Focus groups will follow. It was suggested that we learn more about focus group techniques at the SSC.

He talked about the ‘Seeds of Change’ project at his college which is an attempt to improve the health, perceptions and lives of pupils and their families through community gardening.

We talked about poverty: of ideas, imagination and aspiration among some people, and the importance of coming together to do something and engage with people.

We talked about guerilla gardening, city farms, allotments and how these forms of community activity are constantly under threat.

Another scholar introduced her research proposal to the group, which if successful would fund her through her employer.

She’s proposed research which is designed to improve children’s literacy through ‘gifts from the community’. People will be asked to volunteer to help parents read at home with their children by creating time for them to do so. She suggested that scholars might like to volunteer and that it would provide access to conversations within the Abbey Ward area. The aim is not to teach children how to read but to develop community support for reading. We also talked about the ethics of research interventions.

The research is intended to work at two levels: the effect on the children’s literacy and the effect on the community.

We talked about the effect that our upbringing can have on the way we read and how a love of reading can be passed on from generation to generation. Public libraries have played an important role in this.

In the final part of the session, we discussed the format of the Know-how course and it was suggested that we alternate between i) a structured curriculum focusing on the nature and methods of research, and ii) reports from scholars about their own research, which a number of us are now doing. This had emerged from previous weeks of Know-how where we have discussed a number of scholars own research and approaches to research, but also feel a need for a complementary seminar-style component to the course that provides a structured approach to understanding what research is and how it is undertaken. This could be done by combining ‘text book’ introductory reading with reading of actual research papers that reflect on their research methods.

A curriculum will be developed next week for the new year.

Notes for Know-how (sixth session): Evidence, violence, if…do…

SSC: Thursday 20th November 2014, Croft Street

Present: Martha, James, Laura, Gerard, Mike, Tim

What we have been doing this week:

  • Got the ok for planting 800 trees! Re-read the report written in 1997, but feels that much of it would still apply today.
  • Looking at research about biophilia: mental and physical advantages of proximity to nature; biophillic design.
  • Reading Carol Dweck and relevance of “growth mindset” in context of education.
  • Environments with different attitudes: Changing from an attitude of “No, but” to “Yes, unless.”  Theories of evolution – is it a priori, or a posteri: you can use it to make something happen.
  • Writing an article about violence, based on drone culture.  How do we counter violence?  What is the logic of the militarised drone?  What is the root?
  • Designing a counter project.  How can we be invisible to the capitalist project?
  • Registered a web domain; teaching; talking with Mark Thomas about Please Mind the Farage!  When we’re creative, it’s outside the logic of war and the target culture.  We’re at a tipping point, when human comprehension of existence is changing.

    We discussed the dangers of “evidence based” research, and that evidence is political.  Can the variety inherent in education be handled in an “evidenced” way.  Teachers have been left out as a resource for adding innovation.

    Is education redemptive?  Education as benign violence (Asgar Allen); same logic as a factory.  Trend in education towards individualisation and achieving targets.

    We’re not critically self-conscious of the predicament we’re in.

    Martha described the process of her paper (our reading for last week) for the recommendation of where to site an access centre, and its use of “If… Do” statements.

    We discussed whether there are problems that cannot be solved, and which is the real/normal situation: between economic boom and economic depression.  If you drive down the value of labour, you create unemployment and people work for nothing.

    Tim agreed to recommend some reading for next week about fractals.