5.15 Generating ‘findings’

In examining, describing and analysing video recordings we have remained concerned with the participants’ orientation to their settings. It might then seem that our fixation on their orientation rather than ours (as social scientists) will deliver a tidy collection of social beliefs, attitudes, emotions and perceptions that we can offer as our findings. Frustratingly for the researcher who hopes they might be able to stockpile fixed structures that shape how people interact with one another and their environments, conversation analysis, ethnomethodology and ordinary language philosophy have quite other ambitions. In harmony with a number of other practice-oriented approaches in human geography they treat those fixed structures as things that are given their character as fixed by the participants’ ongoing efforts. Efforts which when one comes to see and hear video recordings with the right degree of patience, rigour and imagination are stunningly detailed, robustly orderly and yet also quite ordinary.

What are our findings then? What news can we deliver from carefully watching and listening to video recordings of spatial practices? The answer comes in three parts. The first part is a conventional sense that we are describing, collecting and cataloguing the methods that cultures, communities, families, and all manner of other collective entities, use to do the things that they do. In our studies we are using video as the evidence that shows that there are these methods and that, afterwards others with an interest can then inspect their usage after us and concur or disagree with what we made of them. These would be things like the fact the drivers of cars use their head to point toward objects in the environment ahead of them. In a larger study we could collect all the distinctive head movements used by car drivers and passengers to accomplish various actions (pointing, agreeing, disagreeing, showing they are listening and so on).

The second part is a concern with reversing that move toward the general and context-free. Having identified certain common methods that people employ to do things, we can then look at how it is that they then employ those methods in just this place, at just this time, with just these people and materials around them. If the first move was identifying generalisable features, this second one is bringing those general features back to new and old recordings to see just how they were actually done. This return to what happens in particular instances does two things. It helps refine our descriptions of methods and it also differentiates and may indeed dissolve some of those initial general findings as we find that they happen in a different way in this particular place or being used to accomplish something quite other than what had previously been found.

The third is a response to theory. Where theorising about the world involves a certain disengagement and almost always generates what appear to be unsolvable problems. What this approach offers is not the verification or falsification of those theories (or indeed hypotheses). Instead the hope is it that it re-specifies them. Where a Theory of Mind might seem to raise all manner of terrible troubles around how we can tell what people are thinking if we only have indirect access through what they say, the re-specification is that we will look very closely at what people say and see where they have trouble with what one another are thinking. On that basis we might then need to re-specify what we understand about the mind. Or, more germane to our materials here, when in theorising, a concern with gender can lead us to struggle over what the nature is of its relevance to driving. By this we mean that while the car has acquired a long historical connection with masculinity it does not yet tell us what is happening when we drive and quite where and when gender is relevant. With recordings in hand we can turn to actual instances of driving to re-establish how, when and in what sense gender is made relevant by people travelling together in cars because it least it was, at that moment and in those ways and that is somewhere to start an inquiry.