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What rhymes with agri-environmental scheme?

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Are the most vivid, vital and interesting representations of the world to be found in art rather than science? Indeed, can art be combined with science to draw on the best characteristics of both: the rigour and depth of science with the expressive tools and abilities to reach new audiences that art provides? What methods are available and are they only suitable in specific contexts on specific topics? These were questions I was interested in exploring when I attended a recent workshop on the use of poetry in social sciences research.

The workshop was entitled “Poetic autoethnographies: Exploring the potential for collaborative arts based research” and was given by the academic and poet Helen Johnson based at the University of Brighton.

I write and perform spoken word myself and my main research interest is agriculture: what agriculture is for, why we value it and how we can understand change within agriculture. These two interests did not seem all that compatible: I assumed it would be difficult and fairly unproductive to ask farmers to express their views on agri-environmental schemes or animal disease in the form of a sonnet. However, the workshop was an interesting and thought provoking introduction to the use of poetic forms in research.

Helen introduced ways that poetry can be used in data collection, analysis and dissemination. For example, participants can produce poems which can then be analysed. Interview data can be turned into poems as an analysis tool: we created “I poems” from interview data samples where every instance of the word I and the proceeding verb were written down to form a poem. This proved to be an interesting tool for highlighting the tone and language being used. We also took lines and fragments from interview data to form poems which represented the themes found in the data. Poems produced in the research can be disseminated through performances, exhibitions and books which reach a wider and different audience from academic research outputs.

The discussion reminded me of a folk song I’d heard at a Scottish traditional music event some months before. The song was a heartfelt lament at the loss of good Scottish land through the EU’s (now defunct) set aside policy which put land out of production for environmental reasons. Perhaps the subjects of agri-environmental schemes and poetry are not so far apart after all. And indeed social scientists Nerlich and Döring, and others, analysed poems on the subject of the 2001 foot and mouth disease outbreak in a 2005 paper. To enable people to share and record their experiences and feelings, perhaps our future research could benefit from a closer connection to the arts.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author(s), and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Printed from /blogs/what-rhymes-agri-environmental-scheme on 28/02/24 04:40:45 PM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.