Research into this Pluralist Website
|This website has been used as part of research into websites as constructions of world views. Dave Kenyon, Senior Lecturer Journalism And Humanities Brayford Campus of the University of Lincoln, interviewed me for some three hours, channelled along the lines of Personal Construct Psychology rather than on how it was made and the philosophy of it (directly, although this came out). It was discussed that Personal Construct Psychology pursues a series of sometimes binary but mainly other opposites or othernesses on the basis that something is defined by being not something else. It appears structuralist, and given that we use the same language we therefore organise our understanding of the world in this is-not-is way. This psychological approach is a means of pursuing the Media Studies discipline into which this research falls. Dave Kenyon's previous work was into the worldviews constructed through amateur photography: he sees a continuation between such a world view in the photographic collection and the personal website, given that a website is public whereas a photo album is shown selectively. There may be relevance in parallels where people who could just afford to photograph took pictures of people; that those who easily afforded photography added landscapes; and that those with digital cameras where money is no object take anything. This research is part of the UK section, and he envisages difference in southern India and the Caribbean, and between people in private places constructing websites and in a public room (say abroad).|
|From thousands of personal websites initially identified, those by students told what to do, and by people following templates (eg Geocities) were rejected. It came down to 93 personal websites subjected to detailed examination, including returned questionnaires, of which four creators were interviewed live, including me. An issue was an incident of error in automatic emailing that appeared like spam, so those who stayed with it were more biased to netizens (the more understanding!).|
|The peak time for constructing personal websites was 2000. People who have created them, like me, can be regarded as Netizens, that is earlier users responding to the medium and method and making something of it (and not just talking about the medium) whereas, with expanded use, people today will do blogging (requiring no HTML knowledge) but use chat rooms, email and surfing. People today are more a consumer, he thinks of people like me as "produmers".|
|My reaction to his interview was of some puzzlement, which I investigated with him. This was because in my approach to social research you get data rich interviewee given material and then apply a hypothesis to it. His response was that in a sense he had received the data through the website being examined in considerable detail, and the method of this research and Personal Construct Psychology was to ask questions back and pursue points, raising issues upwards (called "laddering"). Of course I accepted that there are different methods and this overcame my reservation that I was being fitted into his theory up front rather than letting the data flow and then the theory being applied.|
|The issue for me was whether this website is a personal website throughout. It is obviously a reflection of me, in that for example there is no astrophysics on it, and the subjects involved are what I have encountered. On the other hand, this trail of my interests is written in general. I suggested a parallel with the fiction of academic work, that it is written neutrally and in distant fashion, whereas much of it is indeed personal. But, for example, RE teacher training essays have been posted for their value to others as they are; people have enquired about the adult teacher training material on its own terms. On the other hand, at the time of the interview the last major addition of material was of the holiday in 2004 which very much is like a public photograph album.|
|I spoke of the observation of boundaries; that I am more open than many and indeed open to criticism, though not thick skinned. The boundaries are there in terms of unnamed friends, and although my wife is an open personality too she has dictated some of the boundaries. Other family members have their boundaries too. A relationship I had for a short period was with someone who valued anonymity, and so that was respected. But for myself the boundaries are broad, furthermore there are (in a more postmodern sense) few boundaries between what is personal and what is public in terms of the purpose and content of this large website.|
|However, set against this is the discipline of the menu system, and the method for creating the website. This has to be disciplined for anyone to navigate it, and I have kept frames (whereas, say, the BBC website has menu information on every page, but pages change and therefore individual pages are kept simple). The Gallery is an exception because otherwise there would be reduced space for pictures. This disciplining was also evident on the computer itself in terms of "managers" in the Start - Programs area rather than accepting software program folders and their shortcuts. It was even becoming evident on my expanding bookshelves. This is for someone otherwise not particularly organised. The point of this is that the coherence of the website in terms of its content has emerged, and I could not remember what but a matter of recent interest had nowhere to go on the website. Size forces coherence, and it has emerged: what has not happened is a design discipline, so that menus use different colours and pages themselves have different appearances. These are contrasted against websites I have created for small firms, where the design has been much tighter. My website, running for nearly six years up to this interview, is four years longer than the timespan of most.|
|An issue was my counter-cultural viewpoint. Even in the far flung corners of the world, apparently, net users discuss American culture. There is an obvious lack of interest in this, so the Internet as a "tool of American imperialism" is not present within my website. I discussed the web as a place of localisms given a global airing, especially compared with how mass culture once filtered culture into a generalised presentation. However, many web creators like me are counter-cultural, and I am not so unusual. The research interest here is the UK setting, and its response to American culture; this research will also consider responses in the post-colonial presentations of worldviews in personal websites in southern India and the Caribbean.|
|The data is the website, the email returned questionnaire and the interviewing, in this case, websites and questionnaire for some and websites in other cases. The interview was recorded on a 174 minute device which started into the questionning and ran out of time. As Dave Kenyon said, some postmoderns would say present the data and that's that, but he will take material from his three regions and write up a narrative - and I said that is postmodern too (it is the dilemma of the social anthropologist who creates his or her own summarised and prioritised reality within the essay, one that the locals may not themselves recognise). The first material will be written into the public realm towards the end of 2005, and work will come out in stages. The photography work that preceded this led to:|
|Kenyon, D. (1992), Inside Amateur Photography, London: Batsford.|
|The following is the questionnaire as answered, his summary of it, his take from it and guesses. That put in square brackets indicates my responses.|
WHERE ARE YOU AT?
New Holland [full address]
List your top 5 -or as many as... (in order of preference)
G. Computer Games:
Don't like any: (cross here: X )
I. TV Shows:
J. Music Acts:
K. News Sources: (e.g. local TV, local Paper, national radio)
L. Favourite possessions
M. Do you or your family have a computer at home?
N. Online most at home?
O. Usually, how much is your personal internet usage a week
P. 90% personal use
Q. Estimate the balance of your e-communication style:
Mobile phone talk
Landline voice telephone 5%
YOU AS WEB CREATOR
R. Why did you make your personal homepage site?
To have a presence and record what I do
S. What month / year did you first start making it?
T. Are you still updating that site?
V. Are you updating any other sites?
X. Has your 'chat room' usage changed
No - still nil
Y. Please estimate the percentage of online time spent in the following activities:
surfing other sites
Z. Where do (did) you work on the computer to make your web content?
AA.- What sort of room do (did) you make your web content in?
WHO ARE YOU?
AC.- Do you have a longterm partner?
AD.- Longterm relationship?
AE.- Your gender:
AF.- Number of dependent children who live with you?
AG.- Number of dependent children who don't live with you?
AH.- Number of grown-up children who don't live with you?
AI.-- Number of grown-up people who live with you?
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
AJ.-- What is your home / parental cultural tradition (i.e. the sort of background you think
7 United Kingdom
AK.- Do you belong to a group(s) you care about?
AL.-- I was born in:
AM.- I grew up in: (town / country)
A0.-- Recently, I have mostly lived in:
New Holland UK
AP.-- I have this number of sisters
and this number of brothers
AQ.- Are you, your parents and brothers & sisters tight knit (i.e. emotionally close)?
AR.- Do you have relatives you care about who live far away from you?
AS - Finally, what's your site called?
THANKS VERY MUCH FOR YOUR HELP, WOULD YOU BE PREPARED TO HELP ME FURTHER?
|TV (not cinema)|
|Reading & Looking at images|
|e-mail (not Games)|
|Books: British Faith & Philosophy|
|Games: not shoot-em-ups, single player dexterity (no 'spin offs')|
|Not into films|
|British Comedy TV shows|
|Music: Andrea Bocelli + British 70s & 80s|
|News is Radio then TV (not paper or online) National/ int then local|
|Posessions: Computer 1st, then Freeview 'Satellite' TV, then BOOKS, then CDs (music) then undifferentiated|
|Online mostly from home (study) 12hrs 90% personal|
|Non work: 95, mail, 5 accounts, phone|
|WHY? "To have a presence and record what I do."|
|Started November 1998, still updating alongside other sites (hasn't slowed?)|
|No chatroom use|
|Mail 20%, Site making 55%, surfing 25%|
|Makes site at home in study|
|Adrian is 45 with longterm partner, no children, mother lives with them|
|A British person from Humberside who (currently) belongs to no social/cultural groups (but see below)|
|1 sister in a family that's close but cherished relatives live far away.|
Male mid forties "The website is now almost part of my identity" [Affirmed]
Works in computing at ed establishment (site isn't based there) [Affirmed: it was the case around computers but Key Skills in 2003-2004 where the ICT facilities were not as good as they could have been from my potential use]
Has huge non-template site [This means that the website did not follow any one else's instructions or HTML methodology or provision; I stated that when it began I "nicked" code to understand it, eg the menu from the Unitarian Universalist Association website and learnt which did what in the same way as I had learnt which did what with Mallard Basic on the Amstrad PCW]
Postgraduate with CV
Made 2000? (no 98) till now (has many photos - 'amateur photographer of locality becoming much more sig other i.e. wife) [Affirmed: this did so develop and it relates to DK's previous research on photography]
Personal statement, very short on index page but whole site is a 'personal statement' (Large autobiographical section) [Affirmed]
Writes a daily diary (for 24yrs!) [Affirmed with discussion DK raised about the Mass Observation Unit which is developing its facilities, plus the difference between its directed diaries and mine]
Site is compendious (1500 pages) and is in part a 'PROVING GROUND' (DK) for HTML. etc [Affirmed: my HTML skill has tailed off compared with, for example, an HTML programmer I know, but I see no purpose advancing into code when content is more important]
Skills & techniques. Experimentation with fonts/ colours/ b'grounds as a demo for others? Wants to produce quick pages without 'bloated code" [Affirmed with the once Arachnophilia now NoteTab method plus small dedicated programs]
Within several sections various TYPICAL TOPICS emerge: IT. family (Russian wife), relatives (mum), hobbies (web, photog, art), work (teaching) [Affirmed]
LESS TYPICAL: spiritual pages, alienation from neighbours (Grimsby?): photos of locality [See below: a case of what there is in the local community, not alienation but that community means divisions]
Site uses home/house metaphor quite a bit [Interesting]
WHO IS SITE CONTENT FOR? (DK)
SEES HIMSELF in part as a PoMo [postmodern] sociological (religions) researcher. As confident and 'heretical", independent. "I do my own thing" [Affirmed, plus making contributions to http://www.surefish.co.uk discussion boards with recent contributions where I collect up only what I have written and present these on my website]
Tends to fall out with clubs that would have him as a member (has belonged to religious groups) [Someone put it, I said, that I tend to find the argument that sees me out of the door]
Values "a certain satisfying freedom" [Affirmed]
Very meta-pedagogic, reflexive and self-critical [Meta-pedagogic is a theme and approach, where the more general pages appear]
Some (commercial?) pages seem of dubious use? [Websites created for small firms]
Some 'un-british' openness about his e-mail courtship and subsequent marriage [Affirmed, and that my wife is open too but has her boundaries; she has been on both sides of the camera and uses the website to show images to her Russian and other friends]
Q & A Is very big [In Autobiographical section - Interesting]
I'd say that this person is:
'Proud' [Said: may be the wrong word] of his technical prowess
'Proud' [Said: may be the wrong word] of his intellect & creativity
Concerned to be an independent thinker [Affirmed]
Engaged in the work of understanding ideas, frustrated by experience [Affirmed]
Aware of his individuality/ difference [Affirmed]
Would like a less contradictory sense of belonging locally [Discussed that this is a village experience: knowing where the fault lines are and handling a local access dispute]
He seems completely disengaged from US promoted popular culture [Affirmed and said that as television becomes more and more rubbish a channel taking my interest is Sianel Pedwar Cymru where it features real people and communities not put into the reality and game show format]
Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful