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Working Paper 135: Whose Method is it Anyway? Researching space, setting, and practice

Robin Smith

This paper was presented at the NCRM Oxford Methods Festival (2010) and considers some analytical problems observed within recent innovations in qualitative research; specifically, the use of GPS technology and the various ways in which such spatial data may be represented. The paper is intended as a reminder of the critique of the social sciences posed by Ethnomethodology and, in particular, applies these observations to the recent focus upon matters of space, place, and practice. It is argued below that in mapping and representing spatial practice the analyst runs the risk of obscuring the just what and just how of the practice they claim to gain access to. The paper draws on the three examples, outreach work in Cardiff, housewives’ cleaning, and people crossing the road, to demonstrate the form of reduction that can be observed operating in what we may call ‘formal spatial analysis’.

Keywords: Space, Practice, Ethnomethdology, GPS, GIS, Qualitative methods, Mapping 

Dr Robin Smith

Wales Institute of Social Economic Research Data and Method, Cardiff University School of Social Sciences

December 2010

Working Paper 135: Whose Method is it Anyway? Researching space, setting, and practice, Cardiff School of Social Sciences, December (2010), ISBN 978-1-904815-98-3