Sociologists Talking is an interactive multi-media exhibition which aims to address the importance of university pedagogies in seeking to understand and engage critically in the complex moral, social and political questions of contemporary human society. The focal point of the exhibit is a number of audio podcasts of Sociologists talking on the themes of:
The research was carried out by Elisabeth Simbuerger (recent Sociology PhD and current IAS Fellow) and the analysis and creation of the exhibition carried out by Elisabeth Simbuerger and Cath Lambert (Sociology).
Photo: with courtesy to Les Back.
The exhibition is located in a classroom, transforming the space into a gallery in which participants are invited to engage in a different mode of learning and research dissemination. The spoken narratives are situated in a physical space with echoes of the Sociologists’ comments, and theoretical ideas which help challenge or explain them, presented via textual media on data projectors. The material is taken from transcripts of interviews with twentythree academics in a Russell Group university, extracts of which have been recorded using actors’ voices. The data presents a number of contradictions around the contested relationships at the heart of Higher Education such as teaching and research; teaching and learning; and students and teachers.
Exhibition as research communication medium
Whereas the publishing market is increasing, academics face declining audiences. Fewer and fewer journal publications and monographs are read. Besides access to publications is restricted by publishers increasingly preferring to produce expensive hard-cover versions and not cheaper and more accessible soft-bound versions. In addition, more and more university libraries face the problem of not being able to subscribe to all relevant journals in the field any longer.
Our exhibition Sociologists Talking aims to address a potentially broader audience. This is particularly important as the research presented in ‘Sociologists Talking’ deals with some of the most common problems sociologists and academics more generally face in reaching audiences. As academic journal publications and monographs are the only recognised media for what has so far been the RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) in British Higher Education and will be the REF (Research Exercise Framework) in the future, there are no structural incentives for academics to engage with new ways of communicating research and thus disseminating their research widely. This exhibition challenges the notion of what counts as a (legitimate) public within sociology and Higher Education and provides an arena within which current problems in conveying the sociological in a format other than the written word/journal article/ monograph should be problematised and discussed. The online documentation of our exhibition shall help us to preserve our work for posterity and to keep it accessible beyond the time of the site-specific exhibition.