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Monday, 5 May 2014

LARK meetup: report of a sort

By Suzana Sukovic
The LARK meetup was five days ago but we haven’t told you how it went yet. ‘Lovely, as always’, is a short answer, but here is a long one (to quote our good blog friend ALIA Sydney).

It is the first week of the term and it’s just busy, busy, busy...Another meeting, even if lovely and friendly, seems a bit too much, but we’ve made a commitment. Alycia and I buy cheeses and wine, put a smile on our dial and greet our first guests. Our well-known and unknown guests come from near and afar with sure or tentative smiles, ready for the evening. We exchange information, we chat, we nibble and it’s time for a ‘real’ start although we are already on a roll. It’s a small gathering and, because we always have new people, we all say something about our research interests... I grow a bit taller in my chair. Some statements about interests, even research topics, have definitely become much more defined few meetings down the track. 

We talk about examples of research approaches in practice. Mary Anne Kennan tells us about surveys in a large international study and a follow-up using some qualitative methods. Alycia Bailey talks about the ethnography in a school library and lots of fine-grained data gathering – a very different approach from the previous one. I talk about action research and how data helped me see the first phase of my project as a bit more than flat-lying-on-its-back attempt. 

We then split into groups and things are seriously warming up. One group is all over gaming, another is serious about researching the value of ‘fluff’ and the third talks about social change (that’s serious but, in the end, I only know they talked about surveys – keyword injustice). I am the party breaker and clock-watcher (the eternal shame is mine) so we come back and say, ‘So what?’ and ‘What’s next?’ Suggestions that we can meet separately in groups or online don’t fly. Some people just love saying to their families and co-workers, ‘Sorry, guys, I’ve got to go’. My research tells me that there is real value in doing your work and chatting in corners for a few hours. Mary Anne mentions the ‘shut up and write’ approach, Mary Coe suggests reading circles...Now we know what we want – to work as much as we can alone and come back together, for longer, much longer.

By the time we take pictures, some people have gone. Our group is small as it is without a few missing people. But, research has never been a mass exercise. For a handful of LARKs, it’s inspiring to know there are others who are equally glad they I’ve made the effort. That’s what research is about. Fly above the daily grind for something in what you believe.

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