12 September 2023, 08:10
We recently represented the ILIT team at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference held in London from 30 August to 1 September 2023. This conferences attracts over 2000 geographers from around the world. We participated in a special session assembling researchers from a variety of perspectives and areas of geography interested in using creative methods in their research. The session – organised by Rich Gorman (Brighton and Sussex Medical School), Chloe Asker (University of Exeter) and Tess Osborne (University of Leicester) – aimed to showcase practice-based approaches, methodological experimentation, and the doing of creative methods in fieldwork.
We presented our first experiences of using collaborative zine-making as both research and community building method that offers opportunities for reflection and mutual understanding with the goal to foster awareness, education, empowerment, and transformation. Co-productive zine-making allows one to go beyond verbal communication, and to promote equality, social justice, and social change. It challenges the traditional power dynamics of knowledge producing in academia by democratizing and decolonizing knowledge production, through literally making space for alternative voices within the walls of the library. Yet, despite these benefits, we learned that zine-making does not come without considerations and challenges. We reported on practical and ethical issues we encountered before, during and after the first workshops we organised in our project with community librarians.
For example, in the Netherlands it proved difficult to recruit enough research participants, to find the right balance between leading the workshop without steering the discussion too much, and to interpret what the makers actually intended with their zine-pages. As such, the workshop answered our questions on community librarianship, but also raised many new questions such as: How can you reach populations that are not intrinsically open to more creative negotiations? Are creative methods effective if they have an enforced nature? Can we fully grasp what the maker intended? Should descriptions then remain very factual, not guessing what is being represented by them? Much to reflect upon when we start preparing for our next round of zine-making workshops, to be held early 2024 with library managers, policy-makers and other institutional stakeholders.