Art of Guerrilla Research workshop

On Monday I ran a workshop with Tony Hirst on the Art of Guerrilla Research. This was a vague idea I'd floated a while back, and Rhona Sharpe of ELESIG got in touch, asking if I could run one of their masterclass workshops on it. This was a good opportunity to think through the idea with others.

With tongue a bit in cheek I proposed a manifesto for Guerrilla Research which was: 

  • It can be done by one or two researchers and does not require a team
  • It relies on existing open data, information and tools
  • It is fairly quick to realise
  • It is disseminated via blogs and social media
  • It doesn’t require permission

It is that last one that is most significant I think. This is stuff you can just do, it doesn't require funding, permission from IT services, access to privileged data, etc. It is thus more exploratory in nature, Tony used the phrase 'recreational research' (I hope Tony blogs his slidedeck soon). Another point I was trying to explore is one I've made before, that we have become enculturated into thinking about research in a particular way. What constitutes research is the 2 year funded project with a journal article at the end. Like much else to do with digital scholarship, it is not the case that this traditional approach is not valid, but rather that we now have a much more extended toolbox and set of possibilities. But culturally we still fall into a certain set of behaviours.

It was interesting that a lot of the people at the workshop classified themselves as being outside traditional academic roles, so couldn't engage in traditional research anyway as it wasn't part of their remit. For these people guerrilla research is all they've got.

The slidedeck is below:

[Update: here is the video of the session, it's a bit quiet]


  • Sukainaw

    I like the idea that guerilla research can make the research process more accessible to those for whom research might not be in their remit. One issue is the how – if you are doing something on your own or with one other person, how can you get access to expertise, advice and mentoring while decisions regarding methodology or rigour might become an issues or need.

  • Anneladams

    This sort of connects up with research in the wild work. Except it goes a step further – as always with Martin and Tony. I agree there is an issue of support for guerrilla research. Although it depends on expectations for the research. Many educationalists pose theories on learning without ever touching practice in the real world – they don’t worry that their work may be totally invalid, they are posing theories. I suspect the thorniest issue is one of ethics. Although I think this posses some interesting thoughts, I think we have become obsessed in research with the consent from as a get out jail free card for ethics. Actually I wrote a piece for one of my current research projects arguing that written consent could actually be more invasive for some pieces of research. I’ve argued for initial research to be framed by verbal consent….. And I found some medical research that highlights in Randomised controlled trials he benefit of verbal consent over written consent. Good evidence for that argument ;-).

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