The work of various key sociologists and philosophers including Merleau-Ponty, Mead, Dewey, Wittgenstein, Becker, Strauss, Simmel and Durkheim.
Current research projects:
Student Activist Networks. A couple of years ago I published a paper outlining a theory of student politicisation focused upon the role of campus based social networks. This project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust and also involving Yousaf Ibrahim, seeks to test out and further elaborate that theory empirically. We have been interviewing (53) student activists, tracing their networks with one another and observing political life on campus. In our year of observation we observed both an occupation of unviersity buildings, focused upon events in Gaza and lasting several weeks, and a shorter occupation of the roof of the local RBS building, focused on the perceived environmental impact of their investment strategies. We have also, with Rachel Stevenson, conducted a more general survey of student networks, which allows us to put activist networks into context.
Covert Social Movement Networks. This project, conducted with Rachel Stevenson, Gemma Edwards and Ellie Harries, addresses themes in an emerging literature which suggests that social networks which operate covertly (e.g. terrorist and criminal networks) are shaped in distinctive ways by the demand for secrecy. Part of our project has involved reviewing this literature. We have found it to be highly problematic; lacking specificity , coherence and good empirical evidence. The other part of the project has involved us reconstructing, on the basis of public archives and secondary sources, key networks from within the Uk suffragettes during their most militant period (1904-1914) and the Provisional IRA. We haven't found much evidence to support to the abovementioned theories. The empirical world is far more complex than the theorists (in this case often game theorists) assume. But it is also more interesting.
Punk and Post-Punk Music Scenes in the UK (1976-1980). This project began life as an attempt to trace the network connecting the various actors involved in the original London punk scene, and to explore the role of the network in the emergence of the scene. Next step was to consider how a similar network emerged (the mechanisms underlying this emergence) in Manchester. The project is still largely running along those (network) lines. In addition to doing more with my two case studies I am aiming to add Liverpool and Sheffield to the list. As the project develops further, however, I would like to reflect further upon the role of conventions and resources, in addition to networks, effectively conceptualising (post)punk and as a 'world', in Howard Becker's sense, and I am furiously reading up on musicology and the sociology of music in an effort to be able to say something about the music itself. The work is very intensive but I've loved this stuff since I first heard the Sex Pistols as an impressionable 10 year old (it was 1978 and punk was officially over to those in the know but for me ....)