Tag Archives: my PhD research

What does ideology look like?

Continuing on from my previous post, I am uploading a few more of the photos I took as part of the data collection for my PhD research on the Irish organic food movement.

In the case of the organic food movement, the ideology that inspires producers and consumers can best be described as one based around the ideas of biodiversity and coexistence. This translates, practically, into everyday attempts at finding ways of producing, transporting, and consuming food, that do not endanger other species. It requires practical experimentation and ingenuity. It leads to flexibility, openness, and a whole new approach to farming. But, what does it look like?
Below are a couple of images taken during my PhD research on organic farms. I suggest they represent some of the values and beliefs of the organic movement.

Fig 1. ‘Weeds’ and ‘wildflowers’ grow side by side with the cultivated crop on an organic farm, Co Cork. Despite being a commercially successful enterprise, and a farm selected by Teagasc for the national series of open days, the farmer here contributes an alternative meaning to wild plants, and proudly points them out to visitors to the farm as a ‘proof’ of the success of his attempts at preserving local biodiversity.

Fig 2 & 3. An old bus sits, apparently abandoned, in the middle of an organic pasture. However, upon closer inspection, we can see that the bus has been converted to house a flock of laying hens, that roam the farm during the day. It thus reflects both the concern for the welfare of food animals we find among organic producers (allowing for truly free range egg production), and the sort of inventions through trial and error that characterise many organic enterprises.

For more information on this project, or for copies of the relevant thesis chapters, leave a comment here or send me a mail.


Sharing knowledge

These days I am mostly working on turning my PhD research into publications. The research explored the construction, use and diffusion of skills and ideas among producers and consumers of organic food. I spent time participating and talking to people on organic farms, at events and during market days. I looked at publications, books and websites produced by members of the organic food movement. And of course, I took some photographs that served as data along with interview transcripts and observation notes. Unfortunately, it will not be possible to publish those images in the journals I have chosen to submit the articles to, so let’s have a quick look at some of them before they go into storage and leave my pc forever.

The first two images illustrate practices for teaching and sharing ideas, skills and information about the production and consumption of organic food. I argue in the thesis that these practices differ from those in the conventional food system, which is characterised by a lack of dialogue:

Caption: Patterson (2006) argues that, in commercial retail outlets, the combined processes of industrialisation and new trends in architecture combine to encourage an individual shopping experience based on looking. Here, however, an abundance of different varieties of vegetables and an open spatial layout encourage consumers to communicate with one another and with the stallholder.

On the other hand, some members of the organic food movement are more knowledgeable than others, and knowledge transmission can temporarily become a one-way phenomenon:

Caption: At a farmwalk, the host dons a bright yellow safety vest and guides visitors around his land. Arriving at a shed he climbs onto a bale of hay, temporarily elevating himself to the status of expert, addressing his audience from above and pointing out various features of the building. In the foreground can be seen a piece of equipment for sowing grass seeds developed by the farmer himself.

For more information on this project, or for copies of the relevant thesis chapters, leave a comment here or send me a mail.
Ref: Patterson, M (2006) Consumption and Everyday Life. London: Routledge