Multimodal Anthropologies

By Rachel Hurdley (Cardiff University), Mike Biddulph (Cardiff Council), Vincent Backhaus (University of Cambridge), Tara Hipwood (Cardiff University), and Rumana Hossain (University of Leeds and Jahangirnagar University)

This online sketchbook accompanies the journal essay, “Drawing as Radical Multimodality: Salvaging Patrick Geddes’s Material Methodology.” While the essay focuses on the connections between multimodality, drawing, and early social scientific methodology, this sketchbook illustrates how drawing became a collective, cross-disciplinary endeavor at Cardiff University.


Rachel Hurdley

This began, as many adventures do, over a cup of tea. Several years and many teatimes passed during which I mulled, with Mike, over what our two disciplines might learn from each other. In one armchair, the urban designer/artist, and in the other, the sociologist/linguist. Our talk was almost dialogue. At times, we made sense to each other, while at others, our sentences slid apart as we tried to rephrase, accompanying our different languages with sketches, diagrams, emphatic word bubbles. Images and words; sketchbook and A4 Narrow Feint; fingers around a pencil and tap-tapping at a keyboard.

Figure 1. “Moving my seeing from the left to the right side of the brain.” (By Rachel Hurdley)

In time, I asked Mike to produce the pictures for a book (Hurdley 2013), talking through my annotated analytical sketches and photographs of research sites, describing what I wanted his drawings to be. In a later project, Mike spent a day in my research site, making sketches as he would for urban design fieldwork (Hurdley 2015). As usual, I had made “field sketches,” together with fieldnotes, audio recordings, and photographs, but these were not for public viewing. I could not draw. Whereas this had never previously been a hindrance to my research, I increasingly felt—even as the researcher and author of the texts—mute. How might being able to draw change my practices of research, understanding, and representation? Wanting to explore how other social scientists might incorporate drawing into their work, we planned a “Drawing in Social Research” workshop for postgraduate research students in 2015. I also began drawing classes and found, despite a long belief in creative genius, that I could learn to draw (Figures 1 and 2; see also Edwards 2012).

Figure 2: “Moving my seeing from the left to the right side of the brain.” (By Rachel Hurdley)

Stemming from curiosity about the problem of using photographs in research (Hurdley 2007), my interest in drawing expanded into wider questions about representation. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot’s work on portraiture methodology (1983; see also Lawrence-Lightfoot and Davis 1997) is an early contribution to the interpretive movement, pulling the positivist world of “data,” text, and method apart (Denzin 2013; Hurdley 2014; MacLure 2011; Rowsell and Pahl 2015). While negotiating a close-up/distant oscillating gaze is crucial to sociological understanding, the stance of critical observer is perhaps too familiar, even since the crisis of representation in the 1980s. Changing approaches in and towards video ethnography (Bates 2015; MacDougall 2006), novel writing (Leavy 2015a; Watson 2016), and painting (Eisner 1991; Jongeward 2015) are central to debates about art/science and qualitative methodologies (Dixson et al. 2005; Leavy 2015b). Scholars have used paintings and novels to develop social theory (Latimer 2009; Munro 2004). The novelist’s preference for “showing not telling,” for asking readers to perform that leap of imagination into another world and other beings, counters the pretense that any method can “capture” reality. Writing itself is not the problem, nor is talk, but there is still a strong assumption that these are “representational” in some sense that elides presence and representation (Zimna 2014, 125; see also Derrida 1970; Thrift 2008; Vannini 2015). Drawing challenges and supplements these other representational orders, and its pursuit at a series of innovative workshops on drawing methodologies in qualitative research suggests new paths for anthropology and the social sciences that echo older practice.

Figure 3: “Life in a Day.” (John Clayton 2016)

The sketchbook opens with images by John Clayton (Figures 3 and 4), a geographer who went on to establish a drawing group with Tara Hipwood and colleagues. Written contributions in the next section are unedited, except for some minor cuts and syntactical changes. This is to make explicit the differing scholarly writing styles within disciplines. Tara is a qualified architect now doing doctoral research in a geography and planning school; Vincent’s project is cross-disciplinary, between education and psychology, while Rumana is located within a Department of Education. These are parallel voices with one common pursuit: that of thinking, expressing, and communicating ideas visually.

Five workshop participants reflect on drawing. First, Mike writes as an “expert,” using drawing in his discipline, urban design, and also as someone who has been an “artist” throughout his life, drawing and painting for pleasure. Three of the postgraduate workshop participants, from different disciplines, then accompany their sketches with early reflections. I follow this with recent experience in becoming a drawing researcher.

Figure 4. “A lunch hour outside a campus building.” (John Clayton 2016)


Mike Biddulph: An Urban Design Perspective

Social scientists do not have much visual material in their work. Why is this? Forms of visual evidence might shape or be a consequence of social and spatial relations. We can and should show evidence of the social and the spatial through forms of visual evidence. Visual material might also be produced as a means to explore, explain, or represent in a visual way some aspect of social relationships between people and other living things as well as the spaces they create and inhabit. It is one way of presenting and understanding the spatial or material world and the relationships between space, things, and people. It is also a way of illustrating the physical, symbolic, or metaphoric content of our social lives and relations (Figure 5).

Figure 5. “Memory: My childhood house.” (By Mike Biddulph)

Are social scientists reluctant to embrace the visual merely because they are not trained to, or because they are not sure how to intellectually embrace this type of evidence or mode of communication in their work? Social scientists are too cautious about exploring the value of drawn material or graphic ways of working. Visual methods explore the contribution that the study of visual material makes to the social sciences, but this has normally meant analysis of visual material produced by others. There is scope for the boundary between social sciences and graphic practices to be blurred.

The Established Place of Drawing

Figure 6: Tree of Life sketch. (Wikimedia Commons)

In other academic disciplines, the position of drawing is established, and we can learn from it (Tufte 2006). For physical scientists, central to their practices are the processes of looking at, recording, thinking about, and then understanding phenomena. They then represent this knowledge. Drawings have had a role to play in this. One of the most famous images in the history of science is Darwin’s quick sketch of what he would later describe as the tree of life (Figure 6). It is only a minor part of his notes, but it seems that a few lines helped him understand or make sense of what he had been observing and then explain his ideas to us.

In a similar way, in 1953 Francis Crick sketched the form of DNA in order to make sense of his data and to help visualize the phenomena that he was exploring (Figure 7). Crick and Watson then developed a physical model from the drawing in order to share their understanding, although the sketch came first (Crick and Watson 1954). Biologists and ecologists have used drawing to map habitats or as a basis for helping them see and think about animals and plants (Canfield 2011). Medical researchers and professionals have drawn anatomy, just as Leonardo da Vinci once did, in order to help them recognize, understand, and remember some aspects of their subject and communicate it to others.

Figure 7. Crick’s sketch of DNA. (Wellcome Trust)

In fields like architecture and planning, drawing is an established way that knowledge and creative use of that knowledge can be combined and expressed. A vivid way to start to understand buildings or spaces is through the evidence of them presented in an image. The relevance of space is also central to disciplines like geography, where it is the focus. One might expect that graphically representing the spaces in various ways might also figure in research practices and outcomes. Our societies and their spaces can be mapped or artifacts drawn and represented as part of the process of understanding them. In the “natural” sciences, drawing is used to observe, record and remember, analyze and understand, explain or represent knowledge. However, in social scientific disciplines, virtually nothing has been said about the role of drawing. As an “outsider,” I will reflect on this gap in the next section.

Speculations on the Rejection of Drawing in Social Science Research

The general silence around the role of drawing in the social sciences was challenged by Ridley and Rogers (2010) in their wider work on drawing in research. They assert that technical and sensory knowledge are undervalued and that our school experiences often convey the impression that drawing, while valuable as a learning tool during early education, is left behind once reading, writing, and math are established.

Other powerful misconceptions might also fuel the extent to which it is not embraced. Drawing is commonly associated with art and design and dismissed as subjective. As such, it is rarely associated with scholarly activity. It is suggested that only certain people can draw, and, more often than not, drawing is not involved in the academic practices of senior academics who frame their fields. Most often, when used, the role of the image is sometimes considered subordinate to the position of text, as the image illustrates a discrete example of what is written or expressed numerically.

It is useful to know a whole thing rather than pick it to pieces. Is this a basis for rejecting the possible centrality of seeing things or visual relations between things in our work? Text can support images to combine a rich understanding and create specificity, but, at the same time, a plan of a series of walls is much more precise and much less abstract than any form of text or quantitative material that also describes them. A wall is a very real expression of social relations, much like the graffiti that is applied to it or the door that marks a route through it. An emotional or perceptual response to such a wall, or a particular view of it, may be more profound and important than objective or abstract qualities derived from it. So why set out to limit your ability to account for the evidence by always resorting to text or even a presentation of numbers?

Contribution of Drawings to Social Sciences

To help us observe, record and understand the field: A commonly understood contribution of drawing is that it helps to sharpen observation skills and enables rapid and accurate recording of key data in almost any situation. This is because of the performative nature of the practice. The process of producing an image is, for many researchers, more important than the image itself, because as Keller notes: “The act of drawing will force you to examine each and every part of your subject” (2011, 162). The process of drawing also gives us a means through which we can spend time in our field and with our participants; this additional time can provide unexpected insights. This might explain why many images remain in notebooks, as the end image is less important than the ideas and insights that the process enables.

Figures 8. A traditional university building: survey. (By Mike Biddulph)

To move beyond linear narratives: When we write and read text, this system of presenting and discussing evidence forces our understanding to be conditioned by linearity. We must also read the narrative in the way prescribed by the author, and the insights must come in a specific order. Images and graphic work are not necessarily limited to a linear narrative, allowing us to explore evidence and ideas from a range of starting and end points. At the same time, the relationship between the global and local aspects of an image is always in balance, so we can look at the whole image or explore an aspect of its detail (Figures 8 and 9).

To help us think, understand, and remember: Representing things visually provides a basis for the drawn subject, concepts, or theories to be shared, discussed, explored, and challenged—to develop critical thinking and reinforce memory and understanding. Clear evidence exists that our visual memory is superior to our verbal memory, so the creation and use of visual material is more likely to help us recall aspects of our understanding (Mandler and Ritchey 1977; Shepard 1967; Standing 1973; Standing et al. 1970).

Figures 9. A traditional university building: close-up. (By Mike Biddulph)

To help us express and solve problems: Drawing readily allows for analogic thinking, which is recognized as being an effective problem-solving skill (Bonnardel and Marmèche 2004; Gassmann and Zeschky 2008; Gentner and Colhoun 2010; Mathewson 1999). Designers, for example, often think creatively by deriving inspiration from how a situation might have been addressed elsewhere. The nonlinear way that information is considered and communicated in drawings also allows new insights. For social scientists, the process of drawing is itself different and demands a new way of engaging with any material. We can quickly become bogged down in requirements and expectations of a text. Turning that material into a diagram can provoke new ways of thinking.

We can write about or count the real, symbolic, or metaphoric walls between us, but it might just be easier to record or illustrate them with a fuzzy or specific sketch, plan, or section that exposes a different kind of knowledge, or the same knowledge but by a different means.

Tara Hipwood: Drawing in Architecture and Geography

Architectural drawings are widely recognized as those that seek to communicate design intent to external actors and therefore focus on the representation of what is already known to the mind of the drawer. However, it is well established within the architectural discipline that many drawings seek instead to develop greater understanding of what is currently unknown (Herbert 1988; Wallick 2012). Of the architectural literature examining the role that drawings play in the acquisition of knowledge, much has focused on the generative (Wallick 2012) or study (Herbert 1988) drawings utilized during the design process. These facilitate an iterative process between proposing and evaluating (Sweeting 2011) and between source materials and new ideas (Schenk 2014). They have also been likened by many to holding a conversation with oneself (Herbert 1988; Schenk 2014; Sweeting 2011). This conversation allows the designer to acquire knowledge by bringing their whole experience to bear on design issues, thus observing new possibilities within their proposals. As such, processes of design and processes of analysis are often interrelated (Unwin 2007).

Figure 10. Structure and ephemera. (By Tara Hipwood)

Drawing as a medium for analysis in architecture has received significantly less attention (Unwin 2007), despite stimulating an “active” form of observation in which one must make an attempt at understanding what is seen in order for it to be drawn. For example, as the plan of a building cannot be directly observed, those wishing to translate a building into this abstracted form of representation must first understand the building by interrogating it from many angles. Often it is only through such abstractions that phenomena such as circulation patterns within the building can be understood (Sweeting 2011; see Figure 10).

There are many parallels in the way that drawing as employed in architecture may also facilitate analysis, originality, and communication in a broader context. Figure 10 exemplifies how drawing can help us to describe and understand structures that are not only physical and concrete but also abstract and ephemeral.

Where the “object” of study cannot be directly observed, the line between analysis and creativity becomes ever more ambiguous. With each subsequent draft of this sketch, I interrogated the structure from an alternative perspective until I achieved a coherent understanding of the whole. This drawing process allows the researcher to engage in an internal dialogue, proposing, evaluating, and developing alternative understandings and representations of the field of study, as supported by their observations and experience.

Figure 11. Sustainable architecture diagram. (By Tara Hipwood)

As in architecture, drawings can also provide a valuable tool for communication in social research—both in their production, when drawings undertaken in the field become a point of interaction with research participants, and upon completion. Where the representation cannot be verified against a concrete structure, as in the case of Figure 11, the accuracy of the sketch remains open to debate. A researcher heavily embedded in an alternative specialization within this research field may interpret the discipline and their position within in it differently. The effective communication of our assertions that these drawings expedite is essential to allow these assertions to be examined and challenged by fellow researchers and, consequently, to developing a greater understanding of the social world.

Vincent Backhaus: Linking Psychology and Education With Indigenous Knowledge

The emergence and subsequent rise of Indigenous research methods has promoted innovation and critical exposure to how we research and represent knowledge from an Indigenous standpoint (Martin 2003; Tuhiwai-Smith 1999). This necessary development of Indigenous research around the world is borne from a shared tradition of colonization (Battiste and Henderson 2000; Cajete 1994; Meyer 1998; Rigney 1999; Tuhiwai-Smith 1999). Its significant and necessary exposure within the scientific and social discourse has positioned the ontological base of Indigenous ways of knowing (IK) at the forefront of reimagining phenomena and our interaction and relatedness with the environment and social world (Cajete 2000; Rigney 2001). Within the context of Indigenous research methods, IK is situated as a respectful, creative, and evidence-based mode of understanding phenomena within the world (Sheehan 2004, 2011).

Figure 12. Sketch of my discipline and research topic. (By Vincent Backhaus)

Dialogic exchanges within IK evolve from a deep equity of understanding the respectful relationships between people, places, and things. The inherently layered, nonlinear, and relational patterns evident within IK also encompass a visual dimension of knowledge production, transmission, and representation that involves equitable narratives of understanding (Kerwin 2010). This shared space or “yarning” circle, where group participants talk, equitably translates to developing visual modes of understanding whereby, from a dialogic position, visual patterns can emerge or be drawn. The benefit of this transformation is seen in the emergence of research spaces of shared knowledge among group participants. This drawn interpretative process can reveal the limitations and epistemic boundaries of words and move towards a deepened understanding of phenomena within visual modes of knowledge production. This reimagining of narrative and equally beneficial mode of presenting evidence-based research through a visual-dialogic process ideally positions IK as crucial to furthering our way of understanding the world.

In my first sketch (Figure 12), I drew five broad psychological areas within the discipline and its representation of Indigenous peoples and their knowledge. Working from the center of the picture, the psychological areas were drawn, with Indigenous peoples represented through their ways of understanding the world positioned at four outer corners of the picture. The narrative of colonization was drawn upon to highlight the fragmented ways epistemic discourse represented the knowledge exchanges between Indigenous peoples and researchers radiating out and inwards between the two areas of knowledge production (Tuhiwai-Smith 1999). A patterned image emerged. In a shared space, a group of social science researchers could then engage deeply in a dialogic examination of shared relatedness to an image and to knowledge within the image to critically reimagine alternatives to the narrative. They could also reflect on where, as researchers, they are positioned within the broader discourse of research knowledge production (Sheehan 2011).

In Figure 13, I also tried to reimagine from an Indigenous standpoint the broader psychological areas and the potential of a relatedness process to research dimensions. Here the contextual nature of Indigenous knowledges was centered within drawing but could also express the integration and relatedness of other psychological research areas. Continuing to draw the visual narrative through the assumption of a relational ontology revealed the potential of innumerable connections in a broader pattern analysis of socially connected phenomena (Mowaljarlai and Malnic 1993). The visual narrative was not inhibitive or oppositional; rather, it was flexible and critical of emergent streams of group thought and dialogic engagement that were also linked to a broader social research understanding of knowledge production and transmission.

Figure 13. Reversal of Figure 12. (By Vincent Backhaus)

The “aha” moment occurred when I was able to contextualize the pattern within a broader narrative of why, how, when, and what affected the contextualization of IK. The significant strength of IK is the capacity to critically illuminate how knowledge systems impact each other. This is the tension in my work, and drawing and developing an oral narrative allowed me to graphically link scholarly tensions to visual presentations.

This, however, needs to be contextualized within the localized experience of the original goal posed in the workshop: draw your research discipline/area. My immediate response was to draw it but also contextualize it in my own research problems that I was having at that moment and the relationship to a broader narrative of describing IK. In any other situation, at another time, it would be drawn differently and be contextualized in another narrative. So, for example, I later sat down with another student in Cambridge who is Indigenous like me and redrew my first picture. This new drawing spoke to the original question but represented the way of knowing with more creative expression, and also grounded it further in another Indigenous student’s architectural drawing background, which I did not have. This drawing perhaps was like a revision or edit that you would do in normal writing, except here it was a redraw!

Rumana Hossain: Childhood Memory Map and Education Research Mindmapping

Figure 14. My first home. (By Rumana Hossain)

Drawing has always been a grey zone for me. My drawings were always analytic, so detailed that the holistic image was lost in the attempt. Though I had been learning about using mindmaps and images for research for quite some time, I usually avoided them in my work. When I was asked to draw my first home at the workshop, I felt quite precarious, thinking of my inability to draw. But my analytic prowess this time acted as a blessing, as I tried to recall every nook and corner of the house (Figure 14). The whole house and its surroundings evoked some memory or another, which I tried to portray in my sketch. I noticed that the images of some parts of the house were blurry, as I had very little association with them, like the kitchen. I think I was never allowed in the kitchen when I was a child. But I could remember most of the parts of the house, as I had mental images of people, moments of fun and mischief, happiness and sickness, but also some incidents that I wanted to forget.

The rough, wooden gate that I climbed sneakily to get to the other side when my mother took her afternoon nap, the large mango tree that we used to hang different notices just like we saw on our school notice boards, my round and colorful birthday cake, the tantalizing smell of freshly baked savories, my cousins . . . my naughty cousins . . . my naughty, mischievous cousins, our secret meeting place at the rooftop, cruel punishments!!!!! Another vivid memory that this childhood house evokes is of my father carrying me on his lap, walking on the balcony the whole night as I had difficulty breathing, could not sleep, and cried all night. I adored my father, he acted like a human shield to protect me from any danger. I sincerely doubt whether I would be able to articulate in verbal form many of these experiences that surfaced in the course of drawing.

Figure 15. Mindmapping – My Research Interest. (By Rumana Hossain)

Speaking of my mindmap (Figure 15), this was an attempt to make people have a concise but clear idea of my research interests. I recently attended a workshop on critical thinking and mindmapping, but this was a first attempt on my part. On top of that, it was meant for a diverse audience who knew nothing about my area of research and its context. Through this diagram, I had to squeeze in a great deal of information. As I was doing so, I had to think and rethink how to organize and express my thoughts graphically. The end product is a structure with my topic in the center and different strings and substrings attached to it. Along with it is a picture of myself, puzzled about where to begin, while time is ticking at the back.

Rachel Hurdley: Drawing and Fieldwork

Figure 16 was sketched during the first workshop, over the course of a lunch hour. This demonstrates the value of drawing as an effective “looking” and analytic process. At this point, I had had one drawing class and was excited by the realization that I, like anyone else, could draw. I was yet to move beyond the notion of drawing as observing what was there to drawing as imagining what could be.

Figure 16, Lunch-hour movements, with annotation. (By Rachel Hurdley)

I sat on a wall outside a building in which some workers have access to kitchen facilities. There is also a coffee shop inside, serving drinks, sandwiches, snacks, and some hot food. This building was one of the sites for an organizational ethnography I had been carrying out (Hurdley 2015). At this point in the fieldwork, a theme of alienation was emerging from conversations with workers, who found the recently constructed building “inhuman” in its design. Observation of the interior had shown that the coffee shop and large public seating area were infrequently used to capacity. Therefore, the initial aim of tracking movements into and out of the building was to assess whether this increased at “peak” lunch time and how people left the building (in pairs, in groups, or alone). Also, I wished to observe whether people returned with food bought elsewhere and what else they did during this conventional “break” from work. A notation system, in the top left of the image, was designed to simplify the recording process. Previous fieldwork in other sites had used written notes and short audio recordings (using a Smartpen), but writing was too slow a medium. It also could not capture movement, grouping, and layout in the same way as drawing.

Drawing with a simple notation system was an efficient method of observation, but was also a process of ongoing analysis. It soon became clear that most people who were leaving were going in the direction of other catering provisions, either street cafes or the main workplace canteen. A few returned with sandwiches. Several men wearing conference name badges (that is, not usual users of the building) came out to make lengthy phone calls while walking, standing, and sitting, and one smoked. Only one other person came out to smoke, compared to earlier observations of a “smokers’ corner” outside other buildings with different worker demographics.

The drawing soon became inadequate for an efficient recording of movement, since there was a surprising number of people leaving the building. Analytically, this was important, since so few people are visible in the large atrium area of the building with the attached coffee shop. Interview accounts of people keeping to their offices—rather than using these deliberately designed social spaces—and the inhuman character of the atrium were therefore supported by this emergence of so many unseen workers. In addition, they were leaving for lunch rather than eating in the coffee shop, and only a few returned with sandwiches.

Although it was a sunny day, only three people used the seating areas surrounding lawns and young trees (apart from the researcher and students in the workshop she was running). Also, it became clear how few people were talking to others; they were outnumbered by those who, alone, in pairs, or in groups, were on their phones or looking at tablets. The transporting of large trolleys and file-storage boxes, together with van deliveries, shows how paperwork is still prevalent in the “paperless” office. What was most interesting in the analytic process was the use of the emergency door, rather than the automated revolving door. This is not clear to external viewers, since it was not an obvious action to note. It is recorded in a written comment to the right of the drawing. This was surprising, since the building was designed and built in the 2010s and should have incorporated evidence-based useability. But the revolving door was overwhelmed by the volume of users and was slow-moving, even during quieter periods. Use of the emergency door was more convenient but reduced the thermal efficiency of this ultramodern building. Themes of politeness and etiquette had already emerged from the project, and the emergency door offered a ready solution to awkward negotiations of revolving doors with other people. Drawing, as a form of observational and analytic practice, as well as a recording device, opened up this theme to further fieldwork.

Over the year that preceded the second drawing workshop, I took a series of drawing and painting classes. The scratch, rustle, and sweep of my companions’ charcoal, paper, and brushes; chalk dust and buttery paint on my fingers and hair; feeling time settle—the world changed. Rather than repeat the content of the first workshop, I asked the participants to spend twenty minutes sketching a “still life” at the beginning. Still life is often overlooked as portraying “small-scale, trivial, forgettable acts” (Bryson [1990] 2013). I collected several objects from inside and outside another of my fieldwork sites, a university campus building. The collection comprises a mug, a disposable cup, two packs of whiteboard markers, pencils, a beech twig, and a pine cone. The written notes on Figure 17 were made after producing the drawing: “Beech hedge – prohibiting space; Cup/mug – belonging & unbelonging; Pens for whiteboard – normal; pencils – unusual – drawing.” Several of the participants said they enjoyed the calm and silence as they looked and drew. A few felt uncomfortable, not knowing what they were “supposed to do.” Drawing is frightening in a way that writing is not, even though a three-year-old will draw on anything, with almost anything. It is easy to forget this ease with drawing as handwriting takes over, then the infinitely editable representations of keyboard, lens, and screen. Still life accentuates the act of drawing in a way that observing flows of people and things in space does not.

Figure 17. Still life of objects in and around a university building. (By Rachel Hurdley)

Towards the end of fieldwork, it is easy to take themes for granted and for data collection to reinforce existing themes. However, a collection of things embodies and represents the “life” of an institution. I saw the mug on a shelf in the porters’ lodge and asked to borrow it. After drawing the still life, I returned the mug and was fortunate that its owner and his colleague were both present. My drawing and the mug itself elicited a long conversation about the mug’s provenance as a gift, how it had been used only once before the porter reverted to using disposable cups, and a lot of companionable joking. This conversation enriched the way in which the sketch could be analyzed, such as the chance juxtaposition of the mug and the paper cup, which I had used at the building’s coffee shop.

Through this focused look at a collection of objects, I also engaged with the research site differently, recalling an early minor theme of “desire lines,” a planning term referring to informal routes pedestrians take. At a very early stage in the fieldwork, there was a desire line across a lawn where pine trees grow. A fence was erected, which was pushed aside by unknown people. A young beech hedge was then planted. The still life was drawn four years later, by which time the hedge had matured and those early “minor” fieldnotes, like the desire lines, were almost forgotten. After this twenty-minute sketch, the notion of “desire lines” took root, leading to a different way of approaching the fieldnotes, audio recordings, and photographs made during the ethnography.



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