I do have a knitting content post all planned out. I finished the mitts for Younger Daughter's teacher, and I started a project (wait'll you see this one -- craziness) for my mother's birthday, plus there are all those other things already OTN that I am poking away at. But for today, I have questions for you.
First, some background. I think I've mentioned that I've been contemplating for a while whether I should do something that I've been wanting to, and start a research project that involves this fiber world that I find so endlessly fascinating -- essentially, an ethnography of knitters. It's not just the fun of knitting itself that captures my attention, it's all of the people who knit and who are involved in that world and who write about that world. There's something there, I think, that deserves consideration and even theorization (there's the academic in me coming out) and to have its story told. When I've mentioned this here (and to people at, for example, my LYS) in the past, the response has been pretty enthusiastic, which I appreciate and find incredibly encouraging.
I should also say that the kind of research that I do in general consists of projects that are inherently collaborative, and that create something that (I hope!) is useful to the people I'm working with. I tend to think that's pretty important; there's something to be said for research that's grounded in the real world, and which responds to the needs of real people. I think that some of that is an inherent leaning I have toward what anthropologists call "participant-observation", that is, research which starts with the researcher immersing herself into the lives of the people she's working with, so she can start to understand what they do from their perspective.
Now, with knitting, to some degree I'm already hip-deep in participant-observation. And therein lies the danger. There's a serious temptation to think about what I find important about knitting, to answer the questions that I wish someone would ask me (Jocelyn, what do you find compelling about knitting? Well, Jocelyn, it all started for me...; I may have occasional split-personality moments, but that way lies madness), and to focus the story I tell that way. I often tell my students that while our personal experiences are not unimportant data, neither are they all the data; an N of 1 does not tell the whole story.
As I sat knitting and thinking yesterday, I asked myself how I could go about finding out what other knitters would want someone to ask them, and why they might think it's important to research and write about knitters and the knitting community. And then I thought, hey! I know a few people who knit. (Just to be clear, that would be all y'all.)
So, here it is. In the long run, what I'd like to do is to put together a questionnaire that people could respond to anonymously (I'd run it through another site so that this blog doesn't become Research Central); if anyone then was willing to let me interview them further (either in person or on the phone, depending on distance and circumstances), they could let me know that at the end of the questionnaire. But I need to figure out what questions are worth asking. I have some ideas, of course, but there's an inherent bias in relying solely on me for my input. And here's where I hope you'll come in. If you're willing to help me out, I have two questions for you:
Question the first: What do you really wish someone would ask you about knitters, knitting, and/or the knitting community? Remember, you don't have to answer that question right now; you can wait until your answer is wholly anonymous. What I'm asking here is what question(s) would give you a chance to talk about what you find most important/interesting/compelling about this fiber art we all engage in, and the world of people associated with it.
Question the second: If you happen to think that researching this community matters in some way (and you don't have to, by any means!), what is it in particular that you think matters? That is, why might it be important to document/talk about/explore the community of knitters? In yet other words, what purpose(s) could that documentation serve?
I, of course, have my own answers to these questions, and I'll share them with you after everyone else goes first (heh). You don't have to play along if you don't want to; we will return to our regularly-scheduled knitting content in the next post. But if you do, I'd so love to hear what you have to say. And if you think your readers/real-world friends/neighbors/colleagues might want to participate, too, please send them my way. If you've got questions to share with me that you don't want in the comments, you can always email me at jahlersATcsusmDOTedu. And if you want to create a completely anonymous identity to use in the posting of questions, please also feel free to do that.
And really -- thanks.