Research matter as artefact: How is some research matter made to matter more, when all matter is understood as equal?

Year: 2017

Author: Etheredge, Linette

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Deciding what matters when exploring young people's ideas around intimate relationships is an ethical entanglement that has political implications. I am entangled in this dilemma because the study discussed in this paper was originally designed through a humanist framing (Gilbert, 2014; Talburt & Rasmussen, 2010) that positioned participants aged 11-14 as experts in their own lives and competent media producers (Hasinoff, 2012). This positioning facilitated "a constant questioning of the social order" (Gowlett, 2014, p. 408) around young people who are often ignored in intimate and sexual relationship debates (Dobson & Ringrose, 2015; Etheredge, 2016; Mitchell, Patrick, Heywood, Blackman, & Pitts, 2014).
However, midway through this research event (Springgay & Truman, 2017) I became entangled in Barad's theory of diffractive intra-action (2007). This entanglement has made my original humanist intention problematic if not unworkable. In this paper, I intra-act with this phenomena by reconceptualising all research matter - including humans - as artefact. Research matter as artefact appeared to me as I intra-acted with the following question; when young people discuss intimate relationships how is certain research matter made to matter more when all matter is equal in a world understood through agential realism (Barad, 2007)? It is comforting to know I am not alone in grappling with questions of this nature. Jackson and Mazzei (2012) amongst other post humanist scholars (Davies, 2014; Lanas et al., 2015) are also troubled by the process of how some empirical data is made to matter more than other data.
In an attempt to work with this problematic entanglement, " "Humans" are emergent phenomena like all other physical systems" (Barad, 2007, p. 338) and will be viewed as artefacts along with all other research matter in this study. I make this agential cut to ensure humans, stories, performances, discourse events and, the camera as confessional tool are all considered equally, "without privileging one over the other" (Mazzei, 2013, p. 776).
The possibilities that flow from positioning all research matter as artefact are possibilities that emerge from phenomena that are made to matter around young people, intimate relationships, digital spaces and education. Inherent within this process is the additional phenomena of sharing and discussing "what matters and what is excluded from mattering" (Barad, 2007, p. 235) in educational research. Therefore, what is shared and discussed in this study is political because the shared research artefacts are made to matter more.

If this abstract is accepted a full paper will be submitted for consideration of the 2017 AARE Postgraduate Student Researcher Award.