Sociologist, Dr Maree Boyle, wears several hats as a researcher with the Center for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing. With interests informed by her training in sociology, anthropology, and the social psychology of work, Maree also lends her expertise as a consulting Qualitative Methodologist with Griffith University’s umbrella-body, the Griffith Social and Behavioural Research College. The College seeks to up-skill the University’s social and behavioural researchers – a satisfying role, says Maree, when coupled with the talent of Griffith’s PhD candidates and early career researchers and their appreciation for the expertise and capabilities her workshops build.
We spent five minutes with Maree to find out a little more about her current research and….
What in fact is a Qualitative Methodologist?!
Using qualitative methods involves research that deals with non-numerical data such as photos, transcripts and so forth. My current research focuses on the nature, value and practice of work, and particularly, the integration by creative workers of their ‘work’ and ‘non-work’ endeavours which is somewhat unlike a traditional sociological perspective as this usually employs a conflict/ consensus approach. I am using qualitative methods (or tools) to gather data; specifically, one-on-one interviews with people who engage in creative work, such as visual artists, composers, writers etc.
Tell us some more then about what you’re working on at the moment….
‘Work’ can include paid, unpaid or volunteer labour, or working from home. Work is essential to our survival, just like food and water – it has emotional and social wellbeing benefits – so ‘work’ is, thus, not always negative. ‘Non-work’ is any kind of human activity that one is not remunerated for. My research is looking at the relationship between the two [phenomena] through the lens of three categories of creative workers: those who consider themselves ‘successful’, those who participate in creative labour but still rely on a ‘day job’, and those who view themselves as having once been an ‘artist’. Interestingly, the interviews I have undertaken since [delivering a seminar about this research for WOW in] November  identifies artists who claim to fit all three categories.
Other key findings to emerge highlight how essential cultural production is – that is, social and economic patronage – is for a flourishing creative industry and creative output. The entrepreneurial and creative spirits of artists – although they are two very different sets of skills – also appear as key determinants for the success of the work/ non-work relationship. Finally, the desire for artists to live in a creative environment, whether it is urban or rural, is also really important in terms of their creative drive. The proximity of other creative – despite the level of network that is now possible with the internet – and a ‘retreat’ atmosphere is essential to their creativity, inspiration and for exchange of ideas and techniques.
Have there been major developments in your field/s of research or key findings that have directed the trajectory your research?
There is currently limited work that has been published [in the academic] literature on the work/ non-work relationship within the context of the creative life or career, and that which does exist comes from cultural economics and creative industries studies.
Are there ongoing or emerging trends in your field/s of research?
Findings emerging from this project include the idea of strong convergences between [creative labour] activities and leisure, human relationships etc.. Creative work also requires a significant investment in time, energy, skill and patience to achieve original and excellent output. The mundane elements of the creative process, dispelling the myth of ‘celebrity’ that is often associated with creative life, and the importance of networks are critical elements of building and maintaining a creative life.
Finally, are there challenges in your field/s in trying to bridge the gap between research, practice and policy?
Policymakers can learn a lot from those who do not work in a traditional institutional context, particularly about how they manage their time, lives and other areas of ‘conflict’: these people are not bound by an institutional relationship. This context will help develop more targeted theory and concepts in relation to the relationship between work and non-work.