One particular seminar that I remember during this module was the one about the Art of Listening. Our task was to go to a public space and listen for ten minutes with our eyes closed and then for another 10 minutes with our eyes open. From this I realised that I used more than just my ears to listen; when my other senses were engaged, I retrieved a lot more information. However, from this exercise I also found myself listening mostly to things I found interesting, and this is what I needed to avoid when in the market. To ignore another person’s story, simply because I do not find it inherently interesting, is ethically unjust.
From this, I also found that, just as there is an art to storytelling, there is a form to listening; a quiet patience is required to invite the story to be told. This was a great skill to remember when asking people questions about their opinions and experiences, for I could have come across people who had a lot to say, or maybe needed some encouragement to feel comfortable telling their story to an unfamiliar face.
When in the market I made an effort to look out for things I may have usually unnoticed, simply because I did not find them intriguing at first glance. Especially when it came to interviewing people – If I wanted to the findings to be representative of the people who came to the markets then I could not speak to the same demographic. The Art of Listening gave me insight into being a better listener, and how being a better listener can drastically improve the quality and integrity of social research.
The Art of Listening also encouraged me to think about the public issues in personal troubles. The market space means something different to each person, but what they talk about could be linked to a wider societal concept. For example, one stall owner I spoke with mentioned that they bought the stall because it was cheap at the time, but this could be the starting point of exploring the increase in property prices in Coventry, and the struggles it brings along for the residents.
Carrigan M. (2014) The Art of Listening. Available from: http://sociologicalimagination.org/archives/15178 [Accessed 9th April 2017].