Annette Markham has just visited my university department to give a couple of lectures and participate in a PhD workshop. I of course attended all the arragements (including the Wednesday night dinner at the not-excatly-as-great-as-I-had-hoped-but-still-quite-decent Restaurant Maven) because I find Annette’s company and intellectual challenges immensely stimulating. She is one of those reseacher who can really challenge you on your reasearch questions and general methodological approaches while at the same time she remains loyal to your research and the things in it you’re interested in.
One comment from Annette got me wondering, however: in her presentation ”Remix Method, Remix Culture” for the Digital Communication and Aesthetics research group, she mentioned that ”remix method” as a strategy for qualitative research is not the same as ”bricolage”…
Remix method, on the one hand, is a methodological approach where the researcher remixes from the repertoire of methods and tools available (just as a musical remixer uses bits and pieces from other musical works) in order to make the methodological combination that is most suitable in a specific research context. This way, remix method is in opposition to monolithic methodologies where researchers just use the methods they’re always using because they’re used to them. Paraphrazing Latour (but not necessarily subscribring to his Actor-Network Theory), Annette encourages “following the data” to the methodological sites where it gives the most satisfying and fulfilling answers about the object(s) one’s studying.
Bricolage, on the other hand, is a methodological approach where the researcher applies the variety of methods that is best suited to answer the research questions. Joe L. Kincheloe writes that “bricoleurs [i.e. the people doing bricolage] are empowered to draw on their conceptual and methodological tool kits, depending on the nature of the research context and the phenomenon in question” (2005: 340). This methodological pluralism, too, is an antidote to always following the same approaches in research that one’s used to and that the hegemonic research institutions prefer.
Both approaches seem to advocate playful and varied (some might say eclectic) combinations of the methods that prove most fruitful in the concrete research context. And both encourage interdisciplinarity and openness to revise research questions and methodological choices if new directions turn out to be more productive. One argument for their being different, however, might be the underlying premise of remix method that the product of the research will itself be more of a rough, “work in progress”-kind that enters into the repertoire for future remix-researchers, whereas the product of bricolage is more of the kind of rounded, finished accounts. I acknowledge this difference, but isn’t it a premise for all research publications that they become what other researchers draw upon? And don’t all researchers know this and act accordingly?
I don’t think I’m fully convinced that remix method and bricolage are that different – it rather seems to me to be a question of nuances – but for my part, I’ll need more contemplation. Meanwhile, emails are currently going back and forth as we try to get closer to some sort of clarification. What’s the difference between remix methods and bricolage? And is there a difference?