This week's blog reviews a recent success for a newly qualified social psychologist, Dr Marie Paludan. Her work is an interesting example of current interdisciplinary research which has 'real life' significance, and also links to some of the content in our new module Advancing social psychology (DD317).
This week a research student from our OU School of Psychology, Marie Paludan, received the AOUG Chancellor Baroness Boothroyd Award for Citizenship, Identities and Governance, given for a PhD on 'Performing young womanhood in neoliberal Britain: Discursive constructions of new femininities'. To unpack all of that, AOUG is the Association of Open University Graduates (AOUG) and they give a number of awards each year to students who were OU undergraduates, then went on to do PhDs. This award is named after a former Chancellor of the OU, Baroness Boothroyd. I thought it was particularly appropriate that it was the award received by Dr Paludan, because Baroness Boothroyd was the OU's first woman Chancellor and Marie's PhD is about women, specifically young women in England, as the title indicates.
The starting point for Marie's research was the large amount of media attention given to contemporary young women, depicting them on the one hand as 'empowered' (the successful beneficiaries of feminism!) and on the other, as having many problems (e.g. prone to eating disorders, under pressure to look good and be 'sexy', and to be high achievers but not too clever because that puts people off, and to have careers but also make sure they settle down and have children before they get too old – you can probably think of a few more....). Marie wanted to find out how young women confront and manage these ideas about who they are and should be, while living their lives as contemporary young women. This is an interest shared by a number of contemporary academics in different disciplines so there is a fair amount of related research, but none that has exactly the same focus. Marie approached it as a social psychological problem, and more specifically, one in critical discursive psychology. This gave her a particular way of understanding people, and gender.
As one of her PhD supervisors, I found the research especially interesting because of her research data and methodology. Her chosen approach was discourse analysis, which in psychology is associated with audio data (usually audio-recorded interviews). However, Marie developed the approach further in order to analyse video, specifically vlogs (video logs). If you don't already know about these (I didn't – but I'm quite old), they're the YouTube videos which have made some young people into celebrities, talking about their lives, their tips for make up and so on, all through videos recorded in their bedrooms. In this case, the vlogs were made by young women for an audience of other young women, presenting 'how to' advice on how to manage yourself and your problems (in a way which somehow made the vlogger look as if she didn't have any problems herself).
So this is a good example of contemporary social psychology research. It began with an issue in society today and looked at other relevant research. It framed the issue as a social psychological problem and adopted an established social psychological approach and method. But it then developed the method further in order to work with a different form of data that was particularly relevant to the issue being studied. If you want to know about Marie's findings, you can obtain the thesis through the OU library. Meanwhile, other students are studying related issues on our new module Advancing social psychology (DD317): new femininities, and masculinities; feminism and post-feminism, critical psychological research, and discourse analysis.
To learn more about the module, you can watch a video here https://youtu.be/dbzF4hBeBkk You can also look at the new Open Learn course course DD317_1 Social psychology and politics: http://www.open.edu/openlearn/health-sports-psychology/social-psychology-and-politics/content-section-0