About

I am a sociologist, working as a Research Associate in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. Currently, I am part of the qualitative work package on The Health Foundation funded project ‘Causal effect of alcohol and mental health problems on employment outcomes‘ which will analyse policy discourse, key informant perspectives, and the lived experiences of people with mental health and alcohol problems. Previously, I was a Researcher and the NVivo Lead on the ESRC funded research project ‘Welfare Conditionality: Sanctions, Support, and Behaviour Change’. Additionally, I have been involved in research on the tenancy sustainment of formerly homeless young people, and projects relating to child protection & disability. The ‘Papers’ page contains links to my publications, conference presentations, PhD thesis, and other outputs. You can use the links in the menu under About to find my staff profile page and my profiles on various other websites.

Alongside providing an up-to-date list of my publications, I use this website as an ‘open notebook’ that exists in two halves. The main Constellations WordPress blog, which is also the homepage for the website, and a ‘Mini’ Constellations Tumblr blog, accessible from the links bar at the top. I started using blogging as an open notebook during my PhD, partially inspired by C. Wright Mills’ recommendation in the ‘The Sociological Imagination’ of keeping  “a continually growing store of facts and ideas, from the most vague to the most finished”. The Tumblr blog I have maintained since 2010, originally as ‘The Poverty of Theory’, borrowing the name from E. P. Thompson’s classic text. It is used for smaller posts, any interesting quotes from what I am currently reading, short asides, and links to podcasts & articles relating to sociology that I have stumbled across. The main blog is a recent addition and is used for lengthier posts and more developed thinking. Posts on both can be directly or tangentially related to my current work as well as to any texts I have been reading – a condensed list of which can be found in the left side panel.

My interests span a diverse range of areas including social security, housing & homelessness, homes & other dwelling spaces, disability & mental health, sociology of knowledge, and sociological approaches to the study of ethics. In general, I am interested in work that exemplifies or promotes a post-philosophical sociology and theoretical-empirical research. The former I use, similar to how Richard Kilminster described the work of Norbert Elias, to denote any work that does not accept a need to provide a philosophical foundation for sociology nor set undue limits on the areas susceptible to sociological investigation. Theoretical-empirical research follows from this in not seeing theory and research as separate domains of activity. Instead it seeks to develop and refine theoretical thinking tools by putting them to work through empirical enquiry.

Additionally, I am interested in encouraging wider adoption of software and programming by academics. As part of this, the main blog includes write-ups of various scripts and short programs I have written and guides for people to get started on writing their own. I also think there is a need for greater critical reflection on current digital tools and methods. In particular, I believe the lack of a regularly maintained open source qualitative data analysis package is a serious problem. In my spare time I am working on a side-project ‘Pythia’. The aim in the short-term is to have a working GUI for coding interview transcripts and querying data. Longer-term, I hope Pythia can become a library for tasks common in qualitative data analysis that can be used by itself or as a shared code base for developing additional tools.

The name Constellations takes inspiration from the way various sociologists have fleetingly used the term to refer to gatherings of disparate entities or clusters of social spheres, analogous to how the concept of assemblage has recently come to be used. It remains a concept I am interested in developing further, having originally built upon Norbert Elias’ use of it within my PhD thesis as a ‘constellation of interdependent relations’ in order to understand the way different spheres of social life compound together.

Being a notebook, no posts are meant to be to any academic standard, and, as with most academic blogs, are instead an outlet for thinking at various stages of development. Obviously, the usual disclaimers apply that all views expressed are my own and not those of any project, department, or university that I am based with. Similarly, despite having spent nearly two decades within the education system my spelling and grammar remain wanting; so apologies in advance for any errors you may come across.