New words: 14100
Total words: 61565
I now have a final draft of the intensive phase of the research, and this is a basic summary of my findings.
Conceptions of Wythenshawe
There are four conceptions of Wythenshawe in the data: a dysfunctional conception; a territorial conception; a material conception and a provisional conception. These four conceptions of Wythenshawe provide a typology of the different ways in which the young people I interviewed understand and talk about their local area – a typology of ‘place’.
Conceptions of aspirations
There are a total of seven conceptions of aspirations in the data, all of which are defined in terms of their specific alignment with a common thematic framework which spans three dimensions: materiality; specificity, and agency. Some of the conceptions capture multiple young people’s understandings of their aspirations, while others are unique in the data. Here’s how the young people’s conceptions of their aspirations populate this three-dimensional thematic space:
How aspirations are shaped by place
Taking conceptions of Wythenshawe as indicators of ‘place’ (young people’s interpretations and understandings of the space they live in), the data suggests a number of associations between place and aspirations. Firstly, at the aggregate level, there is an association between the dysfunctional conception of Wythenshawe and the material conception of aspirations, which is clear in the summary matrix below:
Given this apparent association between the dysfunctional conception of Wythenshawe and the material conception of aspirations, a substantive causal link from place→aspirations can be inferred from the interviews. It seems that a view of Wythenshawe as somewhere defined by material hardship, unemployment and widespread benefit dependency feeds into a conception of aspirations that focuses on job security and a decent level of remuneration.
Secondly, at the individual level, a number of other links between place and aspirations become clear: for instance, one young person links their desire to become a property developer to their view of the area as run-down; another describes how their desire to pursue a career in art has been shaped by the garden city’s green spaces and natural forms; another explains how the generality of their aspirations is the result of limited local job opportunities.
In short, the data suggest a number of ways in which aspirations are shaped by place.
There is one final finding from the intensive phase which I need to give some thought to. My sample consisted of three groups of young people, distinguished by their predicted GCSE attainment, and the coloured matrix above suggests that predicted attainment shapes conceptions of aspirations (whether or not this is via place): it seems as though as we move from young people with low predicted attainment to young people with high predicted attainment, aspirations become less material, specific and structured. Young people with low predicted attainment tend to talk about specific occupations, focus on job security and pay, and feel the influence of structural forces in shaping their aspirations. In comparison, young people with high predicted attainment tend to talk about a range of occupational aspirations or have no specific aspirations at all, focus on the content and enjoyment of work, and feel the process of forming their aspirations as having been primarily under their own control.
As I move on to begin the extensive phase of the research, using data from the Youth Questionnaire of the BHPS/Understanding Society, I need to think about whether, and how, I can build these findings from the intensive phase into my design for the extensive phase.