Społeczne światy. Teoria – empiria – metody badań. Na przykładzie społecznego świata wspinaczki
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The analysis presented in this book is the effect of seven-year research on the social world of climbing. The author attempts to explore and to describe this particular social world, answering the question: What processes, actions, and interactions occur in the social world of climbing and support its existence. But also, on the basis of the case studied, the author attempts to say something more about any social world through reconstructing the complex processes of the world’s formation and maintenance. These two objectives of the research process are reflected in the structure of the book, which consists of two main parts. The first one, “«Mountain People». The Analysis of the Social World of Climbing”, is dedicated to describe the activities being undertaken in the studied social world and the normative limits of these activities at hand. The second part, “The Methodology of Social Worlds’ Research”, has theoretical and methodological character and answers the fundamental question: How to study social worlds. It is estimated that there are millions of people who climb. One does not know exactly what is the percentage of active climbers who regularly participate in the activity at hand. In 2002, the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) announced that it represents the interests of 2.5 millions of mountaineers, climbers, and mountain hikers. Only in the U.S. it was around 4.5 millions of people (1.6% of population) who in 2012 participated in sport climbing, indoor climbing, or bouldering at least once (the Outdoor Foundation 2013). The British Mountaineering Council (BMC), which is the national representative body for England and Wales, informs that it represents the interests of 76 thousands of members–climbers, hill walkers, and mountaineers (BMC 2013: 6). In Poland, the estimated number of people who ever participated in climbing activity oscillates between 50–70 thousands. Still, all such data need to be treated with caution since there is no official statistics depicting the number of all active climbers. The problem with assessing the amount of climbers reflects one important feature of this „community”. The climbing world participants do not constitute a group in the sociological understanding. They rather are form of collectivity or social circle, but even these terms remain too narrow to describe this ample and dynamically changing formation of people engaged in mountaineering and climbing activity. They are equipped with suitable competences and skills, having technology and special equipment to carry on this activity, sharing resources enabling them to achieve their goals. They create common ideology of how to operate; and even if they do not agree at every point, if they differ locally and technologically within the area of their activity, they nonetheless feel a unique commitment to maintain this activity, devoting their time and energy, sometimes at the expense of other areas of their life. The range and scope of findings considering climbing activity refer to this loosely lined out social unit and its several internal segments. Most of the conclusions presented in this elaboration refer to the community of Polish climbers and mountaineers, with whom the author had direct contact during the research project. But, a large part of these considerations has a more general feature, associated with the essence of climbing that is similar in comparable geophysical contexts, and thus shows universal characteristics. Therefore, the documents and existing materials under study are not restricted to mere descriptions of Polish climbing community activities, but exceeded the area of local rock and mountain areas. These refer to actions undertaken outside of Poland and not only by Poles. It is because climbing activity exceeds any territorial boundaries; very often, it is ran among international groups, and frequently implies staying in remote and isolated locations. The subject of the analysis are actions and processes in the social world of climbing. This world is broadly defined – as a space of social practices and interactions weaved around the primary activity, which is here the climbing. The primary activity itself is complex and occurs in a variety of forms that divide the world into more or less separated segments. In each of this subworlds, climbing is accompanied by numerous additional activities that influence and condition achieving the primary activity. Basing on the literature and former empirical applications of the social worlds theory, the author starts with a general picture of what a social world is. Referring to the category of social world itself as a sensitizing concept (Blumer 1997: 147), the author attempts to reconstruct the picture of the social world of climbing. In the first chapter, entitled “What a Social World Is?”, the author presents the main analytical categories of the social world theory, such as: primary activity, auxiliary activities, technology, the boundaries problem, arenas, values, the participants’ identity. She describes the diversity and dynamics of social worlds, presenting the processes of: segmentation, professionalization, budding off, intersection, legitimation, and authenticity. This description provides the analysis with preliminary theoretical frame that enables the understanding of the area under study as a dynamic communication entity, orbiting around the climbing activity. Also, this outlines the author’s state of knowledge on social worlds as it were at the moment of starting the research. This knowledge doubtlessly directed the way of investigation, sensitizing the researcher to some aspects of the studied reality. With such knowledge, she entered the area under scrutiny. The second chapter – “The Primary Activity” – describes the multidimensionality of climbing. The act of climbing contains three essential aspects: (1) performing the ascent using one’s own body movement, (2) the climbing protection practices that make the ascent safe, and (3) the falls – as sudden and unwanted descends that may happen during climbing. Referring to the first aspect of the primary activity, the author presents various techniques of ascending: handholds, standing on the steps, and keeping the balance. She discusses the idea of free climbing and aid climbing, movement techniques in ice climbing and on the snow. The climbing protection is described as belaying techniques and auto-protection. The author analyses various conditions of belaying in a rope team during: top roping, lead climbing, climbing on protected routes, and traditional climbing. She also discusses the forms of protection in: bouldering, deep water soloing, soloing, and free soloing. Climbing means gaining altitude and accumulating kinetic energy that is released in the moment of the fall. The last issue is about the possibility of falling down. This triad – ascending-protecting-(potential or actual) falling down – concerns anyone who performs climbing. Presenting the variety of climbing activities (rock climbing, ice climbing; team climbing, solo climbing; roped or unroped climbing; one-pitch or multi-pitch climbing; sport or traditional climbing, and so on), the author indicates subworlds of the activity under study: bouldering, rock climbing, mountaineering, big-wall climbing, ice climbing, mixed climbing, dry-tooling, deep water soloing, buildering or urban climbing, and indoor climbing. In order to line up these various forms of climbing, she recalls the concept of „the games climbers play”, conceptualized by Lito Tejada-Flores (1967). This conception sets „climbing games” in a hierarchy using the criteria of difficulty and complexity of the game. The difficulty refers to the objective conditions of climbing; complexity means formal rules that are imposed upon action in the form of restrictions and prohibitions. In effect, totally different „games”, like Himalayan expedition or bouldering, may be treated as equally valuable despite their incomparability. At the end of this chapter, the author presents climbing as an organized social practice which has strong historical dimension and collective character. Climbing not only is an individual act of ascending but also a broad socio-cultural phenomenon encompassing the organized activity maintained in rock areas and mountains by people who explore a given site, who create more effective methods of this exploration, who cumulate the practical knowledge about this activity and spread their own vision of climbing activity. Detailed descriptions of various conditions of climbing are applied to gain a better understanding of the work done by climbers and mountaineers during their activity. In this chapter, the author refers to climbing manuals, guides, instructional videos, and explanations of climbing created by the climbing community participants. She also refers to her own observations and experience gained by participating in rock climbing. The third chapter, entitled “The Normative Frames of Action”, describes limitations imposed upon climbing by the participants. These are symbolic practices allowing to evaluate any climbing performance. Historically formed ethos, habits, customs, formal regulations accepted by alpine clubs and included in the codes of ethics (like Tyrol Declaration, Kathmandu Declaration, or the Ethical Code for Expeditions) underpin the rules of climbing. But, the main source of normative rules lays in expectations expressed by the participants in their actions and interactions. The normative patterns constantly applied in various situations of climbing pertain to three main issues: (1) the level of difficulty of the route, (2) the climbing style, and (3) the authenticity of participants. As Alfred F. Mummery asserted, „the essence of the sport lays not in ascending a peak, but in struggling with and overcoming difficulties” (Mummery 1895: 326). The local climbing communities in different rock and mountain regions developed various grading systems – specific for certain climbing area (e.g., Yosemite Decimal System, UIAA, or Saxon Grading System) or for the type of climbing (e.g., ice and mixed climbing scale, bouldering scale, or aid climbing scale) – that describe difficulties and dangers of climbing routes. It was a historical collective process associated with progressive exploration of a given area and with the increase of climbers’ abilities. Every grading system fulfills a dual role – it enables assessing difficulties and dangers of a given climbing route and likewise allow to assess proficiency of a climber who passes this route. Thus, rating a climbing route refers to both needed skills of the climber and physical features of the space of activity. In effect, to the climber who succeeds to pass a route of certain difficulty grade this very grade is ascribed. A climber become „labelled” with this grade. Another aspect of evaluating climbing activity refers to the idea of climbing style. The style is an overall appraisal of all means and resources used to pass a certain route. It also is regarded as the class of climbing, which encompasses: how bold and demanding is the plan; one’s personal courage needed to overcome technical difficulties and risks; the efficiency of the team (or a single man), as a result of technical skills, knowledge, and the climber’s experience; one’s resistance to the hardships of mountain environment; minimal involvement of specialized equipment and tools; and minimum number of people in the team (perfectly a single climber). In case of high mountains, one can recognize the „expedition-style” versus the „alpine-style”. The first one means the mountain conquest by many people who siege the summit building complex infrastructure of camps; the second – more valuable – means the activity of a small team climbing „fast and light”. Another distinction covers free climbing versus aid climbing; and within free climbing one can distinguish: on-sight style, flash, red point, pink point, yo-yo, or all free. Additionally, the style is regarded as a matter of climbing ethics. For example, the idea of „clean climbing” relies on having no environmental impact, leaving no harm effect on the rocks and mountains. The style remains a form of historically constructed community agreement, a convention that defines one way of acting as a better and more valuable than another one. Such normative evaluation not only refers to one’s own activity but also to someone else’s, and is based on the ideal view of the authentic participant of the social world of climbing. The concept of the style and grading systems allow to evaluate participants’ skills and to hierarchize climbing community. Two processes support the creation of this hierarchy: awarding the exceptional achievements (e.g., by Piolet d’Or, Golden Piton Award) and condemning behaviors that do not go in line with the standards. The process of awarding means indicating the best participants of the social world at hand. But, besides this formal and „top-down” awarding, there is also in the climbing community „bottom-up” spontaneous appraisals giving rise to the „local heroes”. The processes of rewarding and condemning remain a common ground of creating the normative pattern of climbing activity. The valuation imposed upon climbing actions not only concerns the act of ascending but also the way of how it is presented on the climbing community forum. Very important dimension of the ethical evaluation is reliability and credibility of climbers when they present their own climbing achievements. The basic normative standard is to tell the truth about one’s own achievements and to report adequately what has been done during the climbing. The ethics of climbing concerns one’s relationship with the Other – with one’s partner, a stranger in need, other climbers in rock area – but also with the generalized other, who represents the conception of normative expectations of one’s climbing community as a whole. The ethics of climbing world reveals complexity of normative structure of this social world, and can be easily showed through the analysis of arenas around climbing styles, the controversies about the prestigious climbing awards, the disclosure of any mystifications, tracking down the cheaters, or the discussions about immoral behaviors. All these issues are strongly impacted by the structure of values of the climbing community. The normative space of climbing means all of the limitations imposed upon this activity by the participants. Through assessing one’s own, as well as others’, activity; hierarchizing the climbers; labeling them as a „true climber” or denying their authenticity as such; expressing what is allowed and what is forbidden in climbing – climbers maintain the limitations of their own activity from the position of social world’s participants being concerned about its continuance. In the fourth chapter, “The Auxiliary Activities”, the author describes actions that, while not being climbing, are the necessary conditions of climbing and allow to maintain this social world as a whole. These activities are presented in two ways: as a collective and as an individual actions. The collective actions are undertaken by individuals or groups on behalf of the community and in the common interest of climbers. The first important thing is passing on the know-how and training the beginners. It is necessary to keep the knowledge flow in order to maintain the follow-on of well-trained newcomers with the knowledge of safe climbing, who can easily operate the climbing equipment and pass proper understanding of primary activity. Another collective process is the development of climbing technology. The paramount points in the history of this social world are: (1) the appearance and improving climbing ropes; (2) the application of pitons and aid climbing; (3) the development of nuts (chockstones, hexes, camalots); (4) the invention of carabiners; (5) the evolution of ice axes; (6) the application and adaption of crampons; (7) the appearance of new climbing shoes with super friction rubber sole; (8) designing synthetic outdoor clothing; (9) innovative solutions in tourist and camping equipment; and finally (10) constructing artificial climbing walls enabling the competitions and regular training. An important area of innovation is the intensive development of mountain rescue. The history of designing and creating climbing equipments is closely connected with the development of climbing world as a whole. Innovative solutions that were born in conjunction with particular climbing actions were promoted or inhibited depending on whether the vision of the activity associated with them was accepted by the majority of participants or not. Another collective auxiliary activity in the social world under study is the concern about the preservation and free access to mountains and rock areas for the climbers. The discursive equivalent of this matter is the discussion about bolting the climbing routes with permanent anchors. At some point of the development every climbing community associates and forms an organizational framework for their own actions. They focus on goals important for maintaining the primary activity. The author discusses the self-organization process of Polish climbing community. One of the auxiliary activities which the social world of climbing is concerned about is the collective maintenance of discursive space, which is achieved by: writing about climbing, visual representing of the space of climbing (painting, drawing, engraving, lithography, mountaineering photography, diagrams or „topo” – graphical representation of climbing routes), filming climbing actions, oral stories, public presentations, conversations about climbing, and finally theorizing about climbing. On the level of individual actions, climbing is supported by: training and body work, traveling, fundraising and earning money for one’s own activity, collecting climbing equipment, documenting one’s own actions, presenting one’s own climbing activities to others. It is obvious that without all these auxiliary activities the social world of climbing would cease to exist. The primary activity depends on non-climbing actions, but the supporting actions at hand also impact upon and modify the definition of core activity. Moreover, the auxiliary activities do expose the climbing world to the influences from other social worlds. In the social world of climbing, one finds universal activities and processes distinctive for other worlds, like: hierarchizing the community basing on the mastery of participants and the level of performing the primary activity; creating a relevant language that represents such a level of performance; rewarding the best performances and stigmatizing dishonesty and hoaxes; as well as the commodification or/and commercialization of the activity. The presented analysis has explorative character, but additionally it carries some theoretical considerations about the social worlds theory and some methodological conclusions. The descriptions of the social world of climbing have some features of formal theory that may be applied to any social world. But, most of all, it remains the combination of the fine substantive theories that refer to actions and processes in the climbing community. Firstly, this analysis shows how much the primary activity is influenced and supported by accompanying auxiliary activities, which make the existence of this social world possible. Secondly, it suggests that dynamics and transformations of the social world rely upon the activities of exceptional individuals – innovators, visionaries, those who achieve the mastery in performing the primary activity and set new standards of performance to others, often affecting the world’s technology and significantly modifying it. Thirdly, the creation of new innovative ways of acting is associated with an intersection of at least two social worlds. A necessary component of such „encounter” lays in one person’s participation in several worlds – an innovator who gives an impulse to new course of action. Fourthly, new definition and new mode of acting – in order to be adopted – must be accepted as a valuable and morally justified by other participants. Finally, „average” individuals, attached to the „traditional” ways of acting – maintaining the vision of the primary activity and its cultural reproduction – ensure the persistence and continuance of a certain social world. The second part of the book describes theoretical and methodological issues. Exploring the social worlds theory created by sociologists from the Chicago School (Cresey 1932; Park 1952; Hughes 1958; 1971; Warren 1974; Blumer 1978) and developed by their successors and intellectual inheritors (Shibutani 1955; Becker 1960; 1974; 1982; Glaser and Strauss 1964; Kling and Gerson 1977; 1978; Unruh 1979; Wiener 1981; 1985; Clarke 1986; 1987; 1990; 1991; 2003; 2005; Fujumura 1986; 1988; Strauss 1987; 1993; Corbin 1988; Star 1989; Konecki 1995), the author inquires how to conduct an effective scientific research into such dynamic, changeable, diverse, and indefinite area like the „worlds”. The fifth chapter, “Theories of Social Worlds”, shows how this theory and the views of the social world were created and modified in the works of Paul G. Cressey, Tamotsu Shibutani, Anselm L. Strauss, Howard S. Becker, Adele E. Clarke, and (as compared to the ones by) Alfred Schütz. There is no single ultimate theory of social worlds, but many of its applications. And such applications differ subtly, which brings about some epistemological and methodological consequences for the general view on social worlds. The next chapter, “How to Study Social Worlds?”, starts with deliberations on the ontological status of social world. Then, the author presents „social world” as a sensitizing concept. In the next subsection, she discusses the foci of the researcher’s interest when exploring the social worlds. The main question here is: What is to be studied when exploring social worlds? The answer lays in a trial of factorizing the researcher’s cognitive activity into beams of possible research interests. As a result, one may see the social world research as studying: (1) actions – the effects these have and situational context of their occurrence; (2) actors – their biographies and the ways they experience the world; (3) and collective processes – through historical reconstruction, analyzing communication processes, interactions, relational networks, and discourses. The next step is to review the research strategies that may support analytical process in investigating the social worlds. The author distinguishes: ethnography – which is of help when studying actions and interactions, their situational and organizational contexts; autoethnography – which leads to the essence of studied activity and its conditions; biographical methods – giving insight into the chronology of the participants’ careers; netnography – allowing to pull out the communicational and discursive aspects of the participants’ activity, while studying arenas and public presentations of the primary activity; discourse analysis – as a way of documenting the appearance of arenas; and visual analysis – enabling to grasp the visual culture created by the participants in the course of their practices and how they describe their experiences and actions. The multidimensional character of the phenomenon under study implicates multitasking research activity. Sticking to only one method of data gathering or one such strategy will not be enough to describe social worlds. One needs a complex set of methods to capture the full-scale of the phenomenon under study. Then, introducing the social world of climbers is not to be seen as a mere description of a certain community focused on some extraordinary activity, but it is also the exemplification of new, more flexible approach to studying the social reality and an attempt to a multidimensional exploration. The seventh chapter, “A Methodological Note”, presents the techniques of data gathering and research strategies applied in the study of the social world of climbing. The author starts with presenting the epistemological assumptions of her own research practice. She expresses her conviction that the researcher’s cognitive processes remain the essence of the knowledge production and strongly impact upon the researcher’s way of thinking and data gathering procedures. These basic assumptions are: (1) the presence of a cognitive subject in the process of the knowledge production, (2) the sensorial (bodily) character of the cognitive processes, (3) the linguistic (conceptual) character of the social research, and (4) the constructionist character of the ethnographical studies. In the subsequent sections, the author presents all data sources in the research of the social world of climbing, the applied techniques of data gathering, and the ethical problems encountered during the investigation process. Using the multidimensional approaches that combine the elements of ethnography, autoethnography, biographical method, discourse analysis, and netnography was encompassed by and subjected to methodological procedures of the grounded theory. The author presents her work, referring to the main features of the grounded theory – theoretical sampling and constant comparative method. Finally, the seven-year course of research is described in the chapter “The Chronology of Participation, 2007–2014”. The author presents the process of entering and exploring the initially extraneous and extraordinary milieu. Describing her research activities – interviewing, conducting observations, visiting the climbing gyms and rock areas – she shows how her initial outsider status has changed over time to become a full-fledged member of a mountain club. The book “Social Worlds. Theory, Methods, Empirical Research. An Example of the Social World of Climbing” may be of interest to sociologists, anthropologists, ethnologists, pedagogues, social psychologists, and social researchers, as well as their students, who are curious about the complex and dynamic social entities, as well as the ways of how to explore such worlds. The first part of the book may be of interest to climbers, since it reveals the social world of climbing from a different perspective – through the eyes of the sociologist.
- KSIĄŻKI