Some thoughts about socio-atmospherics

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At this years BSA annual conference, held at Aston University (6th-8th April) the Families and Relationships plenary was delivered by Prof Jennifer Mason of The University of Manchester. The topic of the talk was ‘Living the Weather: a study in the socio-atmospherics of everyday life’.

Mason’s recent work focuses on how the weather is experienced in day to day life, specifically how people interact with, describe, and discuss the weather. Weather is often something seen to be just ‘be’, in spite of the perceived British national obsession with the weather, and sociologically there has been limited engagement with people’s experiences of weather prior to Mason’s recent work in this area.

Weather is viewed by Mason as a socio-atmospheric, i.e. something which sits around, contextualises, interplays with, other social experiences, phenomenon and factors, and which can be seen to be aspects which are both tangible and intangible. For me, the most fascinating part of the plenary was Mason’s suggestion that we look for weather in our own research work, does weather exist in non-weather places, do people tell us about the weather even when we are not asking them about it.

This for me was revelatory, how had I not previously seen weather within transcripts? As I listened to the plenary I could recall to mind ‘weather’ examples from recent work. Thus whilst Mason’s suggestion was about a specific, i.e. looking for weather, and that in itself was interesting and useful within my own work, there also appeared a wider point. Thus the notion of weather existing where it had previously been ‘unseen’ was also for me then about trying to view your research data differently, or from alternative perspectives; asking what is the weather in your data could be about finding the hidden sunshine or storms, aspects which further illuminate  or cause useful disruption to interpretations and understandings of data.

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