How to analyse ‘Days in My Life’

Our first attempt at analyzing the Day in My Life stories using key questions.
Our first attempt at analyzing the Day in My Life stories using key questions

At our first Open Analysis workshop, the My Future York team worked with the initial clutch of Days in My Life stories as a way of identifying and refining the analysis questions. We came up with:

Q1: What is good about now?
Q2: What are the issues now?
Q3: (What different types of future are being produced now?)

Q1: What do we want to be able to do? (practical things)
Q2: How are different aspects of our lives connected? (home, work, fun)
Q3: How do we hope to be living together? (social relations)
Q4: Ideas for designing alternatives? (specific ideas that we can follow up with events)

These ideas emerged partly from reading our Days In My Life stories but are also underpinned by some ways of utopian thinking might act as a method for understanding – and changing – society today. One point of inspiration is Ruth Levitas. In her Utopia as Method she outlines three dimensions:

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For reading the 2016 stories, we translated ideas in Levitas’ work into both looking for positive things, 2016: Question 1, and not only issues and criticisms, which will be captured through 2016: Question 2. The third 2016 question – refers directly to Levitas’ archaeological perspective – and looks for the futures which are implicit in how we live our lives now. So, to take an example from my own Day In My Life, when I want to work on the train to Leeds with my headphones in you could say I am unselfconsciously making a future where work permeates all aspects of life and where the individual prioritizing their own needs over social interaction (…though I would resist this reading and in my 2026 story I was very interested in thinking about how collective spaces and endeavors can mix with personal space too). But it is quite useful to think about what futures are implied in our lives today and how different the 2026 futures we hope for are from the futures that would emerge organically from our 2016 stories.

In thinking about the 2026 stories, we began with quite a practical head on so 2026: Question 1 is ‘what is it we imagine ourselves doing?’ with 2026: Question 2 asking ‘how are theses activities and spaces connected?’ The thinking here is about the different kinds of ways home, work, life, fun might interrelate – they might not all flow in the 9-5, office and then home kind of way. 2026: Question 3 is a version of Levitas’ ontological question – new forms social relations – and the stories suggest there are plenty of those, lots of collective and collaborative imaginings. For example, all the stories have quite lot of social life in them: family, friends, queer spaces and networks, volunteering, bumping into people you know at the tram stop. Finally, 2026: Question 4, is architectural (the final strand of Levitas’ method) and will be used to pull out the new ideas for designing/structuring/facilitating the lives and activities imagined. For example Victoria Hoyle imagines a local food assembly where she pays ‘an additional 10% on top of my shopping bill which goes back into a communal pot that all members of my assembly can draw on if they have a time of need’. We might especially use ideas that emerge under this question to plan events and explore interesting and successful ideas and practices from elsewhere.

As I write we have had 12 stories submitted. My next blog on questions of analysis will be a reading of all submitted using our questions – we can then see what these questions reveal and if they need to be adjusted or rewritten.