Discussion of problems / challenges / risks

What problems might you/did you encounter when doing this project?  What were/are the challenges and how did/would you overcome them? What risks are associated with the project (cost, skills, ability, audience interest, convincing stakeholders, controversy, etc)?

One significant difficulty is (for me) in the use of a novel media; instead of an essay, the project is a portfolio work presented as a website; so attempting to master even the very basics of design and layout has been complex and time consuming.  And, because the origins of the portfolio lie in an academic public history task, there is a risk of the portfolio (perhaps inevitably) being text-heavy.

One advantage – a difficultly not encountered, if you like – of this project is the absence of the distorting effect of the Research Excellence Framework, because it’s unfunded.  There is no need to structure the project around specific, measurable outcomes.  It is a resource open and available to all.  It doesn’t matter who uses the resource or doesn’t; I don’t need to measure web traffic to the site, interview participants as they walk round Leicester or attempt to quantify the impact of the project ‘purpose’ – that is, to create an introduction to the historical method – on individuals.  The idea of history as contingent and fluid may have no impact at all; or it may deeply influence an individual to question everything around them, to step outside themselves and their moment in time, to realise and recognise that ways of thinking themselves are contingent and fluid.

And because it’s a project to generate engagement rather than a self-consciously academic piece of work, it’s able to be written in a less formal, less structured style.  Resources and links are available for those minded to follow them; the bibliography is the key academic content, but I have deliberately minimised the ‘intrusion’ of the academic into the presentation of the project. Authors are cited, but not specifically footnoted and referenced.

Volume and time is another problem.  There’s far too much to say about the urban sphere (mortality, immigration, labour relations, poor relief, etc), so self-imposed limitations can be an effective coping strategy.  The Project is therefore limited to try and build a picture of the town as Watts saw it and, just as importantly, how she saw it; a new frontier, a brave new world of enlightenment achievement; and how we may see it today.