Re-presenting para-sport bodies: Disability & the cultural legacy of the Paralympics

Lead Research Organisation: Bournemouth University
Department Name: Faculty of Management

Abstract

With research on the commercial mediation of para-sport bodies being described as being in its infancy, there are urgent calls for more joined-up evidence based research that can address the cultural legacy of Paralympic sport (the implications of media constructions of disability), people with disabilities and the role they play in cultural life. This project will provide this data-and thus insights and policy recommendations by completing the first funded academic study on the impact of para-sport representations on public attitudes towards para-sport bodies.

Under increased commercial pressure to construct media coverage focused on 'palatable and aesthetically pleasing' forms of disability, para-sport representations often reinforce medical, individual and stereotypical understandings of disability. Athletes with disabilities are often presented with a 'super' prefix ('superhuman', 'supercrip'), that can reinforce established hierarchies of disability. Indeed, the think tank DEMOS revealed 99% of those with disabilities remained untouched by the London 2012 Paralympic Games.

Building on our previous scholarship, this project addresses: a) the meanings ascribed to para-sport bodies through the mediation of the 2016 Paralympics b) audience interpretations of these representations, and c) through creative artworks, how meanings ascribed to para-sport bodies influence public understandings of people with disabilities, inclusion/exclusion, and the full participation of people with disabilities in everyday life.

To fully address para-sport representations, marginality, and, empowerment requires ensuring people with disabilities are integral to the entire project journey. The design and focus of the project has been collaboratively formed and incorporated input from academics with disabilities, former President of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, the Chair of the All-party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Disability (Dr Lisa Cameron, MP), an artists with disabilities (Liz Crow), and investigators with extensive expertise on the Paralympics, mediation, the body, art, and documentary.

The project operationalises a series of integrated qualitative work packets that will produce robust, co-created, data on the dominant meanings ascribed to para-sport bodies and audience interpretations within the context of everyday life, and creative outputs based on the ways audiences understand such meanings. Methodologically, this involves interviews with production and editorial personal, textual and moving image analysis, audience focus groups and interviews, and creative/public engagement through art/museum exhibits and a project documentary.

The project is of pressing importance with respect to furthering knowledge, policy and practice with regard to meanings ascribed to disability, inclusion/exclusion, everyday life with disability (including suffering, pain and loneliness), and established relationships between disability and a range of psychological and emotional disorders (e.g. mental health issues, PTSD, eating disorders). The project will make an important contribution to public awareness; its own legacy shaping public attitudes towards disability/people with disabilities through permanent, accessible digital and documentary exhibits (elevating voices of people with disabilities) deriving from creative engagement though the project. The project will impact on a wide-range of end users, including broadcasters (C4), the International Paralympic committee (IPC) (access facilitated by collaborators who sit on relevant IPC committees), the UK government (via the APPG) and the general public through engagement with creative outputs. Potential risks have been mitigated via existing collaborations with C4, the IPC, national Paralympic committees, and support from the APPG for Disability that demonstrate the study is feasible and safe, and by drawing on interdisciplinary expertise across the project team and the advisory board.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this research?
a) Policy Makers & Media: Channel 4 (para-sport broadcaster) and strategic partners (the IPC and BPA) will benefit from guidelines/blueprint for future para-sport events. C4 are in full support of the project and anticipate the research to impact their broadcast practice. Policy makers (e.g. in host cities, IPC education, gender and technology committees) will benefit with respect to enhanced debate over full human rights for people living with disabilities and participation in sport for people with disabilities (e.g. DCMS, Sport England, GBPC). The APPG Disability support the project.
b) The IPC Archives (Bonn), the Annella Olimpica Museum (Barcelona) and the IPC Museum and Heritage Centre (under development, Bonn): will benefit from digitised creative outputs that are integrated into the project methodology.
c) General Public: The project impacts upon the societal understandings of attitudes towards disability through engagement with a dialogic web based platform and public exhibitions/art integral to the research, the project documentary (see technical plan) and public feedback about wider attitudes towards Paralympic representations collected through interactive dialogue that are embedded within the planned exhibitions.
e) Civil Society: disabled peoples' groups including campaigners, support groups, charities and artists (such as the Equality & Human Rights Commission, and DEMOS) will benefit through provision of additional evidence-based research furthering knowledge on the representation, meaning and public attitudes about disability.

How will they benefit from the research?
The research will engage the above beneficiaries through the development of evidence-based frameworks that ensure beneficiaries will:
a) Develop enhanced understanding of public attitudes towards inclusion/exclusion, empowerment/marginality with respect to how para-sport media coverage can reinforce or challenge negative stereotypes, attitudes, beliefs and prejudices, and the impact upon the everyday experiences of disability; thereby influencing media practice;
b) Develop greater comprehension of public attitudes towards constructions of disability, empowerment and marginalisation, and possibilities for social change with regard to the everyday lives of people with disabilities/full participation in social and civic society; thereby contributing towards positive societal change and public understandings of disability;
c) Engage in debate (exhibitions/end seminar event) and receive verbal and written reports that will be delivered to the IPC education and gender equality committees, and the media and communication team (as well as national Paralympic committees, and the IPC VISTA conference) on Paralympic representation/wider cultural legacy; thereby impacting the further development of C4/IPC guidelines with respect to accredited media coverage of future Games and para-sport events and the mandates of specific committees;
d) Receive robust evidence (for key policy makers, think tanks and government bodies, such as DCMS, Disability Rights UK, the APPG, Disability) about the cultural legacy of para-sport events and associated societal impacts; thereby advancing evidence-based debate and influencing policy formation on disability rights and full participation in everyday life.

This research seeks to advance these benefits through collaborative/interdisciplinary/creative work that can reframe public and academic debates about para-sport representations, that can bridge the theory/practice/policy gap, that ensures elevated disabled voices, and that can provide maximum benefits for the public, policy makers, host cities, and media-practitioners. Further, the on-going, public, accessible and open communication embedded within the research, and integrated project documentary, will ensure the largest possible interdisciplinary and international user community for the research and project outcomes.
 
Description The findings from this project will make important contributions with respect to furthering knowledge, policy and broadcasting practice. The knowledge gained will impact on a wide-range of end users, including broadcasters (C4), the International Paralympic committee (IPC) (access facilitated by collaborators who sit on relevant IPC committees), UK Sport and Sport England, and the UK government (via the APPG). The project team have been involved in a number of knowledge translation and impact activities to date, this includes: • Formal and ongoing working discussions with C4 regarding current research findings and future research activities; this has led to the development of a complimentary quantitative content analysis of the Rio 2016 broadcasting that can be used by C4 in conjunction with the current project data to provide more immediately translatable evidence to inform future Paralympic broadcasting. • Regional and national talks to public and industry practitioners including Bournemouth University festival of learning (public event) and the British Film Institute (BFI) Media Conference (industry event). • The development of a collaborative research relationship with the organisation UK Sport; this has led to the project team assisting UK Sport in developing survey questions for their annual 'public attitudes tracker survey' around para-sport and perceptions of disability. As part of this collaborative relationship, the project will have access to the survey data and continue to share current research findings and work closely with UK Sport. • The sharing of research data with artists who are in the process of developing artwork for the project exhibition to be held in June 2019; the includes working with a number of disability artists to elevate the voices of people with disabilities in the creative / research process. The art work will be exhibited at the project end event open to the public. • The development of a documentary film by Red Balloon Productions in dialogue with the project findings; this will be available for viewing by the public at the project exhibition and will be archived for continued future public access. • The project team continue to provide research updates via the project communications (twitter and website) to direct the public to future public engagement activities and scholarly outputs. The project team are in discussion with Channel 4 - the official project partner - with the aim of providing them with translatable data that can be used to inform broadcast practices and provide evidence of tangible impact on this specific organisation and potential influence on the wider broadcasting sector. This dataset will be developed through the help of BU student research assistantship scheme. Early findings from the project are being continually shared with the local and regional public through informal public events, talks and blogs as part of our pathway to impact strategy. For example, In October 2017, we used the Café Scientifique platform and in June 2018 we are using the Bournemouth Festival of Learning event. The Bournemouth Festival of Leaving event will be filmed and made available online for access by publics beyond the Dorset region. We continue to provide research blogs via the BU research blog and update our project website and twitter feed.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Student Research Assistantship
Amount £2,300 (GBP)
Organisation Bournemouth University 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 05/2018 
End 07/2018
 
Description Channel 4: Official Project Partner 
Organisation Channel Four Television Corporation
PI Contribution We are in a process of on-going communication with Channel 4 about the progress of the research project and our findings. As key findings emerge we will be report to Channel 4 and provide them with data that can inform their future broadcasting practices.
Collaborator Contribution We are in a process of on-going communication with Channel 4 about the progress of the research project and our findings. As key findings emerge we will be report to Channel 4 and provide them with data that can inform their future broadcasting practices.
Impact Pullen E; Jackson D; Silk M; Scullion R (2018). Giving Disability the Hollywood Treatment: Channel 4 and the Broadcasting of the Paralympic Games. Conference Paper. International Communication Association: Prague
Start Year 2017
 
Description UK Sport Public Attitudes Tracker Questionnaire 
Organisation UK Sport
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Intellectual input in the development of UK Sports research into the social and cultural impact of the Paralympic Games on public perceptions of disability. This includes the project team developing related questions for UK Sports public attitudes tracker questionnaire. The project will share the qualitative data from the large scale audience focus groups with UK Sport to compliment their research in this area.
Collaborator Contribution UK Sport will share the findings from the UK Sports public attitudes tracker questionnaire with the project. The project will use the data for continued research activity.
Impact The primary outcome will be a complimentary quantitative data set relating to the impact of the Paralympics on public perceptions of disability from the UK Sports public attitudes tracker questionnaire; this will inform future publications and knowledge exchange activities from the project.
Start Year 2018
 
Description AHTV Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This workshop provided an opportunity for collaborative discussion with representitives from the television industry for future public engagement activities through film / TV. The event provided opportunity to discuss the project and future research with commissioners and other senior representatives in the TV industry, representing the BBC, Channel 4, Sky Arts, Nutopia and All3Media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description British Film Institute Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Members of the project team were invited to do a workshop / seminar on the research project at the British Film Institute's annual media conference. This is a conference that brings together delegates from the media industry, education and professional practitioners to engage with current research, policy and practice in the field of media.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Cafe Scientifique: Engaging the public with initial findings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 25 members of the general public attended a public event and engaged in conversation about initial findings from the project
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Channel 4 Research Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Research meeting with Channel 4 (C4) (official project partners) to share research findings and discuss impact of data and continued research activity. The outcome of the meeting has led to a complimentary data set being developed that can provide C4 with further data relating to broadcasting practices.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Public Talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Bournemouth University hold a yearly 'Festival of Learning' event where the public are invited to engage with Bournemouth University research through talks, seminars, work shops and activities. The talk, titled 'going behind the scenes in Paralympic broadcasting' gave the local public an insight into the project findings and a chance to ask questions, debate and discuss.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018