Every research project needs to set a boundary around the material to be researched, and in this case the project is studying folk arts in England. In some ways this may seem rather arbitrary, but it is necessary to identify limits in order to maintain a clear focus. There are a number of reasons why England is a useful place to concentrate the study.
Firstly, the choice is pragmatic: the research project is based in Sheffield, roughly central to the country, and ideally placed for travel. It is also the specialist research area of the Principal Investigator, Simon Keegan-Phipps, who has around twenty years of experience participating in the multiple folk genres found in this country – and around twelve years researching them.
Secondly, England is a “home” to an extremely diverse ecology of folk traditions. Although English folk has been on the rise over the last 15 years, it spent much of the latter half of the twentieth century eclipsed in popularity by the various Celtic traditions of its neighbouring countries, and American folk arts. All of these continue to find favour with a large proportion of England’s folk artists, and all share – to some extent, at least – an audience, insomuch as they can all be found happening in the “folk festival” context in England. By looking at this microcosm of different types of folk, we can compare how – if at all – their respective participants engage differently with digital media and technologies.
Finally, selecting England as a geographical boundary will avoid over-complicating questions regarding varying national policies and strategies. For instance, England has a different Arts Council (Arts Council England) to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and so various funding streams, decisions and strategies are made specific to England. Digital access and policy is also distinct to England.