The questionnaire survey as more-than-human achievement
Geography is fostering a diverse range of methodologies that engage the more-than-human dimensions of research. Debates surround the efficacy of both longstanding and emergent methodological approaches in grappling with how to do more-than-human geography. Much attention has been given to the methodological implications of theoretical debates that evoke distributed agency and calls to “enliven” research. To date, however, questionnaire surveys have not been considered as part of these deliberations. Survey response rates are normally reported as percentages, with scholarly attention focusing on how question design, financial incentives, and delivery format may influence human engagement with the questionnaire. Little attention has been paid to questionnaire survey methods in or for more-than-human research. Inversely, there is also little discussion of the agency of non-human bodies, processes, and materials, and how they work for or against survey completion. This paper contributes to these deliberations by exploring more-than-human agency in the delivery and completion of a postal questionnaire, distributed to rural households that are self-sufficient for water on the south coast of New South Wales, Australia. By focusing on the elements, infrastructure, and animals that work with and against survey delivery and completion, we show that questionnaire surveys are a more-than-human achievement. Consideration of the chewed and weathered survey, and the more-than-human processes that influence its delivery and completion, matters in challenging “human-centred” notions of field research. We argue that what we know about the world through a survey is always a performative process, not only by considering how research design aligns with politics and knowledge practices, but also the more-than-human.