Yesterday I went to the Young people’s media use and creative participation event hosted by my university Westminster. The event was introduced by David Gauntlett with a short presentation that outlined his soon to be published book, Making is Connecting in which he cleverly links to the symposium.
First up is Fatimah Awan with a presentation which forms part of the culmination of an AHRC funded project on Young People’s Mediaworlds she worked on with David. Much of the research was conducted using creative methods which in this case involved young people building 3 dimensional ‘identity boxes’. Fatimah’s presentation concerned her work at a school on Cumbria. The project diary and videos can be viewed here.
There were presentations from OFCOM, University of Oxford along with University of Tampere in Finland. However Ranjana Das from LSE, and someone I had met at the Summer School recently, delivered a very relevant presentation for my research entitled ‘Digital natives’? Divergence and consensus, similarities and differences. Ranjana discussed in her paper how the, so called, digital native are seen as technological literate but lack critical understanding of the internet and technology. This is becoming an increasingly relevant issue which questions much of what has been assumed and analysed by media commentators like Don Tapscott.
It’s been a really good weekend. On Friday I got assessment back from my Application to Register which I’d submitted at the end of January. It recommended that my proposal be approved and that I should proceed to registration. There were three points that the Media, Arts and Design Registration Committee suggested needed clarification but these could be done as part of my continuing study.
Earlier that morning I visited the Green Party Spring Conference which has been held just up the road from where I live. I’ve been a member since the late 1980s but had only been to one conference before which was in Scarbourgh in the late 1990s. So with it being on my door step I was looking forward to going again.
At 10am Caroline Lucas (left), the party leader and MEP gave her keynote speech where she spoke of the ‘historic’ potential for Green MPs to win seats in Brighton, Norwich and Lewisham at the forthcoming General Election. She also said that the Greens were the best party to defend the NHS against privatisation and take action on inequality. I took lots of photos and posted them on the Barnet Green Party website.
Over the weekend I went to some of the workshops and panels discussions and was pleased at a sense of genuine passion and pride in their values of equality and for environmental sustainability. There was no heavy-handed security and no bureaucratic checking of badges and membership cards. There’s still the traditional beard and ponytail brigade but they sit comfortably with the casually dressed and suited majority. One of the best discussions was on Saturday afternoon where Kate Pickett, co-author of The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better & Johann Hari, journalist and writer, discussed their research.
Saturday was rounded off with comedy night with star of the show Alistair McGowan who is a committed environmentalist having bought land near Heathrow to hamper attempts to build a third runway. He waived his appearance fee as a mark of support.
On Friday night I was invited by a friend to a private view entitled We Love 77 at The Merchants’s Hall in Islington. It contained an exhibition of 77 paintings by artist duo Sardine & Tobleroni all specially priced £1977 for the night before going to over two grand thereafter. I have to say that the paintings were very poor. Most of them were just bad copies of album sleeves from the period. They were either really bad artists or taking the DIY ethos beyond any level of competence or irony. It was really no better than GCSE Art standard. The night was fun though livened up by a dubby dj set from Don Letts and Poly Styrene promoting an X Ray Spex film. Unfortunately the bar was not free. To round off a thoroughly enjoyable weekend Rovers beat Bolton 3.0.
In the next few weeks were going to have write our literature review which will be the first piece of writing for, what will become, part of our thesis. We’ll updated the literature review constantly during the three years as more research is conducted and more literature is consumed and published.
This Wednesday’s class covered the area of Argumentation and Analysis in depth which turns out to be the most informative and interesting of the lectures so far. Much of the content concentrated on relationship between ideas and practice and how to flow from argument through a premise to a conclusion.
My graphic design career taught me that information is made easier and clearer to understand when organised and displayed visually using a graphic device. Here we are introduced to Mapping: the geography of research & argumentation. We’re shown three types of maps for different uses; tree, content and concept all with different functions. It is also stressed upon us the importance of mapping and remapping in analysis & planning our argument.
In March we are expected to make a 15 minute presentation of our research project at the symposium. I preparation for this we’re going to spent the next three week sessions discussing and rehearsing in front of the group. Better start to get my powerpoint ready.
Being a research student is often seen as lonely pursuit but there is definitely a feeling community and plenty of social activity here. Each week we’re invited to a CAMRI Seminar at UoW which is presented on a different media topic. This week’s was given by Graham Murdock, Reader in Sociology of Culture at Loughborough University. His title was The Return of the Gift: Participation and Exploitation on the Internet. This was a very popular and engaging seminar with standing room only for late comers.
The web has seen a rise in the so-called ‘gift’ economy, where services and software are given away freely. In his seminar Murdock discusses his research into the digital gift. He begins by giving a historical discourse into the moral economies describing them as commodities, public goods and gifts and covers the relationships of professional practice versus amateur initiatives and expert versus lay knowledge. His seminar is well received and his topic sits within a wider discussion about the future and cultural effects of gift culture.
The evening seminar analysed two different types of research methods, qualitative and quantitative, within the context of research relevance. picking the right one would be based on many criteria included how scientific or ethnographic our research results need to be and how to get the best results from our research informants. I’m fairly sure mine will be qualitative using creative research methods.
In the first semester we were very much left to our own devices to read and write our plan of work. This term were getting deeper into the mechanics of what post graduate research is all about. This includes writing skills, types of research methods, how to present and publish our thesis. It’s good to see there’s a few mavericks in the group. It always livens up sessions like these. I’ve been very impressed with the University’s organisation and quality of seminars and talks. I can see why they have such good reputation for media research.
These sessions are held in the evening from 5pm to 8pm in a room where the lights are automated to go off if no movement is detected. They seem to go off regularly. The default must be set to ‘gym’ as they only seen to come on again after wildly waving our hands.
Anyway, today’s lecture is an overview of the coming weeks contents and what constitutes ‘original’ work and how to develop the relationship with our supervisor. Over the next few weeks we’re going to develop our writing skills by producing a literature review/theoretical chapter, learn some ethnography software and develop our presentation skills as well as learn about values and ethics in research.
In recent months I’ve been reading more and more about creative research methods. Indeed, my doctoral proposal indicated the use of this method as part of my research process. This workshop is led by Professor David Gauntlett from The University of Westminster who also happens to be my PhD supervisor. Over the summer I read one of his many books, Creative Explorations: New approaches to identities and audiences (2007). This developed my curiosity even further. I’d seen his highly regarded workshop on a YouTube video but I also wanted to participate and experience this first hand.
The workshops take the form of individuals being asked “to make visual representations of their own identities, influences, and relationships.” This is done using Lego Serious Play packs that allow the user to built models. The basic premise being that engagement in a creative activity helps unlock creative potential and encourages participants to offer a more considered and insightful response during research questioning.
Day one begins with two groups of eight people on two tables. Each person is given a box of Serious Play Lego and asked to build a tower as high as possible. Then we’re asked to make an animal. All very straight forward to far. But then comes a distinct change and here is the key. We are now asked to change the animal to reflect how we feel on a Monday morning or a Friday night. In doing so we have moved away from simply building models and into representation of feelings through visual metaphor. This change feels good. But it is also very revealing. In the next few tasks we were asked to build representations of our identities and then explain them to the rest of the group. I found that I was disclosing much more about myself through the visual metaphor and, although I needed to decoded my model when explaining its meaning to the rest of the group, I was surprised how I seem to have done much of this subconsciously. If I had spent time writing this down I would never have revealed as much as I did. It was here that the spark lit in my brain. I could instantly see it’s uses. It gives research participants the opportunity to build a deeper understanding of the subject and illicit a more insightful response. The day ended with each member of the group incorporating part of their modal into one group model (see picture above).
Day two continues the themes of the previous day using other materials like plasticine. Interestingly, I felt that this was less successful as a material because it enables the user to make recognisable objects and this means that the participant is less inclined to use metaphor as visual representation.
Lego Serious Play has many uses outside of the field of research and was developed as “a powerful tool designed to enhance innovation and business performance.” Delivery of the workshop is only allowed after an intensive course at Lego in Denmark. This was an enlightening and fun two days, delivered adeptly by David Gauntlett in his own inimitable and engaging way.