Minding the Gap: Reflections on Media Practice and Theory

March 24, 2010 — Leave a comment

Minding the Gap: Reflections on Media Practice and Theory Convenors: Paddy Coulter & Cathy Baldwin
from Postgraduate & Early Career Researchers Training Day Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, University of Oxford Saturday 12th May 20078

This essay is about practice research and so relates directly to what some of us have to do this year. Project outcome and exegesis. Practice research seems necessary when the knowledge being explored is inevitably tied up in the act of doing. For instance, in my case, I might ask, “what happens when I use only found footage, with no supplement of my own creation?” The only way to demonstrate the knowledge and learning here is to put it into practice, even if backed up and supported by contextualizing articles and essays.

can the practice be self-reflexive and include a route map of the research process within itself…Alternatively, is there a danger of the documentation replacing the practice? (p2)

I personally don’t think that documentation replacing the practice is a danger in the sense that the education institution is concerned with the process and the knowledge articulated through process, rather than the ‘real world’ outcome of the practice. I mean this in the sense that a researcher or student may not have funding or time to complete a feature length documentary film that reflects their cinema ideas, though they may create media of some other type that reflects the theory and criticism and may have less commercially viable, ‘real world’ outcome. Documenting this process is essential to communicating knowledge and the trajectory of learning and so must be tied into the practice. In this way, the practice has to be self-reflexive. The researcher has to be concerned with the reception and communication of the practice based research to his/her audience.

Personally I see Communications (the field of study) as a practice. Unless you’re fully engaged in the on-line environment and coming to terms with the ‘messiness’ and the ebb and flow of networks and all the various channels, you’re not really studying communication. Communications needs an almost anthropological approach. It inevitably engages in group work and peer review as theoretical study is not enough to understand the contemporary changing digital environment. This essay was written in 2007 and states: “Historically there has also been a lack of systematic peer review of academic media practice.” (p3) “Historically” may be referring to a time before the internet was fully integrated into society, but for Media today systematic peer review is essential as Media in the workplace/’real-world’ is made and communicated fast and in full view of your peer community.

A good point is made about ‘workflow’ and the necessity of practice to fully comprehend the specifics of how and why digital filmmaking and digital workflow may be changing in the film industry.


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