Archives For research practice

The entire Research Workshop category

The ways in which I have used my blog…

Firstly, my intention with my blog at the start of the year was to try to present well thought out, structured and presentable blog posts that would hopefully track my thinking as it developed. However, what I found as semester rolled along was that it became a place to reflect on and explore ideas and a place to start sorting through the messiness and the various tangents that became my research practice. This was appropriate and useful for me as in research workshops we continuously looked at various approaches to undertaking a large sized research project. For instance, it’s continuously said to just start writing. This is good advice, and the blog is a place for this to happen. However, the speedy and tangential nature of ‘just start writing’ tends not to be as well thought out, structured and presentable as the type of blog posting I first wanted to achieve. So as semester continued, my goals for and usage of the blog changed.

Secondly, I’ve discovered that the blog is in fact my secondary place of note taking, thought gathering and summarizing. It is also the best place for reflection. This year I have utilised a diary and a journal. These two pen and paper tools have been the places where many raw thoughts, quotations, citations and ideas have gone down. The blog has become the beginning of a filtering and editing process. Personally I like the blend of the two modes of writing/reading/searching as when I transcribe the raw thoughts I find that I look for new ideas and perspectives that might not have occurred to me at the original time of penning.

Ideally I would like for my blog to appear as some kind of matrix that allows someone to explore all the various facets of my research topic, but the practicality of it turns it into more of a visual, textual map of my own journey. I like the personal nature of the blog, but would prefer in hindsight to have been able to include more structured and insightful blog posts with useful resources, at more regular intervals. This becomes the challenge for developing my blog as the rest of the year approaches.

Examples of Blog Posts:

The Narrative Identity: where human experience, memory and film intersect
Within my blog I keep notes and ideas, regardless of whether they find their way into my final essays or not. This is exploration and experimentation, and helps guide me towards a structure for all the ideas that will go into my exegesis.

The New Abstract!
Through constantly working through different problems and considering lessons and methods taught in Research workshop, I’ve tried to form the most solid base possible for my project planning and design. This post shows the significant moment where I was able to resolve joining my exegesis with project so that both can exist together as a more organic entity. Basically I saw that the filmmaking process needed to come out of the theoretical ideas, in order to be fed back in for reflection. This is rather different to the previous position, which was for the exegesis to come out of the editing practice of the found footage.

Being Pragmatic and Realistic
This post shows where I found the advice and inspiration to move forwards in the planning of my project.

Herzog, What Have Ye Done?
This post reflects the more playful and personal interest side of the blog, and also how the blog can serve to tie ideas together. This post was made when I felt like thinking about something other than study, but managed to lighten appearance of my blog, if for no other reason than some kind of self satisfaction.

Some Thoughts on Design

This post displays some independent thinking around how to approach the rest of the year looking for the best possible outcome. The irony was that later that week we had a presentation from one of the PHD candidates in Communication Design. He took us through many of the ideas that I had spent the previous day investigating for myself. Weird.

Reviewing and Searching for Documentary Frameworks and Arguments in A Song Of Air
Once again, this post represents straight up research and note taking. This is the point where I first started trying to feel my way through found footage criticism and analysis.

The entire Research Workshop category

During the first semester of Honours I feel that I have come a considerable way in my reading and writing practice. Although this does not necessarily translate into a more efficient use of time and the ability to finish work with more time for proof reading, the depth in which I am exploring my topics can be recognized (i.e. I still find that I am writing up to the deadline, but I can see a change in the quality of my work) By reading and writing practice I am referring to all three subjects: Research Workshop A, Communication Revolutions and Transient Spaces.

My approach has been to use a notebook for summarizing, transcribing and brainstorming. This is the messy part of my research. Any and all thoughts go into this notebook. Next I either translate these notes into blog posts or start to organize them into a word document, which eventually becomes the layout of an essay. My result for the first essay for Communications Revolutions reflects the effectiveness of my approach. In terms of Transient Spaces (which is still being marked, but with which I feel satisfied), this practice of constant reading/writing/reflection resulted in an outcome where I was able to experiment and be creative and effective with my media production. In terms of Research Workshop A, I was able to use research to actually locate, refine and define the problem I am facing. Because this topic is my major project for the year, I have used first semester to make sure the concept and approach to the production is the most appropriate. I have tried to ensure that the foundation of my documentary practice and theory is a strong as it can be from the outset.

In terms of using the library as a resource, I have tried to be more critical, creative and lateral in terms of searching the databases. Through exploring and experimenting with searches I have become familiar with e-journals and databases and have been forced to decide on the relevance of articles for myself. This means more analytical, critical and in depth reading which helps improve all aspects of study in general. I have also been on the lookout for connections between subjects and topics in order to locate arguments and to have ideas. Whilst there is always room for improvement, I have definitely come a long way in this area and can see how I can progress as the rest of the year wears on.

The area in which I need to improve most is project management. By this I mean managing my schedule in terms of balancing the amount of time I put into each different aspect of study, utilizing a calendar and gant chart and maintaining these disciplines and habits. In the first three years of my degree this has always been my weak point, and I have tried to improve throughout the past semester. I would say that there has been a significant change and better management of time in 2010, but when pressured this sense of structure is lost and prioritization of my time is not as effective as it could be.

Connected to project management is my use of software such as Zotero for managing my bibliography. This is need of vast improvement as I’ve found myself resorting to my old method of manually entering references into a word document. For this to change all that is required is more concerted effort on my part to take more notice of Zotero. On this point of picking up new habits, I would say that I have fostered a productive use of delicious book marking which has become invaluable.

Overall grade for Participation: 85% HD

I feel that the level of reading and writing I have done has helped me build a strong foundation for what will hopefully be a strong and engaging project. The original abstract I had at the start of semester was a problem in itself, which needed resolving, and I feel I have done this through utilizing methods and ideas discussed during Research workshops.

Basically my response is similar to Daniel’s. I’m really concerned about finding a way to integrate the practice of creating the documentary together with any theoretical research. I have just redefined my abstract to help bring the two closer together, but really have just stated that the two entities will remain separate and perhaps reflect one another. This is vastly different to the research actually informing the construction of the documentary (or is it?). This was a response to looking at the work of Ana Vaz who’s Honours work was of the same nature. Ideally, I want the film and the exegesis to be co-dependent. As it stands at the moment it looks like they will be merely complementary. Is this an issue? i.e Is it enough to explore and discuss a particular theory, perhaps with textual analysis of a film, and produce a short documentary as an example of elements within the discussion. A discussion on biography, memory and representation; a short biographical documentary.

It seems that this hails back to the essay’s we read on practice based research, research found in the doing of media practice. How much of the exegesis should be reflective, and how much argumentative? I would also be interested in seeing examples of practice based research and centrifugal research and successful outcomes.

I would also point out that at this stage I am aware that the two sides to the project must be developed in unison, and that the ‘making’ and producing must start immediately. This is where I’m perplexed, as the two sides seem to exist as separate entities.

“…the neo-Dionysians are antipathetic to rational scientific method, indifferent to methodological concerns and are concerned to celebrate, the private and the personal, and other such like matters which are not of scientific concern.”

The neo-Dionysian represents a tendency of the imagination in research practice, an ecstatic flight of thought as opposed to controlled outcome. It is a situation where the end is not presupposed or determined. It is related to notions of the poetic which allow for unforeseen connections, introspection and uncontrollability. I think that Rosenberg is getting at the idea that the research must always be re-contextualised and thought of/perceived from lateral points of view. He describes the Nietzchian Dionysus in theatrical terms as a conversation between audience, chorus and drama/action on stage. In this case, audience is perhaps context, chorus the author and drama/action the research itself. It is in this communication that neo-Dionysian practice takes place.

“The notion of poetic research emerges from a questioning of practice (design) which tries to locate parts of its creative drive so that it may be brought through in regard to research. The poetic in research can be seen as an attempt to develop a technicity of the ‘hunch’.”

Essentially a good research design requires both centrifugal and centripetal to be balanced. This balance leads to creative outcomes. Conventional research, essentially centripetal, happens in a situation where there is a clear research problem, and the following processes of study are in line with the answerability of the question. The centrifugal, however, introduces an element of exploration and lateral attitude where the answerability is put to the side to find out what lies out on the fringes, and to discover whether these fringes may in fact be knew potential knowledge areas. The uncertainty of the centrifugal seems to be its only problem when compared with centripetal. It seems that the researcher must put some faith in the process of discovery, and at the same time sacrifice actual time. In my case, time is pressure and excitable flaunts into the unknown may be a little to bold, when my desired outcome does include good marks. I wouldn’t have minded so much in previous years, but this is my last chance to push those percentages as high as possible. What I’m getting at, is that the Rosenberg essay differentiates two styles of approaching a research problem. Neither one can really exist without the other, and a careful balance of the two, and hence an understanding of the two, is essential. Rosenberg points out quite clearly that poetic research depends on the centipetal to pull and refer it back to the ground, or source. Centripetal is a rationalising force that allows for reflection and progression.

Another interesting aspect of Rosenberg’s essay that relates back to my project is his description of the particular problems of design for research projects. Particular questions need to be addressed, and i attempted to address them in the research abstract, but it is clear that I now need to go back and re-draft this stage:

What it is
Who it is for
Where it is placed
How it works

Out of these, the ‘who it is for’ question perplexes me the most, because creatively I think I just make things as if for myself. I have audience in mind, but this is highly subjective. Going back to analyzing Ana Vaz’s work from last year, I would hope that these questions would be clearly answered in a clear presentation of a project with three anchor points: a creative outcome, a theoretical exegesis and a textual analysis. He points out that usually the first stage of this design is to elaborate a stance for the researcher. Following this elaboration a map of concerns is developed, though not driven towards the answer, but rather unrelated and isolated. From here connections are made to recognise areas for research to be developed.

In last weeks workshop we heard from another PHD student and veteran of RMIT’s communications honours program. The main lesson he had for us was to always check yourself and make sure you are being pragmatic and realistic. When doing a larger body of research, such as in this course, it seems a fair position to stray far from the path, and out of context of what’s achievable and realistic. So, with regards to my own project and following my second meeting with Adrian Danks, I feel it is time to check myself, and figure out the next pragmatic and realistic steps. I can identify a few key problems with my project and research so far:

1.) When I drew a picture of what Honours looks like to me, I drew a computer screen with a non-responding Quicktime symbol (question mark). To one side of the screen was a Bill Nichols text, and on the other a collection of DV tapes. What this signifies is a problem of integrating theoretical research and the media project together. As I wrote the first draft of my research essay, it became evident that the research I was gathering wasn’t really going to help or inform the media production at all. After meeting with Adrian Danks it became evident that the research needs to come out of the media gathered for the project so far, as a response to it. I need to stop thinking of the theoretical research as a separate entity to the media production. Where to start however is a new problem.

2.) Secondly, I will now open my mind, and my vision for the project, to any reasonable outcome. Instead of locking into what I think should be done with the footage, (i.e a short documentary) I will now study the footage, find potential theoretical links and let a new result be developed that can be realistically achieved within the set time frame. This result may still be a documentary, but it’s form and style should evolve out of the new research direction. This will help the exegesis and project become integrated and to work together as a single entity.

3.) To get started and find some direction I have reviewed a previous years’ student project. The Seventh Castle by Ana Vas was a short film that explored the texts of Saint Teresa Avila, with an accompanying analysis of the post-feminist, philosophical writing of Julia Kristeva. What I see here are three topics/activities: the short film (creative), the textual analysis of St. Teresa Avila, and the textual analysis of Julia Kristeva. This seems to be really well structured, clear and concise. I will be looking to break down my project in a similar way, though the nature of my documentary does not point to any particular theory outright and so it may be a little more difficult to find the appropriate texts.

Breaking Down the Project

The footage and accompanying research was filmed and gathered together by DJ Mohair Slim and Nicky Bomba. There are video interviews, some footage of Kingston (Jamaica), photo’s, newspaper clippings and music recordings. I can see numerous aspects worth exploring: Mohair Slim as a character himself, Graham Goodall’s move to Jamaica from Australia in the 1950’s as a study in terms of broadcast history, and Lowell Morris (drummer for The Caribs) who now resides in Melbourne as a central character study. This is also a history of the Jamaican recording industry and Jamaican broadcast history.

On the theoretical side of things, the footage is essentially a series of people remembering past events. I could potentially look into notions of the essay film, filmmakers who deal with the theme of memory and image such as Agnes Varda and Chris Marker (perhaps even the movement they come from, around French New wave etc) and perhaps even the biography. At this stage I think I’ll abandon the found footage side of things, though retain certain aspects pertaining to the editing of found footage. Another potential outcome for my project is to create a script for a longer version of the documentary, accompanied by a short version and exegesis.

Perhaps I should focus on textual analysis of a selection of essay films. This textual analysis could be reflected in the making of my own documentary….

What is the MOOS?

• A research problem to which you do not yet know the answer.
• So in researching your problem the problem pushes back against you, and in this pushing back you have to change in response to the problem
• This change might be in terms of how you now understand the problem, it might be in terms of how you go about doing research, it might be in terms of how you now understand the theory, the practice or the field that you are investigating.

So it seems at this stage we’re all about exploring the mess. The mess is the swamp in between your current state of knowledge and practice, and your preferred state. In the swamp your problem challenges you, throws unforeseen problems at you and forces you to grow, change and think laterally. However, it is important to remember that research isn’t just the lead up to the swamp, it is the swamp. It is the figuring out and making sense of the swamp to arrive at the preferred state of being (finished with an artifact).

With regards to my own project, I suppose that a large portion of my research will be experimenting with the editing and storytelling process. All the reading and theory constitutes only a small, but highly relevant, part. This is quite intimidating as the editing and production process is already looking to be the most time consuming and apparently the most crucial.

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.