Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Right, the next 5 years begins here

Right. End of stalling, procrastinating, hedging and misdirection. The hard research begins.

Here is the initial mapping of my research standpoint to date. This whiteboard brainstorm was drawn up in the presence of Dr. Chris Speed and Dr. Mark Wright of ECA on Tuesday 21st October.

It visually maps my main areas I have explored over the last 9 years. Some of the topic areas cover research I did on my Bachelors degree in Design and Art Direction at MMU* and on my Masters in New Media Production at ICDC†. My position to my proposed research will be graphic design-led, interactive and evaluative. My previous practice and education has been strongly rooted within visual communication but with a graphic design “hole”.

At this early stage I am nowhere near formalising my main research questions. My enquiry to date has been only loosely structured, but has followed paths through human-computer interaction, computer science, game design theory, sociology, human factors, experience design.

My Masters project neoTribe was a pilot project that began to explore the visual representation of ethnographic data, the dissemination of contributed narratives and the potential for the creation of meta-narratives. During today's tutorial Chris and Mark facilitated routes through this web of associations.

I will now try to sum up what I remember as my own associated path through this diagram. My starting position is within graphic design, but with a graphic design hole within my professional practice formed out of working as an illustrator, a publisher and interactive designer, rather than as a pure graphic designer. I teach on a graphic design degree on the theoretical, contextual, research and work-related aspects of design. My research therefore comes out of graphic design into the associated field of interactive design.

My stance is shaped by a desire to explore the graphic aspect of graphical user interfaces rather than from the technology/HCI/computer science direction. I am wishing to add to the discourse on how interactions can be facilitated by better graphic design. To aid this enquiry I am specifically interested in how graphic design can visually record the linking traces that map contributors to an online project socially, spatially and temporally. Can a visual language develop that clearly illustrates and communicates this data? I attempted this in neoTribe to a limited degree using techniques derived from Bertolt Brecht's Complex Seeing theories of representing information.

These linking traces can be recorded as narratives left by or contributed by the online project's contributors. How can these narratives be graphically represented? Once represented can each individual narrative form a larger narrative, creating a meta-narrative, shaped and formed by anyone who cares to interact with it?

This then throws up issues of agency and authorship, discussed through Foucault and Barthes. Narrative through interaction (rather than interactive fiction) has led me to look to Game Design Studies and Narratology, especially Henry Jenkins' paper on Narrative Architecture. Through discussion with Chris he also pointed me towards looking at Flow State by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, a positive psychologist. Chris suggested taking a Situationist approach to the information. I'm not au fait with Situationism so I will have to have a discussion with my colleague in my staffroom when I get back to work to clue me in on the essentials.

Addendum Mark has reminded me that we also discussed "Mobile as well as web instantiations and this led to mentioning Michel De Certeau "walking the city" and tying the spatial/temporal into the narrative theme. Chris also mentioned Nigel Thrift."Thanks Mark.

This post has been written to record my thoughts soon after the tutorial. I will need to reflect upon what I have written and it will then help me to write the abstract I need to complete for Monday. Once I have written this I will post the abstract on this blog. Chris/Mark/Simon please feel free to comment as I know I said a lot more in the tutorial than I have written here, and I know I have not included a lot of salient points.

This is an open blog so anyone else reading this please also feedback your comments. I will translate this whiteboard into a diagram and put that in another post. By then I will be able to reduce my ideas into something more tangible to research.

* MMU = Manchester Metropolitan University
† ICDC = International Centre for Digital Content, part of Liverpool John Moores University

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