Before I start writing the content for each component of the website, I will draft the short introductory signpost that goes at the top of each section.
This will be helpful in enabling me to work out exactly what is going to be included within each section of the dissertation.
It will also be a useful document to send to Sian for comments.
[File under Abandoned ideas]
A useful idea this. It came to me a whilst waiting for the audience to arrive for a talk in a high school earlier today. It's funny how, given a fixed and short amount of time, it's possible to come up with some clear and potentially useful ideas.
I think I should have a dedicated Contents page after all. Here's how it will work in relation to the constellation image on the front cover. Bullet points as again, I've got a fixed amount of time to spend on this just now.
I bumped into Tim Fawns on the way into work. We had a useful conversation about the difficulty of drawing a piece of research or work to a close. I mentioned that the word count from this blog is far greater than the running total (or limit) for the dissertation. We talked about that. And here am I writing about it, adding further words.
Anyway, some wise words from Tim (in no particular order):
For this week:
I don't have as much flexibility/time available for study for this week so it's going to be a challenge to achieve all of the above.
As it stands, I could create the following videos:
Another possible idea - interesting and but not essential and definitely extra work - rather than listing the different technologies used in the dissertation (within the Acknowledgement), this could be in the form of a video where I have very short clips of the different technologies/spaces being used for the purpose of composition. Actually, I really quite like this and will come back to it. Rather than screen shots which aren't always that effective, it could HD video of me (well, my hands) using the stuff. There's room for a bit of humour here - maybe I also have some written or sketched note. Yes, I'll look forward to revisiting this when time allows.
Distribution: what I've proposed above would see the inclusion of video in the Literature Review, the Conclusion and the Acknowledgements sections.
I won't create a soundtrack for the whole dissertation or any of the major component parts.
Instead, I'll create a unique audio track for each of the videos that I propose to make. These currently consist of:
1 defining multimodality;
2. evolution of the university crest, and;
3. a walk around the university.
4. conclusion video
Each of these videos will be short, therefore I'll be looking for short audio soundtracks.
I could still continue with the idea of the Eno-esque ambient background (for some at least - not sure if that would suit the 'crest' video) but this would be complemented by other (relevant) sound effects, audio or music. I would match the audio to what's on screen, rather than the 'music to read by' approach I was previously favouring (albeit uncertainly).
I'm not sure this will save time, however it will feel like I'll be creating a soundtrack with purpose, both in the sense that I will have a sense of purpose, and also in that the the soundtrack will serve a clear, rather than abstract, function.
First day back at work after the summer holidays and I had some thinking time in the car. At the time it felt like a had a rush of reasonable ideas, but we've been before. Nevertheless, it was good to have the space to think creatively and imaginatively about things with only She and Him and fellow traffic as distractions.
Once again, I began to question the format I'm taking in representing my ideas within this dissertation. A website is fit for purpose but isn't particularly interesting. It could prove to be polished, but it won't be clever. I just keep coming back to the fact that however imaginative the different components within the website might be, I'm stuck with the same -largely conventional canvas. It's still a website, even it includes video, photography and sound.
I started then - just for a bit of fun - to think about how, in an ideal world, the presentation of ideas could be really imaginative. A thought flickered for a moment of making the whole thing a film. This wouldn't be 15,000 captioned words pasted over photographs. It would rip up the conventions of a dissertation: the images would stand alone, rather than needing detailed explanation. The soundtrack would be an genuine soundtrack, not some music to listen to whilst reading text on the page (and the more I think about that idea, the less convincing it becomes). It would be playful, personal, engaging.
That would be great. In an ideal world.
Back on the road in EH14 - without the luxury of time the above approach would require - it struck me that this is one of the challenges (for the student/author/composer) of taking a digital multimodal approach to the representation of ideas. Here's the cold reality of the situation: I could have had this dissertation finished and submitted some time ago if I'd decided to present it in traditional format. I could have gone on holiday with the anxiety about needing to submit and the compulsion to spend time writing ideas (enjoyable as this was). The thousands of words within this blog that are dedicated to the form of my dissertation are testament to the time penalty of taking an alternative approach to the presentation of my ideas. Without question I've spent hundreds (and counting) of hours thinking, drafting and experimenting with how I might represent my dissertation ideas: these aren't concerns for the student who elects to put their ideas in the form of a traditional text-based dissertation.
So maybe there's a point here to feed into my dissertation at some point. Taking a non-conventional, digital approach offers greater creative and communicational freedom, but it also poses some difficult questions. By abandoning a traditional representational form I'm taking on more responsibility and putting myself under more pressure. If I'd gone for a straightforward essayistic approach, where the format is predetermined, I wouldn't have to make decisions about how the dissertation should look (or sound) and how best to represent my ideas. Taking a traditional text-based approach would be easier, but it would also be less interesting (for author and audience).
Here's an idea that came to me today.
Rather than simply using words in an attempt to describe and define multimodality, I could make a short video that would be an multimodal way of doing so. If I think this is any good in the morning, I'll explore it in greater depth in due course. Maybe later in the week. It would be embedded either within the literature review or in the introductory section where I'm defining terms. It would make use of text (including quotes), photography and sound.
Actually, here's a thing: maybe I could try and use a few short videos across the the dissertation. This would include the 'defining multimodality' video above, the exploration of existing multimodal practice in the form of a walk around the campus (as described unsatisfactorily in the Lit Review) and perhaps also the idea of an evolving university crest (building on Ray Land's work) to reflect changing literacy within the academy (that I've been toying with for a while). In each case, this is a more authentic way of covering those particular areas of content (rather than in text alone).
Each video would need to be embedded in the text, although with little fuss - if they're good enough they should work in their own right, without the need for explanatory text. They should stand alone as artefacts, while also working as part of the assemblage on that particular screen.
The videos will complement and, to an extent, reproduce some what's in the surrounding text. But they'll also go further. The use of sound, colour and design will add richness. By including these videos I'll be exploring how digital multimodality can extend beyond 'words on page or screen' and I should acknowledge this in the rationale and also put a short explanation in the 'user information' that will be linked on the front page of the website.
In taking this approach, I'm taking a digital multimodal approach to themes within the dissertation that cannot be adequately described solely through words.
Assuming I do this at all, I'll need to do it sparingly, not least as each video will a take fair bit of time to prepare (much more so than would be case for text on the page/screen). I like the idea of maybe having up to three videos within key sections of the dissertation, if that's possible.
Another side effect of this is that this might replace the need for a 'soundtrack' for the wider dissertation. That's quite attractive, actually, as it makes more meaningful use of sound than simply a 'something to listen to whilst reading/viewing this stuff.
I'll write about how this might be practically/technically realised at a later date.
Back into more structured study-mode after a couple of months (ouch!) of creative, thinking, holiday and work time:
I'll be doing well if I get all of this done.
Rather than taking an entirely discursive approach, my discussion of results will be broken and presented under different, clearly signposted themes. These would be based around the questions I asked and any other emergent themes.
This will be make for a better reader experience - the inclusion of signposts and also having shorter sections rather than a wall of text. It might also aid the structure and make the writing process more straightforward.
This will require me to have a clear structure in my head before putting the thing on paper/screen.