Drawing, Talking but sadly no Walking

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Participant Drawing #07

It has been a while since the last update, mainly because I have been busy finishing up a module, the final optional module of the MRes in fact. The module in question was ‘Mediating the Environment’, run by Dr Julie Doyle from the School of Art, Design and Media, and looked at the ways in which environmental issues are constructed, communicated and contested by  different actors, such as the media, scientists and environmental NGOs, and through different forms of mediated communication, such as images, films, newspapers, internet and social media.  The culmination of this module was an essay that looks at how coastal erosion has been represented in the East Anglian Daily Times. I’ll post up the results when I get them.

This has meant that the main research project had mostly been put on hold for a short time, but now becomes my main focus once more. The 17th May seems a long time a go now, but that was when I ran my final research session of two in Wrentham. The session began with a series of individual drawings made by the participants in response to three questions. For each question, participants were given ten minutes to create a response. The questions were:

Please make some marks on your paper about a memorable moment from the coast walk last Saturday.

Please make some marks on your paper about one of your drawings that you made last week.

Please make some marks on your paper about one of your photos you took or objects you collected last week.

Some of the drawings made by participants are pictured below.

Reading back through my notes, my initial thoughts about how this session went were:

  • Difficult to arrange several people in a room, on individual tables, without replicating an exam-type set up.
  • This similarity was picked up by a few participants, not sure if this unsettled them.
  • The room was very quiet, little in the way of conversation.
  • A few comments were made expressing disappointment that we wouldn’t be going to the beach at any point.

Following on from this, while the participants went through to the kitchen area for refreshments, I rearranged the seating in a way that allowed all the participants to sit around two tables pushed together.

Group drawing set up

This was necessary for the following hour-long exercise, where the participants worked on two communal drawings. Two sheets of paper were placed on the tables in front of the participants, half the participants would be working on sheet 1, and the other half on the 2. Every fifteen minutes the sheets would be swapped over, so participants would constantly work on drawings that they didn’t have complete ownership over.

The participants were asked to make marks in response to only one question:

How does the Covehithe stretch of coast make you feel?

Every fifteen minutes the drawings were swapped over, and a photo was taken of each drawing. These photos will eventually be turned into animations, but for now, here are some of the drawings:

Looking at my notes from the session, I observed that:

  • There was a little initial confusion and resistance shown by the participants when set the task, but soon everyone settled down.
  • Politeness prevailed to begin with, most participants hesitated to make marks.
  • This time, in contrast to the silence of the individual drawing activity, conversation flowed freely among the participants.

The next step in the process will be to analyse all of the drawings in greater detail, and to seek some interpretations of the drawings by the participants themselves.

Following a lunch break, we concluded the day with another focus group session. The main areas covered were:

What are your thoughts and feelings about your experience of taking part in the walking and drawing activity?

What are your thoughts more generally on how you experience landscape when you are out walking or drawing in it?

What are your thoughts and feelings about your experiences of taking part in today’s drawing exercises?

What effect has making your drawings in this project had on your relationship to the coastline?

I enjoyed the discussion, many interesting ideas and topics were raised. I now have to transcribe around three hours of interviews recordings, how long this takes will no doubt determine when I next update this diary.

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