Tag Archives: Participants

Animated Participant Group Drawings

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I’ve finally got around to putting together the animations of the group drawings that the research participants made on 17th May.

There are four animations of each drawing, This is because the drawings were worked on from all sides, meaning there is not top, bottom, left or right to each drawing.

The participants seemed to be in agreement that they would like some kind of soundtrack to the animations, so what you hear is the North Sea meeting Covehithe beach.

Each drawing fades in  and out twice – symbolic of the tides.

The next step is to turn these into a DVD for the participants as a thank you for taking part. The animations on the DVD will be in higher resolution but you should be able to get the flavour of them in the clips below.

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Interview Thoughts #1

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Seeing as I am a good half an hour or so into transcribing the first focus group interview, I thought I might post up some of the initially interesting quotes, and then in a day or so post up my thoughts about them. I was going to post up my thoughts tonight, but it’s late, and I’m tired.

Cliff face

“Where I live, we’ve got a similar problem as the house that was bought, it’s on the river, and the water comes up now higher than the front door, so the house has had to be tanked so that it doesn’t flood every year. Now, that’s unfortunate but for, eleven months of the year, except for the three days that water comes up, it, it’s amazing. It’s the most idyllic place to live. But on those three days it’s the most inconvenient place to live, and it’s the most terrifying place to live. But, I wouldn’t give that up (pause) for, for anything, you know…”

Beach Storm

“I often think about change in all sorts of different areas and change is really, really difficult with something um, we, um tend not to prefer to confront. But, um, I mean, I think that a lot of people have said today, is actually, it will change and perhaps it’s not within our power to do anything about it. We have to accept it and do things a bit differently which is also a bit scary.”

Cliff faces

“The field is being eroded back and the soil is all full of, um, fossils, from the ice age, so, you can find, you know, shark’s teeth and all sorts of wonderful things, coming out. So it’s kind of, you know, sea’s going back, sea’s taking back, the sea’s taking back what it had before…”

Towards the Church

“But, long term, I mean, we, we have a massive impact on the environment and there comes a time when, we, you can’t beat (pause) the elements and obviously it’s not going to be the people responsible for global warming that suffer the effects of losing their house but is, sort of (pause) collectively we are having a massive impact on (pause) what happens.”

Grey Cliffs

“I’ve got some maps, Ordnance Survey maps, my other’s a great one for buying maps but there we go and, um, one of them is 19… you know, there’s a, quite a recent one then one back in the 60s. You can see the difference. Minimal, but it’s there.”

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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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Final preparations…

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So, as ever, things have been so busy over the last week or so that I have ended up neglecting the online side of this diary. Therefore, an update.

Amid the chaos of the last week I have been slowly assembling an art materials pack for each of my participants (the number of which has now grown to eight) to use on our coastline walk this coming Saturday.

Putting the packs together has been pretty difficult. I know what I like to use when I draw, but I have been discovering what I like and don’t like over several years. It is a different matter to pick out art materials for somebody else however.

Materials Pack

Even though, as Ioana Literat points out, drawing as a type of image elicitation operates unaffected by the kind of knowledge hierarchy that conditions much photoelicitation, drawing can still be an intimidating activity to undertake. This is true enough when working alone, but is exacerbated in front of a group of people. This feeling of intimidation can come from lots of sources, but in putting these packs together I have been thinking about the kind of intimidation that can come from the type of materials we use.

There is a difference in using something like a sheet of St. Cuthberts Mill Somerset paper and a sheet of newsprint for example. Each has its uses, and there is a time for both, but for me, certain materials make me feel certain ways and this influences what I do with them. As wonderful as it is to work with them, I believe that high quality materials can invite hesitation or doubt. Say somebody knows that the single sheet of Arches Velin paper they are working on costs around eight or nine pounds per sheet. What I keep coming back to is this –  how does this knowledge not influence how they draw? Are we not always encouraged to think, wrongly in my opinion, that if it is expensive then it is to be valued, and valued things are treated with a special kind of reverenceMaybe experience leads to becoming comfortable with this situation. If I ever can afford eight pounds for a sheet of paper I’ll let you know. But my point is, I need to find materials that allow my participants to explore freely, but do not inhibit or intimidate them. After all, this project isn’t about judging what is a good or a bad drawing, so to possibly create a situation where it is being questioned whether what is being drawn is good enough for the materials I have provided will work against everything I am trying to achieve.

Having said that, among my participants there are those who I would consider to be experienced artists, alongside those who do not have much experience of drawing. This is exactly how I wanted it, but it makes it a little difficult to meet the needs of everybody. Those that are familiar with the usual apparatus of drawing, may have certain expectations of their materials, so to provide them with equipment which they might consider to be ‘amateurish’ may also unduly influence what they produce.

So, when putting these packs together I felt that I needed to strike the right balance between familiar, non-threatening materials and materials that aren’t unpleasant or frustrating to use.

I won’t know if I have done just that until we are under way, but I have done my best to reach a decent compromise.

So, each pack contains:

  • An A3 sketchpad –  I guess this could be described as ‘student quality’, the kind of pad that you would find in any art or stationery shop. It isn’t amazing quality but it looks decent enough to cope with a bit of heavy scribbling and rubbing out.
  • A disposable camera – It’s been a while since I have bought and used one of these (V Festival 1997 I think…) and it was a bit difficult finding somewhere that sold them cheap enough that buying eight and getting the photos developed wouldn’t cost more than a digital compact camera! I finally located them at Jessops and got eight, on a deal of buy two get one free, including processing for around £17.00 which I was pretty happy with. The camera is included as an optional extra for participants to use on the walk. It will be interesting to see how much this is relied upon to record observations.
  • A tin of sketching pencils – Nice, familiar pencils, but in a rage of different hardnesses.
  • A selection of colouring pencils – Just to add a further option to working in grey scale.
  • A black pen
  • A stick of willow charcoal
  • Two sticks of compressed charcoal – One black, one brown
  • A soft/medium charcoal pencil
  • A paper blending stump – Ideal for blending or blurring the charcoal.
  • A pencil sharpener
  • A rubber
  • A Zip-Lock bag – to be used to collect any interesting items (so long as they are allowed to be removed from the beach).

I am sure there are many things I could have included but haven’t, but considering the issues I highlighted above I think I have provided a wide enough selection of items to use without the choice being overwhelming. The quality of the items is also something I am pretty pleased with. I think I have worked hard to source items that I can afford, of a quality which doesn’t exude either cheapness or expense. That might raise a few eyebrows but for this project, for the reasons given above, I am happy with ‘average’!

All that remains now is to hand the packs out on Saturday after the morning’s group interview, hope for reasonable weather, and head out into the elements to do some watching, walking and drawing. I have to say, after all this planning, I am looking forward to getting back on the beach, looking, learning, experiencing.

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Research Information Event – Update

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Info Packs

 

I finally have the chance to sit down a write a little about the information event that I held on Saturday 12th April. The day arrived and I made my way up the A12 to Wrentham village hall having received a handful of emails during the weeks leading up to the 12th expressing an interest in the research and in attending the event. Despite the positive feedback I was still unsure if interest would convert into actual attendance.

Happily the vast majority of those who had emailed came along, and I was able to explain the project aims, and find out about those who had come along to learn more.

After a few cups of tea and coffee, and an enjoyable discussion about the local coastline (which was interestingly close to the kind of conversation I hope to capture later in the project), the event ended with encouraging comments, with most people saying that they would be in touch to sign up for the research. One of the main points that came out of the meeting was a change of dates for the four planned research events.

It is difficult to plan a timetable when you are not aware of who you will be working with, and what their time capabilities may be. The general consensus at the meeting was that it would be preferable to condense the four sessions into two longer session running on consecutive Saturdays in May, and it is far easier for me to be flexible than expecting several people to change their plans. In fact, I think it may be beneficial to have the drawing session followed swiftly by the interview session as thoughts will still be fresh in mind. Besides, I will always have the option of asking participants for more of their thoughts after a little more time has passed.

Since Saturday, I have had four confirmed participants (thank you kind people!) leaving me with another three or four to find. A slight concern to me was the fact that three of the four participants are from an arts-based background, so to balance things up I would like some of the remaining participants to come from a non arts-based background.  With this in mind I have been in touch today with several local museums and charities asking if they would advertise the research to their members in the hope of reaching out to those who have an interest in the coast, but don’t currently make art work around that theme. Thank you to the Southwold Sailor’s Reading Room for a very quick and helpful reply, along with a kind offer to display a copy of the book of participant drawings that will be one of the outcomes of the project.

So right now I feel I have made about fifty percent progress towards finding all the participants I would like to be working with, and the search will continue over the next week or so. Alongside this search I think I will take advantage of the Easter break to spend some time considering the art practice side of the research, in particular how art works can physically embody environmental processes.

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Thank yous and nervous beginnings…

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With just over a week to go before the research information event at Wrentham village hall I have been busy attempting to publicise the event so we are not sat there, drinking coffee alone, between 10:30 and 12:00.

Village hall notice board

Thanks to help from the Parish Council and several kindly people of Wrentham and the surrounding area, posters advertising the event have gone up on village notice boards and other locations around the community. I’ve also received a great deal of help publicising the event from Suffolk Coast and Heaths AONB,  SCAR, Touching the Tide, Councillor Martin Parsons and Tidal Margins – thank you all. Apologies if I have omitted thanks to anybody, there have been so many helpful people that I have lost track of who represents each organisation!

So far, I have received a few emails expressing interest in the event, so I am hopeful that word is spreading and we will be meeting some people on the 12th. The event is crucial to the success of the research as it is the one chance we will have to convince potential participants that taking part in the research will be fun and worthwhile for them.

So, in keeping with the practical administration theme dominating the research recently, I have had to prepare a participant information pack to hand out on the 12th.

The pack needs to contain:

  1. An information sheet that lets potential participants know about the purpose of the research, what they will be asked to do and informs them about issues such as confidentiality etc.
  2. A sheet to record their contact details (modified slightly in case any under 18s wish to take part under parent/guardian supervision.
  3. A project timetable that lists when events are happening and where.
  4. Consent forms – One for taking part in the research and one that covers the photography and future use of any drawings that participants make and any research materials that they generate.

So, after much procrastination I finally completed these forms today and have sent them over to my research supervisor to sign off on before they get printed.

Adding research into my practice has been testing at times (I hope to return to this theme at  a later date) and this is reflected in the fact that I can’t say I have found this process easy so far. However, whilst it is a little out of my comfort zone, it is providing me with valuable lessons about promotion and  local networking. That said, I’ll be glad when I can concentrate less on administration and devote more time to drawing.

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An introduction…

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Over the next few months this website will be used to document and reflect upon the progress of the main research project that I am undertaking as part of my MRes in Arts and Cultural Research at the University of Brighton. This blog forms the online component of a larger Visual Research diary that  will chart the course of the research in a reflexive space that pulls together art practice and research.

My research aims to work with participants from a region of Suffolk in the United Kingdom affected by coastal erosion. As part of the research participants will take part in a combination of drawing activities and participatory field research that will help them explore and articulate their connections to, and experiences of, a disappearing coastline.

Covehithe OS Map

To help address the aims of the research, the ‘data generation’ section of the project will follow four stages:

Initial Focus Group Interview  –  The first research activity will be to carry out an initial focus group interview with the participants. The main purpose of the  interview will be to establish a baseline appreciation of how participants relate to the coastline and to discuss some of the concerns participants may have regarding the use of drawing in this research as a way of exploring their experiences.

Participatory Field Research – With participant relationship to the coastline forming an important feature of the research, it is important for us to actually engage physically with the landscape that we are investigating.  With this in mind a group walk will be carried out, during which visual and word based observations will be recorded alongside participant discussions of the coastline.

Drawing Activity – The core of the research takes the form of a communal drawing activity that will allow the participants to explore their experiences and reflections of the coastline. The purpose of the drawing activity is to attempt to visually depict coastal experiences through mark marking and erasure, techniques that can be said to represent the coastal erosion processes at work in the region. The process of creating the drawings will be recorded photographically, and a stop-motion animation of the process will be placed on this website as part of the research findings.

Final Focus Group Interview – The final focus group interview will be where participant reactions to the drawing activities will be discussed alongside encouraging participants to play a role in the interpretation of their own drawings.

IMG_3293

This is a very brief overview of the project, and over the next weeks and months everything will be expanded and reflected upon. Right now, practical matters are dominating the research progress and it is practical matters that will be the subject of the next few posts.

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