I figured it was about time I put out into the world what I am spending the next year dedicated to – my Master’s Project. My program at York offers a unique option to produce a Project rather than a Thesis or Major Research Paper. The project option is as wide-ranging as it sounds – my friends and fellow cohort are producing installations, animations, short documentaries, moving-image pieces, video games, and websites. The idea of creating a project was what attracted me to the program in the first place – as it offers a challenge I haven’t attempted yet in my academic career. A project considers the value of research through the act of “making” and allows for a chance to display and celebrate academic work displayed through non-traditional means.
My project developed out of a desire to work with others and to explore how meaning is made through creation. After much brainstorming and countless drafts, my proposal has been approved and the project is a go – a daunting fact all in itself.
Working with a group of about 10 student participants*, the project takes on a participatory method whereby the group’s insights, work, and experiences take centre stage as the source of my research. From September through to January, the group will be participating in the creation of short media pieces such as digital stories, photo essays, podcasts, blog posts, videos, moving-image, interviews. These assignments will ask the participants to express a narrative, engaging in storytelling either about personal reflections or fictionalized stories. As first-time creators, I will be working with the participants on basic media technology skills and aiding them in the creation of their pieces.
The goal of my work is to explore how expression and storytelling through the use of media technologies engages the creator in a process that develops a sense of agency. My project also looks at the potential uses of audio and image technologies in a classroom setting to see how media can be used in the practice of a critical pedagogy that creates critical, agentive students.
Finally, come January I will be creating a web-based piece that displays and celebrates the work and insights from the participants. I hope to include their finished work as well as interviews with them about their experience as “makers” and their process of making. This is where I will myself be engaging in making; exploring my own creative process and expression. As part of the Master’s requirement, this piece will be accompanied by a paper where I discuss some of the theoretical connections to my field as well as the process I went through in creating the final product.
Now that my project has been approved, including an ethics review process that was as daunting as it sounds, it’s time to get into the meat of my work. Easier said than done. Barely a day goes by when I don’t doubt either my ability to pull it off or the project’s potential contribution to both academic and broader fields. What complicates the work more is that with a participatory framework I am nearly completely reliant on my participants – their output is my input. While I am confident in my participants’ abilities and enthusiasm, the uncertainty in what form my final project will take, in how it will develop and indeed transform as the workshop progresses rather than remain a concrete entity, is a little unsettling. But it is this process-focused kind of research that attracted me in the first place, as challenging as it will be.
* For ethical reasons to protect my participants, until my project is complete I am not publicly (ie. out here on the internet) announcing the location or identities of my participants. Rest assured I am thrilled for their unique vision and willingness to participate in my project.