Author Archives: Richard Berry

About Richard Berry

I am the Head of Subject for Advertising, Marketing and Communications at Southampton Solent University. I am passionate about making images and my research interests include accelerated and work-based learning.

Conferences are like buses

You wait a while then two come along at once. But seriously, I’ve been lucky enough to have had papers accepted at two conferences this week. On May 13 I presented the early findings from my pilot research carried out in March at the Autoethnography: Learning from Stories conference at the University of Brighton. The event, organised by Jess Moriarty and C21: Centre for 21st Century Writings was a warm welcome into the world of academic conferences. Tomorrow I am delivering a paper at the Solent 2015 Research and Innovation Conference.

Here is the deck of slides with notes that I presented in Brighton:

Exploring contemporary advertising practice through autoethnography

And here is the deck presented at Solent:

social-capital-and-fusion-skills-in-advertising

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Day 1 Residential 1 Year 2

Embarking on year two of the EdD Creative & Media programme at CEMP. Opportunity to participate in a beach research project in teams. Very quickly I volunteered to use a visual approach and I could perhaps have been more open to research methods I hadn’t tried before. The team were generous and facilitated my preference. The weather was inclement but the team persevered and I did wonder whether cyclin the length of Bournemouth sea front taking photos with my increasingly soggy iPhone had been sensible. It did, however provide some data which can now be used to elicit responses and at least provides a basis for some quantitative research on numbers of people using the beach (also promenade and sea) 1.30-3.00 on 9 October. The broader question was ‘What brings you to the beach today?’, and the images address that question. Wes was alas recording images in a fixed point and other methods included observation and interview. If you leaf through the images you will see people surfing, learning to surf, working, dog walking, sheltering. You will not see people eating ice creams (as was much anticipated in planning while the sun shone). Nor will you notice (probably) the end of some sleeping bags of those making part of Boscombe Peer their home on quite a bleak day.

Heres is a link to the 33 images: Beach Research

In the afternoon I had the opportunity to present my EdD research to a mini conference. Just the process of assembling a 10-minute overview was useful in reflecting on the year. I was also able to develop some new connections through some of the excellent sessions during the day.

Here is a link to my presentation: T R Berry

Finally, as I left the group to travel home on the train I read through a paper on qualitative interviews which I used to outline my pilot study and in many ways this facilitated some clarity of thought about the research as a whole and the relationship to my practice. For the first time, and thanks to the presentation just before the conference, I began to consider curriculum design as an artefact of practice and the research both emerging from the narrative about that process, but also informing the design of the artefact.

Challenging terrain

In reading some of the pages leading up to and including the conclusion of Hall et al I was drawn to the references to field, practice, discourse and their interrelation (which I suppose in itself reproduces the subject of the collaborative writing). So far I have been considering a field of practice as a distinctive and self-contained entity (see that I have automatically linked field to practice which in itself supports the more sophisticated approach of the paper), whereas the authors suggest that as well as being constructed through theory and work (either a research field such as ethnography or a subject field such as media studies), concepts of language, subjectivity and discourse might be considered fields. They go on to take this further in considering fields of effects and relations. What I draw from this is that rather than mapping a field one might be mapping a range of inter-connected fields relating to research approaches, the subject, discourse and language each with their own relations and effects.

Hall, S. et al. (1980) Culture, Media and Language: working papers in cultural studies. London, Unwin Hyman.

Creative visual methods. Emperor’s new paradigm?

Professor David Gauntlett has devised new creative research approaches building on traditional methods to, as he sees it, address more deep-seated themes. These include the use of Lego bricks to create models, drawing and video. Professor David Buckingham suggests that Gauntlett is making assumptions and failing to acknowledge limitations in applying these methods, interestingly nothing is said by Gauntlett or Buckingham about the advantage that kinaesthetic and visual methods may have for individual participants with a range of information processing preferences.

This model-making is said to afford ‘incubation space’ for participants to develop a ‘holistic responses’ that would not be generated directly. Gauntlett claims that Buckingham suggests these approaches ‘allow researchers ‘to “dig” more deeply…’ (Buckingham in Gauntlett, p.644, 2009), ‘partly as a result of the visual dimension’ but in this he is perhaps simplistically misrepresenting Gauntlett, who would argue that it is the participants themselves and their selection of bricks and their subsequent combination who would find ‘meanings would soon emerge when the building began’. He goes on to suggest that ‘metaphors would often appear by ‘accident’ in this way’, but Buckingham would also argue that much of the participants own analysis is often descriptive rather than providing insights. Buckingham also fails to adequately critique the suggestion that ‘reflective time’ is a fundamental and catalysing part of the research design, which Gauntlett claims ‘can lead to more nuanced and authentic research data’. By making parallels with focus groups and drawing in video-making, Buckingham broadens the discussion rather than assembling an alternative line of reasoning. He does make an important point about neutrality, however, in that Gauntlett fails to evaluate the extent to which the construction of models helps participants construct more or less authentic or ‘neutral’ meanings, more ‘directly and honestly’ than other methods. Preferring instead, as he sees it, to assume an idealistic stance of innate individual creativity and ‘externalised manifestation of selfhood’ without addressing the social in the construction of identity (Buckingham, p.645, 2009).  Perhaps it could also be said that the social contexts within which visual constructs are made, include the expert (researcher) and lay (participant) ‘insights and meanings’ (Prosser, 2008).

This debate is useful in testing the rigour of my approaches to developing visual methods for my own research. Particularly to adequately consider the effects social contexts may have as well as the visual artefacts to be used, as Collier and Collier suggest, to elicit participants’ responses. Buckingham’s critique also suggests that any approach that presumes to identify intangible concepts such as habitus or other intrinsic and ‘true’ responses, indirectly through the use of visual images or other artefacts, should also consider the social context, both of the participant/practice/field and the participant/researcher.

Buckingham, D. (2009) ‘Creative’ visual methods in visual research: possibilities, problems and proposals, Culture, Media and Society, 31(633): pp.644-647.

Collier, J. & Collier, M. (1986). Visual anthropology: Photography as a research method (Rev. and expanded ed.). Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

Gauntlett, D. (2007) Creative Explorations: new approaches to identities and audiences. London, Routledge. pp.182-187.

Prosser, J. (1998). Image-based research: a sourcebook for qualitative researchers. London; Bristol, PA: Falmer Press.

Stepping back

Eight months in and time for residential. Also time to take a step or two back to outline the bigger picture. At the moment I am immersed in many unfamiliar concepts and ways of thinking which through practice are becoming clearer (and often fuzzier). I am still in the phase where I am admiring the trees.

Three questions to reflect upon:

An attempt to visually map the field of the research is included below. In making the map it occurs to me that it needs to be cylindrical, or better, spherical to reflect connections a little more clearly.

Visualising the research landscape

Visualising the research landscape

Sun filtering through an avenue of trees

Can’t see the wood for the trees – but what beautiful trees

 

Making the most of the cards you are dealt

Commonly found in the school yard for decades, the Panini sticker album has been a perennial World Cup favourite. Apparently nine participants can work together to fill the album most efficiently with minimal duplicates (the same number of cards are produced for each player – though in every album there seem to be valuable and rare stickers). To while away the years between tournaments you could always rely on an ever-expanding range of Top Trumps cards. Custom cars were a favourite of mine and my heart sank when dealt the souped-up mini that just didn’t cut the mustard compared to an American muscle car.

Many years later a colleague of mine, Kacy Mackreth an early career researcher, suggested a Top Trumps style of card to facilitate some research looking into children’s health. This was the first time I had worked on a research project and I was able to devise some simple cards which were piloted, refined and then used with a board to create a sort of game (a selection are shown below). Within a year or so I moved on to work on a major project evaluating programmes run by Premier League football clubs intended to engage hard to reach men.

My current research is looking at interdisciplinary working which combines STE(A)M, creative and digital skills/teams. Looking back at collaborating with colleagues in a range of unfamiliar disciplines and epistemological stances, reminds me how dynamic and productive the environment at the Carnegie Research Institute was, brought together by Professor Jim McKenna who provided a supportive, inclusive framework for those new to research and those like me who were finding their way by trading useful skills.

CardSize-1

Mackreth, K. and Berry, R. (2011) The childhood activity market: A consumer orientation approach to understanding physical activity behaviours. Carnegie Seed Grant. Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan University.

The subject through the objective

My father was an instrument maker for Vickers Instruments working with lenses, designing parts and training apprentices. There was always a range of lenses around the house and the kitchen was turned into a darkroom on winter nights to make prints using a home-made enlarger. I grew up with optics and have always been drawn to the visual. Now as I deepen my engagement with Bourdieu I am making links to that past. Another name for a lens is an objective (usually made up of several elements to minimise aberration/distortion in a camera lens) which is used to focus on a subject. This seems important.

Bourdieu’s concepts and writing (or more accurately Nice’s translations of his writings) do not come easily to me (I suspect this is not unusual) and I have been spending a few days coming back to one paragraph intruducing chapter nine in The Logic of Practice entitled The Objectivity of the Subjective. In this paragraph, Bourdieu (1990, pp.135), is explaining the two representations that should be considered when researching a social reality. Firstly, the material properties that ‘can be counted and measured like any other thing in the material world’ and secondly, symbolic properties which ‘are nothing other than material properties when perceived and appreciated in their mutual relationships, that is, as distinctive properties’. He seems, therefore, to draw together objective (realist) and subjective (phenomenological) approaches to explore a ‘two-fold reality’, a reality within which the two aspects are inextricably linked. Separately he suggests that his conceptual framework focuses more on each of these dualities:

“If habitus brings into focus the subjective end of the equation, field focuses on the objective” (1998, pp.15).

What I am beginning to draw from this is a rationale for adopting a subjective approach to visual research as it seems it would be impossible to design an objective/scientific technique and the subjective use of objectives (lenses) to construct interpretations is consistent with Bourdieu’s thinking. In choosing the objective (both in the purpose of making the image and the lens to be used in its construction) the researcher’s engagement with the subject reflects the researcher’s habitus and constructs symbolic properties of both agents or social realities simultaneously.

Tom Fowler mico-blogging at an industry presentation

Bourdieu, P. (1998) Practical reason: On the theory of action. Cambridge, Polity Press.

Bourdieu, P. (1990) The Logic of Practice. Cambridge, Polity Press.