TASK: (1,200–1,500 words) Look back at all the choices you’ve made in terms of format, theoretical perspective and research methodology and check that you’re happy with them – for now, at any rate.
Refocused question following tutor feedback in the light of my personal changes:
Which visual narrative principles and techniques are most effective for translating community empowerment stories into 60 second on-line animations for a global audience? How might narrative approaches differ between media (stick cartoon animation, photography, collage)?
Changes since Assignment 1: reflective explanation
Community empowerment stories from earlier work will still inform what I am communicating and how. But my main focus of questioning is now on how to translate these into powerful and convincing narratives for a global on-line audience and social network feedback mechanisms, rather than community participatory process.
As my tutor pointed out, my plans for this module were very ambitious and not everything needs to be done at once. So part of my work in this assignment has been to further focus my questions for this module – identifying which questions and issues I might leave for the final module ‘Sustaining Your Practice’. The refocusing of my question is based on a number of changes since Assignment 1:
In-depth reliable community input and feedback will not now be possible. A combination of work changes and allergy issues mean that it is now very unlikely that I will travel outside UK until 2020. This means that I will need to work with material I already have and feedback will be limited to on-line social and professional networks ie a different audience, but one that has a key role in advocacy.
Inclusion of a wider range of media: my reliance now on home-based computer work means that I will have to be more careful about RSI – and hence the amount of intensive tweening animation work I can do in Flash. As I have progressed with VisCom Advanced Practice I have become much more interested in photography and broadening my technical skills to collage, as well as other physical media that I explored in earlier OCA modules. It would be very useful for me as a UK-based illustrator going forward to look at a range of media approaches, particularly photography and collage and other techniques that could be used by designers on the ground who do not have access to advanced software.
Discovery of translation theory: As I was grappling with these issues I went systematically through the research frameworks suggested and started to look at translation theory as a very relevant way of framing the challenges faced in my new focus on community-led development advocacy.
(interactive pdf) embedded into WordPress, but the images themselves are produced in a wider range of media.
Format for my written and visual work
The written report will be in the form of an interactive animated web page integrated into the first section of this blog with downloadable pdf, summarising my conclusions about:
- theoretical framework encompassing visual communications theory and translation theory and ways of addressing potential challenges between the two in a global context
- the ways in which different media (drawing, photography, collage and animation) have been used for wordless narratives and animation by selected illustrators in the context of visual communications debates
- innovations and challenges faced in translating community empowerment narratives for a global audience discovered in my own visual research
- experience and possible ways forward for participatory on-line feedback in terms of both visual critique and dissemination/impact for advocacy
- overall conclusions about community-led pictorial communication for empowerment advocacy and issues for further innovation.
This will have links to sections on the blog:
VisCom Frameworks: with animated visual and text info graphics clarifying theoretical issues and linking research approach.
Visual Inspiration: animated info graphic showing linkages and principles employed by other illustrators and animators to address some of the challenges posed in wordless pictorial communication.
Communicating Empowerment: showcases my own visual research will be uploaded to this blog (and You Tube channel??) with the supporting posts and resource links including:
- visual portfolio on concepts and strategies for empowerment, – three interactive animated info-graphics in the different media, inspired by styles and visions of selected community drawings that can be understood and disseminated on-line across audiences and contexts
Attention to the style and presentation of this blog as an engaging global resources:
- WordPress themes
- 2019 graphic styles
- African style
- Islamic styles
Theoretical and research frameworks
Theoretical and research frameworks are essentially interlinked. My own understanding of the distinction (based on my social science training and professional work) is roughly:
- a theoretical framework links a set of concepts and definitions with hypotheses and/or questions (theories) about how the concepts are related to each other
- a research methodology is the application of theory to the world to investigate the hypotheses/questions given the initial conceptual understandings.
Often there is congruence between the conceptual framework and research methods (eg qualitative or participatory methods to address issues of empowerment), but it is also possible to use a range of methods to triangulate and further confirm specific conclusions.
Framed in the overarching context of:
- Translation theory : as a set of questions and approaches to ‘translating community voices for advocacy’ tackling some of the tensions between community empowerment and visual communication design.
I will consider potential interlinkages and tensions between:
- Empowerment theory as the overarching aim of my work – but where inherent tensions between universalist and individualist definitions of ’empowerment’ mirror in many respects the divisions in Visual Communications theory.
- Communication theory: the principles and methods by which information is conveyed based on largely Western audiences and research.
- Post-structuralism/post-modernism/interpretivism: focusing on relationships and elements in a conceptual system but (following postmodernism) exploring the challenges of potential plurality and instability of pictorial (as well as verbal) meaning across cultures and contexts. Taking a qualitative and open approach, mixing different artistic styles and media.
I envisage the research going through a number of phases which may overlap and interlink rather than being purely linear:
- Bricoleur: bringing together and looking at commonalities and insights across a variety of VisCom approaches in different media: photography, collage, cartoons and animation. The criteria for selection will be that inspiration for analysis will be wordless (or mostly wordless), accessible/readable by a global audience and technically as simple as possible for at least partial replication by people working directly with communities.
- Reflective practice: exploring and applying the visual communication techniques from my ‘bricolage’ to produce a range of ‘translations’ of a small set of different community empowerment narratives.
- Semiotics and textual analysis: as a ‘testing and discussion framework’. study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation – applied to compare and contrast both the ‘bricolage inspiration’ and my reflective translation practice. To identify which signs/concepts are common across different social categories (women/men, age, ethnicity) and context and where the main areas for misunderstanding or misinterpretation may lie. In the case of the selected community sources I generally have some accompanying verbal or textual documentation.
- Participatory Action Research through social networks/e-feedback: through collaborating with colleagues and community friends who speak some English for feedback of their own interpretations and reactions. Possibly they may also ask others in communities where they work, if they have time/opportunity.
These are discussed in detail in Assignments 3 and 4 as I apply in practice to my research. And material on the above links will be updated accordingly (with animation and info graphics??).
Draft literature and resources review
Visual Communications resources
Key resources from communities
I am aiming at a diversity of ‘translation’ approaches to a limited set of my available visual sources from earlier work in communities selected to represent a range of source media and also perspectives on empowerment that might need different translation approaches. Based on my analysis from the VisCom sources I will select 3-5 examples to explore in depth from the following possibilities:
- Women’s empowerment: Pakistan, India, Sudan and Uganda (participatory drawings and workshop video)
- Gender-based violence: Pakistan, India, Uganda, Tanzania (participatory drawings)
- Men’s and women’s views of ‘Happy Families’: Pakistan, India and Kyrgyzstan (participatory drawings and video interview)
- Men’s views on adultery, alcoholism and addiction from Uganda and Kenya (video stories)
- Men’s control of coffee money and its consequences: DRC (role play photos)
- Men’s control of land and its consequences: Kenya and Uganda (diagram analysis and video story)
The selection will aim to enable powerful narrative to a global audience and point to a number of different ways in which community sources can be adapted for wordless 60 second animations. Some animations will be based on one story/context only, others may combine images from different processes to increase their cross-contextual understanding/highlight similarities and variations.
• Will my choices enable me to answer my research question?
• Are they appropriate for the visual and written work I am proposing?
• Do I need to rethink anything or gather any additional texts or resources?
See above – I needed to put this first to explain the changes underpinning my refocusing.