Sharing Research Differently
Things have calmed down a bit for the moment. People are slowly signing up to join the project. Some are telling me that they are excited but nervous. They need support for doing the work. I am assuring them they will have it, and they will.
On Monday I spoke to a class of doctoral students at UNC about my work on this project. One of the things I tried to stress was how I saw this project as an opportunity to push on the boundaries of what research is – what it looks like in practice, how it can be constructed, and how it can be communicated. I explained that I hoped to move away from simply having a standard research article published in a journal as the major outcome of this project. That’s all well and good. I’m not knocking it, but that kind of writing is also getting a bit boring. I like to write, and I want to be a bit more creative in my academic writing. I’m not sure that people normally link creativity and writing with academia unless people are coming from the arts or the creative writing/English department.
I’m not locking myself into what this creative approach should look like. I’m simply keeping myself open to possibilities. Things will unfold over the course of time. I also don’t see myself as being the sole author. I imagine there will be something where that is the case, but I don’t expect it to be that way for everything.
I’ve come across a couple of ideas to get the juices flowing. My first idea, which I was thinking way back when I started blogging, was a scholarly personal narrative (SPN). I explained my interest in writing an SPN to the doctoral students, but I told them I couldn’t clearly articulate what an SPN was. I have read two books on it by Robert Nash. The books are clear. The problem is me and not him. Until I start to engage with and apply the ideas to my own writing I don’t think I can do much more than point people to his work if you want to understand SPN further.
The other idea that I had is a bit nutty. Well, it’s not totally nutty. People do it all the time, but I don’t think they do it in the context I’m putting it in. Here it is: What if (and I’m thinking about this for the 2013-2014 run of the project) I gave cameras to kids and/or teachers and have them do a photo documentary of their experiences with the project? That should be fun to get permissions for. I might want to start that now!
But seriously, here’s my thought: Wouldn’t it be cool to have a photo exhibition about the project? Maybe a couple of videos thrown in for good measure. Instead of presenting experiences and findings through the written word, what if we presented them through pictures? The pictures could have captions or extended explanations like you see in a museum. They would obviously have to be presented in a way that made sense. What if you went to a professional conference and instead of listening to me talk to you about this project for 20 or 60 minutes you walked around a photo gallery and interacted with myself, teachers, and potentially students who had experienced the work first hand?
Yes, there are a 1000 problems with this idea and most center around paperwork and getting permissions at multiple levels. If I think this is a good idea then I need to get to work on it sooner rather than later. And these are just two ideas that I have for the moment. There could be others. Both require a substantial amount of work. What do you think?