Writing vs. visually scripting

Writing vs. visually scripting

Producing a dissertation in video form has its challenges. In this post, I discuss the political and technical challenges of scripting visually as opposed to solely writing.

.    The PhD program I’m in at Brock University attempts to support doctoral students working with research methodologies appropriate for the 21st century. After all, anything else would seem out of date. The program’s mission statement reads this way:
.     The Joint PhD in Educational Studies Program aims to promote scholarly inquiry and the
.     production of new knowledge within the context of a research culture. We are committed
.     to methodological advances in educational research, as well as the integration of theory
.     and practice. We nurture our students as developing scholars and leaders . . . . We are committed
.     to excellence in our students and faculty, and to producing graduates who are life long learners.
    [emphasis added] (Brock University, n.d., para. 1)
This being the case, I still experienced some hesitation when I proposed video as the platform for my dissertation. Even though I can think of no vehicle more appropriate for “[promoting] scholarly inquiry and the production of new knowledge” in the screen-dominated culture of our time, or no better example of a “methodological [advance] in educational research,” there have been times when it seemed that the ideology of writing as the ultimate form of academic communication remained securely intact. Of course, writing is certainly still an effective mode of communication, but it has limitations nonetheless. Same with video. In fact, every form of communication carries with it affordances and limitations which must be considered when preparing something like a dissertation. My video proposal was eventually approved (after negotiating a new multimodal format category of dissertation with Dean Michael Plyley) because of what it can do that writing cannot: video incorporates several modes at once, such as visuals, sounds, and text together to produce supercommunication, providing “diverse ways to access ideas [to] empower readers” (Loi, 2008, p. 90). Kress and Van Leeuwen (2001) describe multimodality this way:
.      [In multimodality, modes] may for instance reinforce each other (‘say the same thing in different
.      ways’), fulfil [sic] complementary roles . . . or be hierarchically ordered, as in action films, where
.      action is dominant, with music adding a touch of emotive colour and sync sound a touch of
.     realistic ‘presence’ (p. 20).
Video is engaging by virtue of this dynamism, as well as its emerging ubiquitousness. Kress (2003) refers to this as the “new media age,” wherein the screen has replaced the book as the dominant medium of communication, making the image, rather than writing, the centre of communication. To work in video, a scholar must pull together a comprehensive presentation that moves along at an appropriate pace, is visually appealing, technically skillful, and concisely edited. Multimodality today is a technology-enhanced version of Wagner’s vision of Gesamtkunstwerk, a term meaning “total art work”: one piece that synthesizes many art forms at once (Gesamtkunstwerk, n.d.). In Wagner’s day (late 19th century), theatre was the epitome of Gesamtkunstwerk; today, it has evolved into online video. With video being as useful as it is thanks to evolving technology, both in terms of its production and consumption, it merits consideration as to why in many academic circles writing is still hierarchically most respected.
.     All of the above said, writing still accounts for a large part of my process as an artist/researcher/teacher. After sketching out a crude graphic organizer to help provide a cohesive framework for my thoughts, my next step has been to write a script that I will narrate throughout each video. I then cut and paste my script into an audio/visual graph, where I make notes on what the viewer will see on screen next to the words they’ll hear. And of course, whatever gets left out of the scripts on account of conciseness will land here on this blog, which is written. As a scholartist, I definitely see the value of writing (I couldn’t function without it), yet I also see the value of that which writing leaves behind, and that is what I’m interested in preserving.
.     In a related vein, the videos below discuss multimodality and the principles and elements of art and design (i.e., the building blocks of how art is made). In the first video, Kress describes multimodality, and in the second video, I argue that any description of multimodality is in effect a description of the principles and elements of art and design.

Kress:

Zak:

References

Brock University (n.d.). Retrieved April 3, 2013, from http://jointphd.ed.brocku.ca/mission
.
Gesamtkunstwerk. (n. d.). Retrieved April 3, 2013, from Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia Website:
.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gesamtkunstwerk
.
Jeff Bezemer. (2012, March 15). “What is multimodality?” Retrieved April 3, from,
.
.       www.youtube.com/watch?v=nt5wPIhhDDU#at=45
.
Kress, G. R. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. London, UK: Routledge.
.
Kress, G., & Van Leeuwen, T. (2001). Multimodal discourse. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
.
Loi, D. (2008). A thought per day: Travelling inside a suitcase. In J. G. Knowles,
.
     S. Promislow, & A. L. Cole (Eds.), Creating scholartistry: Imagining the arts-
.
     
informed thesis or dissertation (pp. 84–106)Halifax, Canada: Backalong Books.

Raising Creativity. (2013, July 22). Multimodality vs. art (RaisingCreativity.com vlog).
.
.       Retrieved July 22, 2013, from www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb77MPyQ2cI

 

 

Posted by Rebecca Zak

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