TLDR – Today we began to think about what we do and why. From this, we can hope to extrapolate a useful research question which will be relevant to our own work.
Our first lecture of the module was given by Paul, and we were split into two groups, so the lecture was slightly shorter than usual.
The first point mentioned was the obvious one: what is the question? Paul was keen to stress that at this stage we shouldn’t be so focused on one particular question, but perhaps a broader spectrum or area that we might want to consider. He mentioned Bordage and Dawson (2003) who emphasised that the question is the single most important aspect of any study. No pressure, then. Bordage and Dawson went on to state that there are nine questions which should be asked at this stage:
What topic are you interested in (idea)? What has already been done (literature)? What outcomes are you interested in (dependent variable)? What intervention are you interested in (independent variable)? Are you looking for differences or similarities (association)? To what group do you want to apply your results (population)? What is your specific question (the enquiry)? What answer do you expect to find (the hypothesis)? Why is this important today (relevance)?
I’m not sure how many of these questions will be relevant to me and my study (something to do with documentaries), or whether or not we need to include all nine? Paul suggested considering a need or a problem in your field which might need solving. I don’t remember the specific example he used, but it was something about the person who invented coffee cup holders for cafés. They always used to burn their hands, but rather than think about how they could help themselves, they considered the root cause of the issue, invented the cardboard holder you always get with a coffee, and now they’re a millionaire. That makes sense, though how I relate that to film, I’ve no idea.
Another point that Paul raised is that often we are inspired by so many things that it can be difficult to narrow down our field to a specific question. Sometimes it helps to look at familiar things from a new perspective, but the thing we should always be thinking about is, “What is gained from this, and will it help you/others?” Which is a fairly crucial point. There’s no point researching something for three months if there’s no value in it whatsoever.
There were other discussions during the lecture about thought clouds, and post rationalisation, and practice led research, but not much of it was helpful to me today. I made some notes in my book, but I don’t know if I’ll come back to them. It seems like there were a lot of frills around the edges of this talk, and I wasn’t sure how important or relevant they were to me. I’m sure they had merit in their inclusion, but not to me, at least not yet. I’ll probably come back to them in a few weeks.
After a short break, we all headed to Duke Street and broke off into our seminar groups for further discussion. I’m starting to recognise most people in my group now, and I know a few names, but I feel like it would have been massively helpful if someone running the course would have considered the need for formal introductions. Luckily, Emmaalouise is in my group, so I know one person.
We began by sitting in an informal circle and Judith started the discussion by offering a summary of the lecture. Everyone seemed somewhat nervous about the fact we had to come up with our own questions, so we were reminded that RIPU is only one stage of our Masters, so there is no need to come up with a definitive conclusion in our essays. Although we have a deadline for submissions, the key point of this module is to make ourselves aware of our own critical thinking, and to question the motives behind our own work. I found this quite helpful because now instead of just writing an essay, I’ll actually be thinking more about what I’m doing and why. Which is kind of the point. I still think this module is quite boring, but maybe it will make me a better filmmaker.
The key things we should be asking ourselves are ‘Why do I do this?’, ‘Why does what I do look like this?’, and ‘Why does X always use Y?’ (with the latter relating to an example of why did Hitchcock so often use blonde leading ladies?) If we can understand why something is frequently done, we might be able to improve or expand upon on it within our own work.
The final thing I need to remind myself is that I am not just writing an essay at the end of the day. The final report should be specific to me and my work. How does A affect my work? Why does B influence me?
After another short break, we were given a large sheet of paper and fifteen minutes to began writing an ‘idea cloud‘ – essentially just thoughts on paper about things which might interest us or excite us. The idea was to get everything in one visible place to help us narrow down our thoughts into a question(s). In all honesty, I wasn’t sure how to begin, or what was expected, so I just started writing things I liked (related to film and documentary). Louis Theroux… David Attenborough… John Hughes… Music in films… Taika Waititi… weirdly, after 2 or 3 minutes my hand just continued writing things without me consciously thinking about it, and it all seemed to flow in some sort of logical order. From filmmakers I like, to the styles of film I like, to other forms of photography and art I like, to my interests in general (such as travel and science), through to questions about social issues which affect our generation, and future issues which might soon arise. Although looking at the piece of paper could be quite confusing, it gave me a lot of specific areas which clearly interest me and helped me narrow down my research area.
We then got into pairs to discuss our ideas and bounce thoughts off each other. I sat with Megan, who’s studying Curation. Her diagram was very focused, and I could tell immediately that she knew what she was doing. I suspect the fact that she had recently completed her Bachelor’s degree helped, because it was all still fresh in her mind. She wants to consider different ways in which the gallery/environment of an exhibition can affect the audience reaction and understanding of it. Already, that’s quite a refined area, and I don’t think I was much help to her in our discussion, but it was helpful to talk to someone else about it. She pointed out that a lot of my notes seemed to be about time, and cause-and-effect, and learning outcomes, which was helpful to hear out loud. It got me thinking that one area I might research could be about film as an educational tool.
I came away from today with a slightly larger understanding of what would be expected of me, though not much. If understanding was on a 0-100 scale, last week I was on a 5, and maybe now I’m on a 19.
I’m not sure how useful I found the lecture today, it seemed to raise more questions than anything else, but sitting with Megan in the seminar was beneficial. Seeing her work through her interests and thought processes made the module a bit clearer, and hearing her ideas for potential research questions helped me begin to narrow down my own. Although, I would like to discuss these things with people that work in the same field as me, and there doesn’t seem to be any opportunity for that at the minute.
I think a lot of today was bogged down with theory which may or may not prove useful, but so far the most helpful thing I’ve found was just sitting next to someone and asking, ‘What are you doing?’