HE6 presentation with Ariadne Xenou – 24th October 2019

I came across this online session via the OCA discuss forum and although aimed at students already enrolled on level 3 (HE6) courses ‘Contextual Studies’ and ‘Body of work’, I decided to join with the hope that I would be able to gain some insight into what is expected in the final year, and also hopefully gain something that would help my current course. The aim of the presentation (which is intended to become a regular event) is to address areas of concern facing students at the start of HE6 with a specialist tutor (along with photography programme leader Gina Lundy.)

At first I felt disadvantaged by not being familiar with the CS and BOW. Despite this, there was much in the talk that I have taken away – some of which will help when I begin the final year courses but also much that will help with DI&C. Initial thoughts:

  • Intense but informative presentation which gave me lots to think about but felt I was a bit lost because of my lack of knowledge of level 3 material.
  • Resonated with concerns I have been having about how to start, maintain and theoretically underpin a project.
  • Enjoyed the thought that theory, research and practice are all linked, inform each other, and should not be explored individually.
  • Gave a real idea of the jump to level 3 and that I need to be ready for this.
  • Found the concepts of grand narratives and micro narratives fascinating and the analogies used really helped with my thinking about strategies to approach a project. Need to do much more research about this though.
  • Liked the emphasis on planned, critical thinking and a forensic approach – to be always questioning what is valid and put aside things that are not informing the project.

Here are some notes from the presentation:

  • The approach to CS and BOW should not be separated as they are factually similar in terms of research and output.
  • Both projects deal with ideas – both visual and written – that should be analytical, critical and inquiring. They are intense and intensive, need targeted thinking and targeted making.
  • Grand narratives (grand stories/important stories – the stories we want to tell through the work) – are told through smaller details or microhistories.
    • This is looking at the bigger picture through tiny details.
    • Analytical investigation of minor details can identify bigger patterns.
    • “the methodology of microhistory is not about how small the story is, but about the power of the microscope you use.” – in order to show the big picture, small details must be analysed.
  • Establishing a methodological approach:
    • Choose a subject that truly interests you.
    • Be specific – make lists, write about it, break it down into small components, use your ‘critical microscope’.
  • Research:
    • Ask – ‘how can I tell?’, ‘How can I get information?’, ‘How do I know about this?’
    • Test your knowledge, information and sources.
    • Analyse the small aspects of your grand narrative.
    • Research is incremental, built slowly and bit by bit – methodically.
      • “by looking at the smaller details you will find more threads that link to other things and therefore you will have a much more kind of varied background.”
    • Ask ‘so what?’ about everything.
  • Methodology:
    • Look at your work as a problem which demands a solution – as a puzzle.
    • Grand narrative – your overarching subject – small details used to make large points.
    • You need to be aware of the context and complexity in order to make a statement/communicate effectively.
    • It is important to clarify and identify key aspects of the grand narrative to prevent going down a rabbit hole of unimportant details.
      • A logical structure and sequence will keep you on track and on the right path.
      • The best way to keep on track is to methodically deal with both the problem and the subject.
  • Question yourself and your subject constantly:
    • Do not take information and any preconceptions for granted.
    • Keep wondering whether you have it right and if there is a better way to explain and understand.
    • This will help with understanding fully and communicating better.
  • Establishing a research question:
    • Tagmemics (a very straightforward and helpful way to determine your subject) –
      • Regard the overall topic as a particle/a thing itself
        • Don’t look at things around the topic – only at that.
      • Research as much as possible about ‘the thing itself’.
      • Once researched, begin to regard the topic as a wave – a thing changing over time.
      • Begin to build relationships with adjacent topics.
        • The topic becomes a ‘thing in its context’.
    • e.g. Our understanding of documentary photography is considerably different now than it was in the Victorian era. You would ask:
      • How was documentary used?
      • Why did it change?
      • How did it change?
      • What made the change?
      • What is it now?
      • What are its variations?
  • Engaging with primary sources:
    • Could be anything – e.g. primary research, photographers, particular academic or theoretical work that informs the work.
    • Approach sources in terms of value they can offer – if you find no value, set them aside.
    • Know why you are engaging with the sources –
      • “be aware of the purpose of your task and subject and what they are offering.”
  • Make specific notes:
    • Make specific notes when engaging with any written or visual work –
      • Not only what the work is about, but also how it relates to your work.
    • When you move onto the next source, discuss how it relates to the previous source.
      • Link together, and always link back to your work.
    • “use your sources as evidence and compile your evidence as the core of your knowledge of the topic.”
    • Academic sources are our evidence and we compile them to bolster our own philosophical/visual argument.
      • Use these as building blocks/stepping stones to build the backbone of your work.
  • Research proposal:
    • Consider the methodology as a map to ensure we do not get lost in the arguments.
      • Ensures that we do not make bodies of work that speak to us and non one else.
    • Effective communication – similar to a map or recipe – needs to be easy to follow, needs to communicate, and needs to get us to our destination.
    • The heart of the methodology is the ‘working hypothesis‘ –
      • A plausible answer that you can go and test.
        • “plausible answers lead to a fine tuning of the kind of research we need to undertake.”
      • The methodology will tell you there is a working hypothesis.
      • A working hypothesis will lead you to find your targets.
    • Research proposals help us solidify and clarify the key concerns of our own work.
    • We write research proposals to promote and receive support from others.
    • Research proposals should be written clearly, correctly (syntactically and dramatically), with authority, passion and eloquence.


The Hunter’s Evidence: Carlo Ginzburg (Radio Open Source with Christopher Lydon, 4th November 2008)

OCA Discuss forum thread

Suggested further reading:

Cottrell, S. (2014) Dissertations and project reports: a step by step guide. At: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucreative-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4763634

(Part 3 has some good advice on getting started)

Greetham, B. (2014) How to write your undergraduate dissertation. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan. At: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucreative-ebooks/reader.action?docID=4762988

(Helpful chapters on preparation and planning your proposal)

Winstanley et al. (2012) Writing a dissertation for dummies. Hoboken, United Kingdom: John Wiley and Sons, Incorporated. At: https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/ucreative-ebooks/reader.action?docID=712125

(Part 5 on managing the overall experience has general guidance/bullet point take homes)

One thought on “HE6 presentation with Ariadne Xenou – 24th October 2019

  1. Pingback: Assignment 4: Development | Digital Image and Culture

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