Thursday, 5 August 2010

MADA MSN3 Critical Evaluation

8th August 2010

This Self-Negotiated unit has provided an in-depth learning experience for me to engage in a thorough research and to focus on those topics of my choice, and it has also allowed me to reflect on the MADA as a whole as it reaches the end of my first year. In this evaluation, I would like to focus on three things:
1) General overview of my experiences,
2) Issues and challenges which have I have become aware of, both theoretical and technical, and 
3) How those issues have provided me with ideas and insights further develop myself.

The unit started with various issues that were unexpected, and often I was unclear to where this project was going, for how far it would go. I was unable to focus on the unit at an early stage as work from my other units had affected the amount of time I could devote. Time management also became problematic towards the end of the unit due to my professional commitment, which resulted as inconsistency in approach to my research and production. I found it difficult to follow my timescale originally proposed in my learning agreement, and this is one of the prominent elements which reflect in the stage I am at in my project.

There are several issues that have come up during the process of research and production, both technical and theoretical. Various concerns started to form as I began my research, showing technical challenges to the project, however, it should be noted that these obstacles resulted in clarifying how I could approach and manage my work scheme as a whole, and schedules for analysis and evaluation was carried out accordingly. Although I have managed to put together a prototype to show the fundamental ideas and highlighted development potentials, two weeks of delay in research on visual presentation which resulted in delaying of production, has left me with small amount of time to reach the final result in time for the twentieth anniversary of the German unification, on 3 October, 2010.

One of the challenges I faced was a technical issue, which involved locating search engines that enabled me to filter and apply the criteria I felt essential. This was made possible only after I had a tutorial with Dr. Phil Archer, a lecturer at NUCA, who also provided me with an enormous amount of skills and knowledge on coding – another crucial tool for the structural basis of my project. Arranging for a tutorial involved discussing it with several lecturers before I could pinpoint what I needed to, and organizational communication was a contributing factor of delay. Coding with Pure Data and Autoitscript, of which I had no understanding of, has contributed greatly towards learning about the digital culture. I feel this was possible due to the nature of this unit, allowing me to endeavor on a project with specialized practices, including an investigation of digital and online methods of data collection; tagging digital mapping and visualization; and publicly accommodated photographic images and how photographers relate to and define their works of images.

My original intention proposed in my learning agreement, to “display an image of the Berlin Wall composed of series of smaller photographs, uploaded online” to represent individuals and their perceptions, is yet completed. Although there are artists and scholars who have connected descriptive text or phrases to photographs online or via their databases (Whitelaw, 2010; Harris, & Kamvar, 2006), I have not been able to directly display the link between perceptions and images. Research on Berliners’ emotions and perceptions were carried out accordingly, although through the process I have realized Flash nor Premiere were fit for use in this project, and introduced programs such as Autoitscript and Pure Data for control and manipulation of images collected online through Flickr Hive Mind. I have not been able to locate the venue or format for means of presentation, but this will become relevant when the project is nearer its completion. Technical challenges, such as representing the ratio of photographs true to its original, appearances of image: time, size, quantity, opacity, overall display of images, and accuracy of individually tagged images – which also raises theoretical questions to definitions of collected images (Pink, 2005) – still remain.

The concept of this project, to visualise Berliners’ perceptions and/or emotions, also raised new set of dilemmas. Through the research process, I have identified and connected the issue of psychosocial divide within Germany with more generally spoken digital divide. This acknowledges the gap of accessibility to the internet within citizens of East and West German states, as well as their cultures which involve possessing digital photography equipments, uploading the photographic images online for the wider public to view, or otherwise. Therefore concepts based on digital technology will, to varying extent, reflecting a stronger Western influence of perceptions – potentially neglecting view and values of citizens in the new Eastern states of Germany, and possibly projecting Western bias.

On reflection, I am confident to claim that the original intent of this project, to visualize Berliners’ perceptions, has partially reached its goal. Through research it became clear that it is technologically possible, with remaining challenges, and has established that values or personal narratives can be connected to photographic images via the web.

This project has also helped me refocus on my areas of expertise, as well as developing, in photojournalism and sociopolitical science. Social phenomena and trends are influenced by historical and cultural environment, and the dialectic characteristics of Berlin, becoming two opposing forces under the influence of the Cold War rivals, and the psychological and cultural effects which are still evident in the unified city today. Based on my previous research on Berliners’ and perceptions on unification, I was able to develop my understanding of visual representation, as well as its current trend of narrative online. Within the culture strengthened by individual initiatives such as blogging, and mass-scale and bottom-up management seen in collective editing and tagging and engaging in them myself, I have gained further understanding of internet and how it influences people’s lives and values. Cultural divide between those with access to internet in comparison to those without, could be applied to former East and West German citizens, and opened up a further scope in researching their interactions online. This will enhance current understandings of the so-called “Wall in the head” or Mauer im Kopf – a term often used to emphasise the divide of individual perceptions and values in two halves of Germany – alongside social and psychological researches carried out to this day.

Harris, J. & Kamvar, S. (2006) An exploration of human emotion, in six movements. [Online] [04/08/2010]
Pink, D. (2005) Folksonomy. [Online] [04/08/2010]
Vander Wal, T. (2010) Understanding the Cost of We Can't Find Anything. [Online] [04/08/2010]
Whitelaw, M. (2010) CommonsExplorer. [Online] [01/08/2010]