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Novel visual methods change the face of research

Posted on 11/11/2010

The Department of Geography at Royal Holloway, University of London is opening up new ways of carrying out research through the use of video and film-making.

Jessica Jacobs, a research fellow in the department working on an ESRC-funded project - ‘Rebranding the Levant: Contested Heritages and Modernities in Amman and Damascus’ led by Professor Claudio Minca – is an established film-maker, using participatory techniques in her work.  

Like ethnographic films, Jessica’s work not only examines people and place but it explores the nature of film-making itself. The geographical element lies in her focus on the audience and the place of the interviews and she recently discussed her approach to a sold-out event at Tate Britain. She has made four 10 minute films and plans to add at least a further two. They are short, from 2-10 minutes and do not contain a narrative.

Jessica explains: “Not having an in-built commentary allows for a more open debate about the many different ways people and places are interpreted. This also gives the films a degree of flexibility allowing different texts to be added to different occasions both within the academy and elsewhere - a conference powerpoint, a teaching module, a project website with embedded video, a policy-oriented workshop. It is possible to view each film separately or link two or three together in a series covering different themes.”

A group of postgraduates in cultural geography also secured funding for a film through the Creative Campus Initiative tied to the Olympics and Paralymics.  The film, ‘Exploring London's Waterscape' focuses on the River Lea and other waterways in the shadow of the Olympic development in East London. The film combines imagery of the underside of the Olympic development with interviews from residents, planners and cultural commentators, including Iain Sinclair.  It is particularly recommended for A-level Geography classes seeking a distinctive perspective on Olympic redevelopment.  Bradley Garrett, one of the leading members of the Creative Campus group and Jessica Jacobs are among 10 researchers from around the UK who have been invited to participate in a week-long residential workshop in Dundee this month that will focus on audio, visual and other creative methods.



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