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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

Technology-based and multi-modal presentation – Chapter 13

Reflections on Chapter 13 of Creative Research Methods by Helen Kara.


This chapter focussed on presenting research findings, I think there were some interesting and relevant points which I have responded to below, however, there was a big focus on presentation of quantitative data as graphs and diagrams which wasn’t relevant for me.

 

Kara begins by emphasising the value of multi-modal presentation, ‘Good practice in research presentation suggests that more than one method should be used at a time. For example, a written report should contain charts or pictures, or a spoken presentation should be accompanied by images or video’ (page 199). This is something I have always been mindful of when presenting my work – trying to make the presentation as engaging as possible by providing a variety of media formats. I think this is also why I have learned to produce content in a variety of media; visual artwork, illustration, infographic, memes, videos, songs, prose, etc. Different content reaches different audiences and if your aim is to maximise impact then multi-modal presentation is a necessity.

 

Kara gives the example of Heather Moser, ‘a public ethnographer, a discipline that straddles the divide between academic and public communities. Public ethnographers aim to disseminate their work as widely as possible through public media such as film, blogs and magazines. Within this, Mosher is particularly concerned about accurate representation of participants’ and researchers’ voices within the research. She suggests four key questions to consider when planning to present public ethnography.

1.        How does research, including the report, give voice to participants?

2.        Is the selected communication medium for reporting/ disseminating research adequate for presenting the plural structure, multiple voices, views, departures, and agreements leading to multiple possible actions and interpretations?

3.        Does the report make clear the researchers’ positionality (in relation to politics, intentions, etc) in order for audiences to understand the process through which data were interpreted and represented?

4.        How have community members been involved in reviewing the material with the researcher and challenged researchers’ interpretations and representations of them? (Mosher 2013: 435)’ (pages 199-200).

This example was particularly relevant to me, as you could consider my approach to creative research to have ‘ethnographic’ elements and I certainly intend to publicly disseminate my work as widely as possible. I am selecting around 8-10 participants to interview for my research project and my aim is to give voice to their stories, however, I am being very cautious not to “put words into their mouths”, so that I act as a vehicle which supports them in communicating their chosen message. I am therefore taking time and precautions, to discuss with them the aims of the project (to shift cultural perceptions and narratives about diversity and migrant identities) and find the best way to amplify their perspective and voice on the topic of belonging and inclusion within society. As such, these four questions are extremely important for me to consider, and I hope that I have already made some decisions in my research which addresses them.

 

Kara then discusses cognitive bias and the importance of remaining reflexively aware of the editorial decisions which researchers make as they are in a position of power when presenting their findings, ‘We are all subject to a wide range of cognitive biases, such as conformation bias, which causes us to ignore evidence that contradicts what we believe, and hindsight bias, which makes us see an event as more predictable when it has already taken place than we would have done beforehand’ (page 200) and ‘Ethical presentations of research data is presentation that gives the audience the best chance of understanding and remembering the information that you wish to convey. Researchers who focus on this as prepare presentations are likely to make full use of, rather than to misuse, their authorial power and control. It helps if researchers can remain reflexively aware of the details they choose to include and leave out, and of the consequences of their decisions (Ellingson 2009: 39)’ (page 200). I am very conscious of the power dynamic between myself and my research participants and because their personal stories are not being shared anonymously, I am taking extra precautions to ensure that everything that I publish is done with their prior approval and consent. This includes consideration of what I “leave out of the edit” – so, it is my intention to discuss in depth with each participants the key messages they wish to communicate, before I edited anything they’ve said.

 

Kara also raises ‘another potential problem with some creative research methods, and perhaps particularly the arts-based methods. Because many art forms are difficult to communicate in writing – and writing is the primary communication method of the academy – attempts that fall short run the risk of being condemned as self-indulgent’ (page 212). This is a concern which I am hyper aware of since this criticism is frequently waged at me both by trolls and people I have campaigned alongside. They accuse me of being a ‘self-promoter’ and ‘self-publicist’ whose interest in the cause I am supporting is entirely self-serving. Recently I published a Tweet announcing that I was performing at an event and a troll replied, ‘It’s all about YOU’. I have had to learn to defend myself and justify my creative work in the face of some very toxic criticism and as such, I am very wary of coming across inauthentic or “using” my participants stories for my own gain. This is one of the reasons why am keen for collaborative input and why I intend to gift some of the creative work I produce to my participants. (I recently had an initial call with a potential participant who I had sent the proposal to – she asked me if she could have a print of the flag which I will create because her boyfriend wants to display it in their home. I laughed and told her my plan was to gift her the actual flag!).


Harry Webb is most probably a bot given that account tag.


Kara then gives some specific advice on making presentations in a more conventional setting; ‘Static slides are often used to accompany verbal presentations. Powerpoint, for PCs, is probably the best-known software for slide creation, although Mac devotees prefer Keynote – they say it has higher resolution, better transitions and enables you to embed video clips directly into your presentation instead of having to switch to another platform such as YouTube or Vimeo’ (page 201). I am a Mac devotee, however I have never used Keynote, yet have encountered the problem of linking a YouTube video to a powerpoint and it not working – so this is a note to myself to check out Keynote.

 

Another suggestion which Kara makes, which I have encountered at many conferences if the use of polls. If I am honest, I always find this a tiresome activity and rarely participate myself - but I appreciate how it can be a useful tool for engagement. ‘If your audience members are likely to have smartphones or similar devices such as tablets, there are various apps that you can use to collect and share votes during your presentation. This can be a great way to make presentations more interactive’ (page 201). Having said that, I have occasionally used polls on social media (Twitter) in order to drive engagement on a post, as well as responding to other people’s polls – notably, the Daily Express’ recent ‘Should UK Introduce Minister for Flags’ poll. (No prizes for guessing my response.)

 

Finally, Kara draws ‘on the work of Kelleher and Wagner (2011) and Evergreen (2014)’, to provide ‘some basic elements that are common to all good presentations:

 

·      Legible text, images, graphics and son on;

·      A combination of visual and textual/ verbal elements;

·      Predominantly essential information – no ‘chart junk’, that is, unnecessary and superfluous elements;

·      Non-essential information used only for emphasis;

·      Inclusion of metaphors;

·      Where visualisation is used, kept simple;

·      Headings noticeably different from other elements;

·      Headings used to direct the reader, and formatting to set the order of information;

·      Clear fonts, used consistently;

·      No more than three fonts per presentation;

·      Most text printed in black on a white background;

·      Careful and consistent use of colour, with sequential shades of one colour for sequential data and contrasting colours to emphasise major variations;

·      No more than two contrasting colours.’ (Page 208)

I agree with more or less everything in this list and think this is useful guidance to follow – however, I would limit the number of fonts to two – which is the advisory number in branding design to create a strong identity. I would also consider whether black text on a white background is the most inclusive – as Dyslexics find it easier to read black text on a lightly coloured background, such as yellow.

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