How do you develop a methodology for working with the body in an academic context given their difference in approaches to learning, fundamentally in terms of time-frame and space. Academic spaces are not conducive to movement, academic time is too fast for embodied learning. How do we resist movement simply becoming an illustration of thought and actually engage the thoughtful body?
I propose that in order to bridge the gap between movement and academia we will have to present robust methods, specifically because learning from the body requires to some extent letting go of a traditional framework of hypothesizing and in fact relying on an open structure that makes space for ‘messing around’ and being ‘unproductive’. Rather than striving for a goal and constructing the research around it, we need to think of the methodology as a three-dimensional grid without a start or end point, but rather spatially distributed.
How does the experimental fit into the canonized? My approach stems from the European studio-based art school model which is dependent on the agency of the researcher themselves. It is a methodology that allows you to develop your own approach, based on the specifics of your interests and areas of research. It cannot be a fill-in-the-blank type of thing, creativity on the part of the researcher is crucial. That is why we do research in the first place, it is what is pleasurable about the research process – the sense of discovery and ownership. The art school model I am referring to relies on allocated blocks of time for playing around with the different components of the research – building and deconstructing, and documenting this process as well. Documentation is necessary throughout the process, at every instance, particularly because the process is amorphous and open, and we want to allow the research to go in multiple directions without committing to one line of thinking too early. Constant documentation allows us to go back and see what happened, in this way freeing the researcher up to try things out without ceaseless critical self-evaluation. This is not to say that critical reflection is not a part of it, but that it is the modus operandi of established practices already, making it important to reinforce other aspects that get eaten up by criticality.
Looking at what you have produced in terms of research findings, but also their presentation, their mediated expression, and engaging in discussion about it with someone who knows your work, or the field, is another important component in this research model, and provides the necessary critical aspects of it. In this model aesthetics plays an important role and cannot be brushed aside or dealt with later. It is integral to the findings themselves. There is no content without form, or as they say in Media Studies: the medium is the message. (This statement strikes me as ironic in the sense that media studies students are often encouraged to produce work by looking at precedent, citing conventions in media production without asking the question: what can this medium do? What are the specific affordances of this particular medium? Of course the history of the form is necessarily a big part of how we perceive the medium and how it makes sense.)
Media studies is much more often the study of the products of media than the media themselves and the ways in which people interact with them, making the distinction between media studies and cultural studies rather unclear. They are of course intimately connected, even intertwined. It seems to me that media studies thought through the body naturally brings forward the materiality, interactivity, and relationality of media and its uses.