Making the invisible visible: creating spaces for reflexive artistic practices through digital autoethnography

Neil, Joanna Norie (2021) Making the invisible visible: creating spaces for reflexive artistic practices through digital autoethnography. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Undergraduate arts and design students often struggle to express and evidence their decision making, thinking, ongoing development, creative processes and professional identities for themselves and other audiences. While digital technologies and social media have become more widely used to document and share visual work, there is limited research examining the potential of these platforms and tools for dialogic and critical reflection that is contextualised for creative arts pedagogy. This ethnographic study examines phenomenological experiences of using digital autoethnography for critical reflective practice in art and design education. This research brings insight into whether digital autoethnography has the potential to empower arts and design practitioners to reflect on their practice dialogically and critically. It also explores the reflective spaces that are made possible through digital autoethnography and discusses the limitations and challenges of using digital autoethnography for art and design-based pedagogy.

The first phase of the study created autoethnographies of the researcher’s artistic and teaching practices. The findings from this informed the development of the second stage of the research, which engaged thirteen undergraduate students from art-based and design-based degree programmes, who undertook their own digital autoethnographic enquiries over periods of three to eight months. Data were gathered through unstructured phenomenological interviews and the examination of participants’ paper-based and digital artefacts. Participant portraits—brief accounts of each participant’s context and engagement—were constructed from these data to provide individual profiles of students’ experiences. This bricolage of approaches provided a wealth of data which, when thematically analysed, yielded a complex and nuanced account of how the digital autoethnographic methodology impacted on arts and design practitioners’ reflective practices.

It was clear from the data that participants developed a new understanding of themselves and their practices over several months, particularly when recalling and talking about their experiences in the phenomenological interviews. Participants were able to independently develop strategies for dialogic reflection through recording and revisiting their visual and audio experiences, which, often led to surprising discoveries and opportunities to take their work in new directions. This was strongly evident in the experiences of participants with specific educational needs and/or disabilities. The spaces for reflection that emerged from participants’ approaches and uses of digital technologies were powerful: participants gained insight into their own habits of working, reflective practice and their relationships with tutors and other audiences. This empowered participants to make changes to how they researched, made work, corrected, and accepted mistakes, and made their reflection visible, which enhanced the work they submitted for assessment. The study contributes to our understanding of reflective practice in arts and design-based disciplines and the future role that digital technologies, autoethnography and interviewing students could have in developing a more empowering pedagogy.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Patrick, Dr. Fiona and Hedge, Professor Nicki and Lally, Professor Victor
Date of Award: 2021
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82565
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 16 Nov 2021 11:51
Last Modified: 08 Dec 2022 11:24
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82565

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