Visual Research Methods exercise
Although Chapter 11 of Visual Methodologies explores three visual research methods, this activity focusses on just one: making images in order to disseminate your research work.
Section 11.4 of Visual Methodologies discusses the photo-essay as one way of doing that, but this activity works in a different format. The exercise suggested here uses Story Cubes, which are the invention of Proboscis and part of their Bookleteer project. Story Cubes are paper cubes; on each of their six sides they can carry images or text or both.
What can a Story Cube do, as a format for presenting visual research? An example of something like a Story Cube – its creator calls it a bus box – can be found at Katrina Jungnickel's Studio Incite site: http://www.studioincite.com/73urbanjourneys/exp-vis-box.htm.
Jungnickel describes her bus box as: 'a square collage of data that can be folded into the form of an origami water bomb. As you fold the paper, different images, interview excerpts, observations and ideas lie near each other. The bus box is an physical manifestation of the blog and website. It is an experiment in translation. There are two versions of the box - one the bus route and one the bus. As per the double method of folding this means that each version creates two different finished cubes, enabling multiple ways of viewing, reading and thinking about the data.'
Similarly, Story Cubes can enable different ways of viewing, reading and thinking about data, because each side is surrounded by four others, which means every side has four different contexts, each of which may emphasise different things.
This activity involves making a Story Cube that can evoke the multiplicity of the place you are currently living in. (Though it's worthwhile noting here that the Story Cube could also carry images generated as part of a photo-elicitation project, for example.)
The aims of the activity are:
- to give you an opportunity to present some work visually;
- to allow you to consider the strengths of such a presentation;
- and to let you reflect on its limitations.
First of all, choose how you want to define the place that your Story Cube will explore – is it your room, or house, or street, or neighbourhood, or town? Then consider its complexity as a place. How do you understand it as a place? What are its characteristics, its contradictions?
Drawing on the discussion in section 11.4.1, decide whether you want to analyse your place, or evoke it, or do some of each.
Then, start to make your Story Cube. This has nine steps:
- register on the bookleteer website at http://bookleteer.com/.
- take a look around the site's Story Cube page at http://bookleteer.com/edit_storycube.html; there are examples of Story Cubes to inspire you, and there is also a help and guidance page.
- plan each of your Story Cube's six sides. Use whatever medium you want – photographs, sketches, newspaper cuttings, oil paintings, maps, cutouts, diagrams, text – but think about what each is meant to be conveying, and how they will relate to each other when each is on the face of a cube.
- make the images for each side of your Story Cube. Each of the Cube sides has to end up as a digital file. So either work with digital images from the beginning, or plan to scan your final images into jpeg format files. If you want to use text, you could write directly into the Story Cube template (see 6a below). If you want your images to fill the Cube's faces, they need to be square.
- make a separate jpeg file of each of your images. If you're scanning them, Bookeleteer recommends making them at 72dpi or 150dpi.
- you then have to upload your images to the Bookleteer Story Cube page. There are two ways to do this:
a) either create a pdf of the whole Story Cube on your own computer. Start by downloading the Story Cube template from bookleteer.com/blog/Bookleteer_Content_Templates.zip. In that zip, there are files which can be read using Word, OpenOffice or Adobe InDesign. Open the appropriate template and make six pages; each page will be one side of the cube, at the right size. Then paste in each of your images onto one page/side. You can also write directly onto these pages/sides in Word or OpenOffice. Make sure the page order follows the layout on the Bookleteer Story Cube page. Then save the file as a pdf, and upload it onto the Story Cube page.
b) or upload each jpeg file separately onto the Story Cube page, as image number 1, 2, 3 and so on. In this case, any text you want will have to be in the jpeg image file already.
- once you've uploaded your images, name your Story Cube and click the 'upload content and generate pdfs' button at the bottom of the page.
- once your pdf has been generated, you'll see it at the top of the Story Cube page you've been working on. Download and print your Story Cube onto A4 or A3 size card, cut it out and stick it together.
- since this is about disseminating research, you should now show your Story Cube to some other people and see what they make of it.
Finally, evaluate your Story Cube. What images did you use and why? Did you use text to explain your choices? Are you satisfied that your Cube did what you wanted it to do? And did your audience see it in the way that you had intended?