I have found that in relation to my own Information Experience Design (IED) work multimodal methods help clarify your own positionality to research and how you see the world. In this post I would like to reflect on how the processes undertaken as designer/artist can be seen to be naturally similar to those of exploring a topic using a multimodal approach. To do so I show how I used multiple angles in order to unpack a topic given to me in a previous design brief before I moved to London and began at the Royal College of Art.
The project is called “vacant space” and was the response to a brief where I was asked to think about what vacant spaces mean for me in relation to the city and design something from my findings. I started by looking at what vacant spaces meant to me in relation to the city, Eindhoven in the Netherlands, where I was living at the time. I took various approaches to explore the topic such as studying:
- the landscape view,
- people I had met in everyday life,
- rooms where I had spent time, and so on.
Although these perspectives are not modes such as colour, sounds or texture, I materialised what I found through a combination of different modes each time. In doing so I also had to make decisions about how to present my ideas such as which modes to foreground, selecting and editing as I did so.
With each modal representation I made I became aware of how whole elements in the environment surrounding me had influenced me and how I had perceived them. I became more and more aware of myself and my subjective view. Even though the initial brief made no mention of multimodal theory or analysis I can see similarities in the processes I undertook as a designer to those that I undertook during the IED multimodality workshop. In other words, it was not the original intention of the brief to investigate a research questions as such but instead to explore a theme. In this way the means I used to understand the topic can be seen as process driven.
Similarly I believe multimodal methods and analysis will also not provide straight and clear answers to research questions, but instead the benefits of using the research approach lie in its ability to accelerate insights into a research topic and cause the researcher to keep asking new questions about the topic having been inspired by the findings of explorations undertaken through a variety of modes.
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