Hypermedia and Ethnographic Representation
Hypermedia and Ethnographic Representation
Dr Suzel Reily, Dr Hae-kyung Um, Dr Tina Ramnarine, School of Anthropological Studies
The module, Hypermedia and Ethnographic Representation, is available to students at stage 2/3. It is designed to prepare students to conduct field research in ethnomusicology. It provides in-depth training in current methodologies and research techniques at both theoretical and practical levels, which the students are expected to apply in a group project. ICT skills and information literacy skills are also developed.
The course is organised into a series of weekly workshops, these have a practical element to them. Each week, there is a focus on a particular theme e.g. Photography. The students are expected to complete the recommended readings on the theme. They might explore ethnographic representations on sample film/images etc. and consider what the person was trying to do. This discussion is followed by a practical class e.g. the students learn how to take a photograph, both the mechanical skill and the principles of good photography. They also learn how to use Photoshop i.e. how to manipulate images. Then, the students are expected to apply this knowledge and skill to the project they are working on.
The ICT Element
The students work in groups to construct a web site on a particular musical community, typically based in Northern Ireland. There are two dimensions to their project: a) the construction of an ethnographic representation; b) the processing of field data for a website. The sites are structured on a series of field exercises the students are given over the semester which involved interviewing technique, visual representation, recording technology and musical transcription.
The students are expected to create representations that should include text (in the conventional sense) and illustrations in the form of photographs/video clips/sound recording, all obtained in the field through fairly regular encounters with the community of their research. The ICT provides a medium to present this data. This medium does influence their approach to the data gathering, processing and presentation. They are provided with some formal training on how to use various applications and a web template by the tutor, which they populate; they are supervised when embedding their resources in this template.
The students are not just learning about how to use hypermedia, they are also developing web literacy. Students are often not critical enough about material on the web and they need to learn how to discern between good and bad sites. Before they start developing their own sites, they are required to find and assess ethnomusicology sites. The course also requires the students to think about ethical issues - e.g. can I put this up for public display - what might be the impact of this?
The students are required to deal with a number of applications to process the data e.g. Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Cusbasc and I Movies.
Most students will have done word processing prior to the course but not web development. Some are apprehensive about dealing with the ICT related materials although they have elected to do the course. There are also those who are confident with ICT. As the students work in teams, there is usually one student per team who is confident with ICT and can help to support those who are unsure.
Incentives to Innovate
This module developed from an existing module on method and practice. Originally this was just for ethnomusicology students and covered topics such as how to record, take photographs, do research etc. The students had to produce a portfolio at the end of the module. This was not meant to be analytical; it focused on good descriptive ethnomusicology and it generated good quality dissertations. However, students had difficulty in seeing the relevance of this work and of the portfolio.
The web however, provides a public dimension to the work of the students - their material will go live. This is not the same as providing an essay that only the lecturer will see; it adds excitement, motivation, generates interest for the students. This adds a realism for the students who are contributing to an expanding web site on the diversity of musical communities in Northern Ireland; this is a site which can be accessed by members of the wider Northern Ireland community.
The tutor obtained funding through the Vice Chancellor's fund. This was very important as it enabled the tutor to buy necessary equipment, thus facilitating a change in the course. The course requires a digital camera, digital video, facilities for editing the material and computers and software to create the web site. Three Macintoshes are provided in a hypermedia suite. More recently, funding of £1500 was made available to buy some additional equipment to deal with increasing student numbers. This will be used to buy a mini disc recorder, a video camera, a digital camera and consumables e.g., discs.
The lecturer developed the necessary skills and expertise informally. It can be time consuming, as it requires the lecturer to be there to help the students through the difficulties when they are starting out. However, overall, it is not any more time consuming than starting up any new course.
The students appear apprehensive initially but many have signed up for the course; it is an elective for anthropology students but obligatory for ethnomusicology students. Soon they overcome their apprehensions and, often, become excited about what they are doing, rush things and make mistakes. Then they begin to realise that they need to be more careful. Some students have indicated that they would like more support but the tutors feel that they are perhaps looking for too much guidance. Overall, the students express a lot of satisfaction at the end, when their material is produced. 40% of the class achieved a first class in their module assessment.
Effects of ICT Embedding
Effects on teaching process:
There has been little impact on the teaching process as the classes have always been very practically orientated and student centred with guidance from the tutor.
- Increases student motivation because they feel that they are contributing to something that is both relevant to their learning and to the community as a whole.
- More interaction between the tutor and the students.
- The web enables greater emphasis on the sound and visual dimensions; this alerts the students to the importance of the sound and visual media.
- Greater critical evaluation obvious in their personal reports.
- Students are becoming more critical users of the web
- Development of independent thinking as the students have to identify their own group project and there are a lot of practical issues to address/solve e.g., how do I deal with this situation?
- Develops the students' confidence in ICT and encourages them in using other ICT applications.
- More administration is required as the tutor is now responsible for access to and running of the hypermedia lab
The module will continue more or less in its current structure. Any problems have essentially been teething problems e.g. scheduling. Getting more equipment will help a lot. In the future, the staff plan to orientate the students more at the beginning to help reduce some of the common mistakes they make. There is also a need to focus on web literacy more in the university and this will need to be considered.