Research Labs 2013 – 2014
The NonFiction Lab provides a space to investigate, critique and undertake studies in non fiction theory, practice and form. The lab will deepen your understanding of key issues in factual, documentary and nonfiction research. These issues may include the relation of fiction to nonfiction, the place of creativity and invention in nonfiction, the ethics of documentary, and asks where nonfiction occurs; how and why.
Nonfiction is understood to encompass a great variety of forms, aesthetic approaches and media types, and can be seen to extend from traditional modes of reportage common to journalism through to the ambient reporting of the minor via social media services. Theoretically, it prises open problems of truth, fiction, fact, fantasy, authenticity and knowledge, by interrogating practices including the essayistic, the mnemonic and memorial, the autobiographical, the archival and the documentary.
This is a lab that enables a wide diversity of skills to be utilised to critique and enact contemporary theoretical concerns around nonfiction as a practice and theoretical field.
This theme is ideal for students who have a ‘story’ they want to tell or a set of ideas they want to articulate, where this story/ideas is what matters, and who wish to investigate in theory and practice any of these questions and problems within nonfiction media. For example you may wish to write a particular travel narrative, develop a multilinear history of an event or place, or study/experiment within a specific genre of nonfiction.
In 2013 this lab was managed by Associate Professor David Carlin (in semester one), and Dr Adrian Miles (in semester two).
Collective Futures Lab
The Collective Futures Lab provides an opportunity for you to engage with real world problems in the context of community engagement, social issues, and interventions and investigations to enable change. You will work in your lab to investigate approaches and understandings of designing and achieving change. This includes theories and practices that enable and facilitate critical changes to policy and practice. The lab is an opportunity to facilitate your engagement with these concepts through the media, communication and design industries.
This is a lab where you are able to use your media, communication and design disciplinary knowledge and practices to transform understandings of ethical questions in order to empower and make a difference. This lab crosses between advocacy, making a difference and interventions and actions in the world. It explores and develops ideas and practices that are orientated towards the materialisation of our collective futures.
This research theme is ideal for students who wish to engage with social, political or cultural issues through their discipline. For example you may wish to develop a social innovation campaign for an agency in the Non Government or Not for Profit sector, investigate the role of sustainability in your industry or practice, or study the role and ethics of disability reporting guidelines in the press.
In 2013 this lab was managed by Dr Neal Haslem.
Media Objects Lab
The Media Objects Lab is intended to critically investigate what sorts of ‘objects’ media, communication and design creates, and what sort of things these might be. The lab will investigate ways to critically think about these objects and what sorts of properties they have. The aim of the lab is to question our assumptions about media, communication and design by trying to think of them as things in their own right, wondering what sorts of agency they may have, and then the types of relations we and our institutions have with these objects.
This lab that is relevant for students who wish to investigate questions and problems around form. In this lab issues of style and form are more important than specific content. For example, you may be interested in the role of character development in game play, the implications of multilinearity and new media for narrative, undertaking a series of critical experiments around publication design, or a rethinking of a communicative form in the context of new models of production, distribution and consumption. In this lab what things are is more important than what they specifically say.
In 2013 this lab was managed by Dr Adrian Miles.
While there are two required subjects within honours the heart of honours is your research project (whether by thesis or project). The heart of this research project is the research lab. You do the one research lab for the entire year. It provides the context, focus, direction, theme and topic of your specific research problem. The lab can either provide a specific research problem for you (ready rolled, if you like), or you can frame your own, but what you undertake in honours must reflect, intersect with, engage the lab theme. The current lab themes are slow media, non fiction, and social advocacy. (In some circumstances it is also possible to replace these labs with participation in a School research laboratory, for example the Exertion Games Lab.)
Why? Why have labs and not let students simply define their own honours topics? To answer this properly risks a little essay, so a brief list to at least set the tone:
- we all learn best by doing, and labs (and/or studios) remain one of the best places in which to experience learning by doing
- outside of university you will always work in response to, in the context of, a given topic or theme, we want to model this for you
- we want honours to produce a reasonably cohesive body of work that can be built upon over time
- because these are research labs and honours is about research, which means you make (with film, sound, words, images, ideas, I don’t care, but research means you make)
- labs provide a place to ‘see’ research happening, to learn from and with each other, this makes what you do better, but also means you begin to see, and learn from, our disciplinary differences
- when you spend your undergraduate years in a common discipline it is hard to recognise what is specific, individual or peculiar to how your discipline does things (in good and bad ways), an interdisciplinary lab helps bring to surface what we take for granted, but shouldn’t
- we can provide better supervision and better teaching because lab leaders teach to a theme that is in their research area
There is a lot of education literature about why labs and studios are very good learning environments. Very simply, we did learn the most, most quickly, in primary school. For most of us primary school is a learning lab, it combines lots of different ways of learning, but what it emphasises is doing. You learnt by doing. In honours we have the same idea, and we do learn how to become researchers by, well, doing research. So we are lucky in that we do really have two connected rooms, that are just for honours, which is our lab. This is where we make our research visible not as something that happens in your head but out in the world.
Finally, the themes of the labs may vary, we really don’t know. If they don’t work then they will be changed. If they do work then they will probably continue, until some good reason comes along to change them. The themes are to be thought of as propositions, probes or ideas to think with. None of them are making a statement that x is y, but describe broad concepts that can be endorsed, critiqued, appropriated, utilised, built upon, or just used. They are ideas. They are not based on any particular theory or discipline, but have been chosen because they can be approached via different practices, methods, disciplines and outcomes.