Using PowerPoint, Artists Ask How Performative Presentations Shape Our Thinking

Using PowerPoint, Artists Ask How Performative Presentations Shape Our Thinking,” Art in America (February 5, 2020)


Tools: Anvils to Androids

Undergraduate seminar-studio

Silicon Valley loves its “tools.” Tech critic Moira Weigel notes the frequency with which tech chiefs use the term, and she proposes that its popularity is largely attributable to its politics — or the lack thereof; tool talk, she says, encodes “a rejection of politics in favor of tinkering.” But humans have been using tools, to various political ends, for thousands of years. In this hybrid undergraduate seminar/studio we examine a range of tools, the work they allow us to do, they ways they script particular modes of labor and enact particular power relationships, and what they make possible in the world. After building up a critical vocabulary (of tools, gizmos, and gadgets), we’ll tackle a number of case studies — from anvils, erasers, and sewing needles to algorithms and surveillance technologies. In our Monday sessions we’ll study the week’s case through critical and historical studies from anthropology, archaeology, media studies, science and technology studies, and related fields; and in our Wednesday sessions we’ll explore that tool’s creative applications, either by studying the work of artists and creative practitioners, or by engaging in hands-on labs. Each student will develop a research-based “critical manual” for a tool of their choice.

Fall 2019 Website


In Wild Air

I chose six interesting things for In Wild Air, a weekly newsletter out of Australia (September 18, 2017).


IYLSSIF 6: Tools Methods

The sixth and final post in an epic, six-part series of lectures from my intro to graduate studies lecture course, which I’m posting online in the hope that others will find them useful. [Part 1 Here, Part 2 Here, Part 3 Here, Part 4 Here, Part 5 Here; the lectures are unedited — hence, you might be a bit confused by a few inexplicable notes and slides about administrative issues]. We started off by describing the premise of the class; then discussed how students could find their own position within the program and the field; then helped students map that field, appreciate its breadth and the various intellectual and create traditions it draws from; then talked about practical methods for maintaining one’s orientation within the field and within one’s own work; then discussed the various forms one’s scholarship can take, ranging from traditional academic writing to more experimental writing forms, to “multimodal” scholarship and theoretically informed, research-based media production. Finally, we talk about the tools and methods we have access to to help us execute research projects in various forms.


6:00: Fabiola Berdiel re: GPIA’s International Field Programs

6:15: Peter Asaro, Principal Faculty Member, Media Studies

Readings for This Week:

  • Tools & Material Consciousness,” Words In Space
  • Jane Stokes, “Think About Theory,” “Choosing the Right Method,” “Rules of Evidence,” “Paradigms of Research,” “Combining Research Methods” & “Phrasing Your Research Question” In How to Do Media and Cultural Studies (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2003): 11-24.
  • SkimCritical Approaches,” Words In Space [This is an archived lesson from one of my old research methods courses. Read up through “How is This Research?” then skim the rest to get a sense of the variety of approaches.]
  • SkimQualitative Methods,” Words In Space [Same as above. Read the first section, then skim from “Case Studies” through the end to acquaint/remind yourself with the variety of available qualitative methods.]
  • Carole Gray & Julian Malins, “Crossing the Terrain: Establishing Appropriate Research Methodologies” In Visualizing Research: A Guide to the Research Process in Art and Design (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2004): 93-128.
  • Stephen A. R. Scrivener, “The Roles of Art and Design Process and Object In Research” In Nithikul Nimkulrat & Tim O’Riley, Eds., Reflections and Connections: On the Relationship Between Creative Production and Academic Research (Helsinki: University of Art and Design, 2009): 69-79.

[SLIDE 2] Agenda

[SLIDE 4] We have to consider: What are the TOOLS – both technological and methodological – that I need to do that work?

In creating our “shopping list” of tools, we need to think back on all the different scales at which we’ve worked throughout the semester.

  • We’ve considered our researcher identities: where we can draw inspiration for research
    • “Identifying Your Interests” guide you read for 2nd class
  • We’re looked at the various traditions our field has historically drawn from, and what kinds of questions practitioners in those various traditions have asked, and what tools they’ve used to answer their questions
  • We’ve considered the different forms our work can take.
  • You’re exploring different theoretical frameworks in your Ideas classes and different design principles and skills in Concepts.
  • How do we bring all that to bear on our selection of tools, so that we’re practicing “material consciousness”?

[SLIDE 5] Work from both ends: Selection of ends and means, allegiance with particular methods and epistemologies, should mutually inform one another!



  • Methods: the techniques or procedures used to gather and analyze data related to some research question or hypotheses
  • Methodology: the strategy, plan of action, process or design lying behind the choice and use of particular methods and linking the choice and use of methods to the desired outcomes
  • Theoretical perspective: the philosophical stance informing the methodology and thus providing a context for the process and grounding its logic and criteria
  • Epistemology: the theory of knowledge embedded in the theoretical perspective and thereby in the methodology (Crotty 3)

What’s out there to know? (Ontology) ==> What and how can we know about it? (Epistemology) ==> How can we go about acquiring knowledge? (Methodology) ==> What procedures can we use to acquire it? (Methods) ==> Sources (Which data can we collect?) (Hay 2002, p. 64)

[SLIDE 7] Epistemologies: Objectivism | Subjectivism | Constructivism

  • Objectivism: “meaning, and therefore meaningful reality, exists as such apart from the operation of any consciousness” (p. eight)
  • Subjectivism: “meaning does not come out of an interplay between subject and object but is imposed on the object by the subject” (p. nine)
  • Constructivism: “there is no objective truth waiting for us to discover it. Truth, or meaning, comes into existence in and out of our engagement with the realities in our world” (p. eight)

You needn’t align yourself with one or the other – in fact, we could argue that this list is far from sufficient – What is “significant for graduate students to know about epistemology is that [CLICK] people claim different theories of what gets to count as knowledge and / that these differences have implications for inquiry…. [Crotty] differentiates among them by defining the ways in which [CLICK] each epistemology conceptualizes the relation between the knowing subject and the object of knowledge.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerst-Pepin 332-3)

[SLIDE 8] “Epistemological diversity may lead to fragmentation, frustration, and confusion for graduate students, but appreciation for epistemological diversity greatly facilitates an understanding of why various forms of research seem so different from each other.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 333)

[SLIDE 9] Theoretical Perspectives

  • Positivism | Post-Positivism (absolute knowledge isn’t positive; can only reject the null hypothesis) | Pragmatism | Interpretivism | Participatory | Postmodern
  • Again, we could argue that this list doesn’t represent the diversity of approaches w/in Media Studies. What’s important is that we understand that: “The theoretical perspective…is a way of looking at the world and making sense of it. It involves…how we know what we know.” (Crotty eight)

[SLIDE 10] Stated in ‘Backward’ Direction – from Method to Theoretical Perspective: “Inevitably, we bring a number of assumptions to our chosen methodology. We need, as best we can, to state what those assumptions are… How, then, do we take account of these assumptions and justify them? By expounding our theoretical perspective, that is, our view of the human world and social life within that world, wherein such assumptions are grounded.” (Crotty 7)

[SLIDE 11] Methodology: “What is called for here is not only a description of the methodology but also an account of the rationale it provides for the choice of methods and the particular forms in which the methods are employed.” (Crotty 7)

  • Previously had a one-size-fits-all methods course
  • Explain how Research Methods in Media Studies was folded into UMS
  • Important for you to consider these issues EARLY, so you can choose your tools and methods wisely!

How many of you have taken a full-semester qualitative methods course? Quantitative?


[SLIDE 12] constructionism (knowledge constructed by learner, rather than merely transmitted) ==> symbolic interactionism (human interaction mediated by use of symbols) ==> ethnography (a ‘constellation’ of methods – participant observation, interviews, etc., used to describe a people) => participant observation

Ethnography…is a methodology. It is one of many particular research designs that guide a researcher in choosing methods and shape the use of the methods chosen. Symbolic interactionism…is a theoretical perspective that informs a range of methodologies, including some forms of ethnography. As a theoretical perspective, it is an approach to understanding and explaining society and the human world, and grounds a set of assumptions that symbolic interactionist researchers typically bring to their methodology of choice. Constructionism is an epistemology embodied in many theoretical perspectives, including symbolic interactionism…. An epistemology…is a way of understanding and explaining how we know what we know. What all this suggests is that symbolic interactionism, ethnography and constructionism need to be related to one another rather than merely set side by side as comparable.” (Crotty 3)

objectivism (belief that reality is mind-dependent) ==> positivism => survey research à statistical analysis

Students often don’t recognize methodological implications of making positivist claims!

“Engaging with the epistemology of objectivism, for instance, enables students to understand the grounding of positivism,… important for students to understand that the use of probability statistics rests on the theory of falsification, the goal of which is not to prove a hypothesis but rather to reject the null hypothesis, with the logical implication that results may be correct, not that they are correct.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 333)

[SLIDE 13] Constructivism: “Significant for students to understand what it may mean to claim that ‘knowledge is socially constructed’… For example, [CLICK] constructionist researchers vary in how they consider the role of culture in the construction of meaning, and these variations often…lead to distinct methodological differences, with those interested in how meaning is constructed in social settings more often selecting [CLICK] ethnography, and those more interested in how individuals construct meaning (without the context of a setting or in multiple settings) more exclusively relying upon an [CLICK] open-ended interview design.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 334)

  • NO ONE-TO-ONE CORRELATION between Theoretical Perspective + Methodologies: “…just because a researcher uses statistical research does not mean assuming that knowledge is objectively knowable. …[I]it opens the possibility that researchers who utilize statistical research methodologies are not necessarily objectivists” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 335)


Probably a good deal of redundancy – and even contradiction – in the texts you read (or skimmed!) for today. That’s because there are no good, comprehensive texts that address the diversity of methods that a praxis-based media studies addresses.

As we discovered on Day 2, Media Studies draws on a variety of fields, and thus a variety of methodological approaches – [SLIDE 15 + 16] Fletcher’s “Procedure” Charts


  • Introduced in Ideas + Seminar classes
  • Analysis of Texts – Depends on how you define “text”
  • You can’t look at everything all at once – Rose: “[E]ngaging with the debates in [media] culture means deciding which site and which modalities you think are most important in explaining the effect” of a text”
  • Narrative Analysis, Generic Analysis, Semiotics, Formal Analysis, Medium Theory, etc.




From Lesson (Jensen): Distinctions of Qualitative Research

  • Study should take place, if possible, in naturalistic contexts
  • Researcher plays role of interpretive subject (236)
  • Conceptualization + Operationalization
  • Iterative; rsch design is emergent
  • Sampling (maximum variation, snowball, convenience, case studies)
  • Interviewing (“hermeneutics of suspicion”; p. 240)
  • Observation (thick description, participant observation, field notes!)
  • Documents, Artefacts, Unobtrusive Measures
  • Data Analysis (coding)
  • Discourse Analysis (discourse as “structure” or as “evidence”; p. 251)
  • SPECIFICITY: “..we will not just talk about ‘carrying out interviews’ but will indicate in very detailed fashion what kind of interviews they are, what interviewing techniques are employed, and in what sort of setting the interviews are conducted.” (Crotty 6)


[SLIDE 21] Gray & Malins: Different ways of conceiving of “practice”

  • “practice as individual creative activity, perhaps the most obvious interpretation – ‘making’ in its broadest sense”
  • “practice as facilitation and dissemination – activities related to visual arts/design/ craft/ new media, for example education, administration, and activities such as curating, commissioning, critical writing, and so on;
  • “practice as collaborative activity, involving other practitioners, participants and professionals from other disciplines, and/or external bodies, for example industry, commerce, voluntary sectors, and so on. This approach could involve making, facilitating, disseminating, as well as negotiating, fundraising, and so on” (Gray & Malins 104)

Practice: disadvantage: “open to criticisms of indulgence and over-subjectivity if not placed securely within the formal framework, and if lacking in methodological transparency” (105)

[SLIDE 22] Scrivener: What distinguishes “creative project” from “praxis-based research” or “multimodal scholarship” – i.e., when “using video” or “field recordings” aren’t just production techniques, but actually research methods?

  • “ways in which creative production can be understood as contributing to the fulfillment of the conditions of research, which are here defined as intention, subject, method, justification, communication, and goal” (69)
  • creative production as a “mode of knowledge acquisition” (69)

Frayling/Scrivener’s 3 Modes of Practice-Based Research:

Various ways of conceiving relationship btw theory and practice!!

  • [SLIDE 23] Research Into Art and Design (A/D as research subject)
    • “practice is seen as interesting in itself: the research subjects are, ‘the theory-infused analyses, routines, methods and habits of the field, different ways of seeing, cultural forms and structures” (quoted on 73)
    • e.g., film studies / design studies
  • [SLIDE 24] Research For Art and Design
    • Gathering reference materials for creative production; “Research where the end product is an artifact – where the thinking is, so to speak, embodied in the artifact” (71)
    • “concerned with gaining knowledge and understanding that directly contributes to the design practice of the designer/researcher” (73)
    • [SLIDE 25] “can be argued that novel creative production that is new to the world of creative production extends the knowledge and understanding of that world” (77) – yet that knowledge is tacit; “in order to quality [creative production] as research, it is one which must be coupled with a methodology for making explicit what is otherwise tacit” (78)
    • [SLIDE 26] Managers/Consultant adopt design research methods
  • [SLIDE 27] Research Through Art and Design(creative production as research method)
    • Weak claim: we design something to then analyze and evaluate; Stronger claim: creative production as method (75-6) –
      • “…activity that yields both new scholarship and new creativity” (72)
      • must justify art/design “as a means of knowledge acquisition’ (76)
  • [SLIDE 28] Practice / Production is research “if and only if it is (1) a systematic investigation, (2) conducted intentionally, (3) to acquire new knowledge, understanding, insights, etc, (4) justified, and (5) communicated, (6) about a subject” (71) – [CLICK] research is “purposive, inquisitive (seeking to acquire new knowledge), informed, methodical, and communicable” (71)
  • [SLIDE 29] “the method or methodology must always include an explicit understanding of how the practice contributes to the inquiryand research is distinguished from other forms of practice by that explicit understanding” (quoted on 74)
    • “When a production becomes an intervention into an established scholarly debate, dialogue or discourse, or when it initiates or seeks to initiate a debate. Any performance-as-research must make explicit its relation with that debate, and communicate the ways in which the terms of the debate have been changed by the research subject” (quoted on 72)
      • Importance of Lit Review
      • All Production Theses have to explain how they’re responding to debates germane to the field of media studies
    • [SLIDE 30] Work is made public, open for critiqueJournal for Artistic Research:
      • “The aim of the program is to develop new knowledge, or to preserve or critically assess it. It is also the case that works of visual art and design are available for critical assessment by peers, and are available to the wider intellectual community, as expected of well-defined research” (quoted on 72)

[SLIDE 31] Gray & Malins speak of Leonardo’s “thinking” through sketches, his “appropriate use of media” (94) – Choice of method reflects material consciousness

[SLIDE 32] Artists & Designers can benefit from applying more traditional qualitative (and even quantitative) research methods – but must also develop new methods that take advantage of “current cultural contexts and technologies” (96), revamp/adapt existing methods for new uses (101)

  • Observation: use drawing, mapping, diagramming, video, photography (106)
  • Visualization: drawings, concept maps, flow charts, storyboards (107)
  • Photography (108-9): “an acquisition method (and to aid later analysis) annotation is essential” (109)
  • Video (110)
  • Sketchbook
  • 3D Models / Maquettes
  • Audio

[SLIDE 33] Using Media as Research Tools

  • Related to our discussion last week about Multimodal Scholarship, matching form to content – requires Material Consciousness
    • Consider each tool’s affordances and limitations

[SLIDE 34] Tools as “knowledge objectified” – tools as an embodiment of, or shaper of, consciousness

[SLIDE 35] Without thinking critically about the relationship between our chosen tools – cameras, recorders, software, etc. – and our methodologies and epistemologies, we might as well equate writing with “pushing pencil.”

  • Anti cyber-triumphalism and techno-fetishism
  • Should have a justification for choosing the tools, formats you’ve chosen

[SLIDE 36] “The enlightened way to use a machine is to judge its powers, fashion its uses, in light of our own limits rather than the machine’s potential. We should not compete against the machine…. Against the claim of perfection we can assert our own individuality” (Sennett 105).

[SLIDE 37] Recall what we said last week about the goals of Multimodal Scholarship: “…not only to seek to understand and interrogate the cultural and social impact of new technologies, but to be engaged in driving the creation of new technologies, methodologies, and information systems, as well as in their détournement (turnabout, derailment), reinvention, repurposing, via research questions grounded in the Arts and Humanities: questions of meaning, interpretation, history, subjectivity, and culture” (6)

No need to work with “off-the-shelf” methods!

[SLIDE 38] We’ve moved through today’s class from the macro- to the hyper-micro – right down to the thoughtful choice of specific models of equipment that suit your methodological purpose

  • See how consciousness has to tie together the various levels of this framework


[SLIDE 39] Why bother studying methodology? Why not “just sit down and work out for ourselves how we go about it?
In the end, that is precisely what we have to do. Yet a study of how other people have gone about the task of human inquiry serves us well and is surely indispensable. Attending to recognized research designs and their various theoretical underpinnings exercises a formative influence upon us. It awakens us to ways of research we would never otherwise have conceived of. It makes us much more aware of what is possible in research. [SLIDE 40] Even so, it is by no means a matter of plucking a methodology off the shelf. We acquaint ourselves with the various methodologies. We evaluate their presuppositions. We weight their strengths and weaknesses. Having done all that and more besides, we still have to forge a methodology that will meet our particular purposes in this research. One of the established methodologies may suit the task that confronts us. Or perhaps none of them do and we find ourselves drawing on several methodologies, molding them into a way of proceeding that achieves the outcomes we look to. Perhaps we need to be more inventive still and create a methodology that in many respects is quite new.” (Crotty 14)

“In light of this epistemological and theoretical diversity, which expands with the proliferation of theory and method, graduate students have multiple options for positioning their own work. Students need facility with theoretical perspectives to engage prior research, synthesize it for their own understanding, and create methodological plans that serve their own projects.” (Gunzenhauser & Gerstl-Pepin 336)

Yet just as we aim not to fetishize our tools, we aim not to fetishize method

[SLIDE 41] “The end of all method is to seem to have no method.”

         Just as we are against “gee-wizardry,” we have to resist “methodolatry”

[SLIDE 42] Mary Daly’s (philosopher/theologian) Webster’s First Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language:

Methodolatry (n): common form of academic idolatry; glorification of the god Method; boxing knowledge into prefabricated fields, thereby hiding threads of connectedness, hindering New Discoveries, preventing the raising of New Questions, erasing ideas that do not fit into Respectable Categories of Questions and Answers (Daly 1987).

Sandra Bicknell, a researcher in museum studies, espouses methodological “pluralism”:

I have a feeling that there is a lot of this (methodolatry) about. There have been a number of attempts to categorize…methodology. This ‘boxing’ of methods is, in my view, isolationist. It suggests either/or scenarios.

[SLIDE 43] I use multiple methods to give greater rigor, reliability and depth to the work I do. Each element is designed both to test and to complement the findings of other elements. The different methods add layers of information but also provide a means of identifying inconsistencies and weaknesses. (Sarah Bicknell, “Here to Help: Evaluation and Effectiveness” In Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, Ed., Museum, Media, Message (Museum Meanings) (Routledge, 1999): 283-4).

So, in short: you needn’t be a methodological purist. The challenge is to find a complementary combination of methods — all appropriate for your research problem or project — that, together, provide for greater “rigor, reliability, and depth.”


[SLIDE 44] Clip from Course Guide re: when to take methods courses

  • Methods courses intended to be taken later in the program, to support a particular project
  • We’ll simply preview your options – may be different from year to year, semester to semester
  • Consult w/ advisors re: appropriate methods for proposed project
  • Consider options in other programs + INDEPENDENT STUDIES!

[SLIDES 45-52]: Media Studies Methods

[SLIDES 53-54] Other Programs’ Methods Courses




Found an inspiring article published in 2003 by a group of graduate students; it appeared in Pedagogy, a journal distributed by Duke University Press – echoed requests from our OWN students…

  • They called for an introductory graduate course that [SLIDE 55] “prepare[s] graduate students for taking an active role in shaping the future of the discipline” (Crisco et al. 372). This course would [CLICK] (1) “survey the historical development of the field”; [CLICK] (2) “critically examine some of the key terms presently at the center of debates concerning the defining goals and purposes of the work” in the field; [SLIDE 56] (3) “create a collaborative, explicitly intradisciplinary space within the department to explore the often competing commitments of our discipline and to articulate the stakes (individual, fieldwide, institutional, cultural) of the various approaches to reforming” the field; and [CLICK] (4) “provide students with opportunities to locate themselves and their professional commitments in relationship to the field” (ibid. 369)
  • [SLIDE 57] These proposed course objectives map well onto those for UMS.
    • We started off next week by reviewing the history of the field and some of its defining goals
    • Then we introduce you to many of the research resources in our field, and prepared you to seek out on your own more of the field’s historical and contemporary debates.
    • In the second half of the semester, through our guests’ presentations, we’ll address some of the key terms, defining goals, and stakes of their work, and the competing (or complimentary) commitments they represent. – WE’LL TALK ABOUT THIS IN A MINUTE
    • And through the assignments, you have an opportunity to “locate [yourself] and [your] professional commitments in relationship to the field.”


You’ve been building up to this – with Abstracts, which you then gather into an Annotated Bibliography – [SLIDE 59] The Literature Review is essentially a “processing” of all the material you will have reviewed for the previous assignments. You’re processing it for a purpose: to get a sense of what exists in your area of interest, to know what’s already been done and what you can build upon.

Lit Review essentially “sets the stage” for the work that you plan to do

[SLIDE 60] Serves Multiple Functions:

  • Personal Function: As we discussed last week, we often have to dig into the writing process in order to know what we think about something. We have to write in order to work through our arguments
    • Lit Review helps you work through what you’re discovered in your research – helps you find patterns, gaps, inconsistencies, contradictions, etc.
  • External Functions: essential for seminar papers, thesis proposals, grant proposals, business plans, etc.

[SLIDE 61] Assignment on Ning

[SLIDE 62] REVIEW LIT REVIEW GUIDE (In Assignments section on NING)


  • Discuss purpose of Focus Areas
  • Not REQUIRED to choose a focus area
  • Not ALL will appeal to you – but might introduce you to areas of study you never would’ve imaged you’d be interested in
  • At the very least, you’ll be familiar with the breadth of the field.

Guest speakers have been asked to address the following:

[SLIDE 66]

  • Do you consider your work to be part of a particular academic, creative, or professional tradition? What, or who, has inspired you?
  • How do you develop ideas for new projects, and how do you hone those initial ideas into feasible tasks?
  • Discuss any methods you use in your research or creative or professional work. We hope to impress upon students that research is not exclusive to academic pursuits, and that work in all sectors requires reflection on appropriate methods. Do you conduct interviews as part of your professional work? Focus groups? Discourse analyses? Mixed methods for market research? If the MA program offers methods courses that match your preferred methods, please reference these courses.
  • Discuss any grants, fellowships, prizes, or other accolades or forms of support you may have received, and share with students how you applied, or were nominated, for these honors.
  • Mention any professional organizations or interest groups you belong to, and address the benefits of membership.
  • List some of the professional resources – magazines, journals, publishers, listserv’s, etc. – and local venues or institutions – archives, screening series, galleries, lecture series, etc. – you find most useful.
  • Refer students to New School courses – either your own or those taught within our program or in other grad programs – that would allow students to explore in greater depth the topics you address in your presentation.

[SLIDE 67] Must READ in order to be prepared to ask questions!

Should attend to all, even if they’re not within your immediate realm of interest

  • External Motivation: obligation to familiarize yourself with the field – implication of a Masters degree
  • Internal Motivation: students are often surprised to discover new interests – will become apparent next week when Ambassadors visit your discussion sections.