The webinar this week was very practical, going through what makes a good research question, the project proposal and writing an ethics review form. A good research question should be:
Something you are interested in
Something answerable, but not by a yes/no
and in our case, something with a role for design in the response.
The next night we had a workshop with Ben centred around Thinking Through Making. This was an interesting evening, we were asked to prepare something to speak about, and I ended up talking about paper in the end. Everything I do comes down to production, and developing a relationship with the capabilities and properties of the tools I use is very important. I have realised that the physicality of making is very important to me, I need to touch the paper, print samples, create mockups, and experiment with materials to really enjoy myself with a project. I don’t enjoy creating purely digital work as much, at least not when the end result is just some files I pack off for someone and never see again.
After one of the sessions Ben stayed behind to chat with me about my question, (or lack thereof!) as my microphone had stopped working. I keep coming back to the idea of sense of place, and how the narrative of a place affects the personal narrative of those who inhabit that space. The closest thing I can get to a question so far is “How does a sense of place influence our personal narrative?” but it still feels too broad and isn’t inclusive of the design process at the moment. I do find it ironic that I crossed the Feminine Divine off my list of potential topics because it was too vulnerable and would be painful, and have instead run full tilt into my own personal identity crisis! I feel incredibly drawn to selkie stories, or animal brides in general. I can feel the echoes very strongly in my own life, although my husband hasn’t stolen my pelt or kept me against my will, there is still an inevitable sense of loss when you give up a previous life and strike out to forge a new one. I know several people who have moved to Cornwall for their partners, and I’m wondering if they have had similar wrestles with identity and sense of place.
There is a peculiarity to America which both embraces and rejects immigration at the same time. Unlike most countries, as long as you have citizenship, you are American. Your background, your history, none of it matters, all trumped by an identity eager to claim you as its own. I have had to explain this to my children, that they are not half American and half Cornish, they are instead fully American and fully Cornish at the same time. This does not hold true for me. No matter how long I live here, I will never be Cornish, I will always be something other. I will always be claimed by America (not the least because of their ridiculously grasping tax laws…) but because I have built my life here, I have forfeited a portion of my cultural identity and no longer feel it as home. Instead I must operate in a third space, no longer at home where I have come from, and never fully embraced where I have settled and put down roots.
Quite a few people couldn’t make the session this week, so it ended up being only two of us. We were able to have quite in depth talks about our topics and make suggestions to our questions ahead of getting a draft project plan together for Monday. I’m still not feeling confident about my draft, but it is getting somewhere finally.