Disseration Reflection

The secret to a good dissertation is to write about something that you’re interested in. That’s not to say there won’t be moments of writer’s block and the occasional ‘I want to give up’ day, but when writing about something that is truly interesting, I found that I got drawn in. My dissertation managed to hook me into wanting to know more, to read more and made me want to use what I’d learned in my art practice as well.

Thinking back to when I wrote my dissertation proposal I can clearly see that what I wrote then, would not have worked out half as well as my dissertation now. I was planning to write about individual people/groups instead of looking at an ideas, theory or movement. It’s safe to say that it was nearly as interesting.

My dissertation is about craftivism but how it is structured has changed completely. Its now something that I find interesting and exciting! It explores what craft and activism are, and then delves into how these have been combined to create craftivism. I then chose to explore two main areas which I think have changed society so that craftivism had a change to grow. The resurgence in craft that occurred because of the severe break between maker and object that happened because of corporate globalisation and mass consumerism that came to a peak during the 1990s, is one of the main areas I’ve examined. This led my exploration of modern technologies namely the internet, being a huge contributing factor to the expansion of craftivism.

The other main area that I explored is gender within craft and how this had led to the acceptance of craft, giving it a much more prominent role than it has previously had. Crafters for centuries have been working to change the perception of craft as something innately feminine, into something that can be accepted and pursed by both genders equally.

Both areas I found to be extremely interesting. The creation of the internet and its development and growth thereafter is not something I thought would find particularly fascinating but how wrong was I. It took me a while to generally understanding what I was studying but then it clicked and I understood the difference between Web 1.0 and how this got transformed (I will not say ‘like a beautiful butterfly’) into Web 2.0 a platform that was shared by everyone, changing it into a communal endeavour.

I wasn’t however, just exploring all this digital know-how for no reason. In David Gaunlett’s book Making is Connecting there’s a thought provoking part the hints at the idea of using Web 2.0 outside of the internet. To have everyone working together to contribute to the creation and maintenance of something sounds a bit like craftivism huh?

Exploring the relationship between gender and craft was riveting and mind boggling. At some points I was left furious on behalf of the people who lived through such crushing identity demand! Other times I was left speechless. How I approached this chapter was to look at gender in relation to craft starting with the different ideas and reception the two gender roles received. Craft for women was accepted to be a part of their nature. For men however, they were ridiculed if they wanted to purse craft calling into question their masculinity and homosexuality, like that’s not crazy?!

I next started to explore gender as a socially constructed thing; an idea that is taught and pushed upon people as they grow up in a certain environment. I suppose because I grew up in a time where gender roles were known to be constructed by outside influences, even if I didn’t realise until I was older. I don’t know what it would be like to be held down by an idea that I should be pursing more feminine activities, instead of what I want to do. I find it difficult to believe how gender roles where such a powerful and enforced thing. To end this chapter I decided to explore how gender roles and gender perception have been changing in this modern era and how craft and craftivism have been a part of that.

With my dissertation being about craftivism and all, I decided that my last chapter should be a case study on craftivism being used today. I chose to look at the Craftivist Collective’s campaign on the M&S Living wage which is a campaign fighting for a change by trying to persuade company leaders to pursue a fairer wage. All the while using craft as their method of communication. I enjoyed reading and researching real-life craftivist endeavours. Learning about what they did and what change that created, namely how M&S raised their minimum wage (only to go place cuts elsewhere to drop the amount of money they would have to pay out!). This campaign which was very public has let craftivism be noticed. It it has also created a successful model for which the craftivist Collective can take forward into more campaigns.

In between all the interesting research and ideas that have been zooming around my head I had days, ok more like weeks where I just couldn’t focus. I couldn’t move on to an easier part in the dissertation because I found I have a weird quirk that makes me want to write everything in order! Some parts were difficult for me to get my head around and throughout the end of November and December I wanted to focus on my subject deadline which left little time to think about what I wanted to do. Not that I did. I waited until the start of Christmas break and made myself write at least 100-200 words a day. I figured that if I managed to write a little bit each day I would suddenly have a brain wave and get through even more (which worked, I finished my gender chapter in less than a week!).

Overall my dissertation was easier to write than I first thought and considering I thought It was going to be impossible I figure I did very well.  That doesn’t mean it was breeze. It has however lead me in different direction for my field module. I plan to create a collection that will highlight homelessness to bring more attention to this shocking reality that shouldn’t be a problem within western society. I plan to use the method of craft and creating, to bring this message into a relevant and modern collection, kind of like a craftivist.

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