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.


Gender Perception and Craftivism

I’ve been putting Ashely’s feedback to practice and have been switching up my terminology so that my dissertation sounds more formal; going back through my dissertation to change how it sounds has actually helped me to write the next section much more formally. I have been able to take out all the personalisation and approach my writing in a much more professional manner.

Having written my first section, which outlines what craftivism is, and my second chapter which explores the use of the internet to create communities, and examines the recent resurgence in craft that occurred from the 1990s onwards; it was time to start in on my next chapter, gender perception and craftivism.

I had some difficulties in starting this chapter. I like to work in order, so I tried to start with the introduction but since I didn’t know what I was planning to write about, I found it really difficult. So I started to write little bits in each subsection, piecing together my ideas while reading journals and books that would help me gather my thoughts. This past week I’ve been trying to write a little bit of my dissertation each day in the hopes that I would hit inspiration or ‘get in the flow’ and be able to write more than 86 words a day, which actually happened! Yesterday was a super good day for me on the dissertation front, I read two journals, found loads of quotes that matched up to the idea in my head, and also helped me to start writing out my argument. I managed to crack out three good paragraphs and managed to write to basic structure of my mini introduction, which I can then add more detail too after having finished each subsection.

From 3.0 Gender Perception and Craftivism: ‘The key idea examined within this chapter will be the complex relationship between gender and craft; exploring the research into the growing understanding of gender as a socially constructed idea within society, as analysed by feminist psychologists throughout the 1960s, to more recent writings, and how these have defined the behaviours of men and women for centuries. This chapter will also explore briefly, the split between art and craft that happened during the ninetieth century and how that’s has impacted craft for both men and women, before going on to further examine the different views expressed on femininity and craft, and masculinity and craft, along with the preconceived notion therein, before finishing with discussion on how gender perception, within craft, and therefore craftivism, is being challenged.’

I’ve also been trying to find images to go into my dissertation, using the database area on MetSearch but I was having some difficulty finding what I wanted. I did manage to find a little section from a priest cote that showed subversive embroidery made in the fourteenth century, but for more modern craftivist work, I was having a real problem. I started to google images just to get an idea of what I wanted, and while researching 1970s feminist textile I came across Judy Chicago, who, along with other artists, create the installation The Dinner Party which has been on exhibition since 1979 in the Brooklyn Museum.

I really liked the reasons behind this instillation, it was about bringing recognition to all the female artists that had been left out of art history.  Anyway, I thought these images would fit in really well with my dissertation so I started looking on the MetSearch databases to see if I could find some but nowhere on there, so what did I do? I emailed Judy Chicago to ask for permission to use her images in my dissertation, which I got *happy dance*.

While yesterday was a good day, today was a non-academic brain day, which really sucked because I was hoping I would be able to finish the first two subsection and start exploring how gender perceptions have been changing within the craft world, but theres always tomorrow.

Dissertation Draft Feedback

This week I had my feedback for my dissertation draft back from Ashley, which as always, turns out to be super helpful. She gave me some really good pointer back on my writing style and way to make my dissertation sound much more formal and professional.

I wish that while I write, I explained more. Or even noticed where I need to explain more. It’s like I don’t even think that certain parts need explaining because, well I know what I’m writing about, so surely everyone else knows it too! I kind of forget that everyone knows different things and someone who’s never chosen one of Ashley’s modules, probably doesn’t know what Marx theory of direct creation is, or what theories Bordieu had on class segregation.

I also didn’t realise that I wrote so informally, I always remember when I was told that while writing an essay no one cares about my opinion, so I needed to say them as if they were fact – never ever writing ‘I’ or personalising it. Funnily enough, I don’t remember who told me this, when they told me this or where. I just remember that when writing essays, and dissertations by extension, you should never be personal. Which is why I found it very weird to write a very personal introduction.

But back to the point, I write too informally, using a lot of ‘we’ and ‘you’ and ‘looking at’, so I need to totally nip that in the bud and start sounding way more analytical, *face palm*, start sounding much more analytical. (I’m learning already!)

I also finally got Situating Everyday Life by Sarah Pink from the inter-library loan system. There are two chapters that sound like the could be super interesting, the introduction, which is about everyday activism, and also one of the later chapters which looks at including the internet. Both chapters could be really helpful to my dissertation, and I’m actually looking forward to reading it.

overall I was pleased with my feedback, and the fact that my dissertation is on its way to being done. I’ve established a structure and my style of writing, while needing to be more formal, I think is actually ok for stringing my ideas together. I feel like once I make these small changes to my dissertation so far, I will able to take on board how I need to write the rest and and up with a super boss dissertation that really professional sounding, makes great arguments and is actually quite interesting.

Craftivism in Cardiff

On the eve or the Lord’s day the year of twenty sixteen, in the month of All Hallows Eve; whilst upon my carriage back to the manor, I spied something most peculiar …

Ok so it wasn’t a carriage so much as the number 44 bus, and sadly I don’t live in a manner, but I did however see something out the window that got me excitedly shouting ‘CRAFTIVISM’ down the bus. Short of jumping off the bus right then and having to wait an extra 15 minuets before I could go home and reheat my leftover Chinese, there wasn’t much I could do at that moment, but that doesn’t mean I forgot about it. Oh no!

Sunday dawned bright and early, and though I didn’t actually leave the house until about 4pm, it was still bright. Getting off at the stop by the old Roath Library (across from Texaco garage), I started walking up the street so I could come and see the thing that excited me so much, but on the way I got distracted.

What I saw out of that bus window was a cross-stitched sign which had been hung on the fence that surrounded the empty plot by the garage. This is what excited me so much that I was shouting on the bus, craftivism, hung up in Cardiff!

So I’m walking up the street to go see this craftiness and whats hung up on the church bench in front of me? MORE CRAFTIVISM. Ok maybe not super activism, the kind which challenges social and political issues, but there was definitely some cross-stitched veggies in front of me. I carried on over the street to what I thought was a beautiful cross-stitched banner about peace, but what I came to find out about 20 minutes ago when I looked back at the pictures I had taken, was a banner about peas. What I thought said ‘give peace a chance’ actually said ‘give peas a change’. But for that day, the whole 26 hours that I believed that banner was telling people to give peace a chance, I was so excited.

For the whole walk into town after seeing that cross-stitch sample I was so inspired that people in Cardiff has started to use craft as a way to express their ideas/opinions, that I just couldn’t speak. My mind was in overdrive thinking about the different ways to create banners and if I could find the craftivist group that made it.

It doesn’t matter that the sample turned out to be about trying to get people to eat peas – which I don’t understand by the way, I love peas, I don’t see how people don’t like them?! They’re just so fresh and lovely – it still had the effect on me that I’ve been trying to write about craftivism having.

Just Another Dissertation Tuesday

I feel that the writing of my dissertation has been going really well lately. After my amazing discovery of the Web and Web 2.0, I’ve been trying to tackle the other areas of interest that I will be exploring within my dissertation.

Since my dissertation meeting last week where I was given some really great advice, namely looking into the downside of craftivism – how it doesn’t tackle the problem of actually making things, and how its actually contributing to one of the things it wants to stop, consumerism. I also need to complete an introduction, start reading more into the issues of Poverty and how craftivism is tackling/approaching these issue, as well as reading about gender perception in craft.

I tackled a lot of that in these last two weeks, I managed to get past the mental block I’ve had for the last like month, and actually get my mind around reading and forming cohesive sentences! One thing I do need to be aware of, as evidenced by today, is that I need to write my dissertation as if I were giving it to a stranger; someone who knows nothing about craftivism, and to write in more detail – not to assume that whoever is going to be reading this will know what I’m on about when I’m not being specific enough.

So I don’t have to do any major changes, just adding in more detail and looking at things from an outsiders perspective.

I feel like if I say exactly what I’m going to be writing about in my introduction that I’m just going to be repeating myself over and over, but I’m not. Well in a sense I will be but whoever reads my introduction will be able to know what specifically I’m going to be writing about, but not yet knowing all I have to say on the subject.

I also used the inter-library loan part of MetSearch for the first time. It was much easier than I expected, which is silly because I didn’t even know what to expect!

 Modern Technologies including Web 2.0 

Within my dissertation I decided that I was going to look into modern communication technologies and how these have been used to build communities. I had a book, Making is Connecting by David Gauntlett, which was mostly about how making and crafting brings people together, how it makes people happy to make and share, how people can use Web 2.0 platforms to share their work and come up with new and innovative (as well as collaborative) ideas, and how maybe, the idea of Web 2.0 could actually be used as a platform for real-life communities, offline! exciting huh?

Now when I came up with this idea I thought it was brill, but when it actually came to researching for it, my mind tried to hide from all the mental aerobics it would have to do in order to understand what the flip these tech-minded guys were on about.

It took me a while before I actually wanted to face what I had planned to write about, but then I woke up one Sunday morning  (a Sunday?! of all days) and just got on with it. Don’t ask me what happened, I must have got out of the right side of the bed (even thought theres only really one side you can get out of) but what the heck, let’s get my tech on!

What I found, was actually this really interesting digital world that I didn’t really know a whole lot about. I use it everyday (some might say that makes me a web-junkie, whatever) but I never really knew where it came from (other than some British guy made it) or that it had different versions or stages, or that it was even still developing. We’ve all seen those films where someone knows and handy hacker computer geek that knows like all the best coding, but does anyone really know what the flip they’re really on about or is it just more of a ‘oh I saw that in a movie once’ and thats the end of the conversation?

Anyway, I got up and started to research the Internet and modern technologies. Starting with the David Gauntlett book, I came across a brief overview of what Web 2.0 was, but um was there like a Web 1.0? or did it just suddenly appear fully formed as Web 2.0. It turns out, that there was a Web 1.0, which was actually only called the Web when Tim Berner-Lee created it in the late 1990’s (and yes, he is British). He started creating it as a little side project while he was working in CERN in swtizerland, a big uber-tech lab thingy.

The internet was a place where everyone had their own little website which they tended to, and that was that. All the data that was stored in each of these webpages was wholly separate from the next, which meant that it was take just about your whole life, to find everything you wanted because you’d have to go into each site separately, and nobody had time for that! Berners-Lee wasn’t ok with this. He wanted the Web to be a place where everything was linked, one website would lead to another and then another and another, making links where you might not have even known links could be made. He wanted a system where everyone collaborated with the upkeep and shared all their data so that it would only take about an hour to find everything you need. This ideas, the collaborative virtual system, that is Web 2.0. It’s not an update from the Web, its just a different way in which the Web interacts, a whole functioning hive instead of individual sites. I’m sure Berners-Lee had a great deal of input, along with other mega-tech brains like himself, but it was Tim O’Reilly (who nabbed the name from someone else) that came up with the frame work of Web 2.0, or was just the best at explaining it.

Anyway, 4 books and a TED Talk (on linked data no less!) later and I’m kind of buzzed to be learning about all this technology which I didn’t think I would ever be able to understand. I’ve got to say, it’s kind of super fascinateing to learn about, and it’s really cool when you can start talking about it and you get the ‘are you even speaking english’ faces off the people around you, it totally makes you feel like a mega-tech genius.

All of this recapping and rambling hasn’t been for nothing though, because this has actually formed part of my dissertation, where I started off by talking about Web 2.0 but then sort of end up with this idea, which was expressed in Making is Connecting, that what if Web 2.0 can be used outside of the internet, as an offline platform for communication between people, making one big community where people shared and developed! I though it was a super cool idea but that might just because it interests me? and maybe because I’m looking into the different way in which craftivism can effect social justice, which includes how it can create communities, both in real-life and online, but oh well. Someone else might find it interesting too …

Dissertation Proposal

Within my dissertation I plan to evaluate the effectiveness that craftivism has had on implementing social justice throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.  

Over the past weeks I have been able to continually come back to my dissertation proposal and be able to effectively and coherently change and build on my initial ideas.  From reading The Subversive Stitch last summer, I was able to find out about Craftivists Sarah Corbett and Betsy Greer; it was from here that my ideas began to grow and change into a topic that I could not be happier to write my dissertation on.  I gathered book from the university library, along with online journals and articles to start to piece together what I want to argue in my dissertation.

When I started this proposal, I had about 5 books and 7 online sources, I couldn’t fathom how I would be able to find any more than that, let alone the 50 different books that are accustomed to dissertation writing. However I tried to put this from my mind while I was writing, and sooner than I through I had a full page bibliography and still more to add in.

My meeting with Ashley a few weeks ago really helped with the writing of my proposal. I was able to finally see the different between writing an essay and writing a dissertation. The dissertation needs to be much more analytical with all facts and suggestions backed up from reliable sources. This helped to change the tone of my proposal, to sound more confident in my argument.

I actually really liked finding sources to back up my theories; I looked at books and articles from online newspapers about activism, social justice and the resurgence in craft and was really excited to see that there actually was evidence to the points that I has been making in my proposal.  I had to turn to newspapers more and more through the writing of my proposal. I have been including different craftivist projects within my proposal to make my point about how craftivism can be used to effect change within society, and one of the projects that I am looking into is so new, that it doesn’t have any books or journal articles written about it. I was quite concerned with this because I was getting all my information from newspapers, which are quite biased, whereas scholarly articles tend to evaluate all sides of their argument. Thankfully I didn’t have to rely just on newspapers, blog entries could be found on the craftivist websites also, which helped me to gather the facts I needed to suppose my argument.

The way that I wrote my proposal was that I took each aspect of what I was writing about – activism, social justice, craft and its resurgence, Sarah Corbett, Betsy Greer and the presence of male craftivists – and wrote them as if I was writing a short essay on each. While this was really useful because I was able to explore the different points I was making, when I came to putting these into my actually proposal structure, I found that I had far too many words. This then presented a new challenge, cutting out what I didn’t need. I was quite happy to keep everything that I had written but the word count wouldn’t allow this, so I started to critically read through what I had written, and cut out the parts that were either not needed, or where I had repeated myself but just in different words; this took almost as long as writing the actually words I was cutting.

While I was deciding on the different topics that I was going to be adding into my background research I came across a hitch in the road. I had planned to look into the Canadian Revolutionary Knitting Circle, but when I started to look into them in more detail, I found that they had sort of dropped off the face of the earth. I couldn’t find anything about them past 2008, their website had been taken offline and this really had me starting to worry. I now would have to start my research over and find someone else to take their place.

The main reason that I wanted to look into the Revolutionary Knitting Circle was because it was founded by a man. In a dissertation about how craftivist can change society to make it more equal for everyone, I wanted to have both male and female Craftivists in my argument. While craftivism seems to quite predominantly feminine, which it is, there are male craftivists, just not a lot. I had to find a male crafter that wasn’t only a craftivist, but was a craftivist that was out to change the society we live in. That made my search so much more difficult.

I was able to replace the one group, the Revolutionary Knitting Circle, with two male craftivist, John-Paul Flintoff, and Jamie Chalmers. Both of which have been participants in some of the craftivist projects that I have been looking into. I thought that this was perfect; not only where they men, but they had also been part of projects that I had already written about, thus cementing them into my dissertation rather than flinging a few male craftivists at the end!

I’m really looking forward to when I’m going to be looking further into these craftivists and the different projects that they have been involved in. I have really enjoyed gather research and piecing together my argument; that being said, reading the same words over and over and over again gave me a sort of mental block at finding any errors or mistakes that needed to be changed, but I never got tired of reading my confident, analytical dissertation and thinking ‘I actually wrote that!’.