Research in Translation: Initial Thoughts and Lots of Questions by Samantha Colling

Following Workshop 1 (18-19 September 2014), we asked participants to write a summary of their thoughts and reflections on Workshop 1. Below you find Samantha Colling’s reflections on the two-day workshop.

Being part of the Research in Translation project has so far proved to be both exciting and challenging. The first workshop has made my mind work overtime, asking a lot of questions. My current research explores popular culture — specifically girl teen film — but I’m also experienced in theatre and filmmaking. Having a creative background, I presumed that I would find it relatively easy to adapt and translate my research into something tangible that other people would want to engage with. What I’ve found so far is that the cross-fertilization process that the RiT workshops have set-up have got me asking questions I might not otherwise have considered.

My research explores how Hollywood millennial girl teen films are designed to feel fun. Through re-evaluating notions of pleasure and fun it examines the recurring aesthetics in these films as a means to understand how the Hollywood (neoliberal, postfeminist) version of girlhood creates gendered ideas of fun. RiT has made me look at this research from a new perspective. How do I contextualise my research in an interesting way for other people? And who are these ‘people’ — who are my target audience? Film academics? Other researchers? Young people who are the usual target market of teen film? Or specifically teenage girls? Do I hope that teenage girls will start thinking about how films prescribe specific, gendered pleasures? How realistic is this hope? So first things first, I need to decide who I am trying to communicate with.

Secondly I need to work out what I want to communicate. Boiling 80,000 + words of research down, or picking out one facet of this large project is difficult — I feel a little precious about all of it! I suppose this comes back to thinking about my audience — what do I think they will find interesting? What part of my research is most communicable in a way that will make meaning without necessarily using lots of words?
This leads us to the question of how to communicate research. My gut reaction is, of course, to use moving image. Although, as part of the workshop, we had the opportunity to experience a great deal of exciting and new technology at the University of Birmingham’s Digital Humanities Hub, film seems the medium most appropriate to communicating research about film. However, this raises more questions for me: how do you make a film about film? How can I use my understanding of film as a complex sensory, experiential encounter to create something that people engage with that also communicates that understanding? Also how do I make a film about popular culture that is accessible but doesn’t just seem like a fan video?

I don’t have the answers to all these questions just yet but before the next RiT workshop I am determined to answer some of them. Let’s hope that by the end of the project I have an answer to all of them.

Dr Samantha Colling
Research Degrees Assistant and Associate Lecturer, Manchester Institute for Research and Innovation in Art and Design, Manchester Metropolitan University

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