Nottingham Trent University (NTU) Multimedia students are rehearsing their practices into existence. They are doing so through their use of online journals. They are learning to assimilate knowledge through a process of knowledge integration (Boyer 1990) and identity rehearsal.
Beck, Giddens and Lash (1994) described Reflexive Modernization as the increased sense of “risk”, “complexity” and “reflexivity”. This increased perception forces the student to reconcile the pressures brought on by increased 'individualization' and create biographies of themselves.
Students in the Multimedia degree programme at Nottingham Trent University (NTU) are requested to keep online journals in the form of weblogs. They do so to document their evolving design practice and experimentation. The students set-up their journals as part of their first year induction and maintain them through the three years of their study. The initiative has been running now for three years. It is maintained through the use of a centralised list located at which functions as a web portal for unifying the heterogeneous collection of links. An open source RSS aggregator is also used by academic staff to support and review the journals. Students are documenting their practices as their practices evolve through a process of scripting (Barthes 1970) where their individual narratives are able to unfold over time in full public view. This is further affirmed by the intervention of staff making comments on individual student journals. The journals highlight the need for staff to intervene in order to affirm the pedagogic framework of the specific university undergraduate programme. It highlights the need for staff to actively engage through their support and guidance. The standard weblog comments system provides a useful mechanism for doing this where staff, monitoring online journals are able to feedback to students through annotating posts. In this way students not only have an opportunity to receive commentary on their work but through engaging in this way are also implicitly guided into the cultural practices and discourse of the programme. The comments help to support a process of enculturation where students are ‘brought into’ the university. The process is providing an opportunity for students to participate as members of Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998). In doing so they are able to recognise and share their capacity as cultural expressions located within a broader network of symbolic exchange (Castells 2000). The opportunity is offering students agency within the contemporary global context whose “acceleration”, “risk”, “complexity”, and “reflexivity” (Beck, Giddens et al. 1994) threatens to stifle experimentation and overwhelm creative endeavour. The experience is providing students with a way of recognising and responding to ambiguity that Jeff Conklin characterises as wicked problems (Conklin 2001).
The nature of the online journal process means that students are able to reflexively negotiate their own terms as they forge new opportunities for collaborating and establishing their own practice within the broader network of global interconnections. This process also affords opportunities for institutions to engage with their student cohort in ways enhancing pedagogy.
Jools Ayodeji is a playwright and multimedia réalisateur. His research concerns issues relating to agency and approaches to academic writing. This has developed out of his practice which has been focused on the use of linear and non-linear narrative forms within screen-based temporal work.
Mr Julius Ayodeji
Narrative and Interactive Arts
School of Art and Design
College of Art & Design and Built Environment
Nottingham Trent University