Dissertation PDPPosted: February 20, 2017
I honestly can’t remember the last time I had to write an essay before university; it had been quite a while. So, when I heard that I would have to write a 10’000 word essay (quotes not included), I wasn’t best pleased. Especially considering that my writing in both first and second year hadn’t done that well. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Whilst I can think analytically about many subjects, especially those I become most interested in, I find it difficult to express my thoughts in writing. I am much more confident expressing ideas graphically, which is why I have such passion for pursuing a job in Graphic Communication.
The next barrier to overcome was choosing a subject to research and write about.
I’ve had an interest in clothing/fashion for a good few years now. Not to the extent of catwalk fashion or anything like that, but I’ve certainly been far more interested in what other people are wearing, and what I think looks good than I ever have been before. People-watching has definitely become a bit of a hobby; especially on the many bus journeys to and from Uni. I think this interest was a big reason why, in the first year, I chose Smells Like Teen Spirit, by Cath Davies, as my Constellation option. Learning about sub-cultures and how to analyse a person’s outfit/image, along with the research I did on the Mod culture, for the writing piece that year, grew my interest in clothing/image even more. It started to take it from just seeing what I thought looked good, to trying to figure out what each person’s outfit said about them.
While I was on the bus in my second year, I remember I couldn’t stop thinking about everyday objects and how, surely, they must have to say something about the person using/wearing/carrying them. A few days later, we had our Constellation options lecture. Ashley Morgan got up to tell us what her option, Stuff: Objects and Materiality in Society, was going to be covering. I remember she mentioned something very similar to the thoughts I had been having about objects, so I felt I had to pick her option.
In one of Ashley’s lectures, we covered some writing by Daniel Miller, which was asking the question “How do things ‘make’ us?” as opposed to just reflecting aspects of us. I found this fascinating! It was the first time the thought that objects can change us had ever crossed my mind. Therefore, when it came to the dissertation proposal, I knew I wanted to focus on the relationship between image and identity. In the initial research, I found that there was quite a lot written about clothing communicating identity, but not much written about clothing actually changing identity. Reading more of Miller’s work, I could see how clearly clothing can affect identity and was very surprised that I could not seem to find more written about this. Wanting to take this aspect further, I tried to find examples of case studies in which clothing had an affect on the wearer’s identity.
When I originally began trying to figure out what the structure on my dissertation could be, it didn’t include the involvement of choice in clothing. I went to Ashley to speak to her about it, hoping she would be able to help, but most of the time I came away even more confused than I was before. It felt a lot like every time I went to her, she would suggest a completely new way of structuring it. Reflecting on this now, I can see just how complex the relationship between clothing and identity really is! There is so much that has been explored, the options for study seem endless. However, when trying to structure my studies, I found the greatest challenge was in refining what I was really exploring and even looking to say something new.
I eventually just settled on one of my first structures. I realised I had to change it, to what it is now, including choice and a lack of choice, because I became aware that the structure I had settled on before Christmas wasn’t going to make much sense when it was all written. I was a lot happier and found the writing a lot easier when I found a structure that I thought would work. I guess it has helped me to see that the best work comes from choosing what to leave out, as much as what to put in. This is an important lesson for me, which I can certainly apply to my own work in Graphics.
I struggled a lot with the writing before Christmas. I became aware that my condition (CFS, meaning Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) had changed again and that I was now only really suffering from the mental symptoms that CFS can come with. This was a big reason why I was struggling with the writing because of issues with my ability to concentrate and with really bad problems with my memory. This was a big reason why I decided to just focus on reading before my Christmas break. My parents have been an incredible help over the years that I’ve had CFS and have supported me whenever I’ve needed them. I knew that they would be able to help me focus at home over Christmas and that they would be able to help me become unstuck, whenever my brain would fail me or get tripped up. By answering their questions and speaking out what I was learning, I was able to find better clarity in my writing.
In the end, I have no idea whether I’m happy with my dissertation or not. What I’ve written makes sense to me, but I’ve been confused by every part of Constellation. I’ve been confused by what I’ve been told by tutors, and asking for clarity has just left me more confused. This means that, even after finishing the dissertation, I have no idea whether what I’ve done is correct. I’ve enjoyed some of the reading, finding out about some really fascinating stuff, but I could not be happier that writing is done with.