Re-Education

I’m going back to school with my project. I remember how I used to challenge what I was being taught, and present what I felt more appropriate. It reflects a call from the conversation with my brother, for accounts of history that can be made relevant to where he is today. I am also considering the need to rewrite histories into a global narrative, a World History. Slavery is a human condition, not only African, and within the Atlantic Slave Trade, more than just African’s were exploited. Slavery is also prevalent in modern-day trafficking which I’m sure has a history also.

I want to create an online educational resource, not just for black history month, but for 11-16 year olds to understand, using visual language and an internet culture that they’d understand. I am aiming at this point to communicate the histories of slaveries, intending to work at one level of revised world histories, and also making history more visual and accessible for students.

Audience Research

In an impromptu conversation with my younger brother, I managed to gain further insight that has helped me with my project.

There’s no doubt that history hasn’t changed.

Whilst my brother confirmed to me that at the school we both attended, history classes are as dull as ever, it seems that the perspectives and flaws in history remain the same. Both the account of history and teaching of it seem to be losing out to other subjects.

I don’t want to be premature in guessing that this could be a reason why he and his age group seem uninterested in racial identity. His nativity to the racism I experienced, which reflected my parents and grandparent’s especially during 60s- 80s Britain, haven’t compelled him to consider the history of racism like I have. Nor would he consider doing so having been put well off of history from his experience in school.

He told me quite clearly that he doesn’t need to know about as it wasn’t relevant to him in the present day. Nor was he impressed with Black History as it is taught, given that one hour lessons [over the space of one month], couldn’t do the Slave Trade justice, let alone present him with the sexier and more fashionable ideas of blackness in the present day. My opinion is that Black History, at the end of the day, falls into the trap of History, and all its dullness. If it is meant to inspire young black people then it seems to be out of touch.

More findings from my brother:

  • Not relevant to present day
  • Can’t visualise it
  • Can find out quicker online
  • Always the same sources, going over the same things
  • Too much text and book based
  • Never enough information recorded
  • Too many estimates and opinions
  • Fake reconstructions with actors
  • Not titillating enough like Ancient Egypt
  • History shouldn’t even be considered if you can’t see it now
  • Too narrow-minded
  • Too Eurocentric (Russia, Germany, etc.)
  • Doesn’t excite or make you feel included

Black history in particular:

  • stereotypical
  • Not all modern-day blacks are from Africa
  • Africa has changed
  • Causes problems between black and white students
  • Not taught fully
  • Why is it only Atlantic Slave Trade

I have been using these findings, in combination other research to form the basis of my ideas. I have made a few conclusions from this research:

History perhaps needs more up to date visualisations. How has history been re-visualised?

History should include choice. How do you increase perspectives of history?

History in School

Following on from my discussion in the reading group over Black History in school, I am reflecting on my experience. History in general was so booooooooring in school! I cannot put it down enough. I remember the grey books we hard, and the grey tables, and the grey classrooms, and I know some people enjoyed it but most people couldn’t wait to drop it as GCSE. Why was it so boring?

This is something I want to look in further, and why I can’t remember anything they taught me there, but remember vididly the Tudors, Romans, and Ancient Egyptians from my Primary School over 10 years ago.

Me and my friend, Dave ‘Alando’ Barnet took it upon ourselves to produce our own annual drama and dance production during black history month to teach black history. This was well attended, and we managed to produce multiple accounts of histories from multiple perspectives. I have no doubt that a new approach to history in schools was needed then, and probably still needed now.

Rewriting World History

I found this show very useful:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01nt2d1

I agree with most of what was said, particularly the need for a revision of history, and consideration of multiple histories. I put some of these arguments forward in reading group in discussion of Andrea Stuart’s book Sugar in the Blood:

http://www.tricia-blackbooknews.com/2012/09/interview-with-andrea-stuart.html

I found it interesting that whilst most people can agree on racism as wrong, history remains a contentious issue. Stuart reconnects British history to Barbados and the sugar trade. Whilst it is only one revision of British history, it led to discussion in the reading of history in school. I contested that black history is taught, if not badly. By its very name, black history, the Atlantic Slave Trade is taken out of the context of a world history, and is never detailed enough, nor taught from varying perspectives. It seems quite superficial, and taught just to appease black communities rather than educate all of society. On reflection, my lessons on black history were only ever about slavery and was only ever presented as white American’s as powerful exploiters, and Africans as exploited victims.

The subject of history was also contentious as the members of the reading group had their own individual and personal interpretations of histories, particularly the Atlantic Slave Trade. I feel that this narrative can be quite divisive, and forces whites to adapt an apologetic attitude, and blacks to demonstrate a healed and recuperated identity. History gets more problematic when it is used in the present as a means for justification or blame, especially when accounts either aren’t accurately recorded, omitted, or taught incorrectly.

I feel sufficiently removed, and indifferent to the Atlantic Slave Trade, not least because I never lived it, to tackle it in this project. I really want to challenge how it is taught, thought of, and theorized in the present day.

 

Geography and History

I have no real explanation of the process that I arrived and the ideas I am working with now, other than various brainstorms and ongoing interests away from the project.

Geography:

I really like maps, navigating, and all my ideas have had an element of geography involved so I am working with this, and notions of space, belonging, identity, etc.

History:

I have more of an invested interest in this. I have worked out that I react so strongly to racism, not because of the racists but because of the history. Racism has become more frustrating to me as I’ve gotten older. I am less immature emotionally, however am affected more by the understanding I have of racism in history. My challenge is better off here.

Breakthrough

I’ve had a breakthrough with my project. After weeks of heavy questioning and postulating, I’ve managed to let go and approach this project with a renewed energy. My previous research has answered my original question:

Why can’t I communicate effectively my experiences of racism?

I found the reason to this was that my responses were in a sense too old-fashioned. British society has progressed, and whilst racism still occurs, for most people, racism isn’t a major issue. Dealing with the issue of racism isn’t the same as dealing with racists. A project in the present day which deals with the experience of racism isn’t then necessarily serving much more than repeating conversations that many people have heard, and for a minority of people, chosen to ignore of haven’t understood, and so keep on expressing their racism. I’ve always contested that racism will exist, but tolerance must prevail. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but should be willing to be proven wrong, or keep their prejudice to one side when interacting with wider society.

Having left the issue of racism, I began questioning the issue of race and identity, through a politics of identity. I was looking at hair, and what this could mean. However, this was more of a diversion, as neither race and hair are issues that directly affect me, and I would be producing quite a disingenuous project if I pursued it further. This idea was perhaps a passing thought which I latched onto at the time as the strongest idea I had going.

However, what had been stifling my development was myself. I kept on charging forward with the race card; I don’t know where this obsession has come from, and I feel that it is a way of disguising other issues I experience. I am not willing to deal with any other aspect of my identity so a suggestion from a friend today really helped to focus my thinking.

I need to take myself out of the work! I can appreciate more clearly what I have been taught throughout my University course now, and have made more progress in the last 24 hours than the months of facetious research. I have started to think about audiences, and have used that as a starting point for more project. I have decided on 11-16 year old school students for numerous reasons:

My brother is 14, and we have very different experiences of race and racism. For this reason, it has been interesting for me to see how he and his age group responds to issues surrounding race and identity, and how irrelevant it seems to them. Whilst it plays a part in their identities, it is not their most important concern, which I too have learnt is neither my biggest concern. I have learnt then that I cannot necessarily communicate my experiences how I would prefer, and need to accept these differences.

I also was determined to produce my project online, and tackle some race related issues in an interactive way. By process of elimination, I have decided that older generations would have already formed their own opinions of race and identity, and remember myself during secondary school as becoming aware of an identity and notions of race. I also feel that this age group would be better equipped and more knowledgeable when it comes to online technologies.

Having my audience decided, I feel that a process of exploration can happen more effectively as the techniques I use will be dictated by the audiences preferences. I can quite easily think back to myself at this age only being 20 now, and so feel well placed to produce work for this age group.

Information Design

I really like this way of presenting data. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself because I do not have any data to present at the moment, but I want to keep the end presentation in mind.

NOTABILIA http://notabilia.net/

I also like how this looks like hair. I definitely think using hair as a visual technique is a versatile idea. What I have noticed however, is that the data collected doesn’t have to be directly related to the design. Perhaps it would be a stronger idea and more interesting to research race related topics, and instead use hair to present the data. 

http://www.informationisbeautiful.net/

Research Methods

Major steps in research:

  1. Identification of research problem
  2. Literature review
  3. Specifying the purpose of research
  4. Determine specific research questions or hypotheses
  5. Data collection
  6. Analyzing and interpreting the data
  7. Reporting and evaluating research

^ Creswell, J.W. (2008). Educational research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. 2008 ISBN 0-13-613550-1 (pages 8-9)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research

  • Primary Research
  • Secondary Research
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quantitive Research

 

The Approach Question?

I have thought of three approaches that I could explore:

  1. My experience: Create a work to reflect my own ideas.
  2. Research: Carry out interviews, surveys, etc. And present findings.
  3. Theory: Illustrate theories visually.

More detail:

  1. I feel that creating a work that reflects only my ideas is very limiting. I also want this work to be online, and think a stand-alone website just reflecting my views isn’t the right context. What perhaps would be more useful would be to record and illustrate my observations however not in a polemical way. I am trying to highlight the fact that hair and race is something that everyone can have an opinion of, therefore, shouldn’t limit it to just my perspective.
  2. The research approach would give the project a broader scope, but each mother that I take to actively conduct my research will have its own drawbacks. I am worried about setting out with a hypothesis and having it disproved. However, that could make for an interesting project. I need to think in more detail about various research methods and which would be appropriate for the topic.
  3. Illustrating theory seems like a safe option, so maybe I shouldn’t aim for this right now. I would be using interactive imagery of hair to try to illustrate various cultural theories surrounding racial identity, in attempt to create a visual essay. I am not sure however, if this could be a major project, and perhaps the active research approach could be applied to strengthen the visual essay idea. The project could become a document based upon a theory that I have tried and tested. If I am concerned with proposing my own hypothesis, perhaps I could use someone elses. This would be both interesting for my own exploration and for a more ambitious project.