Teaching and Learning Sensory Ethnography: Multimodal Pedagogies

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipient: Dara Culhane, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Project team: Peter Dickinson, Department of English, Simone Rapisarda, School of Contemporary Arts, and Jeremy Waller, research assistant

Timeframe: October 2018 to February 2020

Funding: $5720

Courses addressed:

  • SA 474/887; Eng 499/811; CA 498/833 – Performance, Writing, Bodies, and Sensory Ethnography

Description: Our project is about teaching and learning multisensory, multimodal ethnographic methodologies. That is, research methods that foundationally consider ethnographer and subject as embodied, multisensory social beings entangled in natural and built environments, and enmeshed in social, cultural and political relationships. Multisensory ethnography in practice increasingly includes digital technologies in assembling materials during research processes (images, film, recordings, notes, texts, objects) and in creating and disseminating research products. What are increasingly known as “Multimodal Ethnography” and “Transmedia” practices are dynamic transdisciplinary meeting grounds where collaborations among ethnographers and artists are emerging.  Working with studio/practice-based pedagogies, this project will test a model for teaching senior graduate and undergraduate students from a number of departments and units the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) and the Faculty of Communication, Arts, and Technology (FCAT), “Multisensory Multimodal Experimental Transmedia Ethnography (MMETE).”

We will link this grant project with a SSHRC grant, Playing with Worlds (PWW) In Sensory Ethnography and Cinema Arts, that will engage undergraduate SFU students in conducting fieldwork. Building on learnings from the TLDG project, our research assistant will develop workshops for training student and community researchers who will be working specifically in PWW. From this work, we will create the first of what we hope will be many supplements to the manual that emerge from community engaged research projects.

Questions addressed:

  • Can students communicate key ideas in Multisensory, Multimodal Ethnography and Transmedia, and how these apply to their course project?
  • Are students able to use devices and programs effectively in research practice after classroom instruction?
  • How do transdisciplinary conversations inspire and irritate?
  • How can we assess levels of skills required in using technology, in adopting creative practices, and in disciplinary and transdisciplinary backgrounds?
  • How do students and community researchers understand and describe the goals of Playing with Worlds, the research process, and the proposed research activities?
  • Are students and community researchers able to use devices and programs effectively in research activities after instructional workshop?
  • How do students and community researchers evaluate the potential and the problems of multisensory, multimodal, experimental, transmedia ethnography for Playing with Worlds?

Knowledge sharing: This project will be useful to people engaged in community-based research and community animation, as it brings together emergent transdisciplinary work in social sciences, arts and humanities, and contemporary creative arts. We plan on offering a workshop to faculty and students in FASS and FCAT and creating a manual as an ongoing online resource at SFU.