I decided to present my Reflective Report dissertation on a website; I did this for numerous reasons, but the main three were accessibility, sustainability and pushing boundaries. Although COVID-19 reinforced my original points from my proposal about the importance for my dissertation to be online, it’s important to note that I had previously planned to do my dissertation in this format before COVID-19 was a significant issue in the U.K.
“Virtual spaces have become increasingly important as the only way of communicating among ourselves and with audiences” (Wullschläger, J. 2020). COVID-19 has further enforced the importance of technology – art galleries are currently having to transfer their physical exhibitions to safer virtual options. With the adaptation of physical exhibitions to online content was something I also had to adapt to within second year. Although I had already planned to do virtual exhibitions, I was forced to present my physical ‘BISECT’ exhibition, initially set for March 2020 at The Old Print Works, as a virtual exhibition instead. This experience also reinforced my choice to do my dissertation as a virtual submission; if I have to modify my studio work, my dissertation should be of the same level.
One of the primary reasons I wanted to structure my Reflective Report on a website was to challenge the traditional boundaries of what is considered an essay – utilising this website format allowed me to experiment with what an art essay is or can be. A website allows for the use of interactive content, which a traditional essay doesn’t usually allow for. For instance, in this section (Chapter 1), my writing is presented in a virtual book by using a post carousel, and another example of interactive content is a timeline featured on my introduction page. This type of content engages the viewer and keeps them intrigued; this is something I strive for in my physical work too. I always aim for something to be engaging and create an experience for the audience.
A vast difference between creating a traditional essay and an online one is understanding how the audience is different. Typically, this Reflective Report would only be viewed by lecturers and external moderators; this means that the text is merely being examined by people who are already ‘specialists’ within that area. However, by granting access for anyone to read, my audience is anyone who has internet access – so I need my text to be understandable to a broader range of people.
Accessibility is important to me as an artist because I want my work to be an equivalent experience for everyone – not just those abled enough to see it in person. This involves disabilities, time/distance issues and how available the text is. “As the world we live in and the information we obtain become increasingly digital, ensuring that websites are accessible for people regardless of impairments and disabilities is a way of providing equal access and equal opportunity for all.” (Adapt. 2020). To provide this equality, I have specifically used a plugin called USERWAY, which grants an opportunity to the reader to alter the text for them personally. It offers the option to change the colour and size of the font, pausing animations and allowing the text to be read to the audience audibly. These things help those with disabilities, ranging from dyslexia, blindness and hearing impairments.
My Report will be made live after full submission; this is so it is available for everyone to read. Additionally, due to this Report being online, it will not be affected by time zones or a person’s availability. I want my Reflective Report to be convenient for the audience to experience.
Sustainability is about how my Reflective Report will be durable and flexible, even after University. “When you use a self-hosted platform like WordPress you own the site you build, which means you’ll have to take the extra steps associated with hosting your own site, but you’ll ultimately have greater ownership and control of your content” (Morris, S. 2018). Having ownership of this context means that although my Reflective Report will conform to academic standards in many respects (such as the referencing and bibliography), I have an environment where I can explore and experiment with how my content is viewed and interacted with. Additionally, I also have the option to add to this site continuously as my practice expands.
One of the negatives to making yourself available online is that the work isn’t always as impactful as it would be in person. “Online viewing does not give the physical hit of encountering a powerful work, but it offers time, space away from the crowd, opportunities for slow looking, and the absence of aggressive salesmanship” (Wullschläger, J. 2020). Although this can be the case, there is the potential for more opportunities by posting work online, than if you don’t. Specifically, for this piece of work, I am opening myself up to a much larger audience, and I am giving myself the potential to network and discuss the topics within my Report. To have the option for feedback from this new audience, I have a Contact me section available in the top menu bar, so there is the direct interaction between the author and the audience.
Interactive content allows for the work to be more impactful online, so although an online site might not have the same type of impact as it would in a physical space – the effect can still be there.
I previously stated in my proposal, that I think written essays are an outdated practice within art and have a minimal function in relation to studio work – due to COVID-19, online measurements have become increasingly important within the art sector. Therefore, I’m contextualising my work in this format.
“The forced closure of galleries and arts organisations has led to the postponement or cancellation of work opportunities, while lockdown measures are preventing access to studios, materials, peer networks and production facilities.” (Manchester Metropolitan University, 2020.). Prior to COVID, online media wasn’t appreciated enough as a format to exhibit work and connect with an audience; however, now with a lack of access to both the studio and face to face activities, the arts are relying on online media to engage with consumers. COVID-19 has put online opportunities into perspective; there are no travel requirements to view galleries from anywhere in the world as this is now available as virtual reality. This opportunity to view things without restrictions, is partly why I wanted to produce my written Report through a website. I wanted to build a Reflective Report that was available for anyone to read at their own interest, and a website lets the reader read as much or as little as they want, whenever they require.