Screen Studies Group

Screen Studies Group Postgraduate Training Day 19 October 2019

Watch the video of the day below:

A review of the day by Georgia Elizabeth Brown of Queen Mary University of London

Saturday 19th October saw the annual Screen Studies Group (SSG) Postgraduate Training Day, hosted in the Professor Stuart Hall Building at Goldsmiths. The SSG brings together representatives from King’s College London (KCL), Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), University College London (UCL), Birkbeck, Royal Holloway, School of Oriental and African Studies of London (SOAS), the London School of Economics (LSE) and Goldsmiths.

The central theme that ran through the morning’s discussions related to time and memories. During his keynote presentation, Victor Fan, from King’s College London, introduced us to the underlying Buddhist assumption that conventional reality is constituted by a set of interdependent relationships and that time can be both continuous and discontinuous. He pointed out that film, consisting of 24 still images projected per second, is also both continuous and discontinuous. This idea of time was further explored during The Historical Spectator panel which introduced different methods for researching the memories of the past.

Chris Berry, of King’s College London reflected upon the relaxed and informal group discussions he and his co-author Zhang Shujuan used to interview people in Shanghai about the inspiration behind the clothes they wore during the Cultural Revolution. He shared how in this instance the open-ended group discussions encouraged participation and the sharing of details which might not have been the case had they used a formal questionnaire. The concept of time was evident in Tashi Petter’s presentation, where she discussed how she re-enacted Film Society programmes from the 1930s as part of her PhD at Queen Mary exploring the pioneering animator Lotte Reiniger. Cinema, time and memories were the focus of the other two presentations on this panel. Richard Rushton from Lancaster University discussed the AHRC-funded project which will digitise and make available the materials relating to research conducted by professor Annette Kuhn during the 1990s and 2000s. The materials consist primarily of interviews with British cinemagoers reflecting on their memories and experiences of cinemagoing in the 1930s. While Sarah Neely from the University of Glasgow reflected on the ways the cinema goers from rural areas of Scotland between the end of World War II and the 1970s were inspired to narrativised their cinema memories in their own creative writing.

After lunch, Rachel Moore of Goldsmiths chaired the Screen Studies Group AGM and gave an update on the future planned events. In January there will be an annual training session for PhD who are looking to teach and to help them launch their academic career, as well as the annual student conference in June. On 29 October at Birkbeck, there will be a feedback session on this event and an opportunity for representatives from each of the institutions to volunteer to assist the Screen Studies Group.

The first panel in the afternoon was a wonderfully eclectic mix of research methods and ethical considerations as relating to digital media and researching online. Amitabh Rai from the Business Studies Department at Queen Mary explored the practice of designing a digital media research strategy and the ethics surrounding human-computer interactions. The next presentation was the first to reflect on practice-led methodologies. Combining the philosophically loaded reflections, deliberations and doubts of Iris Murdoch’s fictional women with appropriated imagery, Carol Sommer created content for an Instagram account (@cartography_for_girls) which reflected upon the construction of social media profiles. Carol recently completed her practice-led doctoral research at Leeds Beckett University. In the final paper of this panel, Catherine Johnson from the University of Huddersfield, addressed how we might theorise screen media interfaces and examined research methods for both their implicit use (how they are designed to be used) and their explicit use (what is actually performed).

For the last set of presentations, Janet Harbord and Bonnie Evans from Queen Mary, introduced their Wellcome Trust funded project Autism through Cinema. As the first film project to be funded by the Wellcome Trust, they are exploring how historical scientific films have classified and defined autism as a discrete psychological category. Since this project involves many strands across different disciplines this was a great opportunity to hear about some of the possibilities and challenges of collaborative interdisciplinary work.

The final session was a round table conducting in an enlightening discussion about interdisciplinary and what it means to each of the participants. The panel consisted of three PhD students: Rachel Velody (University of Bristol) whose research explores the fashioning of the female detective in contemporary British television crime drama; Ram Bhat (LSE) researching digital governmentality through internet infrastructure in India and; Joe Jackson (SOAS) exploring the ways in which experiences of the African diaspora are represented in the works of director Kahlil Joseph. The panel was chaired by Keith Wagner from the University College London. When asked how they navigate the different disciplines associated with their research, and how they present present their findings to a variety of audiences, each of the panel provided some really helpful and practical advice. Keith eloquently recommends being ‘theoretically promiscuious’ and not to be restricted by one discipline’s terminology. This was supported by Ram who suggests letting go of disciplinary jargon to allow anyone to understand and engage with your findings. For Joe the interesting element of interdisciplinarity are the tensions that exist when the subjects come together but don’t necessarily harmonise, while Rachel advocates for focusing on the particular areas where the passion for the research is found. The panel ended with a discussion about collaboration, how vital it is for learning and development, and how important days like this are to meeting each other and finding ways to work together across departments, disciplines and institutions.

On behalf of all the attendees, I would like to extend our gratitude and appreciation to Rachel Moore and Irene Bartolomé of Goldsmiths for hosting and to all the organisers of the day: Emma Sandon from Birkbeck, University of London; Lucy Bolton is Reader from Queen Mary University of London; Chris Berry from King’s College London; Virginia Crisp from King’s College London; Giulia Bindi from Birkbeck, University of London; Barry Langford from Royal Holloway, University of London; Joe Jackson from SOAS University of London; Rachel Moore from Goldsmiths.