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What’s not to learn? A critical evaluation of the potential impact of Postdigital arts-based research as Resistance
As a consequence of a large war many millions of people who never before had fired a shot will have acquired the skills to operate a gun. As a consequence of an extensive plague, many millions will have gained skills and knowledge in forms of communication beyond the physical, As a result of migration becoming a pervasive feature of contemporary life, millions of people have gained skills and knowledge in perilous navigations. It is a truth universally acknowledged that existential ‘limit situations’ can lead to the painful accelerated acquisition of survival knowledges and skills which make possible ‘paradigm shifts’. That paradigm shift has landed us in space where we are become – sometimes despite ourselves – postdigital - landless for both good and bad. In this presentation I will offer a critical account of one postdigital, arts based, co-research project with rural migrant women in Canada and Northern Ireland. It is likely that such a project could not have been possible twenty years ago. The limit situations of the last few years have, in ‘fast-tracking’ digital competence, enabled the migrant women and the academics to inhabit the online ‘home’ of the project. Our research positioning was very much in line with Peters (2020) in challenging neoliberal concepts of ownership and privatization of knowledge with an ethos that research should not just be for the common good, but, should be empowering democratic, agentic. Hayes and Jandric (2020) argue that postdigital practices can constitute a form of resistance to political and economic ‘illusions’ of democratic forms of public culture found across the internet, and can address issues pertaining to power, exploitation and emancipation’. The research aimed, contingently, to address one of the Grand Challenges of our time within the imperatives of the Sustainable Development Goals. The project is entitled: ‘Images of Incoming.’ We used photovoice methodologies to explore belonging and alienation with migrant women in Northern Ireland and Canada. Some 50 women participated. The project blurred the boundary between teaching and research as the women, from the outset, became agentic in choosing their own images and then commenting and discussing their images in workshops. The participants conducted a metaresearch project evaluation. A lucky coincidence enabled us to develop new solidarities with the University of Atypical, a disability arts organization in Northern Ireland, showing us to ‘lift’ the project in terms of aesthetic quality and in terms of impact by curating the project exhibition with sign-language description and co-creating an evaluation film documentary.