our words make worlds

Why create a new module Art and Activism in the Digital Age?

From Page to Stage to Digital Age 

Art and Activism in the Digital Age is a new module that I am developing in collaboration with my colleague Renata Brandão, from the Digital Mediations Strand. My initial idea was to develop teaching resources to explore and link together aspects of my work on the Translation Acts Strand about the representation of women in theatre, particularly in Uruguay.

This work involves exploring both how women are represented in the arts, so their roles as practitioners and the opportunities for their work to be produced, as well as investigating how women are representing women through performance. I ask questions such as; what types of female experiences are depicted on stage and in performance? What might they tell us about issues affecting women in society? How is this work disseminated?

It was this final question that sparked many interesting, complex and lively discussions with Renata as I identified and sought to interrogate how female practitioners were disseminating their work using digital platforms and social media, thus creating digital afterlives for transient performances. This use of digital media created online communities of followers, co-collaborators and artivists, as well as enabling a type of global visibility as work could reach new audiences. As a result, art which emerged as a way to voice or critique local concerns e.g. the performance, La caída de las campanas, which acknowledges and challenges the prevalence of gender violence in Uruguay, enters into dialogue with shared concerns about gender violence in other Latin American countries and international discourses about women’s rights through the sharing of images and recordings on social media. As Renata and I started to discuss these ideas and to investigate these examples, we found more cases of artists and activists from Latin America sharing their work using digital platforms and often being linked to international campaigns such as #NiUnaMenos and BBC 100 Women.

Art and Activism in the Digital Age 

It’s evident that digital platforms are transforming how we access, engage with and analyse work from Latin America and we recognised the exciting, enriching and diverse opportunities that this creates for our students. Therefore, we decided to propose the new module Art and Activism in the Digital Age. A key concern in creating the module was, and continues to be, how we can move beyond simply accessing art through digital platforms to critically analysing these platforms. In the module we seek to identify the opportunities and limitations offered by digital forums, to analyse how they are transforming types of authorship and allowing for new online creative spaces and to discuss the fact that these are not neutral spaces and articulate how uses of certain digital platforms might be gendered. 

Curriculum Innovation: Creating Interdisciplinary and Multilingual Classrooms 

A key aim of the module is to enable students to develop analytical skills to examine a variety of texts and to foster a critical approach to digital culture. In order to achieve this, we have been working to develop a series of case studies which we would co-teach to bring together methodologies, approaches and critical theories from both Digital Humanities and Modern Languages to create interdisciplinary teaching methodologies. In the module, we will explore key research questions which come into play when analysing digital forums and examine these through the lens of cultural studies.

In the first instance, the case studies we have identified focus on Latin America because they have emerged from our research on this topic in the context of the Language Acts and Worldmaking project. However, we very quickly recognised the potential for future iterations of the module, Art and Activism in the Digital Age, focussing on other regions, on other types of digital artivism and on other perspectives or issues.

We also seek to create a multilingual environment in which students are able to encounter material from different places. We envisage that this will involve working with artists who work across different languages as well as examining the role of translation and working with material translated into English. We would also like to create opportunities for students taking the module to work simultaneously on different case studies in different languages which they would research, analyse and present to other members of the group. This could also open up the possibility for those who have studied, lived or worked abroad to propose case studies from their own experience. 

In order to create this broad scope, a key aspect of our proposal to the King’s Curriculum Innovation Competition involved creating ways for us to meet with collaborators from within and beyond the university. We will be doing this on 9th May at two events: a morning open research showcase in the form of an interactive exhibition to share some of the work on art and activism underpinning this project. This will be followed by an afternoon staff workshop to explore the research connections and interdisciplinary potential of the new module. You can read more about them here.

We are delighted to have received a King's Curriculum Innovation Award to support and develop this work. You can read a news item about the Curriculum Innovation awards received by the Language Acts and Worldmaking project.