Multimedia Histories

Researching multi-media histories

Exploring how an interconnected use of co-created media platforms can bring the contested, traumatic histories of Colombia’s armed conflict, Bath’s slave-ownership and its memories of the Holocaust into present consciousness.

About the project

Since 2016, and rooted in the Centre for Media Research’s mission to creatively rethink media as socially engaged tools, Dr Matthew Freeman and Dr Richard White have been researching what we call ‘multi-media histories’.

This research project emerged from the Centre’s Play and Multiplatform cluster, which brings together staff interested in the development of community-targeted multiplatform and game-centric media strategies, such as games for social change. The cluster’s multi-media histories research explores how an interconnected use of co-created media platforms can bring the contested, traumatic histories of Colombia’s armed conflict, Bath’s slave-ownership and its memories of the Holocaust into present consciousness.

More specifically, this research examines and develops new ways through which social media, animations, notebooks and beyond can all work as one to form multi-media methods for deepening understanding and empathy for these contested histories, and doing so via a sharing of perspectives across media. Contested histories speak of the struggles over how a given history is remembered, and the way in which a society’s understanding of its history can affect choices and beliefs in the present. While dealing with different cultural contexts, our underpinning research into both transmedia storytelling and walking arts practice shows how the use of interconnected and co-created media platforms can have powerful effects on how audiences reinterpret politically-charged, culturally-fractured and emotionally-traumatic pasts. And yet the distinctive nature of transmedia storytelling and walking arts as creative practices mean that, when applied to diverse histories, different research insights emerge.

Freeman's contribution

Regarding the former, Freeman helped to apply research into transmedia storytelling to the cultural history of Colombia’s armed conflict. In 2017-18, he was invited to join a team of researchers in Colombia, where he advised on the transmedia design of a new set of educational resources for Desarmados [Disarmed], an international project led by EAFIT University, Colombia and supported by Bath Spa University, UK. Desarmados aims to reconstruct the cultural memory of the Colombian armed conflict, exploring how transmedia storytelling can be used as a pedagogic tool in schools to create new ways of experiencing and remembering the history of this conflict. Telling the personal histories of those involved in the conflict across animations, workbooks, social media, and a blog, these educational resources altogether chronicle a conversation about new peace-building processes. Read Freeman’s article on Desarmados in the International Journal of Creative Media Research.

White's contribution

Much like Freeman, White’s research looks at the potential for interconnected and co-created media platforms to reimagine contested cultural histories – this time focused on walking arts practice and questions of social justice. Co-funded by Arts Council England and commissioned for Bath Festival Fringe in 2016, White’s practice-as-research established a new methodology for how to reinterpret contested histories – in this case, those of Bath’s slave-ownership and its memories of the Holocaust. White’s research blends a ‘walking-with’ strategy (Sundberg, 2014) with multiple forms of media, forming a walking arts practice designed to bring past injustices into present consciousness and to create contemporary resonances for those partaking in the walks. Developed across his Sweet Waters (2016-17) and Honouring Esther (2016-17) projects, White’s practice manifests as a shared corporeal experience on foot, one based on a rigorous participatory process for revealing the kinds of reluctant heritage that is layered through commemorative public spaces, places and texts.

The Multimedia Histories research project will be submitted as an Impact Case Study for REF2021 under Unit of Assessment 34.

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