moodboard as method?

I’m very excited to be taking part in a methods workshop for PhD students and early career researchers, to be held in the Ringkøbing-Skern municipality on the west coast of Denmark on 18-22 June 2018. There’s more information here and you can apply here.

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It’s the third in a series organised by Anette Markham, Anne-Marit Waade and Kat Tiidenberg, and as the series is called Visuality, Culture, Method, I imagine a fair few readers of this post might be interested.

There’ll be lots of activities to develop participants’ visual research methods, but the one that most intrigues me is the design of a moodboard as “a speculative, future oriented method for making sense of, analyzing and visualizing culture”.

Mention of a moodboard immediately makes me think of the advice given by interior design magazines for ‘tasteful’ home decorating: create a moodboard of materials, colours, objects. I guess it’s a kind of collage, but one that has perhaps rather less didactic intent than many academic uses of collage. Its aim is not to place contradictory images in relation as a form of critique, but rather to layer things together to create, well, a mood. This seems an interesting model in relation to the ongoing interest in affect and atmospheres. I’d love to see what participants in the workshop do with this as an analytical tool.

The idea of a moodboard also reminds me of the digital equivalent: Pinterest.

Pinterest seems to me to be shamefully understudied as a social media platform. I’m pretty sure there’ll be technical reasons for this lack of attention: quite how you’d scrape the front end stream of images I don’t know. Particularly as they appear to me to be closely related to the sorts of things that an individiual user searches for and pins onto their boards (those pesky algorigthms): so each stream will be different for each user. And then there are the boards created by users, some of which are public but many of which are private.

There are also the difficulties in analysing large numbers of digital images. To what should your method be attentive: content? Colour? How do you sample? Should you sample?

I also wonder if there are other reasons for the neglect of Pinterest though. It has a very high proportion of female users, and much of it is devoted to feminised concerns: domestic design, relationship advice, fashion, weird cures for fixing bad skin or flab. (There’s also a professional design/architecture engagement with Pinterest which is less visible to me, given what I use it for.) Does this also contribute to the lack of attention it’s received?

Which raises the question, how will a method based on moodboard gain credibility and traction? I very much look forward to exploring these questions – and I’m sure many more – in June.

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