Monday, June 13, 2011

Sexting, Cell Phones and Arts-Based Research

I am currently serving as qualitative researcher on a three-state study of youth views of sexting.  We are just finishing up the youth focus groups, moving into analysis, and getting ready to plan for the adult focus groups in the fall. 

In working on this project, I can't help but think about it from the perspective of arts-based research.  What are the possibilities for thinking with arts-based approaches to this subject.

My primary medium is felt--one of the world's oldest, slowest, most primitive textile techniques.  [And some mixed media].  This is the antithesis of the world that the cell phone typifies (the technology most closely associated with sexting).  Cell phone worlds are fast, quickly shifting...I would even say 'itchy'.  Click, click, click, move on.  Felt is fuzzy, soft, foldable, rollable, of many shapes and sizes.  Cell phones are small, hard, and while they have variety--they most often appear in our minds as little rectangles with shiny digital surfaces. 

My interest in applying art to cell phone got me looking online for what is out there.  I didn't realize how much cell phone clip art exists.  I didn't know anything about cell phone charms...and cell skins (some designs I found were taken from Miami Ink artists!).  I found artists that were making new kinds of installations with discarded cell phones, people who were creating drawings inspired by the inner workings of cell phones, and gallery installations that were created through cell phones--photographs or other capacities.  I cllipped out all the pictures and cartoons of cell phones from copies of my old New Yorkers (as you can tell I was really getting serious!)

I thought about the ways that cell phones and bodies interact.  At first I focused on hands--how do hands hold the cell phone.  I thought of the way that bodies appear in cell phones.  Self-pictures that leave our faces and smiles distorted.  The way that we accidentally snap a part of us (half a head, a foot, etc.) as we try to figure out the camera. 

So, I am clearly on my way to the next, new thing--the cell phone project.  How is it going to intersect with youth views of sexting?  I'm not sure...but it is ready to evolve. 

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