Birgitta Hosea is Course Director of MA Character Animation at CSM and Research Leader for the Centre for Performance. Birgitta edits an eclectic and engaging blog – Expanded Animation – that serves as a platform for ideas and reflection, and showcases students’ work as well as her own. She spoke to us about the motivation behind her blog, and how it now serves as a marketing and networking tool.
“We asked the students to keep a blog as part of their assessed project. Just like you would assess a sketchbook in the past, we are looking at their ideas in progress and their sketches, plus things they do outside of class that ordinarily we wouldn’t know about.
Because I asked the students to keep a blog, I thought I should keep one myself. That’s why I set it up initially and now I’ve been producing it for a year.
Expanded Animation – a meeting place for ideas
I thought it would be a pretty good online space for me to spread my ideas. For me, it’s really important to spread the idea that animation is not just a ‘Mickey Mouse subject’, that it can be highly complex and involve all sorts of different ideas. In the past animation has been treated like some trivial thing for children – not serious, and not academic. Now as a discipline we’re all trying to expand the idea of what the subject might be. Philosophy can meet storytelling can meet visual information design. Semiotics could meet ontology. Animation’s a meeting place for different disciplines and lots of different traditions and techniques. I find it quite exciting and it’s why I’ve called the blog ‘Expanded Animation’.
I started off wanting to spread this idea of animation being much more than people think it is and also wanted to post references to things I might have talked about in class, or shown quite briefly. I started posting YouTube clips. It grew, and soon I realised that I’m in a very privileged position – I live in London and I go out to lots of festivals, events and conferences all around the world. So I see some rare and obscure work and very interesting ideas. I thought that was a great place to start recording my experiences, and making connections.
I’d look up a YouTube clip for example and write a short summary, and then I started posting on the blog reflections and collections of things that I was seeing. I thought it was a really good way to share these ideas, but also for me to reflect and process this information; we’re all bombarded with new ideas all the time, and casting on to the next idea and the next and so on. This is a way for me to actually sit down and reflect on the work, which is what I ask my students to do. So I should do it myself!
Marketing the course globally
I then thought, well, this is a good place to showcase students’ work as well, so I started developing it as as a way to show the world my students’ projects. I started writing about their work and posting the blogs to Facebook. Lots of my friends on Facebook work at different colleges around the world, or they might be animators, so they would be interested. I also posted links to some educational forums as well; I have no idea how many people read it but I do know that educators in America are reading it and getting ideas for classes and A Level students are reading it! Every time the students do a new project, I will post about it, and that’s also really useful because when I’m approaching somebody who I want to do a project with, I can point to them relevant links – describing a project we did in the past – and they can instantly see what we did. So it’s good for marketing and developing contacts to do other projects. The blog is a really good way to promote the course – I am connecting the course with this idea of expanding animation.
Quick and easy
The blog is much quicker and easier to update than, for example, my website. It is so much more intuitive and I find I update the blog a couple of times a month, usually. It is more immediate. Obviously if you are sitting down writing something considered, that takes time. Sometimes a whole evening might have been spent on one post, but the actual time to upload is so much quicker than any website. Obviously for my subjects it is perfect because I can link to YouTube and Vimeo so easily – it’s great because you can just embed things into the blog as you go along.
Benefits for other practitioners
By building a web presence around a theme, you’re able to process all the information that you have to deal with and reflect on it, and you’re able to publicise your course. But you’re also able to publicise your own personal work, because you’re building up an audience for the other reasons. So it gives you a different audience for your own practice. I’ve found it very valuable indeed and am continuing to develop the blog.