Blog Post

A fully online thesis as PhD

my inquiry into a digital wonderland

As a HASTAC Scholar I was a PhD candidate at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne in Australia. From the outset, I knew I was curating a digital space as thesis - a fully online digital research portfolio of my a/r/tographic practice. My methodologies and methods, are visual, and these visual practices require a site that opens the role that a reader plays as a participant to offer insight into the rhizomatic spaces of digital worlds. I also knew that I would have no text for print and no printed submission at all because my curated text is a visual practice that leads into and out of cut ethnographic video as method, a/r/ts based methods and poetic inquiry. I was also keen to disrupt and provoke the system to support a/r/tographers using video ethnography and digital portfolio based digital work and did not want to compromise. Professor Cathy Davidson and my HASTAC Scholar Mentor Dr Sheryl Grant and Supervisors A/Prof Wes Imms and Dr Marnee Watkins gave me a voice to say that I was doing things differently. 

And so, my thesis was a curated URL. It is a curated portfolio of collections of artworks, video and text (theoretical and narrative) created over 4 years. All a/r/tefacts affect the read of the other and could not be printed, they are entangled as an assemblage.

Proudly, I am now a graduate, having graduated in May, 2017 with a digital Doctor of Philosophy at The University of Melbourne. I was the first to upload a HML into MINERVA our research management system.  

Why Digital? The digital allowed me to curate a multi-modal living inquiry. To curate a digital collection of images, essays and ethnographic video, situated within embodied praxis. As a/r/tographer art making, narrative and learning design are an important component of the meaning making process for pedagogy. Created as a bricolage of creativity, my digital portfolio study HAD TO BE rendered in the excess of art, research and teaching in the digital.

It is a woven and intertwined personalised learning design, curated as a digital currere to invite creative affect through engagement with relational and rhizomatic learning and construct a new narrative for art education: A narrative of practice based pedagogies through a turn toward embodied praxis, a turn toward portfolio pedagogies, a turn toward a storied personalised curriculum and a turn to the digital for self discovery and creativity.

My thesis as digital portfolio was curated to invite my audience within the digital art encounter to co-participate in the co-construction of meaning for the curated objects and artist identity artefacts designed and composed in the site.

I wanted this curated space, designed and developed by an a/r/tographer gazing inwards, outwards and forward, to be a site of learning, teaching and re-search for the reader as a collaborative co-participant in a research project.

As a co-participant in this digital space, the digital reader as participant directs, designs and creates their own path in the digital rhizome, creating new paths, new shoots and roots into themselves. This could not achieved in a linear ebook or more traditional thesis. The digital enables the order to be created by the reader, therefore there is no literature review or chapters. You will note that it does not have a 'traditional' table of contents because of the digital nature. Digital spaces serve as rhizomatic sites and can be entered in any fashion, and look different on all devices, so I designed and curated the site to have multiple entries and perspectives in the space. I chose to render and curate my Portfolio for affect, for the collaborative discourse found in the gaps between auto-ethnography and ethnography to be rhizomatic and free from capture. My rhizomatic digital space is designed as a currere to allow the reader to experience their own ruptures and create a personalised response as they wander and gaze in my digital wonderland. Why? I want to invite readers to experience how creativity can be brought into secondary visual arts classrooms, through an embodied understanding of the self as artist in digital portfolios.

Here it is: Coleman, K.S. (2017). An a/r/tist in wonderland: Exploring identity, creativity and digital portfolios as a/r/tographer, Ph.D. dissertation, Melbourne Graduate School of Education, University of Melbourne, Australia, 2017. Retrieved from 



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