A participant’s agency: finding their potential in the possibility of choice

By Dr T J Bacon


The traditionally refined and arguably homogenised academic text is the manifestation of normative ableism expressed through the conventions of its written medium. So, whenever I approach formal academic texts I attempt to explore the modality of the writing as a means to activate the words beyond the page. I have an ongoing concern that ‘acceptable’ traditional academic approaches to research modalities must be challenged as they represent a certain privileged few that should no longer remain the dominant gatekeepers of what is and is not considered as valued thought. Often this prevailing and ignorant view is systemic of micro-aggressive violence against marginalised voices. New and alternative ways of presenting research and collegiately utilising the (currently problematic) blind-peer-review process to celebrate those often excluded from the academic scholarly systems must be fought for! I therefore find myself advocating for the reclamation of the written word, not to be forgotten but to become radically transgressive in the face of a system that violently seeks to homogenise all voices.

Recently I finalised my book An Introduction to the Phenomenology of Performance Art which utilises a multimodal design to empower the reader in how they choose to experience it. Opening the possibility for circular, linear, fractured and non-linear approaches to reading. I designed this as I wanted the book to reflect the transgressive unrepeatable nature of the art-form it was introducing its readers to, as well expand the significance of their active participation as an audience. I wanted to invite a playfulness that would allow the reader to decide upon which mode they may want to read first and in what order. This would expose the phenomenological resonance between artist and spectator that is integral to the shared investment one experiences through performance. Ensuring that the reader could open up the book anywhere to encounter their own unique experience each time without the worry to be right or wrong in the decisions they would make was vital to an introductory text.

Such activation is central to the Middlesex University approach to FUTURES 2020-2023. Building from the success of Intellectual Output 2 (IO2), which focused upon empowering participants abilities to embrace uncertainty, we now move towards IO3. This tackles how younger workshop participants, in high-school, sixth-form and college, can work to define a professional and personal development strategy. It is therefore vital that our approach to playfulness empowers the participant to make choices that suit them. Like the format of my recent book, we want everyone who encounters workshops from IO3 to have a sense that just because the world can seem to function in one way, it does not mean it has to continue to operate this way.

We have the opportunity to empower a new generation to embrace disruption within the safety of the workshop environment to explore choices that can inform what the future could inclusively become. During the pandemic, communities spoke of a return to normal, but it often felt like ruling hegemonies reminiscing for a status-quo that was inconsiderate of intersectionality or diversity. The marginalised individual in this context would therefore suffers at the hands of normative societal models. It is the hope of Middlesex University’s approach to IO3 that we ensure that young people who stand at the crossroads of career decisions can envisage themselves and their communities in positions of significance. That they can identify the skills vital to disrupt the status quo and that they will go on to occupy professional environments at the highest level relative to their vision and their values.


Dr T J Bacon




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