Writer’s Retreat


Together with the research office at the University of Cape Town, Arlene organized and ran a research writing retreat at Mont Fleur, Stellenbosch, 1 – 3 November 2017. This writer’s retreat brought together 15 staff and students with a common interest in multimodal approaches to communication and pedagogy. The focus fell on writing for publication and working on PhD research.

Whilst enjoying the beautiful scenery of the winelands, and the lovely rain (and thunderstorms), we engaged with our own research as well as others. We began the retreat with a session facilitated by Zach Simpson from the University of Johannesburg. The session encouraged us to locate our current research within a broader frame. We thought (and wrote) about the following three questions:

  • What do you want to do in the next six months?
  • Where do you think your research is headed in the next 3 or 4 years?
  • Where does multimodality as a concept fit into these plans?

We agreed that the big questions (like climate change, or diversity, for example) need cross-disciplinarity. Multimodality offers a productive common metalanguage to talk across disciplines, as is evidenced in our group which comprises researchers from engineering, health sciences, science, statistics, humanities, social sciences.

Denise Newfield from Wits University ran a session that also tried to get us to think about our research in different ways, and to use everyday language to communicate the key concepts of the research. An interesting exercise required us to make up one word to sum up our research. Some of the words the people generated include: ‘resourcity’, ‘technogagement’, ‘knowflict’, ‘flexistand’.

Zach and Denise’s sessions, together with the unstructured time for writing, led to a wonderful balance between working on immediate deadlines as well as considering future research. All in all, the retreat was a great success, and we left feeling energized, stimulated and creative. This is what Denise Newfield had to say about the workshop:

The multimodality workshop at Mont Fleur brings together a group of academics young and older, who benefit from conversations about multimodal research with peers working in the same field. This is in itself a treasure and conducive to the stimulation of further research. In addition, there are opportunities to hear from experts, to read and critique one another’s work, and to write for publication. There is much valuable capacity building of emerging researchers and writers in this diverse group. A special ambience convened by co-ordinator Arlene encourages and facilitates valuable thinking and writing.

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