Esther Cornelia Joosa nee Kok

Esther Cornelia Joosa nee Kok

Reference is made to the opportunity to attend the ISCAR Summer University 2011 and, herewith, I would like to apply for admission.  My name is Esther Joosa. I am originally from the Netherlands but have lived for the last 22 years in Singapore. My work in Singapore in education, in particular art education, spans over more than 20 years. I have worked with diverse populations in terms of age, race, gender and ability. I am currently enrolled as a PhD student with National Institute of Education (Singapore).  The focal point of my thesis is the argument that meaning-making is both a social and semiotic practice and the visual arts plays a significant role.

In my professional career I have gained a strong interest in issues of voice, identity and agency, diversity and communication. For me the education process is a constant search for ways and means to understand the complex nature of individual meaning-making and their context. My work in teaching and learning through visual art ignited my thinking about sign-making as both a social and semiotic process driven by complex interactions and influences. Over the past few years, I have gained a particular interest in cultural historical activity theory and semiotics.

My PhD study features a case study of a group of young adults in Singapore involved in their weekly activity of art-making. It is titled “Visual voices: A case study on the construction and communication of meaning mediated by visual art of a group of young adults with Down syndrome in Singapore”. It is based on my work as an art educator with individuals with Down syndrome prior to me joining the National Institute of Education (Singapore). In my PhD thesis I apply Cultural Historical Activity Theory merged with semiotic analysis to understand the complex mediating role of art in the process of meaning-making and communication. The analysis focuses on  data which were collected through in-situ h video observations over a period of six months. The analytical framework merges Activity Theory with semiotic analysis in order to understand the complex relationship between the object and intent.  I believe that a merged framework allows new understanding of the situated and semiotic nature of meaning-making and may offer new opportunities to meet current needs individuals with special needs, in particular in relation to sustainability, participation and belonging.

My PhD candidacy was confirmed in 2010. My main supervisor is Professor Susan Wright, presently Chair of Arts with the University of Melbourne and my present supervisor is Dr. Myra Bacsal. I do not have a scholarship for my PhD.  Although I am presently employed as a lecturer with National Institute of Education (NIE Singapore), my contract expires 01 June 2011. I will then resume being an independent researcher, lecturer and practitioner. All costs for both ISCAR Rome and if accepted for the summer school in Moscow will be borne by me personally.

Up to now I have presented parts of my PhD research at a variety of international conferences. I have won the Dean’s commendation of research (NIE, 2010) on a paper which investigates meaning-making through art of a young person with Down syndrome.  Two of my papers have been accepted for the ISCAR conference in Rome 2011(An oral presentation for the main conference and a poster presentation for the PHD day). The comments of the reviewers were very positive in particular about the directions of my work. However, there was some caution as to the complexity of the framework. Indeed I realize that my field is rather unique and still little explored. There are indeed many times I search for stronger insights into the development and application of activity theory.

It is therefore that I am excited about the opportunity provided by ISCAR to attend the lectures by leading Activity Theory scholars. I am elated that ISCAR SU has a focus on the areas of focus of my research I believe the attendance of the summer-school will allow me to clarify many outstanding questions on the application of a merger of Activity Theory with semiotic analysis.

I look forward to the your positive response and the opportunity to attend the summer university.