19 May 2009

Third seminar details

Seminar 3

Organised by Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts, Middlesex University, held at London Knowledge Lab.

Download the programme for the day (one-page PDF file, 40k).

Following the successful formula of the previous two seminars, the day combined personal case studies with in-depth investigations of key issues.

  • Prof. Stephen Scrivener University of the Arts, London
  • Prof. David Durling Art and Design Research Institute, Middlesex University
  • Prof. Carol Costley Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University
  • Dr. Stephen Boyd Davis Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts, Middlesex University
  • Helen Bendon Lansdown Centre, Middlesex University
  • Dr. Ralf Nuhn Lansdown Centre, Middlesex University

Prof. David Durling Art and Design Research Institute, Middlesex University
Practice in the Design PhD: the debate so far.

With the ink still wet on his PhD certificate, [Dr] David Durling entered the academy in 1996 as a research director in a School of Art and Design. Umpteen research publications, several successful completions, two jobs and a wife later, he reflects upon more than a decade of rescue supervision and endless debates about researchy things, often confused and sometimes remarkably simple.


Dr. Stephen Boyd Davis
Lansdown Centre for Electronic Arts, Middlesex University. Defending the Thesis: why the written thesis is now a better idea than ever.



The written thesis is under attack. This presentation defends it against some of the principal objections popularly made. The argument is based on considering the "power of the word" in particular ways, above all that the written thesis is a visual medium (with the important affordances that this confers) and that the world digital environment in which each thesis is now situated means that the old objections to the unread dusty volume on the library shelf are a thing of the past.


Helen Bendon Lansdown Centre, Middlesex University.
Practice as Research: a personal account of a practice-based contribution to an ESRC project.

Helen undertook a creative residency with Vivacity2020 in 2006/7. This EPSRC funded research consortium engaged in a five year study of urban sustainability and the 24 hour city. One of two artists selected to work alongside academics, architects, town planners, social scientists and public agencies, Helen made a body of new video work. It was the intention that the inclusion of artists would assist in providing innovative and interactive ways of engaging the public with the research, and would broaden the perspective on issues of change and progressive urban developments. This presentation uses the experiences with the Vivcaity2020 project to explore issues around creative research methodologies and how these sit within a wider interdisciplinary research project.


Dr. Ralf Nuhn Lansdown Centre, Middlesex University.
Theory and practice in the PhD: a personal reflection.

This presentation focuses on my mixed-mode PhD in Media Arts, completed in autumn 2006.

I commence with a video recording of the key practical project for my thesis, UNCAGED, which is a series of six interactive installations aiming to bridge the gap between the screen-based worlds of computers and their immediate physical surroundings (see www.telesymbiosis.com). This is followed by a discussion of UNCAGED's contextualization within a broader theoretical framework ranging from aesthetic considerations, scientific and philosophical concepts, the particular role of sound to human computer interaction (HCI). I then describe how my critical engagement with the work, largely informed by Jean Baudrillard’s conception of the "real" and the "virtual", has resulted in a new heightened sensitivity regarding the role of digital technology in my artistic practice and has strongly influenced my subsequent artistic creations. (This is, at least, my argument within the narrative of my written thesis).

The subsequent part of my presentation problematizes two related notions regarding my sentiments about my own PhD as well as mixed-mode PhDs more generally. First, I (simply) question the adequateness of academic regulations concerning the actual format of mixed-mode PhDs, in particular the requirement for the thesis to fit on a library shelf, which inevitably seems to obscure the practical dimension of the work. Second, I discuss the relationship between the written and the practical part from a more theoretical perspective arguing that, at least in some cases, the former might just be an unnecessary "interface" narrowing the richness of the practical work within very clearly defined limits and, thus, becoming a mere academic exercise.


Prof. Carol Costley Institute for Work Based Learning, Middlesex University.
On the distinction (if any) between doctorates which are research qualifications and those which are qualifications in advanced practice.



Since the early 1990’s work based learning (WBL) has been developing in UK universities within subject disciplines and also outside disciplinary frameworks as a field of study in it own right. Both forms of WBL (as a mode of study and as a field of study), have developed pedagogies that have moved away from more traditional approaches. In some part this can be attributed to the mature adult community who are attracted to part-time courses that incorporate study into their work rather than a learning experience unrelated to working life. However, the developing pedagogies also relate to a wider, more transdisciplinary reflection of a knowledge-based society.

Following the successful institution of WBL ‘taught’ degrees at Bachelor and Master levels the natural progression was to introduce work-based doctorates. Professional doctorates had already started to increase in the UK and in the late 1990’s the Doctorate in Professional Studies sometimes called Professional Practice (DProf. sometimes called Prof D.) was introduced. The DProf is aimed at the actual work activities and circumstances of people engaged in high-level professional practice. Candidates already have considerable expertise in their work and their work-based research and development projects are likely to draw upon knowledge from a range of fields and also on tacit and professional knowledge. The Candidates’ situatedness outside the academic sphere brings about a balance of activity, focus and control between the academic and the professional environments.

Drawing mainly on the DProf., the presentation explores how postgraduate WBL works in higher education and there is some consideration of its academic underpinning (Costley and Stephenson 2008). There is discussion concerning generic assessment criteria; the structure of the doctoral programme; the kinds of research and development projects undertaken by the candidates; and the learning and teaching processes which are ‘essentially concerned with the individual and their own practice’ (Scott et al 2004).


Prof. Stephen ScrivenerUniversity of the Arts, London.
Artistic and designerly research: articulated transformational practice.



Starting from a discussion of the conditions of research, as suggested by dictionary and institutional definitions, this paper identifies and elucidates the symptoms indicative of research that provide the grounds for criteria that function as rules or tests for judging something as research, and on that basis approving or disapproving of it as such. These conditions and criteria provide an inclusive framework that accommodates differences between interpretative frameworks and between the research method demanded by a particular research project and the given interpretative framework in which it operates. Artistic and designerly research, it is argued, should also exhibit these symptoms and hence be subject to the same rules and tests. This being the case, why qualify research by the term artistic or designerly? What might be the additional or special symptoms and associated evaluative criteria of such research? To explore this question three ways of thinking about the relationship between the work of art and design and works of art and design, as described by Frayling (1993), i.e., research into, through and for art and design, are explored.

It is concluded that neither research into art or through art and design merit the qualification artistic of designerly research. However, it is argued that research for art, i.e., cognitively surprising artistic and design interventions that expand knowledge and understanding of the nature and scope of art and design, does merit this distinction because it implies additional subject specific symptoms and criteria. Research for art and design, it is proposed, claims material interventions that transform what is apprehended as art and design, concurrent with claims to knowledge of the manner in which art and design has thereby been transformed. Consequently, four additional symptoms of research for art and design are identified: transformational art and design is claimed and produced such that correspondence is instantiated between the cognitive adjustment achieved in its apprehension and the claims made for that apprehension as yielding an expanded understanding of art and design.

Download the text Prof. Scrivener's talk here

You may be interested to see the kinds of PhDs undertaken at the Lansdown Centre.

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marry said...
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