Creative Writing at UCA Farnham

Very pleased that Dr. Craig Jordan-Baker will be joining the UCA to work with me on the BA (Hons) Media and Creative Writing course.

UCA has been running creative writing workshops over the past 3 months. Here are some photos showing how enjoyable the sessions were.

Creative Writing workshop led by Jac Cattaneo (Northbrook College) on an applicants's information day

Creative Writing workshop led by Jac Cattaneo (Northbrook College) on an applicants’s information day

Creative Writing at UCA Farnham

Creative Writing at UCA Farnham

Creative Writing workshop led by Jac Cattaneo (Northbrook College) on an applicants's information day

Creative Writing workshop led by Jac Cattaneo (Northbrook College) on an applicants’s information day


Creative Writing workshop led by Jac Cattaneo (Northbrook College) on an applicants's information day

Creative Writing workshop led by Jac Cattaneo (Northbrook College) on an applicants’s information day

A participant read her work at the creative workshop led by Curtis Tappenden

A participant read her work at the creative workshop led by Curtis Tappenden

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An interview in the Farnham Connection

Louise Burke did a light-hearted interview with me back in January and the article is now published in the local magazine Farnham Connection, which was said to be “hand delivered to 6000 homes in Farnham and surrounding villages”. It was the first time I was asked to ‘name the most funny thing you did or said in your life’ and to recall ‘the best compliment you’ve ever had’ in an interview. Thought I’d put the text here for those of you who are not local to read something more about me.

The cover of the Farnham Connection Magazine, Issue 112, March 2014

The cover of the Farnham Connection Magazine, Issue 112, March 2014

Life and Times Profile

From Kaohsiung to Farnham – Dr Yuwei Lin

by Louise Burke

in Farnham Connection, Issue 112, March 2014, page 32-33

In this column my aim is to appeal to a broad range of people and interests and to demonstrate the colourful populous we have here in Farnham. This month is no different as we return to UCA Farnham to focus on one of its course leaders, Dr Yuwei Lin.

We know from a previous profile feature that the university is a major source of talent for the UK creative economy. Specialist undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in a broad range of disciplines combined with industry-standard facilities and top tuition, makes for a unique learning experience and was a key factor in Yuwei Lin joining the university in 2013. Yuwei was previously lecturing in Future Media at the University of Salford in Greater Manchester, a relatively short hop in comparison to the one that she made from her home country of Taiwan back in 2000.

Taiwan is an island located to the south of Japan and the west of China, with a population of 23 million. Yuwei was born and educated there until the age of 21 having completed a Diploma in Womens and Gender Studies followed by a BA Honours Degree in Economics at the National Taiwan University. The island has maintained a strong American influence after the second world war, and Yuwei always thought that she would end up there.

“Taiwan is a small island and I think if you live on an island there is always a thought about what lies across the sea that you can discover,” explains Yuwei. “Despite the obvious lure of the US when I came to the UK I instantly fell in love with it and have never looked back,” she adds.

Yuwei first came to the UK to study for her PhD in Sociology and believes she has much to thank her her PhD supervisor, Professor Andrew Webster, for. “He was willing to take the risk of supervising an overseas student who did not have a first degree in Sociology. Needless to say, Andrew has been a teacher, mentor, friend and role model ever since.”

Yuwei had a brief interlude in the Netherlands spending 12 months as a Post doctoral Research Fellow at the Vrije Universiteit’s Business School. She then moved to the School of Social Sciences at the University of Manchester, where she spent three years as a Research Associate. Yuwei’s belief was that she would one day be a journalist because she loves to get to the bottom of a story or situation. She also has an inherent passion for digital media cultures so it was no surprise when she landed up as a Future Media lecturer at the University of Salford.

I hope from what I’ve told that you are beginning to paint a picture in your minds as to the sort of person Yuwei is. Having studied and carried out a number of research projects in this area it’s probably fair to say that she has more than just a passing interest in the ethical debate.

Her move to UCA Farnham took place towards the end of 2013 and it’s worth expanding on Yuwei’s decision in her own words, “I have been used to larger universities but UCA is different, it’s smaller but much more focused in the courses that it delivers. The environment is cosy yet creative and inspirational. I felt an instant connection and in a relatively short space of time I have already developed a strong sense of affection for the place.”

Yuwei is the Course Leader for BA (Hons) Media and Communications and BA (Hons) Media and Creative Writing, and her aim is to develop UCA’s profile in these areas in order to attract students onto its courses for the next academic year.

So where does Yuwei get her inspiration to educate others? “I feel a wonderful sense of satisfaction when a student tells me that they have learnt something new or I have guided them to think in a different way. I also love researching new topics and engaging with colleagues from different backgrounds so that I can build on my knowledge and learn new techniques.”

All work and no play would make Yuwei a dull girl but that she isn’t. A regular at Farnham Scottish Country Dancing Club she also enjoys running and says her favourite weekend activity is hiking followed by a tasty Sunday Lunch. Although reluctant to boast about her own ability it appears that Yuwei is a more than competent musician and plays the piano, violin, trumpet and drums – she would one day like to play in a Jazz band.

Despite being highly organised in her professional life Yuwei owns up to being hopelessly forgetful in her personal life and likes nothing more than a good joke, she is an avid watcher of Have I Got News for You and Mock the Week. Just like a large number of her compatriots, and to her dissatisfaction, she is often mistaken for being Chinese – “It makes me a lot more aware of others and I am very quick not to draw conclusions from the way people look or speak.”

So what’s next for Yuwei? In the fast moving digital age it’s fitting that she would like to expand contemporary practice of Social Media among her students by encouraging them to put the creative skills that they learn to use in real life environments. To this note she is actively seeking to work with local businesses and community organisations. So, if you would be interested in participating please contact Yuwei via her UCA email (YLin21@ucreative.ac.uk).

And finally is there a piece of advice that Yuwei can give to aspiring students? “Be open-minded and never underestimate yourself, trust your own judgement and have an enquiring mind. Above all learn to develop your own style and turn it into reality.” Good advice I think – thanks Yuwei and good luck.

Farnham Connection Magazine Interview with Yuwei Lin, Issue 112, March 2014

Farnham Connection Magazine Interview with Yuwei Lin, Issue 112, March 2014

The Ultimate Flood Survival Guide

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, 5pm, the UCA staff and students will be staging a cyberformance titled ‘The Ultimate Flood Survival Guide’ at the University for the Creative Arts, Farnahm, W02 and the Foyer Gallery, and online at Upstage. You are cordially invited to join us at Farnham or online for this performance, which is a surreal and satirical response to the recent UK Flood.

The Ultimate Flood Survival Guide, an University for the Creative Arts - Upstage production, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, Thursday 13 March 2014, 5-6 PM.

The Ultimate Flood Survival Guide, an University for the Creative Arts – Upstage production, University for the Creative Arts, Farnham, Thursday 13 March 2014, 5-6 PM.

This piece is one of the outcomes of Helen Varley Jamieson‘s creative residency at the UCA, Farnham (3-14 March 2014). It is a collaboration between the artist in residence, and UCA staff and students, remixing, re-contextualising many assets created by the UCA staff and students, as well as other Upstage users.

A theme ‘flood’ was summoned to respond not only to the recent flood disaster in the UK, but also to another exhibition currently happening at UCA FarnahmFacing Extinction: Gustav Metzger.

To demonstrate the idea of distributed performance (which is one of the distinct natures of cyberformance), and to dialogue with the ‘Facing Extinction’ exhibition, the live performance will be projected concurrently on the gallery wall at the foyer. The ‘liveness’, ‘rareness’ and ‘short lived’ (or some might add ‘disposable’) characters of the performance, and the theme “Flood’, all contribute to making ‘The Ultimate Flood Survival Guide’ a perfect echo to the Facing Extinction: Gustav Metzger. – around the ideas of ‘disposal’ and ‘death’ and ‘disaster’.

In the following days, I shall reflect the production process with the artist in residence – Helen Varley Jamieson – and post our reflection here. Til then.

BVE2014

I visited BVE2014 ExCeL London last week. It was my first time visiting this broadcast and production technology exhibition. The three-day event featured a lot of panel discussion and talks about both technical aspects of media production and also content making.

It was eye opening to see so many cutting-edge products, services and technologies for taking content from conception to consumption. Camera manufacturers made the exhibition like a motor show – see below for the photographs of the turning motorbike camera display.

Motorbikes and Cameras

Aerial filming drones have become popular.

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Screens are no longer confined by black-box monitors; screens can be everywhere – through projection. And Through projection, one can also manipulate the light and interact with the objects on the ‘screen’ – as seen in the film ‘Minority Report‘. Moving objects on an intangible, touchless screen is no longer just sci-fi; it has become a reality, as Coolux‘s Pandoras Box, a media and show control system, shows (distributed by tmb in the UK).

Moving objects on an intangible, touchless screen

Moving objects on an intangible, touchless screen

The Production Theatre attracted the most of the audience, especially when it was about how to secure funding and how to build network. Look – there was no way into the theatre – it’s packed!

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A fully packed Production Theatre at BVE 2014, Friday 28 Feb 2014

A fully packed Production Theatre at BVE 2014, Friday 28 Feb 2014

The talk by the executive producer and the camerawoman Justine Evans of BBC documentary Wild Burma was fascinating. They shared the experience of going to Burma to film this documentary in collaboration with a group of scientists. The socio-environmental, political and scientific impacts this documentary makes are immense – both locally as well as internationally. The production team has discovered new habitats of the elephants, and the black market selling animal parts (controlled by some Chinese warlords).

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I had also seen good-quality movies at the 4K Theatre. But as many of us are aware, technologies can shape the future of content, but having a good idea, engrossing storyline is more important than making 4K films. Often, the budget endowed will dictate what equipments one has access to. And a good film does not need 4K; 2K or HD would do. While 4K is new to me, people are already talking about 8K.

Covering everything from camera accessories, film locations finding services (there’s one at Hampshire), to 360 workflow solutions, BVE offered the chance to gain hands-on experience and insight to inspire creativity, support business and help shape the future of content. The Skills Zones, for example, was great for junior media professionals (to learn to compose their portfolios and their CVs). I think this is a fieldtrip I can arrange for my students next year.

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

BVE2014

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Asperger Syndrome Awareness

I have encountered quite a few students with autistic spectrum conditions in the UK HE. They were all male with Asperger Syndrome. This could be because the courses I have taught were predominately attractive to males. While I have helped many students, I have to admit that I have not had a formal training about how to support people with autistic spectrum conditions until yesterday. It could not be more timely to learn more about asperger syndrome given the recent news about the murder of Andrew Young who had Asperger’s syndrome.

The instructor, Sarah, from Hendrickx Associates told us that, usually, people with Asperger Syndrome have poorer short-term memory (but excellent long-term memory), slower information processing, slow at responding to intuitive conversation. They don’t know much about social cues, and they usually lack bigger picture, flexibility. They are not good at adapting to changes; they tend like to apply rules, seek certainty, need parameters, something that can help them predict outcomes / consequences. They need to know what happens next.

Knowing this piece of information is really helpful. Now I understand why some of my students struggled with team work. Usually it was not because they themselves could not complete their tasks on time; it was more like they could not cope with the changes during the course of the project. For example, if some team members’ circumstances changed and the whole project needed to be re-focused and re-planned, they could not adapt that quickly. In other words, students with Asperger Syndrome would struggle with ‘agile management’, when everything was up in the air and needed to be managed in an agile manner.

Sarah also told us that people with Asperger Syndrome tend to take things literally. They are not great team players because their lack of empathy (what the instructor called ‘the theory of mind’. It’s hard for them to compromise and negotiate. They could appear to be selfish because they don’t know much about others and about social rules. They don’t have ability to put self in someone else’s position. It’s hard for them to understand that others may have their own thoughts and feelings and we need to see perspectives of others. They usually like to predict and infer behaviours. Sometimes they could be seen as ‘selfish’ or ‘unempathic’, or lack of ‘remorse’. They are practical; top priority is to solve the problem, not being emotional. If someone is crying, they would give them a tissue, instead of a hug. As a result, it was hard for them to understand why some people could not complete their tasks on time.

To help the students with Asperger Syndrome with team work, it is important to let them have routines and a defined role. They like schedules – just like the young character by the name of Errol in the BBC comedy ‘Uncle‘ who has OCD and seems to be on the autistic spectrum. They can role learning, learn different tutors, they need advance warning – allowing them to prepare. Making things visual and making things concrete will help them (verbal communication is too changeable and abstract to them). When everything is black and white on paper, they know it’s concrete and it’s the rule / instruction. They can trust what you say then. But here comes another problem – a role defined or a routine establish in the beginning of the project will not stay the same over the course of the project. Often, we need to multi-task – in a student team of four developing a computer video game, the team members may play various different roles. For example, a programmer may also need to do a bit game design or project manage. It is difficult for the students with Asperger Syndrome to grasp the idea of ‘agile management’. They are easily overloaded and suffer anxiety and stress.

We usually assume that a room full of colours would reflect the creative arts and media environment the best, but the instructor pointed out that this kind of room is the most unfriendly one to people with Asperger Syndrome because they don’t like any unexpected sensory  (may it be noise, touch, taste, smell, movement). So a room with less distractions, less stimulus (less colourful, less bright) is good. The fashionable ‘open plan’ office, increasingly popular in a design studio or co-working environment, is not friendly to people with ASD.

Despite having poorer short term memory, they have excellent memory for facts (great long term memory). So being a tutor, we need to make a student with ASD realise they are a big fish in a small fish bowl. Their specialist knowledge will earn respect from mates, and become their strength.

If they forgot something, it’s not deliberate. They are easily overloaded, smaller capacity, and usually poorer short term memory.

The sessions also leave us with lots of questions. For example, where do students with ASD socialise (if canteen is too noisy for them, where can they go and relax)? Whether male students with ASD behave different from the female?

I think it’s invaluable when the instructor pointed out to me that what I called ‘they’ is not a totalitarian ‘they’. Every individual student is unique; they have different needs and have different conditions. I should never think that there is one single solution for ‘them’. But it’s good to be mindful of these possible conditions.

I wondered how Asperger Syndrome is diagnosed? Feels like a lot of people living in modern urban environments suffering from anxiety and stress could fit into the description of ASD as well. Perhaps, we are all a little bit autistic. Perhaps, we are all a little bit mental. Perhaps, we are all a little bit mad. It’s all about being mindful about the surroundings, how we manage, deal with these conditions. I’d definitely recommend fellow course leaders to attend such trainings in the future.

The Future of Theory in Art Schools

How ‘theory’ should be taught in art schools is a much discussed topic ever since I joined the University for the Creative Arts. At UCA, regular CTX (Contextual Studies) group meetings are organised for tutors to exchange knowledge, share experiences, discuss issues emerging from teaching and learning cultural theories across the University. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “Contextual Studies”, basically it’s about contextualising historical and critical studies in arts subjects (such as fashion design, photography, film production, craft etc.). It forms an important part of arts and design education as it helps developing students’s research, analytic, conceptual and deductive skills.

A symposium I attended recently, co-organised by UCA and RCA and taking place at ICA (are you getting confused yet about so many -CA acronyms? I am!), dedicated to this very topic of the future of ‘theory’ in Arts and Design Schools?

In the morning session chaired by UCA’s Dr. Roni Brown, Steve Smith (Westminster), Judith Brocklehurst (IoE, University of London) and Mirko Nikolic (Westminster) proposed some interesting concepts to capture the dualism of body-mind / practice-theory. For example, Steve Smith considers “theory as art work”; developing theory is as if creating a piece of art work. But a question from the audience challenged this perhaps idealised analogy: does every practitioner want to theorise or is every practitioner capable of developing theory alongside their practice. Perhaps practice-based research is an over-hyped or over-sold concept? I suggested, upon my joining in the debate, that theorising or conceptualising is not an easy task for even a theorist, and a critical distance and an efficient communication channel are required to allow reflection, constructive dialogue and collaboration between theorists and practitioners.

Session 1, on stage from left to right: Judith Brocklehurst (IoE, University of London),  Roni Brown (UCA), Steve Smith (Westminster), Mirko Nikolic (Westminster)

Session 1, on stage from left to right: Judith Brocklehurst (IoE, University of London), Roni Brown (UCA), Steve Smith (Westminster), Mirko Nikolic (Westminster)

Session 1, on stage from left to right: Judith Brocklehurst (IoE, University of London),  Roni Brown (UCA), Steve Smith (Westminster), Mirko Nikolic (Westminster)

Session 1, on stage from left to right: Judith Brocklehurst (IoE, University of London), Roni Brown (UCA), Steve Smith (Westminster), Mirko Nikolic (Westminster)

On stage from left to right:  Annie Davey (IoE, University of London),  Chantal Faust (RCA), Emily LaBarge (RCA), Zoë Mendelson (CSM)

On stage from left to right: Annie Davey (IoE, University of London), Chantal Faust (RCA), Emily LaBarge (RCA), Zoë Mendelson (CSM)

On stage from left to right:  Annie Davey (IoE, University of London),  Chantal Faust (RCA), Emily LaBarge (RCA), Zoë Mendelson (CSM)

On stage from left to right: Annie Davey (IoE, University of London), Chantal Faust (RCA), Emily LaBarge (RCA), Zoë Mendelson (CSM)

The debate became more heated in the afternoon as the controversial question ‘should universities award ‘practice-based PhD’ was under discussion. Peter Osborne (Kingston) shared some acute observation about current arts and design education (especially on the concept ‘transdisciplinarity’). He pointed out several inconsistencies in the delivery and the rationale. Here’s just one issue he talked about:

Transdisciplinarity would be hard to achieve if there is no specialism. Arts are considered as transcendental and cross-discipline (e.g., sociology of arts, psychology of arts, history of arts, philosophy of arts etc.) because artists have specialist skills. Theory simply does not fit in arts and design education at the moment. The generic character of contemporary arts is that amongst other things the contextual is also constitutive. They are not in a sense necessary; they are constitutive in the actual sense. But the naming of art institutions or courses seems to suggest theory is contextual, supplementary to study practice. When questioned if he was trying to police the boundary, he said:

“The function of a PhD by practice will mean there’s no artist in art schools. I think that’s very serious. I think that’s a totality. Art schools in the last 50 years at least are not training ‘academic painters’. Exemplary of practice cannot be reduced to a rule that’s teach-able. So what do you teach when teaching arts? My view is that you should never teach arts. You can help people to produce arts, put them in certain relation with arts, but if you try to teach it, it’s kind of over. I think it’s kind of what’s happened. There’s dual-structuralism. But why practice has to take this form of (PhD)?”

Julie Louise Bacon also spoke of the need of re-inventing art pedagogy so that arts education is not normalised. Having completed one herself, Bacon is all for ‘practice-based PhD’. But, she thought currently there is too much emphasis on ‘practice-based PhD’ as a certificate, rather than on what ‘practice-based PhD’ really is about – “embodiment of thinking processes”, about “embodied knowledge”, “epistemology of bodies”.

“[Practice-based PhD] is a test, it’s a dialogue, a contract between an individual, the institution and the field. It’s not just about the certificate. I think it’s wrong-headed to place the emphasis on the certificate. I
think it’s far too reductive.”

The last session featuring Marquard Smith, Henk Slager (Utrecht), Rebecca Fortnum (Middlesex), Alison Green and Rosie Ram (CSM), Adrian Rifkin (London)

The last session featuring Marquard Smith, Henk Slager (Utrecht), Rebecca Fortnum (Middlesex), Alison Green and Rosie Ram (CSM), Adrian Rifkin (London)

The discussion has become really profound: the question about theory-arts has been turned into a body-mind question. Think about this: from Greek philosophers to modern days arts school educators, we are pondering the same question: how body and mind can be united as one. How about getting students to play ‘chess boxing‘? Surely that would be enlightening?

I walked out of ICA and into the busy London. Inevitably, I took some tourist photographs (see below). Did the drive for clicking the camera shutter reflect any intellectual thoughts in my mind at that moment? Only partially, I think.

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) at night

Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) at night

London at night - taken in front of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)

London at night – taken in front of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)

London at night - taken in front of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)

London at night – taken in front of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)

Trafalgar square at night

Trafalgar square at night

Big Ben at night on 25 January 2014

Big Ben at night on 25 January 2014

London on 25 January 2014 (view from Westminster Bridge)

London on 25 January 2014 (view from Westminster Bridge)

London Eye on 25 January 2014 (view from Westminster Bridge)

London Eye on 25 January 2014 (view from Westminster Bridge)

Appy New Year

Manchester Girls Geek first Tea Party in 2014 was an Appy New Year event at TeckHub Manchester. Sarah Lawrey demonstrated how to use AppShed, a web-based, drag-and-drop environment for building apps (so no programming skills are really needed, though an idea of how apps work would be helpful).

The event was well-attended (tickets sold out!) – about 30 enthusiasts were there, and the majority of them were girls and women, as expected. Participants have built ‘My Face’ featuring fav make-up colours of a face, ‘Camera Photography Tips app’, ‘Fish app’ with different types of fishes. 

There are many tutorials available on the internet for example this Welcome introductory YouTube video. Also, if you need some icons for your apps, there is iconarchive.com While there are lots of resources and tools on the Internet, the key ingredient for a killer app is a creative idea. 

As usual, tea and coffee and home-baked cakes (including fresh apples and apple-pear pie (for it’s an Appy event!), chocolate beetroot brownie) were provided and had kept everyone hacking away. 

The event has, yet again, been fun – thanks to all the volunteers and foremostly Katie Steckles who made this possible. Way to go.

Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014, TechHub Manchester, Katie Steckles introducing the event.

Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014, TechHub Manchester, Katie Steckles introducing the event.

Katie Steckles introducing the Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014 at TechHub Manchester

Katie Steckles introducing the Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014 at TechHub Manchester

Sarah Lawrey demonstrating AppShed

Sarah Lawrey demonstrating AppShed

Sarah Lawrey demonstrating AppShed

Sarah Lawrey demonstrating AppShed

Sarah Lawrey demonstrating AppShed

Sarah Lawrey demonstrating AppShed

On this table, there are fish app, face app, camera tips app being hatched...

On this table, there are fish app, face app, camera tips app being hatched…

Geek girls are especially beautiful when they work hard concentrating on problem-solving

Geek girls are especially beautiful when they work hard concentrating on problem-solving

Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014 at TechHub Manchester

Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014 at TechHub Manchester

Food that went with the Appy theme

Food that went with the Appy theme

No description is needed...

No description is needed…

Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014 at TechHub Manchester

Appy New Year Manchester Girls Geek 2014 at TechHub Manchester