UCA has had a new media identity called ‘We Create’. But we not only create, we also transform. The video graffiti workshops led by the Finnish documentary director and video artist, Soile Mottisenkangas, have transformed UCA Farnham quad yard, classroom, and the James Hockey Gallery. For example, the BA students on Digital Films and Screen Arts projected films (slow documentary-style abstract films, gig video recording, still images) onto different surfaces in classrooms, on smooth wall or on ventilation grilles to generate different effects and atmospheres. Students have also ‘dialogued’ with the Kawaii exhibition at the James Hockey Gallery, by projecting the videos to different installations. This has (re-)created some profound artworks: a mentally trapped man speaking on a bleeding toy bear, a mademoiselle interacting with a boy and his dogs, Farnham castle being displayed alongside Japanese-style tower, spliting the projection through the cascading sakura rain. On a rainy day, instead of going for a longer tour around Farnham, we explored UCA Farnham quad yard, by projecting videos onto a bucket collecting rain fall, pools of water on the ground, walls inside and outside a shed. By projecting videos onto different surfaces at different locations, new meanings have been generated. The everyday space at UCA has been transformed into a theatre platform where people play and interact. These video projections. can be considered as digital performance, that create interaction and new meanings. They are temporal, but the transformative effect on next generation video artists and media professionals, I believe, is immensely long-term and tenacious.
Soile Mottisenkangas is undertaking her residency at UCA Farnham this week. She has given a couple of lectures on slow tv and Nordic documentary (poetic, character-driven documentaries). In addition, she also introduced the concept of ‘video graffiti’, and led a tour of mobile screening of short films at Farnham. Using the Philips PicoPix PPX4350 WiFi Portable Projectors, we redefined where a screen is, and explored how meanings of images change when images are re-located. We have engaged MA students in the School of Film and Media and MFA Photography, BA students in Animation, Media & Communications, Media & Creative Writing, Digital Film and Screen Arts. The locations we explored include UCA Farnham Quad, Lion and Lamb Yard, St. Andrew’s Church, Farnham Library. Lots of interesting works have emerged from these workshops. It’s been an interesting journey with these young promising creative colleagues at UCA.
I was invited to participate in a panel discussion at the (short but interesting) international conference on Education and Media in Sofia, Bulgaria today. The event was organised by the media group Bulgaria On Air in cooperation with Bloomberg TV. I was joined by Veselin Vackov (Director of Lidove noviny at Czech Republic),Barçın Inanc (opinions editor (op-ed) and journalist at Hürriyet Daily News in Turkey), and Massimiliano Dibitonto (CTO of madsign.biz in Rome).
With the popularity of free online course materials such as MIT’s OpenCourseWare and Open University’s MOOC, or the paid content (educational projects) that Lidove noviny or Lynda have been developing, why should people go to university (especially given the sky high tuition fee in the UK)? My talk addressed this concern. I shared my observation about the contemporary media industry, and the pedagogical philosophy and approaches we have developed at UCA Farnham to modern media education delivery. Essentially, I’d like to equip students the knowledge and analytical skills to reflect and think critically, the ability to proactively participate in media through creative communication, problem-solving and self-broadcasting.
Such media literacy and pedagogical approaches have bee nicely echoed and illustrated by my fellow panellists Massimiliano Dibitonto when he talked about p2p learning and ‘learning by doing’ embraced by the makers communities (his talk was entitled “From watching to making: the democratization of knowledge and invention”), and by Barcin Inanc when she noted the diverse voices on social media (or alternative media).
We had received excellent questions from the audience, ranging from how to encourage students to produce good content (focusing on quality not quantity), how to retain journalistic integrity while facing difficult financial situation (it’s a question regarding media ethics and professional code of conduct, how to deal with censorship and influence of political parties and commercial sponsors), how not to be controlled by technology but take control of technology, how we can deal with information overload on social media and in a media saturated environment. All and all, I’d say that having the ‘critical thinking’ skill is really the key. And that’s why we still teach students cultural and social theory to inform their young minds.
During the evening reception celebrating the 4th anniversary of Bulgaria On Air, I learned something that would prove Bulgaria to be a progressive country: Just when Tom Bennett, the newly appointed Department for Education discipline tsar in the UK, is just about to begin an inquiry into how schools deal with pupils’ low-level persistent disruptive behaviour, Bulgarian government has made a law that bans the use of smartphones and tablet computers in schools as growing numbers of pupils are distracted by their mobile devices when they should be concentrating on their work . Angelina Genova (Ангелина Генова), a journalist from Dnevnik 24/7 asked me my opinion on this .
Well, first of all, who says Bulgaria lacks consistency, or determination or efficiency in reform (cf. UK Ambassador to Sofia Emma Hopkins’s recent comment)? My real sentiment is: How horrendous. I think teachers should integrate smartphones and tablets into teaching and learning, rather than confiscating them. I think students should learn when is the right time to use their computer for research, and when’s the right time to pay attention to the lectures or course work. After all, they should learn how to act responsibly and appropriately in different contexts. Banning is not the ultimate solution to dealing with low-level persistent disruptive behaviours; self-regulation is. Despite I feel totally neglected and annoyed by students checking messages on their phones during my lecture, I’d try to integrate the phones into the learning and teaching, and make my lectures more interesting to catch their attention, rather than removing the phones from the classroom. It’s not going to be easy (and nobody says it’s going to be), but I think that’s the way to go at the university level.
More information about this event can be found here.
 More info on the ban on the use of mobile phones in Bulgarian schools: the use of mobile phones are banned the same way smoking and bringing weapons to the classroom are banned, but students can still use tablets or computers if that is somehow part of the educational process and is approved by the teacher. Also the ban does not apply to universities.
 This interview has been published on the 7th of October 2015 – see http://www.dnevnik.bg/intervju/2015/10/07/2623248_juvei_lin_prepodavatel_po_medii_i_komunikacii/?ref=interview
— Tim Pilgrim (@TimThePilgrim) October 5, 2015
I had my Italian media début today.
About a month ago, Marta Serafini, technology reporter at Corriere della Sera, invited me to participate in a panel on ‘women, technology and innovation at the 2nd Il Tempo delle Donne event, which took place at the iconic Museo della Triennale on 1-4 October 2015. I was delighted to say yes. Today, I was joined by the other four guests: the prominent Derry De Kerchove (sociologist), James Essinger (author of a biography about Ada Lovelace), Michela Balconi (Professor in Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience at Cattolica University in Milan) and Elisabetta Caldera (Head of Human Resources at Vodafone Italy). Even one of my favourite Italian singer Elisa was interviewed in the same session.
Italian was the main language (and rightly so), but I was allowed to answer in English. In the limited time I was given, I shared my long-term research into “hacker cultures” focusing on participants in female hackerspaces and their relationship with ‘hackable technologies’. By ‘hacking technologies’ I mean those who can not only use technologies, but also take a step further to change the original design of the technologies. Although digital technologies do empower women (and minorities), I think the biggest challenge in including women in hacker communities lies in the mindset and the value system. The ability to code and the knowledge about software engineering have always been treated as a priori and prioritised in hackers communities; there was hardly any space for different types of knowledge. My main argument is that, we need to value different types of knowledge (tacit or explicit, coded or uncoded, individual, local) and embrace diversity in order to broaden the horizon of present knowledge in hackers communities. Exactly because of her experience with mechanical looms in the female circle, Ada Lovelace was able to shed insight into the invention of algorithms and computers. No knowledge is too trivial! I used OpenStreetMap and the mapping parties I organised (by women and for women) as example to show how Point of Interests (POIs) collected by female participants served as valuable data and contributions to the Wikimap widely used for different purposes. The slides are here.
Marta selected this video ‘Is Gender Real? – 8 bit philosophy‘ to end the session. It’s hilarious but on the other hand summarised our discussion quite nicely. In light of Butler, gender is indeed a fluid concept, and biological differences (or any differences exist between human beings) should not be excuses of excluding anyone from using or developing technologies.
I could have given more examples about women who code, women who game, women who map, women’s relationship with manipulating and configuring hardware, but we did not have much time. In fact, I would have wished to stay longer to have a deeper conversation with my fellow panellists, but I had to dash off to Milan Malpensa airport to catch a flight to Sofia for the Media & Education conference taking place on the 5th of October.
I was one of the 12 women whose faces were featured on the event website (along with Elisa!). It’s definitely an unforgettable experience and it encourages me to make my research more accessible to different audiences around the world. I hope next time if invited again I would be able to explain my thoughts in Italian :)
The multi-talented Helen Varley Jamieson returned to Farnham for her second creative residency at the UCA this week. Based on her recent work such as the Salmagundi and the tales from the towpath using mobile and sensory technologies to tell stories to different audiences, this residency will focus on using emergent technologies such as QR code or Zapcode to deliver a concept, a message or a story.
We have also teamed up with the UCA Animation Archives and Special Collections to re-use and re-contextualise some of the materials in the archives. The archivist Rebekah Taylor gave an introduction to the three collections we used to focus on how ‘differences’ or ‘abnormality’ are being captured, spotted, identified by ‘visual images’: Bob Godfrey’s female jelly baby, the censorship applied to Tessa Boffin’s ‘Ecstatic Antibodies’ exhibition by Salford City Council in 1990 (cf. Feminists Against Censorship), and Tim Brennan’s Social Welfare Project where prisoners’ conditions were depicted.
The sample of the ZapCode Helen showed us was mind-blowing. See some surprised faces here:
And the MA students who were involved in the Wednesday workshop grasped the concept very quickly and produced some interesting works:
Helen Varley Jamieson’s ‘digital storytelling’ creative residency took place from 28 September – 2 October 2015 at UCA Farnham.
I enjoy getting lost in Venice. There are always surprises and hidden beauties at every corner on small alleyways in Venice. With the occurrence of the 56th Venice Biennale Arte, it was even more interesting to explore the city and discover creative arts.
This August I came across to the exhibition of the Taiwanese video artist Wu Tian-Chang at Palazzo delle Prigioni. ‘Never Say Goodbye’, curated by the Taipei Fine Arts Museum of Taiwan, showcased a range of photography and moving images by Wu Tian-Chang (and his diligent team).
As Taiwanese, Wu’s work resonates with me well, not only because the ‘Spring and Autumn Pavilions’ (春秋閣) featured in his video installation ‘Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavillions’《再會吧！春秋閣》locates at not so far away from where I grew up in Kaohsiung, but also because the profound critiques combining humour and irony embedded in his works provide a refreshing air to the long struggling Taiwanese politics. Generations in Taiwan have experienced different ruling classes and political movements. Plus there are many different ethnicities living on the island but all have been forced to accept one identity defined by whatever ruling class. Generational gap, cultural gap, ideological gap, political gap, you name it. So many gaps yet so few bridges – that’s the problem about Taiwan.
No better way can touch the heavy and seemingly endless political struggles than critical video arts blended with theatrical techniques. Despite the curator’s attempt to tone down the political critique embedded in Wu’s work, to me, Wu’s works no doubt are more than personal life and love (separation). The life and love he aims at mocking are in fact the life and love of Taiwan, about national identity of Taiwan and Taiwanese. The masks his model wore suggest different fake identities Taiwanese people have been taking up. The magic installed in his video conveyed a playful, unreal, or even surreal feeling. The in-between yin-yang atmosphere is grotesque. The creation of the video arts are based on re-use and re-interpretation of his earlier photographic works. Such techniques (re-use and re-purposing) demonstrate a life course of art works. Indeed, time has such a significant meaning in his time-based media work: life, periods of time, the passing of time.
As Wu said in the backstage video, it’s team work, and it requires punctuality for making such time-based media works, with the cooperation of the actor. The team used automatic machines to include props in the show for the magical effect. The old ancient building, the Palazzo delle Prigioni in Venice, also adds atmosphere to these video installation arts, providing some special apocalyptic environmental elements.
Looking out the window, the scorching summer sun has frozen the time and the city appeared to be idling. Only arts provide a fertile ground for new thoughts to grow.
I used to dislike doing Open Days or manning a stand at a HE Fair because I had this idea that HE should be about informing, educating and inspiring rather than selling and marketing. However, given the change of climate in the sector and perhaps my accumulating experience, I have grown to enjoy talking to parents and prospective students. I now see this as an opportunity of sharing my pedagogical philosophy and creating a dialogue between me and the parents and students. I have learnt quite a bit from these visitors: about their existing knowledge, expectations, their aspirations.
Today I visited the Sir George Monoux College in London E17 for their HE and Careers Fair. I ran a couple of ‘Imaging the Future Media Landscsape’ workshops with 30 keen learners. At the workshops, these participants were asked to ponder in groups and in visual languages only how print, broadcast and entertainment media have changed over the past 20 years (before they were born), and what they will be like in the future in 20 years time.
I have run this workshop many times, and as usual there’s always something special. In addition to the usual answers such asl ‘Google Glasses’ and hologram, one student suggested a smart t-shirt that would allow viewers to experience what they are watching in the movie e.g., heat, touch.
This smart t-shirt idea reminded me of the design for wearable fashion workshop I participated at the TAMK iWEEK 2015 led by Daniel Gilgen and Michel Pistra. At the workshop, we attached some stickers with icons signifying functionalities to our clothing and shoes to design wearable technologies. In the end, collectively, we design a Makey-Makey powered suit for self defence. This suit would make noise whenever the wearer was touched. The noise was classified into three levels against the seriousness of the alert. It was fun.
I’ve also seen a couple drawings that contextualised an argument, rather than just drawing icons. That showed the student’s storyboarding skill.
I really enjoyed the warm hospitality of the staff and students at Sir George Monoux College. They made my day.