Assembly by Holly Rowan Hesson

Behind this doggy door on an alley in Levenshulme, there hides a gallery called Bankley, where Holly Rowan Hesson‘s new work Assembly is currently being exhibited (until Saturday the 2nd of April).


Holly Rowan Hesson uses the techniques of projection and re-projection to create an assembly where spectators are invited to sit, to see and to be seen.


These chairs are not randomly placed there. They are where they are for a reason – as part of the installation. Shadows of the chairs are part of the images displayed on the white walls. The locations of the three projectors have been meticulously contemplated. The result of a mesmerising and immersive room demonstrates the artist’s acute interpretation of a space. The mix of projection and re-projection is a new way of approaching the classic question – what is real and what is unreal / clone.



I am so pleased to discover Holly Rowan Hesson’s visual art work and the Bankley Gallery. I hope there will be more artists, local or nation-wide or global, to use and interpret the space.


AI in Education

Would you like to be taught or tutored by a robot?

I attended the at UCL Knowledge Lab for an event discussing the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in education. I have learned some evidence regarding how AI benefits education through the presentations about Zondle, iTalk2Learn, TARDIS.

Reflecting upon my own practice, how we teach media and communications at UCA, the adoption of AI is prevailing. To start with, we all use Google for teaching, learning and research these days. We also gamify the learning by starting the class with a Kahoot! game (legacy of Jake Strickland). So indeed I can see the benefit of AI in education.

Nevertheless, it shocked me when it was suggested that ‘a driverless classroom’ could become the future. This agenda of replacing teachers in the classroom is fuelled by commercial interests and endorsed by some self-made visionaries in the government. But anyone with a little bit of common sense would know that this is a dystopian route to go for. There is a serious shortage of teachers, and let alone good teachers. Additionally, there’s also a question about engagement and human interaction. The fundamental difference between humans and machines is ’emotions’. Sometimes it takes rapport and trust to enable and enhance an effective learner-teacher relationship. I have emotions (positive or negative) standing in front of the classroom, and students have emotions staying there. When I see students engaged, I’m motivated to give more. And when I see them absent-minded, I feel demoralised and frustrated. And those emotions add to classroom dynamics and make learning a social process.

Working at a fine art institution, I also can’t see the making culture being replaced by an automated robotic setting. How can students learn to articulate their creativity then? Aren’t the space for expressing, exploring and experimenting reduced in that situation?

The discussion at the end of event definitely offers food for thoughts for rethinking an education determined by technology. A human-centered perspective is needed as many have noticed.

#BVE16 (Day 2)

Day2 at #BVE16 was busier than Day1, as usual. Visitors were busy with catching up and learning about the new trends – VR, AR, 360, streaming, cloud. These technologies offer and enhance new ways of storytelling. Here are the highlights I observed.

Dan Crompton and Hannah Kemp-Welch showcased their works at Tate.
Dan Crompton and Hannah Kemp-Welch (Tate) on projection mapping
Great to see arts at #BVE16.
And industry veterans shared their life stories (successes and failures).


BVE16 (Day 1)

Highlights from the first day of BVE16.

High-end cameras for capturing the detailed movement of the graffiti artist.
ITV’s Martyn Suker gave a stimulating and informative talk.
Selaha Williams (NAB show) interviewed ITV’s Martyn Suker (Director of Innovation, ITV Studios) at The Screen @BVE. UCA’s media students were also in the photo – spot them if you can.
Charlie Phillips (@Charliechar) invited documentary makers to pitch ideas to him for the Guardian Documentaries.
Inbetween talks at the Screen @BVE.
Drones are more fashionable than ever.
And I had a box of popcorns from Dropbox.
Day1 highlights as selected by the ladies at the Press Lounge.

Big Bang Data


The #BigBangData exhibition at the Somerset House offered a perfect opportunity for my Yr2 Media & Communications, Media & Creative Writing students to see those issues we have been discussing in the module ‘Digital Futures’ (such as cloud computing, surveillance, privacy, Internet of Things, data visualisation, open data, big data) from different perspectives. Well-made documentaries, interactive installations, photographic works, web installations or web services were exhibited at the Somerset House.


While I was particularly impressed by the work ‘Face to Facebook‘ of Paolo Cirio and Alessandro Ludovico (based on a mock dating website, our students were particularly interested in other installations such as the London Situation Room or Ellie Harrison’s Vending Machine.


A fieldtrip like this (accompanying by a visit to the Open Data Institute in the morning) definitely was a great addition to our curriculum.



UCA Media’s Top 4 Highlights of 2015

I’ve organised many events and activities to enrich the students learning. Time to look back on the achievements and celebrate as the year comes to the end.

No. 1 Fieldtrip to BVE London

No. 2 Digital storytelling and Zappar Code workshops (part of Helen Varley Jamieson’s creative residency)

No. 3 Video Graffiti and Projection Mapping workshops (part of Soile Mottisenkangas’s creative residency)

No. 4  The First Ever Raspberry Pi Workshop at Farnham


In addition to celebrating, it’s also time to thank those whom I have worked / collaborated with. Without you (you know who you are – my dear students, colleagues and friends), I would not be able to make this far. Leading new courses is not an easy job; so much needs to be done to lay down a foundation. I have to give the courses a unique identity, build up credentials so that more students will be happy to join us at UCA Farnham. I hope flagging up these highlights provides people a better idea about what I try to achieve here: marrying the theory and the practice, the technical and the social, and ultimately the creativity and the digital.


Ada Lovelace Symposium #LovelaceOxford

In two days, on the 10th of December 2015, Ada Lovelace, known to be the first computer programmer in the world these days, will be 200 years old.  I spent a day celebrating (and understanding) her cultural legacies at the Mathematical Institute at Oxford University.

Participants came from a range of different (yet overlapping) disciplines (math, literature, history, computer science, library science etc) and sectors (media, academia, educational sector). The discussion has taken place in various directions: reading the sonnets and the letters that Lovelace wrote to friends and her mother, her personality and character (a bit manic and childish), and how she’s used as an icon (a role model) to promote women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) today. I’ve learned lots of interesting projects such as the Wikipedia edit-a-thon, #AdaLovelaceDay, a Lego set of #AdaLovelace, the Lovelace exhibition at the Science Museum, the graphic novel “The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage” and BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Letters of Ada Lovelace’.

Today’s event demystified Ada Lovelace, a human being who had a unique sense of humour (“very mathematical weather”, inspired by her sonnet on rainbow), sharp and visionary scientific imagination, and achievements.

On her death date, the 27th of November, I did a lecture on ‘media representation of female scientists, and sexism in science’ to my Yr1 media and journalism students. When asked to name a female scientist, the only two names my students came up with (after a moment of awkward silence in the room) were: Marie Curie and Mary Anning. They could not name any contemporary female scientists (contrast to other familiar male figures such as Stephen Hawking). Role models such as ‘Ada Lovelace’ are much needed. Perhaps a label has been created, but so what? As one participant confidently and rightly said, ‘The label is there; let’s relish and celebrate it!’

I’m happy that I have this opportunity to know Ada Lovelace better today #LovelaceOxford. There will be other events across the country and the world to celebrate Ada Lovelace’s birthday on the 10th of December (such as the Ada Lovelace workshop at Cambridge). Let’s make the 10th of December shine!

Tools that Jane Waite used to teach computational thinking to school children.
And how could one teach programming without a Raspberry Pi?
And a wizard’s hat!
Lego Ada Lovelace – a perfect Christmas gift, anyone?