Image: (2018) of Jon Nixon ‘The Place of Pedagogy’ quoting Zygmunt Bauman. [Screenshot]
For the April seminar, you can choose which piece you want to read and prepare for discussion; either Jon Nixon’s ‘The Place of Pedagogy’ or Ron Barnett’s ‘Dispositions & Qualities’.
“Interpretive Pedagogies for Higher Education focuses on providing a humanistic perspective on pedagogy by relating it to the interpretive practices of particular public educators: thinkers and writers whose work has had an immeasurable impact on how we understand and interpret the world and how our understandings and interpretations act on that world.” Amazon
“The philosophical option: Jon Nixon’s Interpretive Pedagogies
Read Chapter 2 of Jon Nixon’s 2012 book ‘Interpretive Pedagogies for Higher Education’. It’s about higher education as a public good, and what that means in the era of tuition fees (I’ll give you the short answer; for Nixon it means developing a capacity for shared understanding.
One of the quotes in this chapter is by the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, from his 1987 book Legislators and Interpreters, which argues that the aim of education is to develop our capacity to…
‘…talk to people rather than fight them; to understand them rather than dismiss or annihilate them as mutants; to enhance one’s own tradition by drawing freely on experience from other pools, rather than shutting it off from the traffic of ideas.’ (p143)
If you’re interested in how the chapter sits in the context, and my own initial reactions to the book, I wrote three blog posts about it last year: #1, #2, #3. But Chapter 2 stands on its own well.
What I’m interested in hearing your views on, and what I’d like us to discuss in the session, is the following:
Are all views worthy of our efforts to understand them?
To what extent should traditions be protected (from other/new ideas)?
Is a technical or ‘useful’ education a second-rate education?
How can the technological and the cultural be merged? I.e. is it possible to teach for liberation and transformation, AND to prepare students for socially useful occupations?
How do these ideas connect with the theory you have been encountering on your elective unit (if you are doing one)?
Please do focus on your own discipline & teaching context in considering the above questions; this will ensure diverse perspectives are included in the discussion.”
_______________________________________________________I chose to concentrate on Jon Nixon’s ‘The Place of Pedagogy’ text – a fascinating and well worth reading analysis of the work of philosopher and sociologist Zygmut Bauman.
In a discussion group with Stella, Kuldeep and Lucy and I talked about the text – and then we looked at the old (existing) UAL marking matrix. Using the new matrix of three criterion, we first assessed it then we had to mark ourselves using it, on our discussion – a surprisingly difficult exercise which drew up complex and interesting issues. We were slightly hampered because we didn’t finish our analysis before we had to use the matrix but you could see enough of the function to engage with the issues.
It’s quite a different exercise assessing each other as peers verbally in real time, as opposed to asynchronously marking a student exercise as a tutor having time to consider a written response …
And as the HEA Feedback toolkit (2013) indicates, (see below), ‘verbal feedback provided in a group meeting’ is the least popular way that students want to receive feedback. Of course there’s a variety of ways that feedback can be given, but I found it interesting to note that in the face to face environment I didn’t want to give too critical a response to my peers. I know I learn better in an encouraging and open atmosphere and I want to be sensitive to each person. It is a given in formal education that we need some critique to improve, but as learning styles are not the same in any group, to name but one factor in the assessment debate – how can we encourage real thinking and development in our students, and not just meet standards manufactured to meet the needs of a University business model? How can one student be “better” than another? Surely each improves / or doesn’t against themselves – or even less oppositionally – in a continuum, instead of in competition to others?
The dynamic of our four was interesting as we three students had our tutor with us who understandably took a step back to allow us free discussion – but would then contribute in a timely way; I found it was really useful. The personalities of our group made it for a rich and lively organic discussion, typically as a pattern of one person contributing the other responding or contesting and I felt I had to interrupt that conversation to be able to contribute my opinion and relate our discussion to the text. Assessing one’s self as part of the exercise is very much a worthwhile task encouraging honest reflection upon one’s own effort – which perhaps should be part of an education where students are encouraged to become their own educators, responsible for their own creative thinking and analysis as part of their own ongoing process. I’d very much like to introduce student input into the assessment process and one of our colleagues described how she does that – I made contact to follow up on that.
I got a lot from the two minute presentation task. I decided to prepare for it as I know the important parts of what I want to transmit may not get said – I tend to go off track. So when the questions were posed before our task about what makes a good speaker, I was glad I had. I talked about walking and why it’s important for humans physically but also mentally – in particular for creative thinking and problem solving. In preparation I started it at over 5minutes and then pared it down to under two minutes; that paring down was the important part of the exercise for me – the focus on what was important, what was the real message I needed to say? It seemed to work – my audience of two applauded and gave me positive feedback and unexpected suggestions – they found certain ideas that I thought were not that crucial, the most interesting for a (putative) future follow up.
“Your task is to prepare and deliver a ten-minute learning activity for your tutor group based around an object. You can approach this activity imagining your tutor group are your students, or as they are (a group of teachers from different disciplines and with different levels of experience); it’s up to you.”
While I was thinking about the objects in my household – or outside it – a sculpture at home came to mind, and the image persisted, so I pursued this focus. I picked the sculpture up from where it has sat for twenty years or so – which is a position on the floor in the hall as you come up the stairs you see it. I moved it to my kitchen table so that I could see it more or less at eye level, for a week or so, to let my eyes go over it and see what thoughts came to mind as I passed it every day. I’ve lost the paper which accompanied it as a wedding gift to me from close friends, but I remember something about it, which I will keep to myself in the learning activity. I gather that I should be the gatekeeper of the knowledge of the object in order for the group to look at the object without knowing its origin.
I thought I should choose something that provoked discussion around subjects that interest me – one of them is indigenous culture, and by association, post-colonialism. The very notion of anthropology (the study of humans and human behaviour and societies in the past and present, Wikipedia) and ethnography, (the scientific description of peoples and cultures with their customs, habits, and mutual differences, Google dictionary) in the Western perspective on the Other is difficult enough, having evolved within the milieu of expansionist colonialism. Subsequently looking at the relationship between artworks of different cultures is a further complexity.
The eye of Western art is anthropological in its gaze upon the other (Clifford). Primordialism is associated with the most thoroughgoing rationalism and logocentrism when visited upon the third word subject. Yet, the story of modernization in postcolonial art is a story of the yoking of opposites in which the Enlightenment perspective is always underlaid by subterranean acts of atavism and brutality. In response to dominant narratives of modernity, postcolonial art draws on the codes of double and triple register so deeply and historically entrenched in the survivalist practices of the dominated (Gilroy). Culture, for these artists, is a crucible of encounter, a crucible of hybridity in which all of cultural form is marked by twinness of subject and the other.
Art and the Postcolonial Imagination: Rethinking the Institutionalization of Third World Aesthetics and Theory CAMERON MCCARTH Y AND GREG DIMITRIADIS ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature, 31:1 & 2, Jan. – Apr. 2 2000
Initially I thought that having it and presenting it as the object of my – and subsequently, our attention – in this exercise that it may then put me in a certain light – which I wanted to avoid. So that became interesting and I want to examine some of those things – the concern with perception by my peers of me – I didn’t want to be perceived as a certain kind of white person who collects certain kinds of objects. We enter into the world of:
the relationship between economies of different cultures and countries
objects made specifically for sale ? or an object originally for the makers’ own cultural purposes sold out of that context and put into the economy of a gallery in a Western country
symbology from another culture whose meaning or intent I have no idea of – (and do I have to know?)
selling art in a gallery with provenance supports an artist – though if the artist didn’t get paid I wouldn’t know
How can we look at artworks made by peoples of different cultures?
The anthropologist James Clifford (1998: 224) developed a model that allows objects from traditional societies to be positioned in four ‘zones,’ based on the utilitarian or aesthetic purpose attributed to them, and on the degree of proximity to their original context of production. The ‘zone’ of ‘authentic artworks’ includes items valued by artists, curators and collectors; the ‘zone’ of ‘authentic artefacts’ comprises examples collected by researchers, held in historical and ethnographic museums; the ‘zone’ of the ‘inauthentic artworks’ includes falsifications; and finally the ‘zone’ of ‘inauthentic artefacts’ comprehends tourist souvenirs and mass-produced objects for everyday use. Clifford argues that an object can shift from one ‘zone’ to another, changing its value and status, which increase as it moves from ‘cultural artefact’ to ‘artistic object’ and from ‘inauthentic’ to ‘authentic.’
Ilana Seltzer Goldstein (2013) Visible art, invisible artists? the incorporation of aboriginal objects and knowledge in Australian museums DOSSIER: CULTURAL HERITAGE AND MUSEUMS PART 3: OTHERNESS http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1809-43412013000100019
Although I do love the sculpture, I would not necessarily choose to buy an artefact like this – it makes me feel uneasy, yet I want artists to be financially supported in their work. Looking at the artwork and knowing it came from a gallery tells me it might be in the “zone” of “authentic artefact” but it may well be an “inauthentic artefact” I wouldn’t be able to tell. Sculpture from the Sepik River area (an area of rich cultural activity) started to be carried away by Westerners since the 1960s and local people began making more.
But as I looked at it every day I noticed more, the material (carved hard wood –Papua New Guineans are famous for their knowledge and exploitation of trees, and carving traditions are highly developed across the Pacific region. The spirit of the tree that had to be cut down to make the carving will often transfer to the artwork that is produced: http://www.cultureofthecountryside.ac.uk/resources/carving-papua-new-guinea)
with natural colours, the texture, the uneven bottom of it so it doesn’t stand on its own easily, the design, and shells, all the physical properties of it, and the representation of a woman. But when I photographed her (I feel compelled to call her human, in an animistic way), I saw her anew. She’s tall and slender, she has markings on her face arms and legs, stands on a mound and her two hands each touch a centre of energy on her body – one hand at the heart and another on the pubis – and it wasn’t until I tried to imitate the stance (mimesis) that I realised that she has her left hand to her heart and not her right, as was instinctual for me, with the right handed. It actually jolted me a little to realise that I’d had this sculpture for so long and hadn’t ever noticed this, consciously. The act of observation, framing, focusing and photographing sections of her really did change my perception.
As Helen Chatterjee notes:
Object-based learning in higher education draws on many of the learning strategies already known to inform students, including active learning and experiential learning
HELEN J. CHATTERJEE (2011) Object-based learning in higher education: The pedagogical power of museums
The energy centres in the body the sculpture touches calls to mind the Hindu Buddhist & Jain tantric systems of chakras:
Second Chakra: The Svadhisthana chakra is our creativity and sexual center. It is located above the pubic bone, below the navel, and is responsible for our creative expression.
The Fourth Chakra: The Connection Between Matter and Spirit. Located at the heart center, the fourth chakra, anahata is at the middle of the seven and unites the lower chakras of matter and the upper chakras of spirit. The fourth is also spiritual but serves as a bridge between our body, mind, emotions, and spirit. The heart chakra is our source of love and connection.
I was reading an article in Art Quarterly that recalled Baudrillard’s Le systeme des objects (1968) which seemed like a useful way to help look at this object together, and made me wonder if Clifford had based his zones on the values of Baudrillard.
“Jean Baudrillard identified four kinds of value that an object can accrue. Two simple and two strange. The first is functional value – a measure of an object’s usefulness…. Next comes exchange value – the economic worth of an object….. The last two, though, are more occult. Baudrillard wrote about the symbolic value of an object. If you received a tie or a pair of shoes for Christmas, then you also received a symbol of your relationship with the giver… Fourthly, Baudrillard also proposed that objects can possess a sign value – which is derived from a thing’s relationship with other comparable things.
Matthew Sweet (2018)
However there’s many meanings and events that no one observing will know about its function unless they are familiar with this type of sculpture.
I know, yet no-one else in our group (probably) will know that her function is of a guardian – something I remember from the piece of paper; an example of magical thinking, that in or attached to the sculpture there is an active force. No-one else (definitely) will know that I was carrying her wrapped up in newspaper and string over my shoulder on the way passing though Madrid very early one New Year’s Day when we were robbed at gunpoint by a very unpredictable nervous man. Of course I think that the function of our guardian worked for us both, and as she was closer to me I didn’t have the gun pointed at me and I didn’t loose my passport – the protective spirit was active and protected me.
Indeed, the contemporary Western culture is based on the strong belief in the universal power of physical causality—a belief which is supported by the whole system of education. Yet, an average individual living in this culture, under certain conditions, does not act differently from the individuals who still live in a magic-tolerant culture.
Coming back to the problem raised in the Introduction, we can conclude that, according to the results of this study, individuals do ‘give up’ their magical beliefs and practices as long as their official culture becomes dominated by the belief in scientific rationality. Being quite evident in the individuals’ verbal responses, this ‘surrender’ affects the individuals’ behaviour only to a certain extent. At a certain level (i.e. in the conditions in which the individual is strongly personally and emotionally involved), the individual can deviate from the beliefs of technological civilization. When acting at this level, a person can retreat into practices (like magic) that are viewed as ‘left behind’ in history by the person’s official culture and education.
Papua New Guinea was visited by Russian anthropologist Miklou Miclay in the 19th century – who was one of the first anthropologist to refute the profoundly racist idea that different peoples were of different species. My father retraced his footsteps and visited the place Miklou Miclay lived, and produced a book about that journey. PNG was exploited by German, British and Australian interests in the 20th century, invaded by Japan, retained by the Allies and regained its independence in 1970s. West Papua was invaded by Indonesia in 1962 and now is under direct rule and is called Iryan Jaya where it is considered by many western news agencies that Indonesia is implementing ethnic cleansing of the Indigenous peoples.
Indigenous and foreign representations of the place and its peoples are now not so much separate visions as they are “double visions,” in the sense of both stereoscopy and blurred edges. Foreign knowledges of the Pacific have both used and aspired to eclipse indigenous knowledges, as is obvious from the earliest forms of ethnology in the region. Indigenous visions have, since the late eighteenth century, been challenged and partially transformed through encounters with the imagined cartographies of travelers, missionaries, traders, planters, and other agents of colonialism, capitalism, and development. As Tongan scholar Epeli Hau‘ofa has suggested (1994), outsiders’ representations of the Pacific matter not just because of their geopolitical and discursive hegemony but because Islanders have, in part, come to see themselves through the Outlanders’ lenses. Imagining Oceania: Indigenous and Foreign Representations of a Sea of Islands
Through all this meandering I thought of the exercise. I would have my sculpture in the middle of a space where we all sit in a circle around her. I pass my phone to the next person who then photographs her and says something about her which I record. We end up with a round image of her and verbal responses that I can stitch together.
I hope we can exercise team working, observation, communication, discussion on the creation and sales of indigenous artefacts and how we can interpret or relate to them.
In the exercise itself I had a technical fail of the sound recorder, which you just have to deal with and stay on track, but we still had the iPhone camera images which everyone used to photograph the sculpture, and I was able to construct as a collective image of the sculpture (see above).
I think in retrospect that I’d put too many demands on the task for 10minutes as I wanted the group acting as my ‘students’ to take time to look, but within the constraints the analysis of the kind of sculpture from the group was I think fruitful. How do we interpret other cultures’ art objects? We look at the materials, the markings, the stance, size and other observable phenomena, yet we can’t know more without other kinds of knowledge, cultural knowledge.
Is determining provenance, and collecting of art objects of other cultures itself an act that arises from colonisation? It’s conversely certainly a post-colonial act in terms of repatriation of artworks plundered by colonising powers, currently critically being debated today between Britain and those countries it invaded as a coloniser.
Making a material representation of our conversation gave it a performative element, I found, so perhaps made us all be more focussed in what we were about to say, rather than really listening to what people said. I also found my attention split between what we were saying and how we used the string to build a form. I wanted to make modifications to it – when we went off topic – to wrap it up an arm or around another object (water bottle) and to extend it in dimensionality rather than a mostly linear fashion which a line suggests as its most basic form.
I was also thinking about silence and how important listening is in conversation. Pauline Oliveros, composer, sound artist, musician and educator developed a whole ethos that grew out of her practice “Deep Listening”.
There wasn’t really a way in that quick exercise to incorporate listening – though we could have, in retrospect – we would have made a more skeletal structure. The activity was focussed on speaking enough sentences to make the structure.
It might have been a quick exercise in interactive learning and freeing up conversation but it did spark thought.
“People’s experiences are all different, and you don’t know what the person experienced. They know, but you don’t, so I think it’s important to listen carefully to what a person has to say. And not to force them into any direction at all but simply to model what you’ve experienced, model it and also be what I call a Listening Presence. If you’re really listening, then some of the barriers can dissolve or change.” Pauline Oliveros,
Group presentations of who we are and who our students are: – it was fascinating to hear about the different paths that have led us to being arts educators.
We were assigned reading partners – never having had a reading partner, I’m looking forward to that interaction. I have shared discussions in a more general way through a google doc with other colleagues which I really enjoyed and found that process productive.
One of our cohort described part of her working life as being comprised of “bits and bobs”. Yet when she told us what they were – sometimes project based – or short engagements – revealed not only a rich experience that builds a creative practitioner’s life, but I think that it is by these varied length projects that we work in, with a variety of collaborators develops and encourages flexible responses to creative problems.
It also reminded me that Professor Orr mentioned in her lecture, the “imposter syndrome” that some arts practitioners may have, possibly due to the often circuitous routes we take as practitioners.
Buzzword activity with a specialist librarian. Her presentation of a history of librarianship as a political activity and her vocational passion for her work is inspiring. Our discussion on what inclusivity is and how it interacts / overlaps with diversity was a useful exchange. Between us we had some references to put into the grid immediately.
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw‘s intersectionality theory (1991) was discussed. It poses a useful idea with which to analyse the states or categories that describe people as interwoven and complex, a more nuanced and connected look than, often blunt, simplified and alienating categorisations.
I would go on to learn that African-American women, like other women of color, like other socially marginalized people all over the world, were facing all kinds of dilemmas and challenges as a consequence of intersectionality, intersections of race and gender, of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism, all of these social dynamics come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique. But in the same way that intersectionality raised our awareness to the way that black women live their lives, it also exposes the tragic circumstances under which African-American women die.
Intersectionality has since 1991 gained ground and is reflected in the UK in this Social Sciences paper by Emeritus Reader in Population Health Aspinall, P. and Song, M. (2013). Is race a ‘salient’ or ‘dominant identity’ in the early 21st century. The evidence of UK survey data on respondents’ sense of who they are. Social Science Research[Online] 42:547-561. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ssresearch.2012.10.007.
“However, many of these different identity attributes are consistently selected, suggesting the possibility – confirmed in in-depth interviews – that they may work through each other via intersectionality. In Britain race appears to have been undermined by the rise of ‘Muslim’ identity, the increasing importance of ‘mixed race’, and the fragmentation of identity now increasingly interwoven with other attributes like religion.”
To me this “sense of who they are” in the paper’s title, along with who is defining whom, and if people have the opportunity to be self-defining, are relevant matters in the discussion of the collection and interpretation of demographic data, and the discussion on who our students are, how UAL defines them, the methodology behind the collection of data and how that data is used..
Featured image screenshot. TED (2016) https://www.ted.com/talks/kimberle_crenshaw_the_urgency_of_intersectionality (Accessed 30 January 2018).
I enjoyed being in the room with so many colleagues – it gave a sense of sense of scale of that you so rarely get of the people who work around you, and in different colleges. (However so many of our rooms are uninspiring and airless – but that’s another discussion).
The question proposed by Susan Orr about what we knew about UAL was quite revealing. It’s one of those basic things that I’ve never thought to ask myself, and clearly many others haven’t either – but it is a logical place to start to examine who we are and what we do. The Google doc that Professor Orr started and was populated by the attendees created communal knowledge so quickly. The Google technology works well for large numbers of contibutors too, (once you get past the difficulty of logging onto the UAL wifi ) and I use it successfully with our students in various ways.
Another question Susan proposed was what are our particular approaches to learning in arts design and media?
For our MA Documentary Film practice I think that our approach is:
academic, including ethics of practice, collaborative practice and history
with a relationship to industry
Another idea Susan Orr mentioned from her recent book that resonated with me was in regard to
As makers we operate in the unknown and in particular in documentary film practice there can be a vision for the production, but the path to the artefact is anything but known.
Thinking about working with differently abled contributors who cannot give their consent (recording sound for Pratap Rughani’s film Justine) and the research work he has done and in particular his essay “The Art of Not Knowing” he quotes filmmaker and founder of Project Artworks (which pairs abled and differently abled artists together), Kate Adams:
“This is not work of certainty,” Adams says. “It is a work of doubt and the necessary honesty of self-questioning that allows self doubt to have its proper place in the process of developing a way of working.”
Ambiguity, not knowing and doubt are essential to the creative process and it should be considered in our pedagogy.
“Ambiguity is central to creative learning because it enables the individual students to gain confidence and autonomy as artists and designers. If students and tutors are unable to manage ambiguity in the learning environment the students may never pass over this ‘threshold concept’ (Osmond et al 2009) and become creative practitioners.”
Orr S., Shreeve, A. (2016) Knowing, not knowing and the unknown. Ambiguity and the locus of knowledge and power in student – tutor relations. The Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE) SRHE International Annual Research Conference 2016: 7-9 December 2016. Celtic Manor, Newport in South Wales, United Kingdom https://www.srhe.ac.uk/conference2016/abstracts/0323.pdf
Parts of the second lecture on statistics Interpretation of statistics in an HE environment was signposted by Dr Sabri as usually bringing up emotive responses and it did – but also considered non-emotive responses from the audience. Delivering a quiz which launched straight into using categorisation of people (in this case UAL students) into groups by ethnicity without first explaining their development or use – which may have helped toward smoothing the “hackles around these issues” – perhaps. Or otherwise, allowing space to consider those issues. Or talking about design bias and correction for it or language bias in questionnaires or demonstrate why there is no bias in these categorisations, if that is the case…
It provoked a lot of questioning and often in those situations there is no time in the schedule of the day to explore that questioning. The speaker has a talk to work through to its logical conclusion and a large audience who want to examine one part of the delivery can prevent getting to the place where the speaker wants to take the listeners. The categorisation of people (in this case UAL students) into groups by ethnicity, gender and sexuality, for instance, is instantly contentious. There are multiple issues around categorisation of people. Who is doing it and from what viewpoint? How are they using the data generated? All people have a right to be recognized and acknowledged by self-identification. Some don’t want to be identified by other people because they may be subsumed into a grouping that has no meaning to them and erases their identity in a deliberate political act of aggression. Others feel that organisations such as the University should recognize who their students and staff are and where they are from, know their students and try to close the attainment gap.
“Thus, independently of the identity threat that results from the inclusion of an individual in a socially disadvantaged or otherwise unattractive group (value threat), theorists have proposed that people can feel threatened when they are viewed by others as interchangeable category members, in situations where they think they should be treated as unique individuals, or as members of another category (categorization threat; Barreto & Ellemers, 2003; Branscombe, Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 1999; Ellemers, Spears, & Doosje, 2002). Because research so far has not systematically addressed the consequences of social categorization in this more general sense, we aim to assess how people react when others consider them in terms of a broader variety of categorizations, including seemingly ‘innocent’ group memberships that can elicit positive as well as negative expectations about individual group members.”
NAOMI ELLEMERS* AND MANUELA BARRETO Leiden University, The Netherlands. Categorization in everyday life: The effects of positive and negative categorizations on emotions and self-views
European Journal of Social Psychology Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 36, 931–942 (2006) Published online 23 August 2006 in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com). DOI: 10.1002/ejsp.333
A nuanced and considered conversation around “seemingly ‘innocent’ group memberships” is needed.