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RGU Ph.D. Summer School 02005

at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland. Not really a conference, but the annual PhD Art & Design research student summer school organised by Carol Gray and Julian Malins. An intense week full of workshops, discussions, presentations on methods and methodologies, writing, rigour, sex and madness (title of a presentation).

Julian Malins and Carol Gray had put together another successful, exciting and very instructional summer school program for research students from art & design. About 30 students received a healthy mixture of workshops, lectures and presentations all relating to the phd research process ... presenters and chairs included John Langrish, Mike Press, Anne Douglas, Beryl Graham, Brian Thompson, Stewart Evans, Heather Delday, Brian Grassom, Alexandra Rodriguez-Remedi, Chris McKillop - i hope i have not forgotten anyone.

Here some messy notes - no critical analysis:

Prof. John Langrish's speech made very clear that the PhD in art & design could be regarded as a minor undertaking not comparable to a "real" (and rigourous?) doctorate. He concluded that a PhD was BABY research, an educational exercise in which the person proofs that s/he is able to do research in a certain area and also a qualification to be employable (to teach in this area). It could also be seen as an "advance in knowledge" and did usually consist of four parts: An overview of the area or OBE - other buggers efforts. Secondly a methodology part in which the student demonstrates that s/he knows something about method. "Method is what you do. Methodology is knowledge of method." Thirdly: MBO - My bloody efforts meaning the results of what the researcher had actually found out. And a conclusion, what this all meant, why it made a difference.

"Sometimes it is called a "literature review" - but it is not. It is what other people have done. Knowledge that is communicatible." One has to start with what is already known. To create new knowledge one needs a methodology and EVIDENCE. Visual evidence enables us to see, to understand. A "method" is for example to compare: "Artists in Palestine" "Artists in Israel" and "Artists in the rest of the world."

Practice-based Ph.D. structure, number of pages and conclusions. (On method: )
70 pages: What is known already, the context.
30 pages: Methodology: Informed by, how and why, from which perspectives, epistemology, ontology.
190? pages: What i did. + Relevance of my work, conclusion, discussion, future research

"Own creative work is part of the evidence."

The research findings had to be transferable, rigourous, relevant, robust and transparent.

John Langrish's lecture left me very confident that my research was on the right way and that there was absolutely no reason to worry. This alone was worth attending the summer school!
This presentation has become available as a pdf here.

Prof. Mike Press gave an entertaining lecture on presentation skills with many worrying examples what could all go wrong.
My notes include "Think title, and the rest will follow." "Writing is about storytelling"

"Among many other things in life you are a creative writer." Writing should be clear and concise but also entertaining and personal. There was a fine line between dry "academic" writing and "superficial" (my translation) "journalistic" writing. Mike introduced three writers that bridged the disciplines excelling in academic-journalistic styles: Karl Marx, Eric Hobsbawm and Peter Dormer. When giving a paper try not to read it in your presentation. You can speak 1000 words in 10 minutes - every word counts! Write a list with keypoints to address. use short sentences with simple constructions. And remember: "It is not a shopping list but it is a story!" Try lists of three and use rhetorical questions. Use vivid visual references."

Thanks Mike, i will try to remember this the next time. Minutes before my presentation i restructured the content and i was as just surprised by my visual aides as everyone else. Big mistake.

Stuart Evans gave a lecture on methodology or rather presenting us with alternative research methods offered by a variety of books from different areas, structured as Experience, Parallels, Practice. Please see book list below. I only have two hours for this page and cannot go too far into detail.
Stuart hinted that people used methods without actually being aware of it. Although that there was a body of Art & Design PhD's to study and gain knowledge from and to understand what the state of the practice was. He reminded us that theses where available at link does not work, maybe it is ?
Banister Fletcher (1891), A history of architecture on the comparative method, London, Athlone Press. A chronology of architectural methods. (window sizes etc.), Continuously updated since then.

Ronald W. Brunskil (1959), "Illlustrated handbook of vernacular architecture" London, Faber & Faber.
A code for architecture recorded in the lake district describing Shape, Space, material, weather in UK. Thumbnail drawings of details. Also: "The Essex design guide" for planning and developing villages. Sounds like a regional "pattern language."

Peter Ferriday (1959), "The Peacock Room", Architectural Review, no. 749, vol. 125, pp.

Julia O'C. Davidson & Derek Layder (1994), Methods, sex and madness, London, Routledge.
A collection of different methods with interesting approaches.

Colin Robson (1993), Real world research: a recourse for social scientists and practitioners-researchers, Oxford, Blackwell.
Some call it "Robsons realworld research - you can really understand it."

Stephen Mennell, Anne Murcott & Anneke H. van Otterloo (1992), The sociology of food: eating, diet & culture, London, Sage.
> similarities to motor cars?

L. Bruce Archer (1964), Systematic method for designers, London, Council of Industrial Design.
On the evolution ... an institution of art & design PhD's.

Donald A. Schon (1982), The reflective practitioner: how professionals think in action, London, Basic Books

Donald A. Schon (1985), The design studio: an exploration of its traditions and potentials, London, RIBA Publications
Observing how people use ...

Ian Padgett, ed. (1999), Visual spatiality ability and dyslexia: a research project, London, The London Institute
> Trish Lyons: Mimesis and sculpture PhD looping though case studies. (We love case studies)
Visual-spatial ability. People understanding Space and time differently.

Practice based - everyday workshop methods are used
Practice led - problems that come from practice

Practising in a field - undergraduate teaching - research on that

For the first time i heard the terms "wall based" installation for a screen based installation hung on a wall, and "lens based" art referring to film and photography. Still no idea of the concepts.

There is still information missing here, but it has to wait for the next weekend.

I also met someone who liked the design and simplicity of this website so much that he had it copied and was using it to present own research, lectures and work. Well, we all benefit from the ideas & labours of other people. On the other hand, if i had completed a PhD in webdesign i would try to create my own design and not profit from other peoples work, especially not without asking. I also wouldn't ask for the source code when i finally was not able to get the server side includes sorted. It is a strange world we live in.

Links: - site does not exist. Maybe it is: Visualizing Research Website of Carol Gray's and Julian Malins book.
recommended reading:
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last update: 12/14/02015 21:00

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