Writing in Creative Practice: Practicing Theory

The workshop at the University of Northampton was yesterday and it was another very enjoyable (if intensive) day, where some really interesting projects were discussed.


the reflective journalling starts

After our already customary icebreaker of making name tags, I started us out with a really short introduction to reflective bookmaking, based on work developed with my colleague Sarah Williamson.

Will Hoon, who had organised the day on the Northampton side, then told us about his work integrating contextual studies with practical design projects. Particularly fascinating was some student-led research that made them ‘remove the spectacle’ of advertising by taking out the visuals of advertising from the cityscape allowing the focus on just the slogans. Will also talked about how the quality of dissertation research and writing improved once 20% of the mark became allocated to the designerly presentation, speculating that the editing process the students are used to in their designs also made them edit their writing more carefully. He ended by showing two short film clips student groups had made that explained how to research and write an essay – and told us of his plans to use these films in teaching the new intake of students next year.


if a Tweet was an outfit – the Gingerbread Mankini

After Will it was my turn (again) to explain ways of visualising hidden academic practice. As the day was concerned with genre and re-genre-ing, I had decided to focus on The Dress-Up Doll of Formality, which is a little fun activity designed to get students to consider different ways of communicating information by thinking about the concept of ‘dressing for the occasion’. In groups participants were encouraged to design an outfit to fit a genre pulled out of a hat (in the end we had Radio News Programme, Advertising Billboard, Children’s Television Programme and Tweet) and dress up a cardboard gingerbread man (well person). I also talked briefly about alternative ways of presenting research (some of which can be found on this blog) and the 2D Challenge, which was part of my PhD research once upon a time.

After a lovely lunch, Will’s colleague Louise Bird shared her research with us, making a clear link between her practice, her teaching and her student’s projects. I was particularly fascinated by the notion of the mantelpiece as a cultural repository and Louise’s use of the shape of squares as a genre, as well as the artist’s books her students produce as part of their research.

The last speaker of the day was Fiona English, who drew the threads of the day together by talking about using genre as a pedagogical resource. She particularly highlighted a new case study, where an MA student had presented her reflection on a practical project as a transcript of a (fictitious) radio interview. Allowing us to listen to the student’s thoughts about this was of reflecting was a particularly poignant end to the formal part of the day, as it literally gave the student the last word.


one of the finished books at the end of the day

The following brief discussion showed how well the different examples that had been showcased throughout the day fit together, and it seemed like some participants were inspired and gained confidence in thinking about genre as a way of practicing theory.

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