Blogging as reflective practice
You are reading a blog that started off about art practice-based research charting
the journey of doing a phd. It explores alternative ways of using hand held devices
to create print-based interactive artworks using graphical tagging such as QR-codes.
Art, design, technology and craft were the main themes in writing. But life gets in the
way, and over this journey the story takes unexpected happy twists along the paths
of having a baby, going on a UK Digital Economy Sandpit, meeting fanstastic people,
and subsequent group success in funding for a large multidisciplinary research
project called TOTeM.
Entries in conferences (7)
Recently I presented at the IMPACT8 conference and saw some excellent papers being presented. One of the highlights was Erik Brunvand's presentation on creating printed circuit boards. It reminded me of the work that Dundee Product Design PhD student, Michael Shorter is doing on conductive ink. Both investigate ways in which prints can be augmented with electronics, though whilst Brunvand's work seems to concentrate on the geeky electronics side of things, and the aesthetics still need alot of work, Shorter's work is great on concept and aesthetics but I'm not sure how much of it is actually fully working and how much of it is still proof of concept.
I love the idea of conductive ink and the scope of functionality that could arise from a "pretty picture". Still it all seems to be, technically in very early phases and due to the needs of an electronic circuit board, the aesthetic tends to be screenprinted with very little tonal range. What I'd love to do is take this and have the electronic circuitry, and functionality, but also work with imagery that suports wider tonal ranges and different types of print processes. I guess in the short-term one could print the components using screenprinting, then add different types of processes on top to get the desired tonal ranges.
Still the field is in it's early days, so it will be exciting to see how things develop.
I’ve had an academic paper accepted for the IMPACT8 printmaking conference happening here in Dundee in August this year, so another thing to keep me busy! If you head over to the abstracts section of my website, you can see what I’ll be presenting about this time round in my paper A Medium in the Liminal Zone: Exploring New Territories for Printmaking. Last time the conference was in Melbourne and I mostly enjoyed it – save the war rationing approach to catering. I’m looking forward to seeing what this conference brings and especially seeing the artworks that will be exhibited about the town.
Back in late September in the brief window that I was in the UK between coming back from ISEA in Turkey and going away to Australia for IMPACT, I received an email from the one of people associated with CHI saying she had seen my and Chris Speed’s TOTeM paper at ISEA and would I be able to submit a paper for CHI?
CHI is one of the top ranking conferences in the world for Human Computer Interaction and anyone worth their salt knows this one is a good one to present at. It is also very very VERY hard to get into, and the review process is very strict, so being asked to submit a paper doesn't mean it will actually get in. Still, to be noticed by the folk at CHI was a compliment. For non- tecchies it is a little on the dry side and rather geeky, but it does get you marvellous REF brownie points! For 2012 they have Digital Arts strand, so it has the potential to be a little more stimulating to arts based research.
So when I was asked to submit a paper I was rather chuffed. The problem was the deadline was 2 days away and at very moment (the risks of checking email on my iphone) I was actually packing to catch a plane with my 2 year old to Australia the very next day. My headspace was in toddler clothing, what toys to take and weight restrictions, not HCI, explaining my research and word counts.
I emailed back explaining the situation, saying the best I could do was submit my ISEA paper, formatted for their requirements. I was told this would be OK, because if the paper did get accepted I would have until January to make changes and by then it would be a different paper. So I changed the title and submitted, knowing that it was a total wild card (to be honest I didn’t even read it when I submitted), and we would be damn lucky to get in.
We got the reviews of the paper a couple of days ago, and I wasn’t surprised that it didn't get a very high ranking, but I was surprised that it wasn’t out and out rejected. One reviewer actually gave it a 4 (out of possible 5), which was balanced out by one who gave it a 1.5, and the 3rd review was somewhere in the middle. I think if it had been accepted in its current state I would have been rather disappointed in CHI and begin to doubt their credibility.
The reviews, I feel, are actually really useful, and one reviewer actually took the time to list some really good online resources. The whole process is great for me to focus on disseminating my research and being able to clarify it to wider audiences. We have to write a rebuttal (5,000 word character count limit, including carriage returns) and actually I am looking forward to this, even if it is due at the end of this week and I am currently in bed with a nasty bout of the flu. This will give me the opportunity to write I guess, more of a proposal for what I would really like to present at CHI, still on the same research, but done much better than throwing them a second-hand paper at the last minute from another conference. Their recommendations in my opinion seem fair and would definitely strengthen our paper, so I am quite happy to have been given the opportunity to go through the rebuttal process, even if we don’t get any further.
Since I do sit between quite a few disciplines, I didn’t really have a clear understanding of CHI’s rebuttal process, or the way in which they review and score papers, so I did a bit of research and came up with some useful blog posts:
David Karger is a CHI reviewer and his article on “Do we need three reviewers for every paper”? was quite helpful in understanding how they score papers, how many submissions they get and the general acceptance rates.
Gene Golovchinsky’s blog post on “Writing a CHI Rebuttal” is excellent.
Bryn Marie Evans' post on “Tips for dealing with CHI rebuttals” is also very useful.
As it turns out we didn't get our paper into CHI, but we didn't really think we would anyway, and I must confess I was rather relieved. It would have been a whole lot of extra work I didn't really have the time for. But it has been great to go through the process so we are armed and prepared for next time when we make a more serious attempt at it. : )
Going to IMPACT straight after ISEA was a curious experience, eventually, in a good way, though it took time for me to warm up to the different dynamic. It could have also been the jetlag – after 36hrs in transit with a toddler anything takes on a surreal tone. I felt that the first day was a little flat and the first keynote speech put me to sleep, but again, I can’t blame them, might have just been my addled state.
The thing that I found totally weird about IMPACT was that everyone (except me) read out their papers! What is with this? What is the point of going somewhere to bore your audience to tears reading out an academic tome, forcing them to sit upright in uncomfortable chairs, while you drone on? If I want to read your paper, I’d do it in the comfort of my own home, with a nice cup of tea in front of my cosy wood-burning stove! I see conference presentations as an opportunity to enthuse the audience about whatever it is you’re talking about, and then that entices them to spend more time bonding with your paper in comfortable surroundings. Presentations should be exciting, full of pictures and full of life! I just can’t articulate how much I hate having academic papers read to me! What a waste of my time!
Having gotten that out of my system, there were a few gems at IMPACT where the speakers were good readers and got away with pretending that they weren’t actually reading with little tricks (ones you would have thought were obvious, but clearly weren’t to a majority of the presenters) like looking up at the audience, not using a monotone and the occasional smile – truly, it made all the difference!
Paul Harrison’s talk about the printed human was an interesting one that I found engaging, as was Sarah Bodem’s talk on drawing with a laser cutter. I enjoyed Annis Fitzhugh’s talk but then again, I may be biased as she is a friend. Christopher Waller’s presentation on The Aura of Semiotic Imprint was another interesting one in terms of content… real pity the presentation of it couldn’t have been spiced up a bit to keep people in the room. The couldn't be faulted and it was great to see the amount of artworks they had all in close proximity. I really enjoyed the works of Brook Andrew!
Networking was made very easy by the organisers who very cleverly didn’t provide enough food for all the participants. This meant that at some point in trying to get food, one was forced to speak to strangers, either to beat them out of the way to secure a microscopic roast ham roll, or if you were unsuccessful at that, to moan to other unsuccessfuls at the compulsory weight loss regime the organisers seem to think we all required. Afternoon snacks were oranges, and no alternative – great for people who are allergic to oranges, get migraines from them or can’t have citrus because they have weakened tooth enamel! Still the mood was upbeat and the experience brought on lots of camaraderie. The next IMPACT conference is going to be held in Dundee, and already we were coming up with ideas to ensure that food is plentiful – got to focus on the important things, right?
The end of last year was a bit of a stressful time, trying to get those three conference papers in, and at the same time we moved house, two days before Christmas (what were we thinking?), in the middle of blizzards and in the worst snow conditions our area has seen since records began. Trying to write whilst moving house is impossible – it was a nightmare trying to keep track of my papers, books and references, not to mention I was doing all this with a 17 month old baby in tow. Not surprisingly my desk at home, now it is finally set up, has critical papers about the Artist as Researcher, Paul Coldwell’s Contemporary Printmaking, The State of the Real; Aesthetics in the Digital Age edited by Damian Sutton, sketchbooks, paintbrushes, hacked mobile phones and zinc plates all competing for space with swim nappies, a broken pirate mobile and a Tommie Tippie cup with cold tea in it… and we have no internet at home until the 28th thanx to the whole snow drama in December
But I did it! I wrote all three papers and they’re in! The European Academy of Desigh paper was a real challenge to upload because their “platform” for uploading wasn’t ready the week before the papers were due and I had to go to meetings and a network conference thingy for TOTeM for the 3 days before the deadline. So I actually had my papers done with 4 days to spare. As it was I was stuck at a DeVere’s Country House with the world’s worst wifi trying to upload the EAD paper whilst being powerpointed at. Still it got sorted out in the end.
I’m looking forward to just getting on with things again, because I kind of feel like I had to drop everything to get those papers in (and move house). Now I can actually start to distill my research concepts a bit further and reflect upon how my art practice has been informing my criitcal writing and vice versa.
Got another conference paper proposal accepted. This time its for The Endless End: 9th International European Academy of Design Conference in Portugal next year. Its about my work with creative practitioners for the TOTeM project, and, odd as it may seem, I’m looking forward to writing this one. I’ve come to realise that for me the best way to distil my research and to actually work through the nitty gritty of it, after the making processes, is to be reflective and write. Conference papers are a really good way of doing this. I realise that I am starting to do a few now, so I’ve made another section to my blog where you can read the abstracts of my papers and when/ where they are presented.
Another reason I’ve not written in my blog lately is because I’ve been putting in proposals for conference papers and exhibitions. I’ve got 2 papers accepted for the Impact7 Printmaking Conference in Australia. One for my phd and one for TOTeM. The conference will be taking place in September 2011, but papers have to be in by the end of December this year, for peer review in January.
My phd paper is titled Print the code > Code the print : Creating art at the cusp of printmaking & mobile media and is for the Medium and Materiality panel. The paper will be about my processes in the studio, within a critical context and in terms of working between digital and print media. I’ll be talking about the logistical, creative, technical and critical aspects of recent work.
The paper for TOTeM, Tagged at Dundee Contemporary Arts - How your mobile phone can demystify print-based artworks focuses on recent work I have been doing with Dundee Contemporary Arts Print Studio for the TOTeM project. Here we’ve been tagging artworks in the editions program with stories of the works from the artists’ point of view and then hosting their stories on the talesofthings website which was built for TOTeM. Invited artists who use the print studio on a regular basis have also been tagging their works and my paper will exlore the impact that tagging practices have had on the artists and their works.
So I shall try to keep writing in my blog, but I have 8000 words to write before the end of December, on top of making artworks, doing my research project, looking after my baby, and now renovating a house we’ve just bought, so we’ll just see how things go.