Sunday, 18 June 2017

Thoughts on a tutorial/one-to-one meeting with Dr Juliet MacDonald, Friday, 16 June.

I had another excellent discussion with Juliet on Friday, and we covered a lot of ground including the recent blog that I'd created following my fortuitous discovery of a method to convert previous blogs into an easily readable document format easily. I think this will be a useful tool which I can further modify by using the various tabs that I allocate to my blogs so that they can be correlated into suitable chapters or sections of the book. I'm quite pleased with the outcome of this short exercise, even though arguably it became a bit of a distraction away from essay production over the last week.

Juliet also commented on the review of my two-page status report, together with the John Gray books that I have been reading. We also discussed the ideas of discursive reading by Karen Barad. Juliet pointed out that the Haraway and Barad reference both come as a kind of feminist writing position, but there is a recent piece of work at Juliet recommended which looks at both the feminist position and Speculative Realism. I'm not sure if this has already been pointed out to me by Rowan, is a section of the book "New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies" by Richard Dolphijn and Iris Van Der Tuin. Published by the Open Humanities Press, University of Michigan.

Juliet confirmed that it's possible that this is the book that contains the chapter of the interview and agreed to double-check her source at some stage. The book may also be in the library at the University of Huddersfield. Juliet kindly agreed to try to find the one that she saw which is also available through Summons. I shall add this to my reading list.

We also discussed my recent acquisition of the book By Alan Parkin "essential cognitive psychology". Dr MacDonald confirmed that this was an important book to consider this especially the chapter regarding visual perception. Thinking about this in line drawings ties well together with this book. As this is an MA in digital media and the fact that this project touches on embodied vision and digital computer vision and media, what I'm doing particularly around edges and computers mapping these edges, there is a critical history to it, which I can be critical towards regarding its historical development. How the computer maps the boundaries is important to understand what models of visual perception have been used in creating computer-based cognitive kinds of algorithms that pick out edges, based on an understanding of embodied bit vision but mapped and designed into algorithms for a computer to interpret and change into human readable embodied vision.

This is of interest to me because it has probably followed quite a rigid development and evolution based on scientific advances of the camera initially, and then digital technology. What is of interest to me here is that the general discourse on scientific progress has more recently taken a wider turn towards artistic development. My project in the way that I am going about it may bring about different type of understanding compared to the qualitative scientific and traditional technical development, and textbook cognitive psychology. The project keeps expanding and touches on various areas.

The storyboard layout for the essay is beginning to take shape as a vehicle for me to create the paper. This is a helpful tool for me to use to create some structure and scaffolding, together with various signposts. I felt that my drawings for the storyboard are a little bit over the top, especially for a storyboard, and I was quick to defend the reason for doing this was more to create a diversion. These drawings have been set up in Photoshop, and even through this diversion, I learned a valuable lesson. Probably a mistake that I initially made was to make these drawings on a single layer within Photoshop. Therefore each addition and change that I was making affected the single layer in the same way that a pencil drawing was done previously on paper. The advantage of creating multiple layers means that I would have been able to make nondestructive adaptations and I would have been able to change the order of the various layers to try and achieve the best effect.

Within these drawings, while they are not very detailed, they are of course raster based graphics, which means that their scalability is limited. Juliet asked if I was able to create these as vector drawings, but I think perhaps the shortfall would be that I would not be able to blend vector drawings in quite the same way that it is possible through a raster based photoshop picture only because the capability of blending is reduced. Nevertheless, sticking with the idea of the line, then Adobe Illustrator vector drawings are ideal.

Juliet asked if these images were originally based on photographs which I confirmed many of which I had taken at the various falconry displays that I'd attended both last year and a recent one in April. The idea that the images can be frozen in time and then re-articulated through drawing in itself makes an interesting engagement.

We also talked about the work of Ernest Seton Thompson, which I'm incredibly grateful that Juliet pointed out to me last week. Dr MacDonald is particularly interested in the drawings as a kind of shorthand that Seton Thompson tended to create in the margins to his books. The blog that I was able to create last week goes into more detail about the beautiful and exquisitely minimal ink drawings that he rendered. There is something about my storyboard that reminded Juliet about seeing Thompson's work previously. I loved the books that Seton Thompson had created, and I was very inspired to review the technique to such an extent that I was able to cut many of the drawings out and paste them into Adobe In Design. Juliet pointed out also the personification goes on in Seaton Thompson's drawings as well as his text where he is able to call many of his animal encounters with human names.

The structure of the headings and subsections of the storyboard can continually be adapted as I start to go forward with production of the essay in the body of the work. I recognise that I need to get cracking on the full production of this piece.

From a personal point of view, I replayed to Juliet that my mind has been wondering a great deal over the past few weeks, particularly after some recent heart and lung tests that I had to undergo. They culminated in echocardiogram's yesterday, and other tests, possibly with an overnight stay in hospital in the next few months. I'm still not sure when this will be as it was declared that there was a potential waiting time of up to 87 days when I applied for this, so it's likely to be sometime in August now. Whilst it's been playing on my mind a little bit, I'm also in the process of trying to buy a second house, a cottage, but the various solicitors and their timescales have been somewhat frustrating. Meanwhile trying to pacify my wonderfully enthusiastic wife and at the same time balance, the concerns and worries of the sellers are making my position a little difficult. Especially because I'm trying to immerse myself into an environment of artistic production and learning, I am conscious that these distractions do make such immersion difficult. I have full empathy for my peers and younger students who are trying to hold down part-time jobs together with various other pressures which are far greater than my own. I still feel truly privileged to be able to switch off however and meditate through drawing.

There was a brief discussion on the works of WG Sebald. Juliet enjoyed the film I had suggested and found entitled "Patience (after Sebald)", by the movie that the director and producer, Grant Gee (2012). I found this to be an excellent reference because he had this approach of taking his readers on a journey, similar to the device used by Rebecca Solnit and many others. He does this in one of his books "rings of Saturn", and this journey brings in many details from his personal histories and global histories. This is a nice method, with the idea of even how the way that the film has been made, with different voices and reflections with voices being layered over landscapes has these similar layers to my project. These constantly different ways of bringing these things together are similar to my essay and how I bring these various threads together in a critical way is important too.

Juliet mentioned that there were a couple of things in the recent graduate degree show, where there is a video playing on layers of screens by Kerry Freeman, I was later able to take a look at this installation. I met Kerry sometime ago at an exhibition at the Artworks in Halifax, and we did a joint collaborative exhibition with many of the graphic design students while I was between my second and third year, and Kerry had just been completing her first year. Mainly through the work of UoH lecturers together with a lot of her students in graphic design.

Juliet was thinking about the kind of parallax installation with various images around the room and was unsure as to whether that would be able to be achieved through a layering of screens or whether I had a difference. I explained that my thoughts were more perhaps like the work of William Kentridge and his Documenta 13 exhibition. I found this very inspirational, even though his work is very silhouetted through a beautiful series of animations, there is a level of recognition and confusion in his work which I love. In my job what I'm thinking about is through the use of layers in Adobe Illustrator Photoshop, but then mixed through after-effects and then projected with very slight overlaps in the way that it is projected. The reason for this is because of my observations of peregrines and their head bobbing that goes on regularly when they are in a static state. This creates a level of parallax that they can take advantage of through their second fovea and acuity of vision.

It was confirmed that this would be achieved through software manipulation, and Dr MacDonald confirmed that it was probable that I could borrow a number of projectors that I could use once the undergraduate degree show has been completed.

Another piece of work in the contemporary arts exhibition is the work of Daniel Davies. He created a large wall display of drawings and text like a kind of evidence board with various threads of connections. This is a worthwhile piece to also consider, in a way of mapping the project and tying things together. At the practical stage, this may be a useful technique that Dr MacDonald suggested would help to position my work. Thinking of various connections within the essay will be large, there may be other ways to explore the visual outputs.

 I mentioned too the work of Dr Graham Lister which I recall seeing about 18 months ago. He too used a kind of storyboard and connecting lines of evidence for his artistic trip and journey across the United States of America. There were pictures of how we presented this when he first started at the University I think back in January 2016. They provide an excellent presentation and overview which I'm sure I must have a copy of somewhere. It was a nice mix between the digital and the ideas of space which he also used Google maps to draw things together with.

"There is so much to work with that I'm not short of things to do" as Juliet suggested, feeding my writing into the reflective essay rather than into my blogs is important though, and I need to be careful to divide my time up correctly.

While it is important to keep moving forward and interrogating the idea of rapport being a fundamental idea, the idea of approaching a new design by developing a rapport with something else is an interesting way of starting a journey. Reappraisal of the role in our world, and my intellectual argument encompassing how rapport can be developed for the various headings of responsibility; environmental, and ethical concerns must support my argument. Which by the way also supports Donna Haraway's assertion of dogs being companion species, whereas I assert that peregrines and Falcons should also be considered as companion species. Dr MacDonald correctly pointed out that dogs have been specially bred for their various attributes to become "companion species" whereas falcons, hawks and eagles are almost all evolved from totally wild and independent species. It is only very recently, and on further research that hybridisation and falconry have taken place.

The radio four series entitled "natural histories" was a useful resource for me to review according to Dr MacDonald because it is highly likely that they may have done a series or at least a program on falconry? This was a good steer for me to take a look at and use the BBC archives that are now online.

I also mentioned the previous suggestion by Richard Mulhearn to get a copy of the book from the Whitechapel Gallery "Documents of Contemporary Art: Animals" and one of which contains various essays by practising artists and practitioners. Marcus Coates and his work has some resonance with the idea of establishing rapport with creatures, together with various other philosophers such as Jacques Derrida, Brian Massumi, Walter Benjamin and John Berger all of whom I have been studying throughout my undergraduate degree and as part of this master's. So this is an excellent source of real world essays and material and another wonderful find.

Further reflections on Essay production;

 A subsequent conflict in my mind has now been resolved thanks to a simple discussion that I must thank my wife, Julie. I have been struggling to maintain a flow in the production of the essay, while literally staring the answer in the face. Julie correctly pointed out that I can quite simply flip from section to section, chapter to chapter and each day start wherever I wish by using the storyboard as a prompt. I, therefore, do not need to create an extended essay in a traditional sense of the start middle and end. This might seem obvious, but the conversation led to a profound realisation that my approach, and sense of being frozen to some degree, could literally be this flexible. I'm incredibly thankful that I'm able to have such conversations and gain insight through such productive discussions.


  • Continue reading the work of Karen Barad, and Diffractive Reading
  • Finish reading essential cognitive psychology by Alan Parkin, especially the chapter around visual perception and supporting chapters (only!)
  • Build upon the use of the storyboard is a flexible scaffolding for the production of the essay.
  • Think about the production of drawings and the need to continually add and develop layers in all the Adobe applications that I use. Layers make it easy for nondestructive adjustments to be made.
  • Keep making small drawings, possibly to be used in the margin of the essay perhaps in a similar way to Seton Thompson's margin drawings?
  •  I need to ask Rowan if it would be acceptable to make such margin drawings in an academic paper?
  • Keep reviewing the work of William Kentridge and other practitioners including the work of the recent graduates at this university to help contextualise and position my own work.
  • Try to avoid blogging too much, but instead devote more time to the essay production as I now have less than a month to complete this.


Dolphijn, RJ and Vander Tuin, I. (2012). New Materialism: Interviews and Cartographies . Open Humanities Press, University of Michigan. Retrieved online at

Gee, G. (2012). Patience (after Sebald), a documentary video/film available on YouTube at

  • Parkin, A. J. (2000;2014;). Essential cognitive psychology. Hove: Psychology. doi:10.4324/9781315784854
Ramos, F. (2016) Document of Contemporary Art: Animals. Whitechapel Gallery and the MIT press. London.

Seton Thompson, E. Various works, now available online at

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