Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Reflections on a tutorial with Dr Juliet MacDonald, Friday, 7 July 2017.

Had a very constructive discussion with Juliet last Friday after my meeting with Richard, and have allowed a few days in between to let my thoughts settle on so much content.
Juliet agreed with the idea to totally immerse myself in the writing that I intend to do over the next week or so, and suggested our cottage could be a "writer's retreat". I like that idea!
I explained that I have indexed all of my blogs which are useful for helping me to reference. I did mention that there were some blogs which are still in draft form, where I am trying to find further information for references within them and other areas where I can distil. In the learning that I obtained at the time and the need to paraphrase it, if it's relevant, for it to be published, much of it should be re-written.

The indexing process is useful in itself because it's made me review the year as a whole exercise.
With regards to the document and the title "A Speculative Re-visioning of the Peregrine", I bounced off the idea (in response to Dr Bailey's ideas and suggestions of making it into a book), as an artefact, and I was thinking about the format of a proposed book. In the ideal world, I felt that formats of something like an 'A5' size to get away from the usual straightforward academic A4 format.
- I need to think about the scale of the booklet, and it may be a combination of these measurements?
In artistic practice, it's possible to create any size of a format of course.

Moving on to the first review of the essay by Juliet, she liked the style of titles, and that there were 'not too many layers'.  
I'm intending to remove some of the more academic style headings, keeping the paragraphs of course, but at this stage, many of the headings are just there in place as an "aide memoir".
What I have also done, (bearing in mind there are approximately 10,000 words currently in the document), if I am aiming to produce something of A5 size, is to think about the readability of the text. I have some concerns as to whether it needs to be double-spaced as a standard academic paper, while I want it to be easily readable, do I have to conform to a classic format that I need to adhere to?

- Juliet confirmed that this was not necessary, as it is recognised that what I'm trying to produce is a book which is representative of a practice of research; that is, a creative research project, therefore it is taking an innovative format, and that includes the size and text spacing et cetera.

This means it can be any size or format that I choose. Whatever works best for me. I was delighted to hear this confirmation as it gives me a licence (as long as the text is readable and clear it is possible to go a little smaller with text size, and one and a half spacing is very acceptable).

Now that I have decided that it is not going to be of a standard academic format, I can be much more creative with the design of this book and am really pleased that I can go forward with a style of whatever I choose. I'm mindful though that so long as it is correctly referenced using APA6 referencing style, then I should not have any issues.

The drawings can also be included as marginalia, they relate to the original storyboard, and I have an intention of putting the document into InDesign. The Adobe InDesign application will allow me to set up a standard grid anyway.

Juliet provided some further examples and advice on using the drawings within the grid. Some of the books that Juliet referred to in the previous workshop were extremely useful, and indeed just after that session some months ago, I actually went out and bought the book "Grid Systems: in Graphic Design" by Josef Muller Brockmann, published by Niggli (1981). 12th edition published 2017.

I can then use the drawings and have a grid which allows columns for marginalia, text, spaces between text, layout help and so on built into the document as I am creating it.  This will be much easier to develop.

We also talked about the suggested book by Richard Grusin, "The Nonhuman Turn", which I managed to acquire from the University library just before our one-to-one on Friday.
This is a very useful book to read as it is a collection of essays, one of which Juliet recommended, and that jumped out at me, was an essay by Brian Massumi.  While at times it was a little bit difficult to read, did hold some of the essences of my enquiries and was certainly helpful for research. The Brian Massumi essay actually has a project at the end of the chapter, which can be followed by the reader, on the "Supernormal Animal" (Page 1).  This 'plan' allows one to 'index' an animal, and make it recognisable, finding the human in the animal, the passion, and introduce the human being into its animal becoming.
This is interesting because I recognise that it is impossible not to be a human being, when trying to see the world through another creatures perception. It is therefore impossible not to anthropomorphise in some way. Nevertheless, in a kind of confluence to Massumi's thoughts, in this essay I am trying to produce I have already speculatively written a couple of sections by using my own humanly orientated imaginings of peregrines perception of the world, and written in a style as if it was the peregrines own voice.
In addition to The Peregrine's Story, and as a kind of nod to Donna Haraway, I have also chosen to write a section entitled The Dogs Story. The intention with this is to put an alternative spin on the writing by Haraway of her Companion Species Manifesto. Whilst I accept that this is slightly mischievous, there is in fact a serious point that I'm trying to make in supporting Haraway's assertions, by thinking about the dog's point of view, rather than the human observations that could be perceived in isolation. Clearly it is speculative, and totally made up, but nevertheless, hopefully it engages the reader to see things from a different point of view. This is the crux of what I'm trying to do.
Regarding "the Chora" part of Grusin's book, (Section 8, Form / Matter / Chora: Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism by Rebekah Sheldon p. 193, the author is talking about two different modes of academic scholarship, which is Speculative Realism (and especially Object-Oriented Ontology of Graham Harman and the likes), and the contrasting, yet symbiotic ideas of New Materialism; particularly the Feminist New Materialism approaches which include Karen Barad and Donna Haraway. So juxtaposing those theorists, with Graham Harman and OOO, it highlights the two different approaches. How these two theories intersect in my own project could be talked about in my essay perhaps?   Or I could put this discussion into my CRS after the research has had time to assimilate in my mind.  I need to think towards which approaches I lean towards myself... Is it the Graham Harman OOO approach or the Karen Barad FNM version?

This is particularly useful in helping me to situate the two areas of theory.

(Erin Manning also writes in this book "The Nonhuman Turn" a section called "Artfulness", p45, which would be helpful for me to read too).

I also mentioned that I had found work by John Berger (1977), "Why Look at Animals" which is a different view, but this time from the 1970s. His writings still have poignancy even 40 years later. This is very appropriate because it is about seeing and looking in the visual process too, so this is been a precious find.
Juliet very kindly offered to read my essay so far, but I know that I need to rewrite large amounts of it, and areas where I have potentially yet to introduce some new parts.
Juliet pointed out that whilst this is a reflective essay, there may be ways in which I can cut down my own decision-making discussion as much, and I could make a number of sentences more succinct. That is, for example, instead of me saying "it is important to state ... blah blah, something" I should just only "state" it!
So the essay can be far more statement orientated.
The greatest difficulty for me is to manage all of the various voices which covers anthropology, philosophy, sociology. Juliet pointed out that as soon as I claim to be the voice of a dog then it makes sense that it is speculative writing. A dog is a whole species, whereas an anthropologist is not, they have their own particular practice and sets of training and so generalising an academic discipline, and not specifically repeating a voice of an individual may become problematic.
An idea that Juliet suggested might be to change the typeset, such as to italicize the voice of the dog or the Peregrine, but this is something I need to think through. Whether this is appropriate or not might need some sort of introduction? Perhaps what I ought to do is explain somewhere in the document why I have chosen to adopt the voice of these animals?
Another area that I discussed with Juliet which I'm unsure about, was that now that we recognise I can write the book as a creative product, I still do want to be able to lend itself towards an academic document as research for my masters degree. I was a little concerned because I am still expecting to put research methods et cetera into the essay. Should this go into my book? Whilst there is a fair bit of this discussion on my blog, I'm also assuming that I will need to reflect, that is to create a critical reflective summary of the truly creative piece, the 30% submission up to September. So not sure where this should fit with regards to research strategies and how I discussed them? I need to think about this clearly, and keep some ideas open-ended.
When I submit the 30% practice it would be acceptable to provide a CRS with research strategies at that stage, but my thoughts on grounded theory as a research strategy (which comes from social sciences, and interviewing): they start with a problem and end with a quantitative outcome. A typical question might be 'how would people respond when somebody is going into a care home' for instance? At that stage they don't actually know the question, and so the research argument comes out of the outcomes of interviews.
It may be possible to adapt grounded theory, and Juliet explained how a PhD student has used a series of paintings as experiments, and then produced a coding wall as she calls it, and then from unable to find key terms and pick things out from it. This provides an opportunity through a quantitative analysis.
Art applied through the theory by actually doing the practice in itself and this is a kind of appropriation of the grounded theory method from social sciences. Therefore it does not operate exactly like Glazier and Strauss's had originally stated but nevertheless uses some of its methods.
The strategy often emerges from the research practice itself, and I could argue that this has been established to grounded theory even though there is a similarity. If in future I do want to use some kind of coding, and coding wall, it may be something in distinguishing where the boundaries are to make sense through a qualitative and quantitative reflection.

A nice model of writing academic narratively to consider our various essays and books by Rebecca Cellnet, wanderlust is one and a Field guide to getting lost is the other book that I have managed to get copies of.
An alternative idea that Juliet suggested was to create some sort of map, is a visual guide,
as a kind of step-by-step? Perhaps at something for me to consider for my CRS.

Also, I provided an update to Juliet of all of my research over the last two weeks as a summary document. I'm feeling quite confident that it is beginning to come together, there is a lot to do still but my themes and goals and objectives are still on target.


  • The book/artefact can be any size or format that I choose. Whatever works best for me.
  • Use the drawings and have a grid which allows columns for marginalia, text, spaces between text
  •  CRS after the research has had time to assimilate in my mind.  I need to think towards which approaches I lean towards myself... Is it the Graham Harman OOO approach or the Karen Barad FNM version?
  • Make much more of the essay sentences more succinct! 
  • Grounded theory method is a method of generating data, it is not a theory as such. Research through practice and practice through research is incredibly variable, and my dilemma is to whether or not to put this completely into my blog or into a creative artefact as an essay?


Berger, John (1977), "Why Look at Animals", in About Looking, Pub. 1980, Random House, London.
Brockmann, Josef Muller   (1981), "Grid Systems: in Graphic Design", published by Niggli. 12th edition published 2017.
Grusin, R. A. (2015). The nonhuman turn.  University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
... and, Rebekah Sheldon p. 193,  Section 8, Form / Matter / Chora: Object-Oriented Ontology and Feminist New Materialism
... and, Erin Manning in "The Nonhuman Turn" - "Artfulness", p45

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