Friday, 23 June 2017

A very encouraging conversation with Dr Rowan Bailey, Wednesday, 21st June 2017.

It had been a challenging week in many ways for me, trying to juggle some really great personal opportunities (new house, etc.), which was taking up a substantial amount of my time, together with the applied focus that I needed to make in the creation of my essay. So I started the conversation with Rowan feeling a little battered and bruised!  Rowan put me at ease straight away!

To have a discussion with Dr Bailey to try to crystallise my thoughts a little further on how my reflective essay should take shape was what I needed. It had been a couple of weeks since my last check-in, and I was looking for some 'steerage' and reassurance. I provided a two-page summary update in the usual form (an up-to-date copy of which is shown below);

 together with a more recently annotated version of my storyboard (also shown below).

As the process of the structure of my reflective essay is still emerging, I have been a little uncomfortable in that my approach has been perhaps a little constrained by attempting to use the more traditional and perhaps formal academic research paper format. While I have already started my essay based on a paraphrasing of the 'official' titles, into a more speculative re-visioning of The Peregrine, I'm conscious that there is no argument as such within the title of the document. Whilst I have used the storyboard to start to think about what it is that I am going to use for its content, I am using the storyboard as an aide memoir, some structure or scaffolding. However, a major question I had for Dr Bailey, was an observation by Dr MacDonald. This was regarding the work of the early 20th-century writer and artist, Ernest Seton Thompson whom Dr MacDonald had steered me towards during the previous weeks. I've already written some of my initial findings on Thompson's work and in particular, how I love the idea of his stories being published with his own little aide memoir type sketches as marginalia to his books. These simple line and ink drawings are charming and exquisite, and they play perfectly together with the literature. My question to Dr Bailey was more of a kind of concern, as I want to deviate from the usual formal academic report style by adopting a similar, but a different method of including small ink drawings within my own text. My concern, of course, was to understand if this would be an acceptable deviation from the usual academic submission?

I was delighted to get a very positive response from Dr Bailey who confirmed that such expressiveness, especially since this is an arts-based Masters degree, is especially welcomed, and I need not concern myself with trying to conform to any kind of traditional academic style (other than of course, correct and proper referencing using the American Psychology Association (APA) method). Dr Bailey went on to confirm that as my writing is indeed very experimental piece, it is definitely acceptable to experiment both with the text and with the drawings as of the drawing can be part of the experience. Similarly, as the lines of research and enquiry and connections have so much in common with the study conducted by Prof Tim Ingold (and this is about his book Lines: a Brief History, (2007, 2016)). How the visual, and in particular the drawing emerges within writing in the process. Rowan confirmed that it may be, for my own piece of writing, the "beautiful little artist book" form, it does not have to be an academic paper. It can still have academic and critical rigour, and yet still be an art book.

This was incredibly reassuring for me. The next worry that I had regarding my production was the fact that much of my reading and research had been heavily academic. In previous papers, I'm conscious that I perhaps included too many references. I probably overcomplicated individual sections by putting too many references into a document from different sources. I am therefore thinking about starting to be more creative with my own opinions and thoughts as a postgraduate. I'm reticent to make independent views. Rowan was quick to clarify that the final major project is a creative piece. Therefore, if one was to be writing an academic essay is a report then personal opinions may be problematic, however as this is a creative output, rational and evidenced opinions formed through the critical analysis and reflection of the works of others means that, as an original piece of writing, there will no doubt be different "voices", or perhaps a better phrase may be "registers" coming in, to produce this artistic and creative artefact.

  • What are the voices in the project?
  • What are the perspectives that need to come interview?
  • So that would be about revisiting structure, and pulling out the key stories that I need to rip/or narrate as part of this process.
  •  I need to ask myself what the key moments, stories or findings that I need to be told in the speculative re-visioning are?

In thinking about this question a little further, although my initial thoughts were ideas for example from Donna Haraway et cetera, and from a background point of view, speculative realism needs to be discussed in a limited detail: perhaps some pointers to what it is at a fundamental level and how I have been able to interpret it on my own and adapt it to my own thoughts, including some of the history perhaps from Aristotle and Plato: but then coming back to the anti-anthropomorphic point of view, I can then start to talk about the stories that come into play. The story begins to unfold, I need to incorporate JA Baker's The Peregrine and his obsessive observations. I feel that obsessiveness of observation is what is critically important, from my own work. That is important as a story because of how he gets so close to the Peregrine, and in his mind becomes a Peregrine almost himself. This also leads on to Helen Macdonald, and H is for Hawk, and her own discovery of herself, and as a side link to that, her first book Falcon, before H is for Hawk, and then finally the surprising discovery on the back page of her book Falcon, and the photograph of me, in a former life.

While those were my initial thoughts of the reference points that I need to think about, Rowan correctly pointed out a slightly different view. That is, what stories would she like to read about in my (that is Graham's) speculative journey?  Those original thoughts with the academic theoretical journey, but not my own personal one!

Rowan asked a critical and brilliantly intuitive set of questions, which I paraphrase and ask myself, here;
  •  "Am I writing a piece about 'me' and my own journey of investigation into JA Baker's book?
  •  And how have I investigated and developed as a source point, my views to this, i.e. - to develop a research project through Baker's book?
  • And the journeys that I have gone on to attempt to do, in this investigation where the different bits of literature are coming into play?"
This can be a very creative process, & Dr Bailey recognised that at the core of this 'speculative re-visioning' is about shifting perspective!
This could be discussed later as part of the story, that I'm telling in a way. However, I agree with Dr Bailey that it is probably more important to set the scene early. It is after all, speculative, therefore has to be about shifting perspective not necessarily in a fictional way, but through intention nevertheless.

In other words, this is a story about shifting perspectives!

Thinking further then, on my own journey, I would invite the reader to accompany me, on my own journey of investigation into the book by JA Baker published in 1967. At first thought, the perspectives are all of the things that I have explored around Donna Haraway too. I do not have to do this in an academic sense, but I could do it through how my encounter with Haraway, and all the other sources (and how I have got to grips with them), has made me rethink aspects of Baker's book or my journey?

Rowan likened it to different voices;  These different voices, therefore, are voices of yourself. It's possible to even play with the structural form.
In shifting perspectives, for example, as a novel, there would normally be alternate chapters such as; the Peregrine's view, and the next chapter the human perspective, and the next chapter may be about the Peregrine's perception...
But all of these can be narrative points of view!

Even though it may be the Peregrine narrating something, and even though it's an "anthropomorphic gesture" (as Rowan put it), on my part, - That is, by me getting inside the raptor and imagining what the Peregrine might be thinking.

All of that creative play can be applied to a recollection of this whole past year of my journey, and as Rowan put it, "the phenomena" in a sense.

There is an opportunity, therefore, to experiment in, and through, the writing itself.


This conversation has been quite critical for me because it has opened the door for a much wider ability for me to create, as I felt somewhat stifled by trying to comply with the academic structure.

For example, I don't have to say that it's a particular document with an academic methodology - The method is the book, the investigation.

While I need tell a story, what I do need to include is;

  •  my position is of course, and theoretical positions, theoretical perspectives,
  •  my primary research for example around storytelling,
  •  my accounts of observations with landscapes, 
  • my discoveries of reading the various literature, 
  • my imagining of the Peregrine and the Peregrine's Journey, 
  • my 'struggle to situate' my drawings as ways of imagining the Peregrine's world. 
  • My own discovery, such as the experiences of temporality. 
  • The changing seasons, the journey as a process, 
  • the discovery of me, from a previous time. 

My own subjective, lived experiences start to come into the story that way.

The standard academic structure would have been a struggle to comply with.
Because I've been trying to do a project which is opening everything up and break boundaries, I would be making poetic reflections, but an academic format might (would) stifle these.

While the new chapter headings in the essay are entirely acceptable (see storyboard above), they should also allow me to tell the story of the process that I have been through.

I then need to try to create a structure of what the piece would be itself. That is a creatively written outcome.

....And all of the time thinking about shifting perspectives.

....Hanging onto my own voice as a creative researcher but also recounting the investigative journey.

As an attempt to take this forward I'm currently trying to index my previous reflections and blogs so that I can paraphrase and reflect upon the voyage.

So while the formal structure has been a block, this conversation is much more open for creative input and now OUTPUT!

The book itself must be a beautiful artefact!

To submit this with my blog in July as an original 70% piece of the major project is perfectly acceptable. Then the 30% part can be the visual outcomes and pieces that I have been thinking about.


Baker, J. A. (1967). The Peregrine (2015 Edition ed.). London: HarperCollins.
Haraway, D. J. (2008). When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.
MacDonald, H. (2014). H is for Hawk. London: Jonathan Cape, Vintage, Penguin Random House.

Monday, 19 June 2017

A short 'Reading' of Alan Parker's book, "Essential Cognitive Psychology"

I have just started reading the book “Essential Cognitive Psychology” over the weekend.  The really striking thing that jumped out to me was a black and white silhouette picture on page 28…

The reconstructivist view of perception introduces us to a crucial distinction which runs
right through a wide range of explanations in cognitive psychology. This is the distinction
between bottom-up and top-down processing (note that the terms data-driven and conceptually- driven are often used as alternatives). A bottom-up process is one which proceeds from lower levels of analysis to higher levels. In contrast, a top-down process feeds down a system using higher level knowledge to facilitate lower level processes. In normal vision, we are not aware of the many complex interactions between bottom-up and top- down processes that occur during visual perception. So, in order to dissociate them, we need “trick” stimuli to demonstrate. Indeed, as you will see, many aspects of visual perception rely on the use of unusual stimuli to illustrate them.
Figure 2.1 may seem meaningless initially, but as you stare at it an organisation will suddenly emerge. This realisation represents the influence of top-down processes which have superimposed pre-existing knowledge on to the input to achieve
 Copyright © 2000. Taylor and Francis. All rights reserved 

FIG. 2.1. What do you see here?  A man playing the saxophone or a woman’s face?


The Reason I find this interesting is because we have made an anthropomorphic recognition of the image.

In fact, to Peregrine, I think it would neither see a man playing the saxophone or a woman’s face…

I believe it would see something entirely different.  So I have appended the drawing below to try to explain my point of view from a Peregrine… It becomes now a zoomorphic recognition.  To go further, this becomes a rapto-morphic recognition.


  1. A blackbird in flight (a prey species)
  2. A woodpecker emerging from its nest (another prey species)
  3. And even, the tell-tale sickle wing of another falcon. (Sickle = Falcon from the Latin (Falx)).

There is so much more in this picture too…
But, then again, to a dog, it might see…. – (I think you can get the picture… No pun intended! 😊 )

The conclusion is that I think ‘we see what we want to see’, but our proclivities lead us to a recognition that is more likely to affect us in some way, and this is why the book (Essential Cognitive Psychology) is of such importance to me and the project!

Parkin, A. J. (2000). Essential Cognitive Psychology. Retrieved from Created from hud on 2017-06-19 02:30:14

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