Experiential Knowledge Special Interest Group


Keynote Speakers

Paul Greenhalgh

"Skill and the next phase of Modernity"

It was jut under a century ago that members of the newly-formed Surrealist movement proudly proclaimed that ‘we have no skill’, and in so doing they exemplified a moment of young defiance in which new ways of thinking about art and its role in the world were forcing their way onto the international stage. From the perspective of parts of the twentieth century avant-garde, skill, in the way the Surrealists elected to define it, implied a limiting factor on the imagination, and something that hampered their idea of creative process. In the twenty-first century, the presence or absence of skill is once again becoming a central issue among the young, but from a very different perspective, and not simply as a determinant in art, but also a wider the socio-economic arena.

Skill, or the publicly organized use of talent, implies the development and use of tacit knowledge, the conjoining of physical and cognitive realms, the rarefication and perfection of ‘eye’ and ‘hand’ as tools geared toward specific tasks. The dematerialized nature of online life, of course, makes the entire concept far more ambivalent, but for my purposes here, skill will be taken to mean that component in the creative process that allows human ingenuity to realize the production of physical works of all types. It is fundamentally empirical, and a result of the coming together of cognitive and tactile realms. The normative assumption is that it in the individually talented person, skill emerges through the enhancement of innate ability with training.

In some respects the idea of skill ran counter to the ideological thrust of the last phase of modernity: it didn’t sit comfortably with previous conceptions of progress or Utopia. Nevertheless, the paper will argue, it is core to the functioning of society, and should remain so not simply in the cultural and economic realms, but in terms of the stability of society itself. Skill has always been - and remains - the key to civilization. It will be central to the next phase of modernity and will clearly differentiate it from the last.

Biography: Prof Paul Greenhalgh is the Director of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Art at the University of East Anglia has had a long and distinguished career as a curator, author, and lecturer on art and ideas in the modern period. Greenhalgh previously served as the Director and President of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington DC, as President of NSCAD University (Canada), and as the Head of Research at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.  He has lectured and taught in many institutions, internationally, and has been an arts advisor to numerous public bodies in Europe, North America and the Far East.

His specialist areas are the visual arts of the modern period, and he is known especially for his work on late 19th Europe, Modernism in design, the history of exhibitions, the history of ceramics, and modern and contemporary craft. His books include Ephemeral Vistas (1989), Modernism in Design (1993), Art Nouveau 1890-1914 (2000), The Persistence of Craft (2003) and The Modern Ideal (2005), Fair World (2010), Art Nouveau: The Artists of Modern Life (2013).

Janet McDonnell

“Looking in the right place: What the study of the micro-structures of design activities tells us about design expertise and collaboration skills”

This talk presents some of the findings from fine-grained analyses of design taking place in either controlled or natural settings.  Each study contributes to a richer picture of what designing entails; some contribute to a more subtle picture of the skills at work in constructive collaboration. Some of the findings put into question commonly held assumptions about designing and design collaboration. Together, they contribute to an agenda which seeks to move beyond the narrow perspective of rationality which classifies the justification of choices as either compelling or arbitrary, towards the older one in which rationality is defined as the ability to provide acceptable reasons for ones choices or actions.

Biography: Prof Janet McDonnell is Head of Research at Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design, University of the Arts, London and is Professor of Design Studies.  Originally educated and trained as an electrical engineer (Imperial College London), she became a chartered engineer in 1982 before holding a series of acadmic posts. She has a masters degree in Computer Science from UCL and a PhD from Brunel University. She is editor-in-chief of the peer reviewed journal CoDesign (published by Taylor and Francis Group) and she is a member of the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council peer review college. She has been a Fellow of the RSA since 1988. Her recent publications include an edited collection of studies of naturally occurring design meetings (About: Designing J. McDonnell and P. Lloyd (eds), Taylor and Francis 2009); and two papers in Design Studies on collaboration practices in fine art and in the design of software (Impositions of order: A comparison between design and fine art practices 32 (2011) pp. 557-572 and Accommodating Disagreement: A Study of Effective Design Collaboration 33 (2012) pp. 44-63).

Michele Dickey

“Connoisseurship and the Design of Contemporary Educational Media”

During the past decade the prevalence of digital technologies has altered and forever changed the dimensions of educational media.   Educational media is no longer limited to being an artifact or object for a learner to view or read, but has now emerged as processes and experiences that transcend time and space.  New tools and technologies provide untold opportunities for re-defining contemporary educational media as eLearning environments, mobile learning environments, and game-based learning environments.  Contemporary educational media provides more opportunities for experiential learning.  This is important because much of what we learn about the world is based on “first-person non-symbolic” experiences (Winn, 1993); however, traditional educational media tended toward providing “third-person symbolic experiences” in which first-person experiences were abstracted, codified, reduced and replicated.  This transformation presents designers with intriguing challenges in how to view, critique, understand and evaluate these learning environments.  Contemporary educational media are dynamic spaces constructed of multiple influences from the arts and sciences, and too often science as the prevailing mode of inquiry misses the aesthetics and the nuances necessary for the design of these environments.   It is important for designers, educators and educational technologists to look for new methods to understand and evaluate the design. Connoisseurship provides a means of reviewing educational media without the need for elaborate mechanisms of qualitative or quantitative inquiry (Belland, 1991).  Connoisseurship is “the art of appreciation” and an “act of knowledgeable perception” (Eisner, 1998).  A connoisseurship model of inquiry allows designers, educators and technologist a means of “getting inside” of educational media by incorporating insights, skills and techniques from various disciplines and provides a new lens for looking at interactive learning environments.

Biography: Prof Michele D. Dickey is Professor and Coordinator for the Instructional Design and Technology program in the Department of Educational Psychology at Miami University.  She teaches graduate and undergraduate courses (traditional and online) in interactive educational media design, game-based learning design and digital literacy. Much of her scholarship has focused on how aesthetics in popular game design can inform the design of interactive educational media.  Her work covers the span of game design, game-based learning, and the integration of popular games for learning.   Her most current work focuses on the use of connoisseurship as a mode of inquiry to inform the design of interactive educational media.  One of her most recent book chapters (Aesthetics and Game-based Learning: Applying John C. Belland’s Connoisseurship Model as a Mode of Inquiry) focuses on how the use of the connoisseurship model (as proposed by John C. Belland in Paradigms Regained) can provide an arts-based alternative to the science-based paradigms of inquiry in how we study the design of educational media.  Too often science as the prevailing mode of inquiry misses the impact and influence of the aesthetics, but the use of connoisseurship provides a means for critiquing and “getting inside” of media design.

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Knowing Inside Out - experiential knowledge, expertise and connoisseurship
International Conference 2013 of the DRS Special Interest Group      on Experiential Knowledge at Loughborough University
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