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Highlights from A Few Dangerous Days in the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle: Day 1.

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Highlights from A Few Dangerous Days in the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle: Day 1.

Tired of the silliness of Turnitin, and dogmatic beliefs about referencing, I’ve taken a break from the bit of academic institutionalism I’m tied to for a little money in my retirement and am back in Yorkshire and tonight sitting in a Leeds hotel. Here are the highlights for today, where we stuck to transitory exhibitions because of a ‘man-flu’ (bad cold) I’m nursing.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

I thought at first of describing the 3 exhibitions today, but I think it is better to pick out moments. In the Bothy Gallery, 3 new artists (Tom Lovelace, Miriam Austin and Sam Belinfante) explored perception of what we call ‘nature’ and the surprising discoveries within it of artifice and imposed human (and sometimes ‘inhuman’) orders. My attention was called to a 25-minute HD video installation of a rehearsal of a rehearsal – the Mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The aim is to explore the sensory confusions in the language of the mechanicals in a way that takes as more than a joke, but sensory overload was certainly the order of the day – not least in the play with water as theme in all 3 artists, all exploiting the ‘scenes’ from the Sculpture park itself.

However, to the main exhibition: Alfredo Jaar. At the portal of this exhibition us ‘The Garden of Good and Evil’ and we approached it from its non-explicated end, that away from the Gallery entrance and thus had no props to our perception of it in the form of explanatory and context-giving notice boards. Aisles of living trees in pots ordered but taking no notice of their ordering in their invasion of the spaces that separate them, you would encounter large steel & concrete structures in the form of enclosed and semi-enclosed boxes and bars – the most naked being small prison cells but all foreboding of unnatural constriction – or is ‘evil’ an abomination of nature or a function of it. One we ignore at peril.

Jaar’s work, whether looking at Chile or Vietnam disturbs because it tests the level of our tolerance of seeing. Many of his most telling photographs and their multi-modal transformations within large imposing and threatening installations, where images emerge from the ambient darkness are of people looking at horrors and reacting, that we, as viewers, cannot see. And then there is the ‘Sound of Silence’. Approached via a wall of unbearably bright light, you go beyond that wall to find behind the box that bears it the entrance to a totally enclosed ‘cinema’. Here the story of ‘Kevin, Kevin Carter’ is told on slides mainly of one lines, sometimes one word of a story, flashed so that they gain he intensity of a poem and at its centre a photograph of a vulture and a child and at its cruel end the play of ethical issues that mount into torture and implicate all artists as well as commentators about the responsibilities which ‘observation’ puts us under. No spoilers here – they matter.

‘A Hundred Times Nguyen’ has a similar theme – in a huge gallery sets of 4 different frontal shots of a single Vietnamese refugee (the same 4 in each hanging) are toured until at the end we are confronted by the variations of order of the shots in the pictures. But the effect is not in seeing this but in the ease with which we do not see these differences – how Nguyen is obliterated in multiplicity, in refugee status where such is a matter of huge numbers. In films, Jaar talks about what the aesthetic is and what it hides but also how resistance to it may be as morally futile as remembering it is not self-sufficient. To use a cliché – an art for our time.

Then to:


The main exhibition was a retrospective of Alina Szapocznikow’s sculptural work and preparatory drawings. Let’s be honest. I had not heard of this artist but what a rich and fully engaged career is opened up here, full of searing honesty and the necessary obsession that creates art. Szapocznikow’s early death and its expectation became for her a means of deepening her concerns with boundary-crossing between boundaries, of flesh and machine, human-animal, female-male such that she began to explore the buzzword of all art – development – in terms of the pressing living growth of cancerous tumours alongside other developments. Taking casts of her body still, she made that and the relationship to other bodies – notably her beautiful son, Pyotr – her theme and object. Pyotr naked and lieing at an angle, exposed and dead to sight, bears a large phallic growth that resembles a tumour. The exploration of sex and gender then remains painfully close to her concern with the Gothic monster – that thing of horrible parts that insists on wholeness.

And those apparitions are in the early work too. I was pleased to find that Griselda Pollock has a book on this. I purchased it.

So back in Leeds and surprised by how it has changed today’s Leeds Art Gallery visit promises the artists which were so ignored today, Hepworth but especially Henry Moore of the Henry Moore Institute. At last we might be beyond seeing Moore as the old reactionary of art: Szapocznikow’s debt to him was clearly enormous, although her thought and feeling perhaps outgrew him.

By the way, I did take the chance to see Henry Moore’s mining drawings again in the Hepworth. Tom McGuinness is right though. They do not live as pictures in a mine but merely depict it. Food for thought.

All the best


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North Porch of Aghia Sophia in Trabazon/Trebizond

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Sunday, 26 Nov 2017, 15:32

A Space for Presence: The fresco in the North Porch of Aghia Sophia in Trabazon/Trebizond

© Steve Bamlett: Presentation Proposal

North Porch (external photograph)

I aim to apply Belting’s[1] hypothesis about the ‘nature of the image before the era of Art’ to an unusual example of Trebizond Empire Byzantium.

Porches are uncommon in mainstream Byzantine architecture, whilst the frescoes within North Porch are thoroughly Byzantine. A notion of spatializing embodied presence is proposed to explain how Byzantine imagery translates novel architectural space into meaning, in which narrative and symbol-offered–to–interpretation become phenomenal embodied presences

Fresco North Porch - sketch

Focusing on the central section of the fresco (Jacob wrestling the Angel[2]), I argue that Eastmond’s[3] iconographical reading is less significant than embodied intra-male visceral action: ‘He touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of his thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him’[4]. The Greek term (ή παλαίστρα) used to describe the wrestling training-ground initiates our struggle with meanings. Image and text co-create presence across space. 

The Word is implicated in Byzantine images throughout Aghia Sophia. In this fresco, the image denotes a place of ‘faces’ rather than ‘masks’,  a place Jacob names merely because it marks embodied (‘face to face’[5]) encounters.

247 words


Steve Bamlett

Born in West Yorkshire, Steve gained first class honours in English Literature at University College London in 1976, studying under Professor Frank Kermode. After postgraduate study at Kings Cambridge and Leicester University in Victorian Poetry, he started his career as an academic in Higher Education, teaching English Language and Literature in Roehampton in London (Now Roehampton University). However, moving to Durham with his partner in 1990, he explored my options through taking Open University courses, initially in social care and gained First Class Honours in Psychology. He still sees himself as a lifelong learner rather than a tutor though. 


After qualifying as a social worker by MA at Durham University, he worked as a social worker and primary care mental health worker in the statutory and voluntary sector, latterly with people who give care for a relative or friend in the community. In 2004 he returned to teaching at Teesside University as Subject Leader, teaching Social Work relating to the understanding and work with people undergoing difficult life-transitions. Now 63, he has taken early retirement but returned to teaching with the Open University in 2014 as an Associate Lecturer in course in Psychology and the psychobiology of Mental Health. He also still acts as a peer reviewer for The British Journal of Social Work. 

He continue his own study with the Open University, gaining a PG Diploma in Humanities (Philosophy and Classical Greek Drama) and a MA in Open & Online Education. He is now in his first year of a MA in Art History with the OU. He has a passion for the variations of historical ‘Greek’ culture. He has an interest in queer perspectives on cultural history.


[1] Belting, H. (1994) trans Jephcott, E. Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art Chicago, The University of Chicago Press

[2] Plate VIII in Talbot Rice, D. (Ed.) (1968) The Church of Haghia Sophia At Trebizond Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.

[3] Eastmond, A. (2004) Art and Identity in Thirteenth-Century Byzantium: Hagia Sophia and the Empire of Trebizond London, Ashgate.

[4] Genesis 32:25

[5] Genesis 32:30

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Jacqui Gabb, J, and Janet Fink, J. 2015.SOCRMx Week 8

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Thursday, 23 Nov 2017, 21:20

Aim to write around 500 words on:

Jacqui Gabb, J, and Janet Fink, J. 2015. ‘Telling Moments and Everyday Experience: Multiple Methods Research on Couple Relationships and Personal Lives’. Sociology. Vol 49, Issue 5, pp. 970 - 987

Here are some questions that you might use to structure your writing:

·        What method of analysis was used?

·        How was the chosen method of analysis appropriate to the data?

·        What other kinds of analysis might have been used?

·        How was the analysis designed? Is the design clearly described? What were its strengths and weaknesses?

·        What kind of issues or problems might one identify with the analysis?

·        What are the key findings and conclusions, and how are they justified through the chosen analysis techniques?



Reductively speaking the research uses a two-staged method:

1.     An Online Survey using a convenience sample (n=5445) collecting quantitative and qualitative (open-text answers) data, the latter ‘quantified’ using ‘grounded theory’.

2.     Numerous qualitative data collection methods aimed at a sample of ‘couples’ (n=50). Data appears largely to be collected from individuals rather collectively from dyads.

Generically described as Multiple-Methods-Research (MMR), ‘Moments Approach’ is an innovative ‘mixed method’ in which forms of combination, and specific uses of, research paradigms and ‘tools’ ‘constantly (evolve)’ to match the mutating knowledge they generate. Thus, qualitative methodologies are ‘refined’ from conventional norms: avoiding collection alone of ‘logocentric’ and favouring multiple multimodal, datasets. Sequential stages of MMR interact and interpret each other’s meaning(s) and whilst compromising traditional uses of some tools, it adds interpretive richness. For instance, MANOVA data identify statistically significant clusters of themes, which initiate focal categories for use in the qualitative research.

Methodology also matches the goal of describing ‘complex and uncertain objects’, with porous, ‘fuzzy’ boundaries of objective definition. Hence, descriptions of enactment or objects cross categorical boundaries by using ‘vital’ metaphors: ‘dynamic’, ‘flexible’ and ‘fluid’. Aiming for holistic representation of Bourdieu’s psycho-social concept ‘habitus’, data are intended to be read in multi-sensory ways.

The role of the reader in this process is essential but not fully explicated. Data yielded by this research isn’t completely interpreted or ‘multi-sensory’ until processed by its readers. Thus Sumaira’s diary-data is strictly describable only as multimodal (using visual and textual modalities for instance).

Evidence from a diary accountIt only yields a ‘palpable sense’ of ‘vitality’ when read (using multiple senses that ‘embody’ meaning) by living readers. Yet this process of reconstructing multi-sensory experience (sound, sight, proxemics, and signification) is only partially explicated in a dense final paragraph.

This is a weakness because available paradigms, such as reflexive ethno-methodology, explicate such meanings using ‘thicker’ descriptions of the ‘collaborative’ roles of participant researcher, interpreting researcher (even when these are one person) and ‘readers’ in the research. Other weaknesses include the fact that, whilst critiquing its concentration on ‘couples’, as a source of ‘bias’ from ‘queer perspectives’, it doesn’t address this limitation actively.

Moreover, neither unmediated data from heterosexual males, nor LGBTQ couple data, though collected, get represented richly. Both detailed data examples are from individual women in heterosexual relationships. Methodologically Discourse Analysis was available to explicate ‘account variability’ yielded from using multiple stimuli from multiple group-types (Potter & Wetherell 1987:39). We must question then whether ‘doing couples or relationships’ data are representative of all participants.

Moreover, ‘foci’ determined within and before the qualitative research change as other themes cross-cut, confounding them: their significance expressed only in metaphor: ‘flashes’ in multi-faceted gemstones. The authors’ claim that ‘slower pace’ enriches data-interpretation by finding ambivalent or contradictory, meaning(s) in research ‘foci’. However, this is also a disadvantage because masses of over-complicated data become time-consuming to reduce into comprehensibility. They admit of ‘false starts’ and conceptual obscurity, as contingencies in the process revise the boundaries of ‘objects’ experienced by both participants and researchers.

Nevertheless, they self-evidently discover issues that hide from conscious perception under layers of everyday experience; thought to be of unsystematic relationship to life-experiences that regulate couple-relationships. They establish that ‘moments’ of interactive inter-sensory experience demonstrate complex patterns of interpersonal/ intrapersonal negotiation between couples: Hayley privately weighing up ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of sleep over heterosexual responsiveness. Those methods match this research arena, whose movable boundaries must yield results that are always situated and provisional: thus, though unnecessary in 2014-5 to distinguish LGBTQ marriage from civil-partnership, this cannot be so in up-to-date replications.

588 words (as low as I can get it)

 Potter, J. & Wetherell, M. (1987) Discourse and Social Psychology: Beyond Attitudes and Behaviour London, Sage Publications

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Teenagers: ‘All in war with time’: SOCRMx Week 7

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Saturday, 18 Nov 2017, 15:05

‘All in war with time’: SOCRMx Week 7: The activity is as follows:

The literary quip may seem to show that I’m not that intent on being very forthcoming about a rigorous approach to coding but I hope that I am. However, my reflections have all been about the adequacy However, I’m happy to be corrected because I don’t have much experience of coding software, which may be more sophisticated than I suspect it to be.

·       Visit the UK Data Service database of these essays, and read a number of them (ideally between 6-10). Make some notes about what you notice about the content, use of language, or other features of these essays, and where there are similarities and differences between them that you find interesting.  

·       I looked at 10 to be on the safe side and decided not to select  my 10 after selectively reading, which would have reflected my prior interests, but to take the first 10 that came up on my dashboard (which were the essays by 11 to 20). All of these examples were male – a potential or problem in the research?

·       I felt I needed much more information than we were given about instructions to participants, especially about format, but thought I’d go ahead without seeking this information.

o   First, there was the issue of length – were instructions given. If not, is length per se meaningful and codable – does it contribute to interpretation of meaning and why and how?

o   Second, some ‘essays’ (why was that word chosen?) were segmented into sections fronted by a separate bolded capital R (presumably for ‘Respondent’ but not necessarily). This seems to suggest that the essay was delivered in a specifiable number of ‘takes’. How was each take constituted since a take does not have a standard length across the essays, and some with more takes (5 for Essay by 11) are much shorter than ones with less takes (1 take in Essay by 12 for instance). As, perhaps, an example of the problems with statistics the Mean was 5.5 takes, Median, 4 & Mode 3. The range was 11. This kind of variation is not very meaningfully statistically but it will be significant perhaps in other ways. But how?

o   Issues of lexis, syntax and prose structure are considerably varied even in my 10 ‘sample’. With some themes, such issues will be of immense importance. In fact I wanted to choose one where that is the case. There is a danger that the meaningful structures created in those features of language would and should have a large effect on coding choices – maybe for all themes or maybe only for some.

· What is a key theme that emerges for you from the essays you have read?

·        Because we are told that these ‘essays express expectations and hopes’ I was already tempted to investigate something about attitudes to time (especially future time) and place (and future place). However, these ‘attitudes’ would be in themselves of only (as they say) ‘academic’ interest unless they were linked to notions of personal agency in relation to time & place.

·        As a learner and teacher f psychology, I have of course interests in old concepts like ‘locus of control’ (Rutter) and ‘self-efficacy’ (Bandura) etc. which are also associated to tools used in quantitative research. This raises some interesting issues BUT I am glad this is just a one-off exercise nevertheless, because they are complex issues.

·        An issue arises about whether we consider all the points raised as one category of code for which we will (a-priori) seek examples or as a possible product from a more fine-grained bottom-up or ‘grounded’ analysis, since even from first reading I was picking up sub-categories such as internal intention, self-action, network-action, external top-down determining action, present time as past, future time as present, intermediary time as past, and so on …..

·        Of course such abstractions will not, I think be picked up by software and are often coded by elements of syntax (tense for instance), length of sentence and use of subordination in sentence structure.

·  What is an interesting question that researchers might be able to answer using this data?

·        How do attitudes to personal agency in imagined time and place reveal the life-expectations of teenage males in South Sheppey?

·        Do attitudes correlate with demographic data?

· If you were conducting a project using this data, what would you want to do next?

·        I would work out how I take into account signifiers such as grammar & syntax (tense, sentence structure variants, etc.), lexis and other issues, even length.

·        In an initial look I discovered that some used a kind of regressive story structure, which referred the boy back (as an ‘old man’) to what he should (from the old man’s perspective) be thinking now. Is this a means of producing cognitive alternatives and widening options in present personal agency?

·        I would want to consider how subject-positions operate in the ‘essays’ relative to networks of different kinds (family, marriage, friends, and generalised ‘people’).

·        I’d need to work out whether issues of cognitive style were salient.

·        The active role of events already in the past or present for the writer in the future.

·        Issues of choice as ‘open’ or ‘closed’ – Chatham dockyards or nothing against a range of options – perhaps spread over time.


Add a link to your blog post in the week 7 discussion forum.

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What is 'lying with statistics. SOCRMx

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017, 19:46

I chose to look at this Reuters report:

Voter belief in Brexit negotiations fades

A new poll shows British voters are unhappy with the current state of Brexit negotiations, and sceptical whether leaving the EU will improve the country.

ReutersNOVEMBER 8, 20174:31AM

A record majority of Britons disapprove of Prime Minister Theresa May's handling of Brexit talks and are increasingly sceptical that leaving the EU will make the country better off, an opinion poll shows.

ORB International said 66 per cent of people disapproved of the government's conduct of the negotiations, up from 64 per cent last month.

The poll also showed only 27 per cent were confident that May will get the right deal, compared with 47 per cent who were not confident.

Trust in May's handling of Brexit has evaporated since she gambled away her parliamentary majority in an election in June.

With only 17 months left until Britain is due to exit the European Union, the lack of clear progress in the negotiations has raised fears of an abrupt departure with no transition that businesses say they need.

For the first time, more Britons disagreed that Brexit will help the economy than agreed, ORB said.

"There is no sign that the prime minister is beginning to turn things around when it comes to Brexit," ORB said in a statement. "Overall these poll findings provide little encouragement for a prime minister facing multiple battles."

As well as trying to breath life into Brexit talks, May is dealing with a growing sexual harassment scandal in Britain's parliament. Without an overall majority, May cannot afford to lose parliamentary seats.

Businesses have expressed alarm at the progress of Brexit talks.

On Monday, the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply said nearly two-thirds of European businesses planned to cut back orders from British suppliers.

Last month finance minister Philip Hammond said a transition deal needed to be struck by early 2018.

ORB surveyed 2044 people in an online poll between November 3 and November 5.

I think the issues here relating to distortion may be more to do with the discursive shifts in this article than the statistical evidence, however it is clear that the report itself is based on one very simple statistic.

For the first time, more Britons disagreed that Brexit will help the economy than agreed, ORB said.

All we can discern from this is that in an answers to questions whose content is reported only in indirect speech (and therefore makes no truth claims) more people agreed with the basic statement than disagreed. That this was for the 'first time' would depend on a use of this question in a longitudinal study, but this is not a longitudinal study.

It concerns what appears to be an opportunity sample (although we have not enough data to say) recruited over 2 days. We do not know if the same (or even other samples) were asked exactly the same question to justify the claim that the distribution of answers was thus 'for the first time'. Even had other samples produced different results the results would be questionable since not easily comparable given that sample size, internal constitution and means of recruitment may differ considerably. There is no guarantee of random sampling at any point, given that the sample is (compared to the population to which it is generalised) very small.

The problem with this reported survey is that I want it to be correct - it says what I want it to say but that in itself raises the issue of sampling reliability. We need also to see what was happening between 3 - 5 November because opinions may fluctuate at times of increased publicity for an issue. 

In a flat sense, this ONE poll appears to be different from other polls in its descriptive results but we cannot say why nor overly interpret its meaning or the causation of any perceived change - since it is not evidence enough for any change.

All the best


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Sauerländer on the problem of 'style' in art history A843 Block 2 1.4

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017, 18:08


As you read, you should make notes in answer to the following questions:

1.     What does Sauerländer see as the fundamental difference between ancient and modern uses of the term ‘style’?

2.     Why is this difference a source of tension?

3.     How was the concept of style transformed during the eighteenth century?

4.     What does Sauerländer find problematic about the consequences of this transformation for the subsequent practice of art history?

Point of vocabulary: anamnesis


Spell Syllables

·        Word Origin

noun, plural anamneses 


the recollection or remembrance of the past; reminiscence.


Platonism. recollection of the Ideas, which the soul had known in aprevious existence, especially by means of reasoning.


the medical history of a patient.


Immunology. a prompt immune response to a previously encounteredantigen, characterized by more rapid onset and greater effectivenessof antibody and T cell reaction than during the first encounter, asafter a booster shot in a previously immunized person.


(often initial capital letter) a prayer in a Eucharistic service, recallingthe Passion, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ.


My definition of contextual use: In Sauerlȁnder, the process of remembering involved in tracing past uses of a word back to its root, and accounting for them by narration of its progressive meanings as it develops from those roots.

Answers to exercise

         i          Although deriving from the term for a ‘pen’, it becomes a means of categorizing style attached to ancient scholastic traditions – which were to travel through the Middle Ages – of Grammar and Rhetoric and was, as are these disciplines rule-bound (or become so in an enduring form, such that S calls it a ‘figurative and normative@ - a ‘means of normative classification’. However, from the 18th century it becomes attached to an opposing meaning – that which defies ‘norms’ and is singular to persons (truly individual). In fact both meanings come together uneasily in some uses. Hence the difference is between hard categories of temporal stasis in art AND an infinite multiplicity of styles that each speak a different person and to whom a sensitive approach is required.

       ii          It is tense because the meanings are binary opposites almost – the first claiming objective reality, the latter requiring subjective judgement & care. Other important binaries are rule-bound v. free, methodical v. intuitive, stasis v. change & trans-historical pertinence (a kind of essentialism) against meaning determined only situationally. How then can we talk about style in a building, or painting without invoking contradictions which undermine each other’s authority?

     iii          S. sees Winckelmann at the cusp of a movement from style as an expression of Rousseau’s individualistic Romanticism to the hermeneutic philosophy of H.G. Gadamer. The issue becomes from the 18th century a focal ‘hermeneutic difficulty’ in explicating the role of stasis and change in histories of art. However, one strategy that may help reconcile them in part is the development of an evolutionary paradigm for art history which makes art history speak as an oracle of historical changes as a whole.

      iv          The use of rule- bounded sequential history is set against change inspired from within the conflict of unlimited variabilities with each other in an evolutionary form of survival of the fittest style. Interpretation cannot reconcile the objective and subjective tools it uses in each – and hence the role of hermeneutic philosophy. Hence ‘style’ seems a necessary component of art historical accounts (Gadamer) but, at the same time based in an a-contextual formalism (Barthes).

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Denigrating the 'feminising' North A843 Ex. 1.3.2

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Tuesday, 14 Nov 2017, 08:08

Vasari’s norms

1.      Rule, then, in architecture, was the process of taking measurements from antiquities and studying the ground-plans of ancient edifices for the construction of modern buildings.

2.      Order was the separating of one style from another, so that each body should receive its proper members, with no more interchanging between Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, and Tuscan.

3.      Proportion was the universal law applying both to architecture and to sculpture, that all bodies should be made correct and true, with the members in proper harmony; and so, also, in painting.

4.      Draughtsmanship was the imitation of the most beautiful parts of nature in all figures, whether in sculpture or in painting; and for this it is necessary to have a hand and a brain able to reproduce with absolute accuracy and precision, on a level surface— whether by drawing on paper, or on panel, or on some other level surface— everything that the eye sees; and the same is true of relief in sculpture.

5.      Manner then attained to the greatest beauty from the practice which arose of constantly copying the most beautiful objects, and joining together these most beautiful things, hands, heads, bodies, and legs, so as to make a figure of the greatest possible beauty. This practice was carried out in every work for all figures, and for that reason it is called the beautiful manner.

Preziosi, Donald. Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, Oxford University Press, 2009. ProQuest Ebook Central, .

Created from open on 2017-11-13 23:40:14.

Flemish painting … will appeal to women, especially the very old and the very young, and also to monks and nuns, and to certain nobles who have no sense of true harmony. In Flanders they paint with a view to external exactness such things as may cheer you and of which you cannot speak ill, as for example saints and prophets. They paint stuff and masonry, the green grass of the fields, the shadow of the trees, and rivers and bridges which they call landscapes … All this, though it pleases some persons, is done without reason or art, without symmetry or proportion, without skilful choice of boldness and finally without substance or vigour.

(quoted in Nash, 2008, p. 35)

How does the author characterise Netherlandish painting? In what ways does he imply that it is deficient by Italianate standards?


The intention here is to suggest that the art is of a secondary nature. That judgement is cast in a gender binary – that characterises the best as necessarily masculine in its appeal and design. What then do women lack in this respect? There is an appeal to the Italianate standards outlined by Vasari but we need to see why those standards are thought to be masculine. The clue is in the constant appeal to rigour, long practice and submission to laws of perfected creation – the latter encapsulated in rule, proportion and ‘harmony’. Not surprisingly it is women outside even the capacity to themselves to be perceived by men as ‘beautiful’ that the excess and disharmony of ‘feminine’ practice rules in this judgement.

This is not because the practice in the North is inherently untrue but because its appeal is to mere ‘external’ exactness not to well-trained and God-given harmony that paints the world as it can be seen filtered through the reasoning intellect rather than superficial feelings. In the latter you find, the passage suggests, immature or senile women who like accurate precise decoration – with elements recognisable to life (in landscapes or vignettes of things seen afar (Northern virtuosity in object painting) that are not ruled by reasonable intellect – proportion means accurate perspective and respect for the ‘vanishing point’ – that place where reason asserts that visibility of things in minutiae ends. It lacks the control of variegated ‘stuff and masonry’ that make men into the perfect builder of the world. And the proof for that - our reason is based on evidence from the phallocracy of the buried Ancients

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Style Art History A843 Block 2 Ex. 1.3

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Style Art History A843 Block 2 Ex. 1.3

Jaṡ Elsner (2003) ‘Style’

Style art history, according to Elsner, begins by attaching a meaning to the term ‘style’ that allows it to signify something distinct about a person, an age, a cultural movement or a group, that is remains constant (whatever changes occur) while that person, age etc. persists and retains its character and life.

This is a complicated definition because it implies not only ontology but a dynamic story which explains and complicates that ontological entity. It does not exist outside a descriptive story or ekphrasis.

This is why we call it a ‘history’ but we need to emphasise in that term the constituent of ‘story’ or narrative. There are two types, with one type having two sub-types, of possible story that characterise the dynamics of style: Linear or metamorphic, although a mixed form is possible, and together all three may appear in a number of sequential combinations:

1.      Linear story

a.      Linear story of decline / self-betrayal

b.      Linear story of improvement / self-realisation

2.      Metamorphosis story

The style undergoes such significant changes within and without such that it changes its ontological nature – into another distinct style.

History can be seen as such a pattern – either simply as one of the above or a combination of any 2 or all 3. The choice of pattern(s) will depend on the phase indicated in the story as that which we see occur in its middle between a beginning & an end.

So Gibbon & Raphael tell a story of the decline of Roman art and culture. Vasari one of transformation – from Greek manner to rebirth and then one of improvement / self-realisation. Of course one sees cycles in Vasari’s story, since a decline may follow a ‘self-realisation’ in art such as Raphael. One can analyse the temporal bricolage of the Arch of Constantine in these terms: ‘spolia’ from artefacts of a more illustrious time mix with examples from a contemporary decay of style (or if you prefer a metamorphosis of style).

Is style still evident & relevant?

It is because it allows us a language to talk about elements of stasis or movement in time that can be plotted chronologically – even if with overlaps. It will be relevant as long as we need to explicate spatial-temporal phenomena, since ekphrasis offers a description that passes as an explanation – of an historical shift.

However, it also serves as a means of applying value judgements to history that are usually poorly substantiate – a decline moves from something good to something not so good, etc. However, a metamorphosis is more like a paradigm shift where we are not interested in values changing but merely comparison of difference.

It works by COMPARISON of artefacts where the story of the intervening spaces between the artefacts – of space & time – are seen as explanatory of that difference in some way. Asa long as we need such comparisons, we probably need this level of explanation. However, it should not be seen as enough of an explanation in itself. Why?

·        It only pretends to empiricism & ‘objectivity’

·        It relies on the authoritative experience of the interpretative comparison. It validates the role of the expert over other forms of knowing or uses of evidence.

·        It may use assumptions that are unquestioned – about value, or relationships between form and content.

·        It assumes constancies that may not explain multicultural contexts or contexts in which values in relation to artefacts are contested as part of their contemporaneity.

·        It may pass as ‘history’ in a way that is reductive or biased to one set of interests.

·        It supports overlarge generalisations of change: Onians’ ‘neuroarthistory’ for instance, based on Riegl’s notion of ‘necessary transition made by the human mind.’ What is this necessity? Does it remain vague and claim to be unspecifiable – which it is not in, say, Hegelian or Marxist dialectics.

All the best


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Quantitative Data Analysis in Kan & Laurie (2016)

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Monday, 30 Oct 2017, 17:53

Questions for discussion:

1.   The researchers here conducted secondary analysis of an existing dataset (the UK Household Longitudinal Study . What are some advantages and disadvantages of secondary analysis for exploring this topic? (hint: there are some noted at various points in the paper) 

  • The national survey contains sufficient sample sizes of ethic minority groups, including boost samples, in order to generalise comparisons between multi-ethnic populations.
  • It represents national sub populations
  • It provides quantitative data to offset bias in past literature to qualitative studies in the UK and possible poor representation of the issues for the UK in non-UK quantitative studies.
  • It notionally applies only to heterosexually married or cohabiting couples.
  • Since participants self-identify ethnicity, this will be of importance, especially where a choice of ‘Mixed’ is made.
  • They also self-report housework hours – social desirability biases are therefore possible, although checks on this are in place (8).
  • Religious affiliations are assumed to not be sufficiently orthogonal to yield results, yet there is no equality between religious affiliation and ethnicity – a South East Asian origin member could be Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Catholic, and so on …

2.   How does the concept of intersectionality allow the researchers to build on previous research in this area?

  • Studies have shown (4), the significance of interactions between different important variables such as gender, ethnicity and socio-economic status. The researchers do not assume that either gender or ethnicity, etc. are primary determinants of inequalities and will allow them to test intersections between population distinctions and not treat each variable as orthogonal.

3.   Choose a term you aren’t familiar with from the Analysis Approach section of the article on page 8 and do some reading online to find out more about what it means (for example: cross-sectional analysis;multivariate OLS regressions; interaction effects). Can you learn enough about this to explain it in the discussion forum? (if you are already very familiar with statistical analysis, take an opportunity to comment on some other participants’ definitions).

  • Since I have completed a course at MA level on Advanced Statistical Analysis in Psychological Research, this does not apply. However, happy to look at other contributions as they occr (or if they occur).

4.   How do Kan and Laurie go about building a case for the interpretations they are making? How do they compel you, as a reader, to take their findings seriously? Share a specific example of how you think this is done in this article.

  • They  compare the descriptions yielded by the data to the expected results or hypotheses, qualifying thise expectations where suggested by data interpretations.
  • They describe data graphically, using a range of chart types (10, 12), tables and written verbal descriptions.
  • They use multivariate regression analysis to account for interactions and test for significant effects. They do not show interaction effects however from the analysed data (15). To some extent, they leave these for future studies (18).
  • They suggest explanations (also supported by descriptive data (14), where possible.
  • They summarise findings in relation to their hypotheses (18).

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Qualitative Data Analysis in Paddock (2016) Task 1 Week 5 SOCRMx

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Questions for discussion:

1.   Why do you think Paddock chose narratives as a way of conveying the main themes in her research?

  • The analysis is a means of finding whether there is evidence for propositions raised in the literature of alternative food, particularly pertaining to issues of communities in which distinctions of economic status and/or class are found between different groups in ‘one’ community. Since that theory in Bourdieu (and more specific literature also employing Bourdieu) emphasises that practices in everyday life reveal to analysis ‘unconscious rules’ (1042) that perpetuate and naturalise social distinctions. These are perceptible to analysis in ‘participants’ normative account of the struggle for resources, namely foods that they value in upholding their ways of life (1042).’ Hence Paddock determines to choose normative accounts from two differentiated contexts which might show the reproduction of ‘a balance of power that favours well-to-do consumers.’ (1043)

2.   What is the impact for you of the way the interview talk is presented? What is the point of the researcher noting points of laughter, for example? What about filler sounds like ‘erm’?

  • Non-verbal communication (NVC) like laughter conveys meanings that presume recognition of the situation described and values pertaining to it in the addressee. It can also be used to rescue a situation in which the addressee may find the points made offensive by attributing them to humour and less-than-serious comment, should the need arise in the continuation of dialogue. Filler sounds convey meaning that shifts in response to context. They allow space for intervention, time for thought (perhaps in gauging the addressee’s response through NVC) or allow for a sense of real or postured uncertainty.

3.   How does Paddock go about building a case for the interpretations she is making? How does she compel you, as a reader, to take her findings seriously? Share a specific example of how you think this is done in this article.

  • She accumulates narrative talk that talks about attributions of values to behaviour that differentiates ‘us’ (who are in current conversation) from them, who are the subject of that narrative. Thus information is passed that uses explanatory modes to expose differences that should strike the addressee as surprising or extreme. The language of the child health visitor for instance (1046) uses fillers, collusive address (‘you know’) and repetition to build an extreme case about the object of her attention. Paddock actually allows a lot of this to speak for itself in the quotation but points out exactly why the attributed feelings of those in her narrative are problematic – though apparently feelings, they are actually, claims to refuse to believe an otherwise ‘self-evident truth’ (as Valerie sees it).

4.   Interviewees use many emotive words in the excerpts presented here, but Paddock has focused in on the use of the word ‘disgusting’, and developed this through her analysis. How does this concept help her link the data with her theoretical perspective?

  • This is read as a means of Valerie positioning working class people as disgusted by the wrong things and therefore betray that they themselves are disgusting in their insistence. It is a narrative ploy that suggests ‘bourgeois disgust’ whilst not owning up to it. There is a tacit insistence that some things are ‘disgusting’ but they are the reverse of those tastes expressed by working mothers. This is further developed from pp. 1048ff.

5.   Paddock’s main argument is that food is an expression of social class. Looking just at the interview excerpts presented here, what other ideas or research questions do you think a researcher could explore?

  • Let’s just start off with one for now:
    • How and why is identity attributed to self and others through indirect speech that mimes the characteristics of the ‘others’ invented typical speech-acts?
      • Look at

Ø  p. 1048 – Ken’s 2nd speech,

Ø  p. 1046 Valerie’s opening speech.

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Reflecting on Working with Images & multimodality SOCRMx Week 4.1

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Tuesday, 17 Oct 2017, 10:41

1.  What three (good) research questions could be answered using this approach?.

·       What are the meanings and categories of experience that participants associate with concepts of ‘spaces’ and/or ‘room’ from being invited to make artefacts that reflect comparatively on their online and offline learning environments?

·       How would such socio-psychological phenomena be utilised in innovative digital pedagogies that utilise areness of the learners interacting environments for study?

·       Is it necessary to teach literacy in reading and making multi-modal texts in order to utilise such methods?


2. What assumptions about the nature of knowledge (epistemology) seem to be associated with this approach?

·        That knowledge is structured by in inherited resources in language, images and embodied action that form systems of communication that are complex and difficult to categorise as a single and simple response.

·        That knowledge is related to an interaction between the knowing subject, known discourses embodied in conventions, roles and institutions and the object that is to be known. The contributions of each will differ in different instances – when for instance we compare a material object with one that is entirely constructed by discourse.

·        That being the case, the researcher’s contribution to the act of knowing in collection and analysis of data must be made available as part of the outcome of the product and as reflexive analysis.

·        This approach does not see ‘subjectivity’ or ‘intersubjectivity’ as a bias in knowing the object but an essential part of the act of knowing. It cannot be ‘controlled’ out of existence.


3. What kinds of ethical issues arise?

·        Acts of interpretation of others and self are subject to power relations in different social contexts that can be a cause of significant harm to the participant in a world of unequal power (the ‘real’ world).

·        Hence no interpretation is innocent of judgement at some level in the production and distribution of outcomes related to the meanings of someone’s world or actions in it.

·        Gaining truly informed consent can therefore be difficult.

·        The participants must retain enough rights of co-ownership of the evidence and outcomes to influence the effects of their distribution between different audiences or when an unforeseen aspect of the final audience’s response becomes know.

·        No participant gives or alienates their rights entirely. This should not be seen as a source of bias b ut its existence considered reflexively in the research report.

·        It is possible that this exercise will involve sensitive material and that briefing and debriefing may be complex processes.


4. What would "validity" imply in a project that used this approach?

·       The descriptive and interpretative material is subjected to rigorous control by a theory of interpretation that can be known and communicated to BOTH participants in and readers of the research.

·       The limitations as well as strengths of this approach are considered but that those considerations (within the research) are not seen as final but provisional. It is open to ongoing representations from others that might be negatively or positively critical. This in part represents the integrity of the research process.

·       There is no inappropriate attempt to generalise the knowledge and outcomes acquired in terms of laws or rules of human behaviour, except in fully reflexive reflective discussion. The contextuality of the knowledge, skills and values examined must be reflected.

·       There is some basis of trust in the observations, given by the evidence and how it is handled and manipulated in the research report conclusions.


5. What are some of the practical or ethical issues that would need to be considered?

·       The ability to circumscribe the social events and scenarios that are studied such that they are not distorted in a way that predetermines the analysis but yet is manageably small enough to be fruitfully studied in the limited time, space and other resources available. This must involve the ability to reflexively describe these strategies.

·       Researchers or their theories must be open to query. This can cause difficulties in finding sponsorship or resource funding for a project. It will also have consquences that may affect the reputation and security of the researcher.

·       The method relies on a degree of openness to crossing boundaries that, in certain circumstances, may have unforeseen consequences.

·       Research funders also may not finance overtly open-ended research, requiring from it a usable product that can sometimes (especially in the research of educational institutions) be both monetised and turned to the benefit of a single source, rather than to education as a whole.

·       A high degree of participation in the tasks is required from participants. It should be allied then to meeting genuine learning outcomes of their own in the courses they are studying and this should be reflected in the debriefing that occurs.

6. And finally, find and reference at least two published articles that have used this approach (aside from the examples given in this course). Make some notes about how the approach is described and used in each paper, linking to your reflections above.

  • This section includes 2 research articles first.

Bailey, N.M. & Van Harken, E.M (2014) ‘Visual Images as Tools of Teacher Inquiry’ in Journal of Teacher Education 65 (3) 241-260 DOI: 10.1177/0022487113519130


The aim of this paper is to utilise ‘mutimodality as a research methodology for teacher inquiry (244).’ There is an element of action research involved in that the participants demonstrate assessed predictive levels of ‘growth’ in their understanding of qualitative methodologies in research on their  role as teachers as a result of the use of visual or hybrid multimodal material. However the methods were primarily underpinned by participant observation (244) but were focused on documentary evidence collection and analysis (collecting emails, field notes, 3 assignments per learner), interviews which were coded as typed documents. Analysis used a version of grounded theory from Glaser (1992 & Cresswell (1995) cited 245.

Moss, J. & Hay, T. (2014) ‘Keeping connected: a review of the research relationship’ in International Journal of Inclusive Education 18:3, 295-311, DOI: 10.1080/13603116.2012.689017 To link to this article:

The aim of this paper is to examine ‘multimodal’ accounts’, supported by interviews and underpinned by participant observation that identifies itself as an ethnomethodology hybrid with individual case study’ (298). There is an element of action research involved in that the participants’ accounts form libraries of materials for use in educating youth workers using pre-authorised and ethically checked accounts. It aims to use accounts created by young people with an acquired disability as the data for understanding the means by which this ‘group’ of young people construct their lives when co-constructing them in a relationship of trust. The paper admits to a degree of methodological naivety that is justified by the project’s importance and the salience of silence on issues of subjectivity in this area. The degree of rigour and integrity in this area is a mark of high reflexivity and will stimulate future more precisely formulated research.

One area that is unmissable in this area is that there is a great deal of theory which is not as yet well applied to practical research. However theorisation at a deep level is intrinsic to multimodal practice. As an example, note (the OU does not have access to a copy but only an Abstract) the use of feminist and postmodern theory together with multimodality in:

The study was based on a 3 year long examination of a teacher education course. It used multimodal presentations (graphic novel and role-play) as well as live commentary on the same to see how revisions of the multimodal material illustrated the value of a theoretical grasp of feminist theories of embodiment and the meaning of place and ‘space’.

Another feature of the publications in a new arena like this are reflective analyses of ation research of a semi-formal kind. Herein practitioners reflect reflexively on their introduction of innovations. The following uses multimodal methods from art history to classroom work in the sciences:

Yenawine, P. & Miller, A. (2014) ‘Visual Thinking, Images & Learning in College’ in About Campus (sept-Oct 2014) American College Personnel Association & Wiley Periodicals, DOI: 10.1002/abc.21162 

Companions from Steve's blog:

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What is a document? Atget & art: A843: 4.5.1 & 3

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Monday, 16 Oct 2017, 16:26

What is a document? Atget & art: A843 Combination of 2 exercises in this question

… an architectural photograph would be called a document, as would a chronophotograph, a police i.d., or an X ray. They had one thing in common: all of them were pictures that went to work.

The document was a fundamentally practical picture that lay at the bottom of visual culture as a base line, a point of departure, an objective pole. The document lived out its time quietly in the basement, many floors below the storied academic hierarchy, well below genre, well below still life, way below landscape.

(Nesbit, 1992, p. 16)

Yet Atget had no pretension to avant-gardism; there was no dada slap, no minimalist dirge; his materials were those of any documentary photographer without nostalgia for the old-style authorship of the easel painter or poet; his combinations were made with the same technical signs used by his peers. For him, authorship involved lyric impersonality and a credit line … Perhaps he was cheating a little when he called himself an author; he had neither won the right nor did he have the right kind of work to back up the claim in court. But for Atget the law existed to be exploited. And so without ceremony Atget bent the law and trafficked between cultural and industrial zones; he hustled his work back and forth across the border, playing to any market he could.

(Nesbit, 1992, p. 99)

Apply this exercise to the ‘documents’ below? (My extension of the exercise to make some sense to myself of this section of the course)

I have certain problems with the pedagogy of this bit of the module, so I’ve rather adapted how much and how I answer the exercises. For instance, the style of going through the Nesbit essay (themes with comments in between) made me feel too much as if I were being guided to a certain interpretation of this writer that I don’t (yet) feel able to share. So much so that it became a barrier to learning and I’m sure this wasn’t intended. I still haven’t got the author-teacher’s interpretation matched in my understanding and thus I’ll have to wait till something clicks, other than offering my first go at the Nesbit essay (opens in new window). Yet I’m very sure I need to try and understand the task here, especially since a ‘document’ is a description of something that in Barthes would be a (lisible or scriptible) text.

In Nesbit a document appears to be some artefact – in writing or image that represents some ‘thing’ in the world – that primarily has a ‘use value’, often as a ‘tool’ in some process of technical understanding, sale or manufacture. Hence both pictures below are interpreted by the text as things of which, an ironmonger or decorative iron craftsperson, might have interest. The picture is practical – and the term ‘praxis’ is not a million miles away from articulation here. The document is, for Atget, like a commodity in Marx, assessed as a ‘use-value’ and an ‘exchange-value.’


Ultimately Nesbit evokes Atget’s relationship to the ‘market’ as a means of negotiating the interaction between use and exchange value, since the latter allows for an excess of cultural or created (advertising) meaning over use to change the exchange value of the artefact. As I see it is that ‘excess meaning’ that allows Atget to make a silk purse of a useful sow’s ear, art out of documentary representation. Sale value is based in the ‘traffic between cultural and industrial’.


Atget's shop front

Atget stair-rail

When I look at these 2 documents together, I don’t quite get the point that both would interest an ironmonger. I don’t deny that is potentially true but it hides too much that would be uppermost iun the mind of the ironmonger in contemplating each. The ‘iron bars’ are decorative and carry images from nature, but their meaning for the ironmonger would be hegemonically controlled by their function as a source of ‘security’. In contrast the flora and scrollwork (nature and art) captured in the iron stair railing would emphasise decorative (or show) value over their menial role in guiding a gentleman or lady up the steps. In the second picture, the ironmonger would be concerned with distributions of open and closed space – both as a plastic 3-D effect and in conveying the theme of the staircase as a portal to somewhere – together with arches and sill barriers / thresholds.

Granted both speak of relationships between materials used in building and decoration and interactions between these. However the concern of the use of glass in the first seems to address different discourses and I hence still see a role for the notion of text in Foucault.

The idea of document though is superior in allowing us to see the role of the means by which use value and sale value interact. The meaning of the second picture, for instance circles around the use of decoration and free space (decorative play) to enhance the value of what is documented and its price over its use. Whilst that might be so in the first one, the issue is not so stark. The decorative plays (dreams) but also functions (to advertise commodified service of food and beverage for instance). The work with the reflective qualities of glass – that combines representations of outside and inside, visible and invisible figuration and hybridity in figuration is part of the ‘excess meaning’ that raises the documents value as ‘art’ (and here not just as decoration). Perhaps it also ‘queers’ the pitch by making disturbing what ought to be ‘normal’. The faces of the proprietor and other person seem to carry even more meaning here and allow themes of security in the ironwork to morph into their opposite – the role of the frontage to invite and repel and the insecurity that guards these functions.

So here is a deeper commonality. Both documents are about entry that occurs between differently constituted spaces It allows insight beneath what the document ‘masks’.

All the best


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FOCUS GROUPS: Theorising from a Critique SOCRMx Edinburgh Ex.

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Your task is to review the following case study and reflect on the use of the focus group method.

McKenzie, L & Baldassar, L 2017. 'Studying internationalization on campus: lessons from an undergraduate qualitative research project' [online]. SAGE Research Methods Cases. 

Read the case study carefully and write a reflective blog post, addressing the following questions in turn:

1.      How have focus groups been integrated with other methods in this research?

1.1.   The research, although it used authentic participants was also (and perhaps primarily) intended as a means of practicing data collection and analysis using interviews and Focus groups as a qualitative method. Hence the logic of combining the two was prescribed for this purpose and this is, I feel, a weakness in the data collection strategy which was not tied primarily to each research team’s conceptualisation of the main focus of their study nor to characteristics of participants selected.

1.2.   This is particularly evident in the issue of timing: The reason one might choose any research method is related to the ways in which participants are conceptualised – because to a large extent that conceptualisation is a co-creation of the methods of selection and orientation of the group on which we are focusing.

1.3.   The largely novitiate learner research teams then were it appeared guided to view the construction of data collection tools as primarily a technical matter in relation to the time available. They were not asked to understand how those technical matters and how they were implemented might construct (at least in part) the group on which they were focusing.

1.4.   This is revealed in the treatment of questionnaire construction for the focus groups. The teachers in this case note that: “Some students included too many “ice-breaker” questions … designed to put the participants at their ease, but that could easily take-up the bulk of the time” (7). It is clear from this this that it was considered that questions of skill in technical design relative to resources (here time) was the primary concern of feedback to learner researchers. What is not said to be explored is how the inclusion of ‘enquires designed to put the participants at their ease’ might constitute the groups perceived identity internally or externally. The methods are seen as neutral in relation to the participants studied rather than constitutive. This kind of thinking (in the development of tools) is highly salient in quantitative questionnaire design and seems here to miss raising the meta-methodological (or reflexive) awareness required in qualitative work to ensure the integrity and rigour of the findings.

1.5.   The research teachers make a similar point about their learners: the latter were thought to be blinded to the acceptability of methods, such as opportunity samples, created by ‘snowballing’, because in quantitative methods such non-random sampling would be a cause of significant bias. The teacher-authors indicate 9correctly that, reflexively understood, such methods may not compromise the rigour of selection and analysis.

1.6.   However, this is more than a comparison of the differences in assessment of methods used in quantitative and qualitative methodology, which is as far as this paper takes it (p. 11). It is in fact another recognition of the fact that participant selection is always a means of constructing the group definition of a sample (random sampling has its own assumptions – particularly given the fact that it is only conceived as effective in redressing participant selection bias in theory not in practice). Those learners who wanted more ‘ice-breakers’ may have implicitly felt this – but are corrected as impractical researchers. My own feeling is that the students were required to some extent by the framework of this project (using real participants – but mainly as an object in meeting their needs as students within this course as framed by its teachers) to not understand (because of the resource costs involved including time) that a research method in part constitutes its subjects (often as objects to be manipulated).

1.7.   This is also clear in the revelation that snowballing produced very good focus groups. These kinds of group already had a basis of trust on which to constitute a ‘community’ and a pre-mediated relationship to the learner-researcher. Where though is the learner encouraged to reflect on this.

1.8.   Another weakness, as I see it, in the understanding of how focus group methodologies are learned is that the framework of this research prescribes seeing the participant groups as, in part (but I think a big part), tools to a pedagogical end, that is not focused on the participants’ but the learner-researchers’  interests. International students become tools in a learning process to the cost of any interest in their self-articulation, in my view at least. It is interesting, for instance, that this paper does not define ‘discourses’ and ‘folk models’ and hence ask the method to be related to those theoretical tools for understanding how group identity and intersubjectivity might be structured, prior to and within the process. For instance the 3rd finding of this study (p.6) identifies a ‘bubble effect’; but fails to see this effect as a possible effect of methodological assumptions.

2.      What difficulties did students encounter in the design of focus group questions?

2.1.   I have referred to this in 1.4 above. It is important to notice that these difficulties are in large identified by mentor / teachers and used correctively to teach appropriate method in questionnaire building (as understood by teaching staff). I would argue that the learners’ would learn more about issues vital to qualitative methods had they been empowered to test the differences that emerge between groups that are made comfortable by such enquiries and those whom are not. That introductory conversation could indeed form matter for analysis rather than being seen as introductory to results produced by the ‘proper’ questions. An important word on p. 7 is ‘coded’. Coding is an aspect of hybrid methods (between qualitative and quantitative). Coding is preferred to analysis because it yields results that can be quantified.

2.2.   This emerges in a contradiction (p. 6) wherein the teachers lament lack of prior training in ‘qualitative interviews or focus training rather than in ‘participant observation’. Indeed I would argue that the latter (and other ethnographic epistemologies) are constructed as a contaminant to good interview and focus group preparation.

2.3.   This need not be the case but has been pre-constructed as a paradigm of the focus group work that learners are herein inducted. I find that problematic.

2.4.   Another aspect of this is the paradigmatic schedule of research (pp4f), in which ‘feedback’ opportunities appear always to refer to feedback from tutors to learners, rather than the reverse, or (in my view) essential ethical and methodological process in line with ethnographic methodologies, feedback to and from participants to assist in the interpretative analysis of the results. Participants’ ‘speech acts’ remain objects for coding analysis.

3.      What kind of insights did the focus group generate, and how were these different from those derived from other methods used?

3.1.   This is not as clearly indicated as it might be. However, it is made clear that the kind of questions (see 2 above of which this is a continuation in part) can be used to pre-construct participant answers in a focus group as either encouraging ‘individual responses, rather than collective discussion’? I find this obviously open to asserting that students are taught to see how processes in methodology (such as question-building) can constitute the subject they address. However, it is not thus used. It is instead used to see the difference between the question0-based tools used in either focus groups or interviews. Again the focus is predominantly technical rather than on how methodologies enabled knowledge creation that is aware that the participants are necessarily responsive and constructed by the whole tenor of a research method.

3.2.   The answers from focus groups are related however to the theory of ‘folk models’ (p. 8) as devised by Agar and Macdonald (1995 cited p.8). Defined here solely as ‘shared perceptions of a particular topic’, this fails to see that the kind of ‘folk’ typologies that a group might represent, dependent on selection and socialisation, could be multiple rather than single. The idea of ‘folk’ is hence reified. I believe that this is an effect of the teaching agenda in this project.

4.      What are identified as some of the key findings from focus group questions?

4.1.   These are on pp 5f. They are rather mixed and that, in part because they are, in my view, under-theorised. We need to know the balance of focus group, as compared to interview, results that were coded as these themes, for one thing.


4.1.2.Awareness of conflict between institutional constructions of the potentials for international learners and the real ones

4.1.3.The ‘bubble effect’ in which, from the point of view of the ‘domestic students’’, international student experience is separated from domestic student experience

4.2.   These themes are presented in sequence as if their production as knowledge was based on similar epistemological and methodological assumptions – but in fact they are not. Some a product of transactional analysis between researcher and participant experience (4.1.3). Even the presence in coding of primarily student identity issues (4.1.2) may be an effect of the researchers and participants co-constructing themselves as primarily learners in one institution, rather than any other subject position. They find difference then, only within that subject position.

5.      What kind of issues did the students face with recruiting focus group participants?

5.1.   These are touched upon in 1.7 above. The learners are said (p. 9) to make assumptions on recruitment inherited from their experience of research methods controlled by the issues motivating hegemonic quantitative methodologies.

5.2.   Those who succeeded in forming a usable sample (by snowballing) were those with longer experience and greater networks within the institution. Most however (p. 10) ‘underestimated the challenges of recruitment’. This is explained (I may stretch the description somewhat) as an interaction of being unaware that social approaches are mediated by awareness of how these approaches are motivated by one’s own needs (as a community member) and concomitant disregard that their needs – to recruit suitable people – was not matched by the needs that would motivate those in the ideal ‘sample’ Indeed the ‘bubble effect’ is more a factor in the constitution of the researchers rather than participants, yet the learners are never facilitated towards this necessary perception in qualitative work.

5.3.   I find it funny (when I don’t find it ‘self-serving’ that the writer-teachers conclude that student difficulties are in fact a reflex of under-resources of teaching staff (p.10)). How easily does the needs of that community of interest find its way into these reports?

5.4.   In fact this interpretation rather confounds the error in teaching qualitative method, which should stress rather a reflexive attitude in fully qualitative analysis. The base perception required is that analysis must not pretend that the ‘object of study’, including conception of the participant group that articulate that ‘object’, is co-created and that a force in that creation is the political, institutional and ‘practical’ research paradigm that from the first identified. Reflexivity is a political act. It must over-ride the ‘economism’ (Althusser’s Lenin and Philosophy) of the approach that leads this paper but by self-respectfully recognising it for what it is.


Steve Bamlett

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A Personal Pledge to anyone I may ever teach or tutor

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Sunday, 15 Oct 2017, 11:14


Sometimes our own ethical standards make us have to be extra specially clear.

I pledge therefore to my learner colleagues that their words or any information they share in any place will not be discussed in any other closed or open discussion without their knowledge and consent. They may rest assured that I will also never talk about their assessed academic work except to them and, in extreme cases, a line manager - the latter only where there is a risk to the person's health or safety or likelihood of succeeding in the course.

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Mining Art Gallery Opens - please publicise

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Mining art leaflet

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Meaning in A Collage: Text Production SOCRMx

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Saturday, 14 Oct 2017, 09:03

Meaning in Production text in, Open that in new window by clicking here.

It was typical that I not notice that the task I chose did want meaning to be covered – although this was covered in the wording of Option 1 rather than the categories given for write-up.: ‘try to do some analysis of the resulting image(s)’.

 So here is a first of a series (if I ever take it further) of iterative thinking about my collage.

 a)     In both the online screens and the photographed offline location there are phenomena which call themselves ‘rooms’ that can be ‘entered’. The latter is a physical room in which a lone worker sits. The former (on the screen-prints) is of 2 online ‘rooms’ – the first is the ‘Main Meeting Sharing Layout’ (as designated by Adobe Connect [AC]) and the second (under design by the worker) is a ‘Break-Out Rooms layout’. This same layout (Fig 2b) will be demonstrated in the Meeting Main room (following the scenario represented in Fig 2a), and then will be used by three or more sub-groups in their individual ‘Break-Out Rooms’. Both online and offline rooms can be said to be entered by the participant (SB). In what sense are the action of ‘entry’ or the space indicated as ‘room’ related to each other in offline and online space?

b)     The physical room is distinguished by ‘space’ apprehended through various perspectives on its interior distances. These involve perspective, dimensionality and orientation. The camera representing the participant looks up, down (although these latter tend not to be represented in the collage). Each perspective as the cameras ‘sees’ it are influenced by the direction of light that illuminates the ‘room’ and makes its contents visible or obscures them in shadow. Those conditions of light are effected by spatial and temporal distance of the light source (a window to a garden, garage and field beyond and a desk light). The variation in perspectives fragments the whole so that our whole impression of the room is ‘mocked up’ as a whole whilst making clear the partiality of the grasp of each part of the scene to the pauses in the movements of the camera ‘eye’.

a.      Thus note how a central slide which looks down upon the computer desk in front of the computer monitor shows the light reflecting from the white page of the participant’s diary. The proximity of diary and monitor are related to the temporal space that the screen shots represent – they are designs for a session that the participant is committing to hard record in the diary. Likewise, the participant plans for future practice sessions in order to come to terms with how to engage with the transition between Main Meeting and Break-out room (which was revealed as still problematic in this session). For the participant, what is being manipulated on the screen online has a ‘close’ relationship’ to the planning of temporal space in the diary. The screen itself in the shot above is relatively dark – the camera eye responding to the greater light source at a nearby window. We see the break-out room represented on the monitor but that ‘room’ is, in this view, subsumed to the perception of the computer monitor as one of the many objects in the room that might articulate themselves and their relationship to the participant.

b.     Objects in the room and their spatial relationships can tell us something about the consciously and unconsciously displayed aspects of the participant’s identity. The house and garden bespeak something about class and status. However other issues are betrayed by the books on show, the formal placing of wall decorations and the informal placing of objects and mementoes, including postcards and photographs.

c.      Time is central to the last point. Dead parents and pets, lost interests (the occluded Whitman) is displaced by the postcard of the Scottish hunk. The meanings of the placements can’t though be determined without some view of the subjectivity, and its changes that caused their spatial placements over time. Moreover, how much of that placement was planned or ‘accidental’ (if accidents exist in psychology) without involvement of elements of subjectivity including cognition and emotion. But temporal changes that aren’t subjective will also have been determining those placements: change of jobs, friends and the growth and development of children – the pictures above the monitor are by ‘children’ long since entered adulthood. This point about time is true of the book selection which tells of what book survived different course – in Classical Literature, philosophy, art (Van Gogh in presence) and so on. The old Soviet peace poster recalls a past holiday in a long ‘gone’ country as do the Byzantine church models and life and educational certificates

d.     Determining the balance of literary mementoes and ‘scientific’ ones and interpreting what kind of boundaries there may or may not be can be posed by the 2 skeleton models and the brain next to centrally but upwardly placed neuroscience texts.

e.      And then it is clear that the room is not well-tended – bearing sciences of decoration from a past that is not the participants but of the house containing the room, the clutter and over-use of floor-space as a temporal storage during a work phase – showing the badly organised remains of different interests which could be those of the participant or his husband.

f.      IN CONCLUSION, an offline room is complexly organised in terms of both competing and collaborating interests of the participant and their immediate networks. It means emotions, thoughts, memory and forgetting, past and present lives and work roles, institutions and so on. Here the computer keyboard and monitor fit into the meaning of an object required by the participants work (very salient at the moment of the picture) and home-life (eBay stores of books now read and no longer having a space anywhere in the house).

c)     The offline rooms are located in what we might call cyberspace – but the role of metaphor here is important. The Internet does not require the idea of architecture or rooms but hierarchical organisations of education (universities do). I notice with some surprise that the idea of room architecture is employed as a self-labelling metaphor in both rooms and to connect them to each other. The break-out room event is represented symbolically in 2(a) by pictures of two rooms – taken from Google and with no knowledge of what they represent. In part they were chosen so that the institutional language of main meeting and break-out rooms can be visualised and absorbed. However, it was also purposeful to show two different rooms – to emphasise that how digital meeting-space is conceptualised is both arbitrary, can be different for different people in the same space, and the conceptual sequelae of that. Those sequelae are that online spaces can be used in ways that offline spaces cannot – to destabilise space by linking to other places / resources / pages. However:

 i.     It is not true that you can control spaces. It depends on your status in the VLE hierarchy (Host, Presenter, and Participant – each with diminishing powers in that sequence). Since both screenshots are in ‘Host’ view controls that would allow this are visible in the in the top icon bar. However, were this scenario seen by a participant, even avatar participant as I discovered, those controls are diminished such that one follows a top-driven agenda. Hosts can gift and take away privileges to anyone below them, whether these gifts are requested are not – even in Break-Out rooms the agenda remains firmly in the hands of the Host and s (he) can visit each room as s (he) wishes. The breakout room reminds participants in them, by the placing of an icon to the left top corner, the main meeting to which  they will return on the Host’s decision (as do timer and fixed – unchangeable instructions)

ii.     It is clear that Bayne’s view that some metaphors for space here maintain functional fixedness in the educational space – they connate not multiply determined space (as in the physical room collaged) but one determined by ‘convention’ and, of course hierarchical power relations in higher education. I appear to be aiming here to a Baynesian reading as referenced in the earlier blog.



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To Enter a Room: Working with Visuals SOCRMx Edinburgh Exercise

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Wednesday, 15 Nov 2017, 15:58

‘To Enter a Room’: Researching Space & Entry into Space in an exploratory exercise by one OU Tutor preparing an online session on newly introduced software (Adobe Connect).

Steve Bamlett

Image Creation Exercise

To see the Meanings found in Production text described below, see that in new window by clicking here.

Self in room

The two images I will be examining in this blog post are on pages 2 & 3.

1.     This is a collage of photographs that aim to show a series of views of the room space taken in a 360o swirl in an office chair. The room space is that in which teaching preparation happens, including representations of offline space and access point to online space at one point in the preparation process (p2).

2.     This is the online space used at this same point, as well as an explanatory online pages (p3).

The exercise took place on Thursday 5th November 2017 at 1419. Steve started work on his preparation. A random time by his husband, Geoff, was chosen from a set of folded identical papers well jumbled. The purpose of this ‘randomisation was so that Steve would not know which window would be open on his computer at the point when the photographic data was collected. Had he known this, a window could have been chosen that illustrated a pre-determined set of meanings (at least potentially)

Text Box: Figure 2: The collage of views taken at 1421 from a single swing on a swivel office chair

Print screens

The Task set & option chosen

Option 1: Collect and analyse images. Take a tour of your workplace or your neighbourhood with a camera, create a collage of images that represent a particular concept or theme you are interested in exploring. Then, write a blog post about your image creation task. Importantly, try to do some analysis of the resulting image(s).

Think about the following questions as a way of structuring your writing:

·        What is depicted in the image(s)?

·        What were you trying to discover by creating your image(s)

·        What did the process of image creation involve?

·        What is not seen, and why?

·        How is meaning being conveyed?

·        With respect to the photographs, how might the image(s) convey something different to your experience of 'being there'

The Task

  • What is depicted in the image(s) – Figs 2 & 3 above?

Fig 2 is an amateur’s attempt to create a ‘joiner’ (a method of assembling overlapping photographs to represent the collision of different perspectives to create a ‘whole’ but fragmented vision). David Hockney (2007:102) argues that such works use theories of seeing originating in in Analytic Cubism under Picasso, Braque & Leger. They show the participant’s spatial environment(s) at 1419 during a preparatory session for an online meeting with a group of 22 Level 4 learners to be held in the following week. The method used is dependent on the viewer’s perspective during a sequence of pauses in one 360o chair swivel the whole picture since, unlike Hockney and others, it also involves views to the back of the participant at 1419 and are represented by a swivel of their frame in the median range of 180o. The technique was intended to picture ‘space’ and ‘room’ (and a ‘room’) following Hockney’s experiments (but by an enthusiast amateur with no artistic pretension) that was, in effect ‘moving the space about’ (Hockney 007:106).

This is a deeply ‘subjective’ act but that in itself is not a problem with the method, since it aims at capturing not measurable space but perceived space, which may be an interaction with both filmic space – all depths are brought to the surface in a photograph and interact with ‘illusory’ effects of light - but also an element of potential psychological space (within any conscious or unconscious decisions made in taking and framing the picture and then selecting it or not for the collage).

The reason for not selecting an image (the repertoire can be seen on the attached file), the participant – analyst believed that these images could not technically fit on the A4 page on which cropped versions of them were mounted. The cropping was guided, it was believed, by an attempt at minimal fragmented continuity of the photographs.

Near the middle of the picture is the computer screen on a computer table, which was the primary focus of this observation.

Figure 2(b) is a print screen of the new layout being created for breakout rooms to be used in the teaching session. These are in incomplete form but are, I think, near, completion, although the Attendee pod will not be present. Note that attendees in this creation mode and in 2(a) are the participant (as Host in control of dependent views available to participants). The participants are all ‘avatars’ of the participant created by successive room entries.

The move to the Breakout rooms in 2(b) when completed will follow the screen in the main meeting at 2a. In each case a photograph representing the parent screen is available in its own pod. The breakout screens will ideally be used for instruction before participants are despatched to breakouts – especially in introducing the drawing / writing icon tool-bar (this is their first tutorial on the first year of AC’s introduction to the OU). I ought to say that the latter sentence indicates my plans if this is possible but I am not totally sure yet – more planning to do.

The screen (2b) at 1419 was in a state of near completion. Note that since this is a HOST screen there are some icons in the top bar not available to learners in the breakout rooms, which allow the creation, control and destruction of this new layout by the Host.

It had been pre-planned, but not with an eye to this project, to work on breakout rooms. I have long puzzled on the spatial / architectural metaphors such as ‘room’ used to describe cyber-space or online space and puzzled about them on my MA in Online & distance education (click to open in new window).

  • What were you trying to discover by creating your image(s)

In my blog (Bamlett 2016) – link immediately above – I quoted a sentence I removed from my EMA (which didn’t do all that well! L cheer upJ). It was:

Lucas & Claxton (2010:99) identify ‘functional fixedness’ as a means of disempowering learners from grasping more than the obvious affordances of resources. They see it as endemic to cultures dependent on teaching-to-the test rather than ‘lifelong-learning’.

I think it is possible that one means of achieving ‘functional fixedness’ is to control the spaces that learners inhabit online and indeed offline. What is space and what is 'a room' or 'room'? How do formal and informal definitions of these terms impact on learners online? How do offline contexts relate to online contexts in the learner’s conceptualisation and use of space? How do ideas of control, order, organization, and conversely, ‘creativity’ or individual difference – perhaps aspects of manipulations of psychological space - interact with other formal and informal spatial definitions?

These questions are all MUCH too large and vaguely posed. Moreover, I probably have no intention of following them through. They are not new questions to the academy though. Collier & Collier (1986: 46ff.) example such questions in ‘visual anthropology’ as early as the 1950s. Indeed Hall’s (1966: 97 words cited ibid: 48) seem to sum up my own study:

People who “live in mess” … are those who fail to classify activities and artefacts according to a uniform, consistent, or predictable spatial plan.’ (Mea culpa!!!!!!)

Together with these are much newer questions in online education: notably those in Bayne (2008:403) who shows how some VLEs strain to ‘render the “unknowability” of digital space knowable … in a way that is heavily coded for stability, authority, and convention, and which limits the sense of the information space as a domain’ from the intrusion of radical alternatives.

There is no doubt that what I want to produce however is only notes towards these issues. My MA in Art History has like ‘la belle dame sans merci’ ‘me in thrall’.

  • What did the process of image creation involve?

I have detailed the process of ‘reconstructing’ images into a ‘production text’ (Fiske 1989 cited Mitchell 2017:92) above at various points. Of course in a write-up I’d go for a fuller Methods section here, included deeper thought on analytic methodologies – my preference though would be a form of multimodal analysis (Bateman 2008, Bezemer & Kress 2016).

  • What is not seen, and why?

The unseen here is vast, even though the method aims to highlight the perspectival nature of concepts of offline space. Indeed an addition to the method may be to ask participants in open interview ‘what do you think is missing from your collage that would help someone to understand your experience better?’ What I think is missing here (given that I did this quickly and as a pilot to see how to refine the instructions to myself) is that psychologically vision is not experienced in this angular way and that gaps in the layout appear not to be meaningful – see, for instance, how Hockney uses gaps – and their absence – in his ‘joiners’. The kinetics and proxemics within the space obviously also have meaning, since movement, even eye saccades, will serve psychologically to make the objects and environment meaningful to the person viewing them. A kind of dance animates meaning and image production. This is even more problematic when you consider how the contents of a screen are seen in interactions with the objects that ‘contain’ it and surround it or are called forth by it. Some pictures could not be integrated in the collage, yet one, showing a pile of papers on the floor, topped by my copy of Coe et. al. (2017) obviously must have an impact on meaning production – its absence being significant.

  • How is meaning being conveyed?

Meanings may be thought to be conventionally attached to objects and artefacts in the ‘room’ (and indeed the room itself, which was obviously once a bedroom – well before we moved here (why do we never decorate?). Meaning will be an interaction between top-down stored associations and bottom-up perceptions. Untangling what we see and what it means is necessarily a subjective and iterative process where meanings are tried out. Such a process will involve deep reflexivity in the process of interpretation and contain information to help the reader find out how interpretations might be motivated by interest (gender, sexuality, class, status and so on). What is discovered might not be unpredictable to the viewer’s expectations as a result. One effect of changing perspectives on a moment is its defamiliarisation, possibly as a result of mental processing involving wider networks of association than those usually employed.

  • With respect to the photographs, how might the image(s) convey something different to your experience of 'being there'

My last sentence in part covers this. However, it is also important to remember that the viewer may already have chosen a ‘meaning’ of their experience prior to having it: in order to meet the ambitions of their academic project or for a more or less conscious reason. Hence devices to increase reflexivity including peer involvement in analysis may well be important.

PS I have my ideas about how, at this point, I interpret my ‘production text’. I’m so pleased we aren’t asked to make this analysis. Happy to discuss though.

What fascinates me are the self-images in the created cyber-rooms shown (especially Fig. 2a). I’d like / not like to think about that!


Bamlett, S. (2016) ‘Education as Space-Travel. Referred to in H817 EMA as Bamlett (2016c)’ in ‘Steve Bamlett’s blog: Available at:

Bateman, J.A. (2008) Mulltimodality and Genre: A Foundation for the Systematic Analysis of Multimodal Documents London, Palgrave Macmillan.

Bayne, S. (2008) ‘Higher education as a visual practice: Seeing through the virtual learning environment’ in Teaching in Higher Education 13 (4) 395-410 DOI: 10.1080/13562510802169665.

Bezemer, J. & Kress, G. (2016) Multimodality, Learning & Communication: A social semiotic frame London, Routledge

Coe, R., Waring, M., Hedges, L.V. & Arthur, J. (Eds) 2nd ed. (2017) Research Methods & Methodologies in Education Los Angeles, Sage.

Collier, J. & Collier, M. (1986) Visual Anthropology: Photography as a Research Method Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press.

Hockney, D. (2007) Hockney’s Pictures London, Thames & Hudson.

Lucas, B. & Claxton, G. (2010) New Kinds of Smart: How the Science of Learnable Intelligence is Changing Education Maidenhead, Open University Press / McGraw-Hill Education.

Mitchell, C. ‘Visual methodologies’ in Coe, R., Waring, M., Hedges, L.V. & Arthur, J. (Eds) 2nd ed. Research Methods & Methodologies in Education Los Angeles, Sage. 92 – 99.

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Molly Nesbit v. Foucault. Marx redivivus. A843 Ex. 4.4

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Sunday, 22 Oct 2017, 21:50

It should be apparent from Nesbit’s title that her essay is, in some sense, a retort to Foucault’s influential ‘What is an author?’ As you read try to keep this dimension in mind. Ask yourself, and include in your notes:

·        How does her account differ from Foucault’s perspective on authorship? To put this another way, what is her dispute with him?

·        How does copyright define biography/authorship? How does it change?

·        Why does Nesbit employ the past tense?

1.     Style is important in comparing this essay to Foucault: ‘The French definition of the author has gone vague …’. We begin with a very relaxed response to what ‘some say’ about an author, including the characterisation of Barthes infamous notion of the ‘death of the author’ – ‘some say corpse’. This rather deliberate undercutting of your antagonist (a kind of reduction ad absurdum’) is as near to the allusiveness of Barthes and Foucault as is gossip to formal debate. It mimes the ‘crudeness’ (229) of which it speaks. This then is stylistic control of a high order, which tries to show that author-functions (the plural is indicative of what is to follow) are implicit in the work but may be multiple, rather than singular. It shifts the question from, in the last analysis, what are authors in relation to a work – even, we might say, somewhat reflexively, the work you are now reading. The use of an authorial ‘we’ in this essay is probably as worthy as study as anything else in it.

The substance of the dispute with Foucault appears on pp. 240ff.and again starts with an allusive wit. In mounting a case that Foucault does not cite law specifically as a means of explaining the socio-cultural function of an author: “to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses within a society” (cited 240). Nesbit riffs, in the stylistic register of the detective –fiction genre. Foucault does not ‘call in the law’ to investigate the death of the author but prefers like any old private dick to do the job himself.

We are left with a deeper critique than we might suppose. Foucault assumes authority in order to question it, and, Nesbit suggests, thus fails to see how, in the end, even his own function is socially inscribed in determining economic practices – market regulation in the name of the law. Author functions are called forth by the relations of supply and demand in the economy: ‘Authors function, whether the state of knowledge recognizes their existence or not.’

This is so beautiful – in turning ‘author function’ into ‘Authors function’ we see that function in relation to the economy of desire (another term for supply & demand). Nesbitt says Foucault fails to note that discourses are not superior to the ‘market economy’ and are indeed their locus of being: indeed ‘this economic condition … defined the author in the first place (240). Author functions are determined (or in Althusser’s use of the Freudian term  ‘overdetermined’) ultimately by the economy in Nesbit, who goes to insist that law is, at some level, the primary political articulation of this changing economic condition. The ‘state of knowledge’ ruled by Foucauldian authority forgets that its ‘state’ is merely transitory and ultimately determined (‘in the last instance’) in determining socio-economic practices such as the market. It is a state therefore in deep political peril.

Nesbit therefore argues, I think, that history, through mutating legal discourse, does not provide an authoritative definition of the author and their work but a determining ‘working definition of art’, which has been ‘as a quantity not a quality, the zero-degree of the law’ (241). Her conviction is that Foucault is blind to this because he is blind to any perception of over-determination, such as is argued by Marxism as a totalising analytic philosophy. As the economic bases of an economy slowly change, so do, by necessity, the laws which maintain stability are slowly changing, either in the direction of the consolidation of notions of individual ownership of intellectual property or capital (235) to one where capital is aggregated from interest groups working in uneasy collaboration (in the present day [257]). In this present context copyright law is barely able to form a coherent statement, not least about what an author is. What I think is suggested here is that the author is seen as a conflicted concept at present and that, it is in this conflict that there is hope of beneficial historical change, in which cultures differentiate in the very act of coming together (257). This provides a source of postmodern change not available to the more structuralist theories of Althusser.

My concern here is that Nesbit rather reifies the law and its ability to speak in a unitary voice. The law speaks only at the moment of its interpretation (in court) and otherwise lives in an interpretive vacuum, using only tools enabling its texts to be read and these in themselves being largely past interpretive moments (the role of legal precedents). Law in practice is often defined by discourses other than itself – including professional discourses. If we fail to see that, we fail to see how a liberatory law for those with queried mental capacity in 2005 has become a law that articulates mainly how ‘deprivation of liberty’; can be justified – following revisions in 2010.


2.     Copyright defines biography’s relationship to authorship by ‘flattening’ any differentiations one might want to make between authors’ biographies which other discourses, such as those of connoisseurship: high art, lower art and non-art; genius or non-genius; or good art & bad art. It reduces authorial function to a set of rights ‘to a cultural space over which he or she may range and work’ (230).Thus photography is defined not by its concomitant devices (such as the camera) but by the photographer’s ‘work’ understood as his or her ‘property’. (237). This could be extended since Nesbit here falsely names the camera device as the main progenitor of photography as an art, whereas it was in fact the means of imprinting durable images produced within the camera. There remains a lively debate about the role of the camera in visual art since Brunelleschi, Caravaggio and Vermeer. This debate however would perhaps not shake Nesbit’s main point. The artist’s ‘eye’, ‘hand’ and their especial interaction remained a means of enforcing hierarchical distinctions, since it was conceptualised as a valorised and distinct type of interaction through virtue of nature, nurture or both.

3.     Nesbit employs the past tense for a number of reasons I think.

§  First it acts as if the author, being dead according to Barthes, can only be a past phenomenon. In this sense ‘was’ is past perfect in tense.

§  Second the ‘was’ might be a past imperfect tense. In this sense it does not ask what was the author when it existed but what was the author in the past compared to what the author is now and will be in the future – it was once that but it now is … and may become … (re-establishing the dynamic dialectic of history in Marx over Foucault’s archaeological metaphor for it.

§  It riffs on Foucault’s title. Foucault says what ‘is’ an author because he remains that type of author established by the Old law (as, more tragically, does Barthes). He does not know that he sings of his own obsolescence – believing that the hall of discourses (the university) trumps historical changes in the economy and the new law that will articulate it. Atget’s and Duchamp’s ‘common-sense’ appreciation of art is favoured over theirs as more historically accurate, timely and sighted out of the old writer’s ‘blind spots’. It establishes a new wave of Marxist cultural analysis: Lyotard to Nesbit.

That’s me, done though.


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Copyright law and genius in France 1793. A843 Ex 4.3.1

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Tuesday, 3 Oct 2017, 08:33

Consider the following extract from Lakanal’s report on the French copyright law of 1793 and try to identify the central concepts he uses to argue for special rights for authors:

Of all properties, the most incontestable, the one whose increase is in no way injurious to Republican equality and which gives no offence to liberty, is undeniably the property of works of genius; it is if anything surprising that it should have proved necessary to recognize this property and to secure its free exercise by a positive law, and that a great Revolution like ours should have been required to return us, in this as in so many other matters, to the simplest elements of common justice.

Genius fashions in silence a work which pushes back the boundaries of human knowledge: instantly, literary pirates seize it, and the author must pass into immortality only through the horrors of poverty.

Ah! What of his children …? Citizens, the lineage of the great Corneille sputtered out in indigence!

Since printing is the only means whereby the author may make useful exercise of his property, the fact of being printed alone cannot make an author’s works public property, at least not in the way that the literary buccaneers understand; for if it were so, it follows that the author would be unable to make use of his property without losing it in the same moment.

What a cruel fate for a man of genius, who has dedicated his waking hours to the instruction of his fellow citizens, to receive only a sterile glory, and to be unable to claim the legitimate reward of such noble labour.

It is after careful deliberation that this Committee advises you to create dedicated legislative provisions which will form, in a sense, the Declaration of the Rights of Genius.

(Lakanal, 2008 [1793], p. 176)

The passage works by setting up an assumption that property and capital accumulated by certain individuals may be the source of significant inequality (and, unsaid) oppression). In a sense, that is the meaning (at this time at least) of the revolution – in that it challenges the control of land, objects and more fluid property by a minority – those who call themselves the ‘best’;  the aristocracy. Aristocracies may be set up by accumulation of property in the hands of a few, but the French Revolution here does not declare that property is itself a problematic category: where ‘all property is theft’, Instead it implicitly declaims that property ownership be determined according to the ‘simplest elements of common justice’.

This belief in property rights as inalienable rights will become the trademark of bourgeois revolution. It institutes itself on a belief in unequal distribution of talents, founded on the example of ‘genius’. Genius is never equally distributed – if it were it could not be recognised as such and there would be no reason to separate our feelings about the fate of Corneille’s children from those of the children of every (wo) man. And if our belief that intellectual property is the ‘most incontestable’ can only be a step away from a New-Right justification that property itself is not the source of inequality rather the natural and qualities of its holders.

The passage is a defence of ownership in its crudest form and applying to objects that are unseen. A printed work may be an object that can enter the free market but its contents represent that which naturally belongs to the ‘author-function’ – that work which alienates (in silence) the author’s internal property and makes  it appropriable unless its ownership be legally protected as a ‘right’. If we believe in the ‘Rights of Man’ (sic) then (assuming that only some men are genii) the rights of genius are also an obvious corollary of those rights and we are a step away from copyright law.

We have reinstituted a kind of aristocracy in the name of equality – a contradiction worthy of a true bourgeois revolution. Such a view must be music to a ‘genius’ like Marat or David.

An aristocracy of Nature. The masturbatory image of Corneille sputtering out his semen as waste is at its root – a right of man indeed. What we requite is a coming together of the law (legitimacy), the recognition of ‘natural’ inequalities of mental capital as an incontestable basis for seeing labour in acts of mental control in a recognition of inequality as the basis of an ordered society – at least of bourgeois society. This is the tragedy of nineteenth century France. The peasants die for a fraternity of capitalists (come back Zola – all is forgiven – even what you did to Cezanne!).

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Introduction: Me and research methods: Initial blog for EDX SocRMx Blog

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Edited by Steve Bamlett, Monday, 2 Oct 2017, 16:45

· What kind of topics are you interested in researching?

 As far practical research in the world of work, that is no longer an aspiration for me. However, my residual interests in the nature of research into health and social care remains, even though I never during my career found a context of research in this area that focused on a multi-perspectival approach to the psycho-social world that I once felt to be such an urgent need. The work I do part time (AL at the OU) that introduces methods remains either thin (at undergraduate level) or focused on quantitative approaches that actively excludes qualitative work at any depth (in conceptualising data collection and analysis). I teach a course on Mental Health (aimed at part at nursing and social work trainees) that virtually invalidates the kind of qualitative analysis, which I find most useful as a mental health practitioner, survivor or learner.

My present involvement in study then is mainly on an MA on Art History, which does at least raise issues fundamental to my interests – such as the role of multimodality in teaching, learning and research. In the end then I plump for that as my main interest. As you will see below, I kind of resist the ‘research question’ approach because I think my current interests are fulfilled by the speculative, intuitive and reflective examination of the limits of research for my needs were I ever to try and realise them.

· What initial research questions might be starting to emerge for you?


How can multimodal input into teaching and learning be used to engage, motivate and raise expectations of ‘self’ and the ability of practitioners to practice with a more critical sense of what evidence is important in work with people who identify as having mental health problems?

I understand that this is too large, but I am not at the point of knowing how to ask the researchable questions, which might evaluate current or past implementations of multimodality in teaching or learning, as well as attempting trials of newer interventions.

In a sense I do trial and error (with safeguards) in my present work as a teacher in this vaguely conceptualised direction (and I still hope to be motivated by some external prod to a clear conception of what I want to give as a teacher). How else can one teach effectively & develop as a teacher though without some kind of continual reflexive self-examination.

· What are you interested in researching - people, groups, communities, documents, images, organisations?


Again all of these objects (and subjects captured through ‘ethno-methodological method and analysis) of research are important to me. The research should eventually focus on how these foci of interest interact with each other in day-to-day teaching situations in HE.

 An example of small scale thinking I did on using multiple perspectives in qualitative research analysis in the language of assessment (abandoned as unworkable) is this old blog. (click to open in new window). When I look at it now it seems confused but it does at least say that what I want is some approach that integrates multiple inputs.

In the end, my interest remains speculative and reflective and this may be because I have personally ‘sort of’ resigned out of the practical issues. But the interest remains because I find ‘research’ so often used to justify a certain approach to subject matter that I can’t quite feel comfortable with. I think this is painfully evident in this blog ‘blog-blasted from the past) - (click to open in new window).

 · Do you have an initial ideas for the kinds of methods that might help you to gather useful knowledge in your area of interest?


Ethnomethodology that looks from within learner and teacher communities at perceptions of the barriers and commonalities that arise in performing the identities that inscribed learner & teacher roles prescribe. How deterministic are these roles? Can they be explored in terms of performative ambivalences that threaten ‘stable’ power relations? Is that a worthwhile aim?

· What initial questions do you have about those methods? What don't you understand yet?


To the last part, there is quite a lot I don’t understand. In many ways, I will learn whether my interest is in pursuing ‘research methods’ or whether it is purely speculatively epistemological and based on the lived experience of epistemological conflict in the contemporary institution of HE.

·  Do you perceive any potential challenges in your initial ideas: either practical challenges, such as gaining access to the area you want to research, or the time it might take to gather data; or conceptual challenges; such as how the method you are interested in can produce 'facts', 'truths', or 'valuable knowledge' in your chosen area?

Many. This seems the base problem for me and stymies me, at the moment, from conceptualising a research role for myself and which indeed was a barrier to me taking on an Ed.D at this time as the first step in this process.

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