[spk] Vol 3, No 1 (2018)

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[spk] Vol 3, No 1 (2018)

Spark: UAL Creative Teaching and Learning Journal

Home > Vol 3, No 1 (2018) > Ingham


Dr Mark Ingham, Acting Programme Director Graphic Design Communication, London College of Communication

There is a story by Italo Calvino, The Baron in the Trees (1959), where a young Italian nobleman of the eighteenth-century rebels against his parents by climbing into the trees and remaining there for the rest of his life. After he has lived in the trees for a while, they become, ‘… hung all over with scrawled pieces of paper and bits of cardboard … with various objects; clusters of feathers, church candles, crowns of leaves… pistols, scales, tied to each other in certain order… served to jog his memory and make him realize that even the most uncommon ideas could be right.’ (Calvino, 1959, p.255).

This issue of Spark brings together an assemblage of provocative articles that have been a delight to read. Encountering these texts has led to me think about how we can come become even more thoughtful learners and teachers at UAL. What they all have in common is that they are uncommon. They are imaginative and creative thought experiments that deterritorialise our pedagogic practices (Nadler, 2015), and open up more spaces to help us become critical designers of our curricula and pedagogies. They help enliven the methods by which we can co-produce the ways and means our courses can be delivered.

In their text, ‘Arboreal pedagogy: Tree climbing for better learning’, Lewis Bush and Taylor Norton ask us to leave the classroom and climb trees, so that we might connect more closely with our students. This text jogged memories of my encounters in the 80s with the literature of Italo Calvino. Like in many of Calvino’s stories they take us on a provocative speculative journey where, ‘Arboreal pedagogy… while notional and in many respects completely impractical… is proposed here as an incitement against often unimaginative methods of teaching in art and design education’ (Bush and Norton, 2018, p.42). Lewis and Taylor consider it a,

…call for teachers to embrace creative and low-tech approaches to education that celebrate experiences that enrich the well-being and learning of students and staff alike […] education at its best can be simple, engaging and arboreal.


Provoked, I imagined a creative university of the future that has a forest as studio where we could book a branch for one-to-one tutorials, a tree for peer-to-peer learning, a copse for taking theory into practice and the arboretum for guest lectures. It is this sort of imaginative critical thinking that will help us create spaces for teaching and learning that are not based on classrooms of the 1850s, but suitable for the 2050s.

Francisco Gaspar in his article, ‘Verfremdungseffekt: Towards a critical Graphic Design education’, asks us if Graphic Design can be epic, more critical and dehabitualised, in order to question the assumptions about how we teach and learn in, with and about Graphic Design. In this thoughtful piece of writing Gaspar asks us not to do away with what we have already got, but to re-imagine the university as a site of critical engagement and resistance so we produce work that question the normative and help us make our world a better place to be. Through the idea of the Brechtian “defamiliarisation effect” Gaspar takes us on a journey back to the future, where he cleverly shows us that we already have the necessary critical tool kits in our universities to create academies that question the given and posit affective ideas and “things”.

Eleanor Dare, whilst the Technology-Enhanced Learning Coordinator at LCC, always kept my thinking about pedagogy from becoming lazy and falling into self-set traps, by questioning what may have looked on the surface like shiny, new teaching and learning ideas, which on closer inspection often turned out to be no more than false assumptions built on top of raggedy, worn out, old assumptions. In her provocation piece, ‘Out of the Humanist Matrix: Learning taxonomies beyond Bloom’, Dare challenges us to question long-held notions of where we get our ideas of best pedagogic practice from. Her article rips up the ground upon which we have constructed the digital in our programmes of study. By destabilising oft-cherished ideas Eleanor helps us become more ‘disruptive thinker[s]’ (Zweibleson, 2017 in Dare, 2018, p.49) about our pedagogy.

In Sarah Macdonald’s case study, ‘Citizens of somewhere: How a cross-cultural discussion group offers opportunities for intercultural understanding’, I was struck by her thought that, ‘Western culture’s perception of verbosity as a positive attribute is certainly not universal and it is understandable that some students faced with this attitude may find this challenging.’ (Macdonald, 2018, p.28). It made me wonder why we are uncomfortable with ‘uncomfortable silences’ (Tarantino, 1994) and how we can learn to live with silence as we become more empathic with someone from a culture that we do not know. Discussing ‘The Conversation Club’ at LCC, Sarah describes its aim to give us all greater ‘intercultural competence’ (Macdonald, 2018, p.30) and not to make the assumption that acquisition of linguistic fluency automatically means that criticality will follow. I hope that the ideas that have been learnt from this very thoughtful initiative can be used in all our classes to help us comfortably enjoy the silences and not to move away towards those we already know we can ‘yak with’. I share Sarah’s aspiration that,

As students from different cultures meet and are exposed to a variety of ideas, there will always be new information shared and new perspectives gained. It is hoped that this interaction will help students develop more intercultural awareness and send them on their way to become global citizens.

(Macdonald, 2018, p.31)

Neil Drabble’s research paper, ‘It’s all about ‘me’, with you: Exploring auto-ethnographic methodology’ resonated when he described his conversational approach. Neil’s research allowed him to use auto-ethnographic approaches and to amalgamate his collection of dialogues into a playful fictional form of storytelling. They represent philosophical thought experiments and fictive narrative philosophy. For me, his imagined conversations about pedagogical practices open up critical thinking about thinking.

One way to start a conversation is to see it as a way knowledge can be exchanged. We often forget to ask, “what can you teach me?”, rather than “this is what I am going to teach you”. In the case study, ‘SAKE: Student-led, skills-based workshops to support inclusivity within the creative curriculum’, Michelle Wild shows us that, ‘peer learning brought people together, developed a sense of community and built positive communications’ (Wild, 2018, p.37). The Skills and Knowledge Exchange workshops that Michelle describe in this article acknowledge that students bring with them to university particular knowledge and understanding that if facilitated skilfully in peer-to-peer learning environments, can add to the plurality of a group’s thinking about a subject.

Ngọc Triệu, a recent alumna of the BA (Hons) Design Management and Cultures Course at LCC often wonders and wanders. She explores cities she knows well and knows by encounter by drifting through them using pyschogeographic methods so they become known, yet still stay strange. In the text based on her final year thesis ‘Inside, in between and out: How can psychogeography be beneficial to teaching and learning in Higher Education?’ she references an article previously published in Spark, ‘A journey around my classroom: The psychogeography of learning spaces’ (Lange, Reynolds and White, 2016). Ngọc quotes from an interview she conducted with Silke Lange that gets to the heart of the matter,

It is about breaking a habit and being open to experiments… If you walk the same route every day from home to work, you just switch off and you don’t look anymore because you’ve seen everything. But if you just make an effort of going in different route everyday, you will experience the world very differently. And I think you can translate that kind of experience to a way of living: be open, try different things, don’t just get stuck in one way, in the system… It is about challenging yourself and becoming consciously aware of how you engage differently with spaces.

(Lange, 2017)

Ngọc argues that, ‘psychogeography practice is an act of acceptance, a way of befriending the uncertainty and embracing the beauty of everyday knowns and unknowns.’ (Triệu, 2018, p.62).

In his mixed media case study submission, ‘‘On the spectrum’ within art and design academic practice’, Luca Damiani gives us his video ‘My Aspie Hacks the Brain’, which he describes as, ‘Attempting to represent my neurological flow, the video explores my relationship to my surroundings and the way I process phenomena internally’. Luca by sharing with us, ‘…the idea of being neurodivergent within a creative academic environment’ helps ‘create an engagement at all levels of academic practice bringing qualities and abilities into the surface, and opening diverse conversations on the topic, looking at the potential of an inclusive society’. He makes us aware that the strength of any organisation is its ability to be diverse and to recognise diversity as a critically creative way to understand how to construct radical pedagogies.

As the guest editor of this issue of Spark and editorial board member I believe that one of its functions is to frame and lead the debates in the thinking and practice of creative higher education teaching and learning. This issue in an exemplar of how we can open up the multiple ‘pockets of good practice’ (Orr, 2016, p.1) we have at UAL, showing us how we can start to sew them together for the benefit of all our staff and students.


Calvino, I. (1959/2017) The baron in the trees. New York: Mariner Books.

Lange, S., Reynolds, R. and White, D. (2016) ‘A journey around my classroom: The psychogeography of learning spaces’, Spark: UAL Creative Teaching and Learning Journal, 1(2), pp.122–129. Available at: https://sparkjournal.arts.ac.uk/index.php/spark/article/view/25 (Accessed: 21 January 2018).

Nadler, C. (2015) ‘Deterritorializing disciplinarity: Toward an immanent pedagogy’, Cultural Studies <=>Critical Methodologies. 15(2), pp. 145-152, https://doi.org/10.1177/1532708614563789

Orr, S. (2016) ‘Preface’, Spark: UAL Creative Teaching and Learning Journal, 1(1), p.1. Available at: https://sparkjournal.arts.ac.uk/index.php/spark/article/view/7/11 (Accessed: 14 January 2018).

Tarantino, Q. (1999) Pulp Fiction: Screenplay. London: Faber & Faber.


Dr Mark Ingham is a Senior Lecturer and UAL Teaching Scholar in the Design School at London College of Communication. For the last two years Mark has been an acting Programme Director for Contextual and Theoretical Studies, Spatial Design Communication, Branding Design Innovation and most recently Graphic Design Communication. His pedagogical and creative research are entangled encounters with: images of thought and memory, rhizomatic and meta-cognitive learning theories, fuzzy narratives and virtual and physical liminal teaching spaces.

Copyright (c) 2018 Dr Mark Ingham

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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The Theory and Practice of ‘Theory and Practice’ in Art and Design HE

17 May 2017Red RoomChelsea College of Arts John Islip Street
9.30am to 4.30pm
This teaching platform will look beyond the simple binaries between theory and practice and put into focus the evolving pedagogical relationships between these two different yet intertwined disciplines.

It seeks to be inclusive of current theories and practices that relate theory and practice. It aims to question contemporary theories and practices, which support ‘theory and practice’ in Art and Design undergraduate courses in the UK.

‘Fishing for Zebedee’

‘Fishing for Zebedee’

I am becoming animal, a rocking horse, a ventriloquist’s emu, a felt frog who will never be a prince. The labyrinth I inhabit has multiple exits but only one entrance. How you come out of my maze does not depend on how you enter, you will be morphed. Charged by the planes of immanence your lines of flight will electrify and animate you. Suckling and entangling you become; bag puss, zippy, muffin the mule, bill and ben, lady penelope, lady lovelace and finally zebedee, boing! You fight the forces of abstraction to distraction and it is a draw. You perform, you happen, you dematerialise, you objectify, you are the subject, you are not. You will evolve, revolve, and dissolve some of those images of thought you have explored by constructing fleeting imaginary worlds. What will pull you back to the memory of crossing the singular threshold? Will it be through rosebudishness, madeleineness, or by the encounter with the idea that forces you to think differently? I will bring a spring, a wooden ball, a moustache, red, blue, yellow and black.

Taking in Vilem Flusser and Louis Bec’s Vampyroteuthis Infernalis as a ‘line of flight’ this paper uses the characters from the Magic Roundabout as luminaires in, ‘The eternal night of the vampyroteuthis [which] is filled with colours and sounds that are emitted by living beings-an eternal festival of colours and sounds, a son et lumiere of extraordinary opulence. The ocean floor is carpeted with red, white, and violet stone; there are dunes of blue and yellow sand, sparkling with pearls and fragments of molten meteorites. Forests, meadows, and plains of plant-like animals, beaming with colours, sway in the current with fanned tentacles. Wandering in their midst are giant iridescent snails, and whirring above them are swarms of crabs, flashing in silver, red, and yellow. It is a luxuriant garden that the vampyroteuthis can illuminate, on a whim, to enjoy its desserts in splendour.’ (Flusser & Bec 2000:35)




Symposium | Material Others and Other Materialities

September 30, 2016 12.45 – 6.15pm

Iklectik Art Lab, 20 Carlisle Lane, London SE1 7LG

In their short philosophical fable ‘Vampyroteuthis Infernalis’, Vilem Flusser and Louis Bec compare human existence to that of a deep-sea squid, the Vampyroteuthis Infernalis. In the process they raise questions about the relation of cognition, culture and sociality to corporeal anatomy and environment. Flusser and Bec’s ruminations form the background context and connecting thread for this symposium, which brings together 10 papers to explore questions of materiality and otherness, specifically in relation to art and design and media. All presentations take a point of departure from Flusser and Bec’s text to discuss an artefact in relation to the symposium’s themes. Register via Eventbrite: http://bit.ly/2bNPU0u


1. Phenomenological Materialities The Immateriality of Titian’s Pesaro Altarpiece | Ken Wilder, Chelsea College of Arts Circle or Oval?: Concepts, Non-identity and the Lifeworld | Johanna Bolton, Royal College of Art Things that Happen Again: Roni Horn and the Phenomenology of the Other | Andrew Chesher, Chelsea College of Arts Chair: Allan Parsons; Discussant: t.b.c.

2. My Body and the Body: The Other and the Alien My Neighbour, That Thing | Werner Prall, Middlesex University The Corporeal Witness in Katie Green’s Lighter than my Shadow | Dan Smith, Chelsea College of Arts Fishing for Zebedee | Mark Ingham, London College of Communication Chair: Amanda Windle; Discussant: t.b.c.

3. Digital Materialities

The Material Other in Fashion Making: The T-shirt | Douglas Atkinson, London College of Fashion Emergent Materiality: The Self and the Other in Material Dialogues | Virna Koutla, Royal College of Art Robotum Anthromorphum: of Virtual Assistants and their Networked Materialities | Michel Erler, London College of Communication The Nonhumanity of Planetary Computing, Metis, or how to live with Digital Uncertainty | Betti Marenko, Central Saint Martins Chair: Andrew Chesher; Discussant: Amanda Windle

For more details: informedmatters.wordpress.com

Caroline D. Laurent Defense – The Words of Others: Remembering and Writing Genocide as an Indirect Witnes

 Wednesday, September 7, 2016, 1:00pm




“Mark, How did you know any thing before the Internet existed?”

Designs on eLearning conference

NYC New School
21 – 22 September 2016
“Mark, How did you know any thing before the Internet existed?”
21 September 11:30 Room 3

Presenter: Mark Ingham
Institution: London College of Communication, University of the Arts London
Theme: Anxiety and Security in the Curriculum
Format: workshop
The During a debate about the reasons why conspicuous theories are perpetuated and are still prevalent today a first year BA art and design student with a puzzled mixture of bewilderment, arrogance, anxiety and concern asked me how my pre digital generation knew anything before the Internet existed.

This group of very articulate students seemed both highly sceptical of any knowledge from any source yet wanted to believe in unfounded and contentious conspiracy theories. They gave the same credence to a highly qualified structural engineer as a basement blogger. Both sources were seen as ‘opinions’ and both as equally legitimate.Digging deeper into this it seemed that they thought the older generations were too accepting of ‘authority’ and their internet savvy generation were just being more open and more thoughtful.

This worshop will interrogate this paradox of accepting what is on the Internet as all the same yet at the same time distrusting well researched information based on prior experiments or prior knowledge. It will also attempt to answer the question, ‘How did we know anything before the Internet?’

Setting up the debate, ‘Why do conspiracy theories still exist and what role has the Internet palates in perpetuating them’. The participants will be divided into two opposing debating groups each with an conflicting statement. They will then debate each other’s ideas. There will then be a plenary session of 20 minutes to discuss the ideas from the debate.

This will be a very hands on session where I will recreate the debate format of the session I had with students. It will become a debating chamber.

A more nuanced understanding of the reasons why students are anxious and yet arrogant about the supply of knowledge in our digital age.

The outcomes of this session will be fed back into UALs digital pedagogical strategy through our Learning and Teaching days. It will also be disseminated on the LCC School of Design Contextual and Theorectical course and unit blogs.


“Mark, How did you know any thing before the Internet existed?”

Hobbits in Space?

Hobbits in Space? 

by JG Ballard (q

Can I offer a dissenting opinion? There seems to be a profound need everywhere to admire Star Wars, and a resentment of any response other than loving affection. Star Wars, written and directed by George Lucas, is engaging, brilliantly designed, acted with real charm, full of verve and visual ingenuity. It’s also totally unoriginal, feebly plotted, instantly forgettable and an acoustic nightmare – the electronic sound-wall wrapped around the audience is so over-amplified that every footfall sounds like Krakatoa.

In that case, why all the fuss? And what does the amazing success of Star Wars indicate, for good or ill, about the future of s-f cinema? Although slightly biased, I firmly believe that science fiction is the true literature of the twentieth century, and probably the last literary form to exist before the death of the written word and the domination of the visual image. S-f has been one of the few forms of modern fiction explicitly concerned with change – social, technological and environmental – and certainly the only fiction to invent society’s myths, dreams and utopias. Why, then, has it translated so uneasily into the cinema? Unlike the western, which long ago took over the literary form and now exists in its own right, the s-f film has never really been more than an offshoot of its literary precursor, which to date has provided all the ideas, themes and inventiveness. S-f cinema has been notoriously prone to cycles of exploitation and neglect, unsatisfactory mergings with horror films, thrillers, environmental and disaster movies.

The most popular form of s-f – space fiction – has been the least successful of all cinematically, until 2001 and Star Wars, for the obvious reason that the special effects available were hopelessly inadequate. Surprisingly, s-f is one of the most literary forms of all fiction, and the best s-f films – Them!, Dr Cyclops, The Incredible Shrinking Man, Alphaville, Last Year in Marienbad (not a capricious choice, its themes are time, space and identity, s-f’s triple pillars), Dr Strangelove, The Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Barbarella and Solaris – and the brave failures such as The Thing, Seconds and The Man who Fell to Earth – have all made use of comparatively modest special effects and relied on strongly imaginative ideas, and on ingenuity, wit and fantasy.

With Star Wars the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way, towards huge but empty spectacles where special effects – like the brilliantly designed space vehicles and their interiors in both Star Wars and 2001 – preside over derivative ideas and unoriginal plots, as in some massively financed stage musical where the sets and costumes are lavish but there are no tunes. I can’t help feeling that in both these films the spectacular sets are the real subject matter, and that original and imaginative ideas – until now science fiction’s chief claim to fame – are regarded by their makers as secondary, unimportant and even, possibly, distracting.

Star Wars in particular seems designed to appeal to that huge untapped audience of people who have never read or been particularly interested in s-f but have absorbed its superficial ideas – space ships, ray guns, blue corridors, the future as anything with a fin on it – from comic strips, TV shows like Star Trek and Thunderbirds, and the iconography of mass merchandising.

The visual ideas in Star Wars are ingenious and entertaining.Ironically it’s only now that the technology of the cinema is sufficiently advanced to represent an advanced technology in decline. I liked the super-technologies already beginning to rust around the edges, the pirate starship like an old tramp steamer, the dented robots with IQs higher than Einstein’s which resembled beat-up De Sotos in Athens or Havana with half a million miles on the clock. I liked the way large sections of the action were seen through computerized head-up displays which provided information about closing speeds and impact velocities that makes everyone in the audience feel like a Phantom Pilot on a Hanoi bombing run.

In passing, the reference to Vietnam isn’t undeserved – the slaughter in Star Wars, quite apart from the destruction of an entire planet, is unrelieved for two hours, and at times stacks the corpses halfway up the screen. Losing track of this huge bodycount, I thought at first that the film might be some weird, unintentional parable of the US involvement with Vietnam, with the plucky hero from the backward planet and his scratch force of reject robots and gook-like extraterrestrials fighting bravely against the evil and all-destructive super-technology of the Galactic Empire. Whatever the truth, it’s strange that the film gets a U certificate – two hours of Star Wars must be one of the most efficient means of weaning your pre-teen child from any fear of, or sensitivity towards, the deaths of others.

All the same, as a technological pantomime Star Wars makes a certain amount of sense. There’s the good fairy, Alec Guinness, with his laser-wand and a smooth line in morally uplifting chat; the pantomime dame/wicked witch, the Dark Lord Darth Vader, with black Nazi helmet, leather face-mask and computerized surgical truss; the principle boy, the apparently masculine robot R2D2 who in fact conceals a coded holographic image of Princess Leia, which he now and then projects like a Palladium Dick Whittington flashing her thighs.

However, George Lucas has gone badly astray with his supporting cast – what looks like an attempted tour de force, the parade of extraterrestrials in the frontier-planet saloon, comes on hilariously like the Muppet Show, with shaggy monsters growling and rolling their eyeballs. I almost expected Kermit and Miss Piggy to swoop in and introduce Bruce Forsyth.

What is missing in all this is any hard imaginative core. Star Wars is the first totally unserious s-f film. Even a bad episode of Star Trek or Dr Who has the grain of an original idea, and the vast interplanetary and technological perspectives of 2001 were at least put to the service of a steadily expanding cosmic vision. The most one can hope, I think, is that the technical expertise now exists to make a really great s-f film. Star Wars, in this sense, is a huge test-card, a demonstration film of s-f movie possibilities.

20th Century-Fox’s advance publicity describes the modern motion picture as ‘the most magnificent toy ever invented for grown men to play with and express their fantasies’ – presumably with Lucas’s approval, and Star Wars may well be more prophetic than I give it credit for. In many ways it is the ultimate home movie, in which Lucas goes back into his toy cupboard and plays with all his boyhood fantasies, fitting together a collection of stuffed toys, video games and plastic spaceships into this ten-year-old’s extravaganza, back to the days, as he himself says, when he ‘dreamed about running away and having adventures that no one else has ever had’.

JG Ballard
Time Out

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