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CONTEXTUAL DOCUMENT

Helen Jarvis 1363463


CRITICAL DISCOURSE IS AN IMPORTANT SUBSTANCE OF CREATIVE LEARNING. HOWEVER, A SPACE IN WHICH TO PARTICIPATE AND PRACTICE SUCH DISCOURSE WITHIN A WIDER TERTIARY SETTING, IS NOT EASILY ACCESSIBLE TO VISUAL ARTS STUDENTS.

The function of the website that I have been developing this year is to enable critical discourse between creative students from around the world by developing a virtual space through which creative and peeragogical support networks will form. This idea was sparked by a need of several students within the Unitec Graphic Design and Animation degree for more accessible exposure to collegially based critical discourse and feedback around creative ideas. The subsequent outcome of this need was a small scale virtual space located within Facebook occupied by a dozen students within the degree. This space has been used to share work, start critical discussions, create focus groups, answer theoretical questions, and share links and other critical information. Seeing the success of this group and the benefits of the self-directed peer to peer learning that was taking place, I decided to take on a project which would enable this same environment, but within a specifically designed website.


SURVEY // UNITEC GRAPHIC DESIGN AND ANIMATION

85% 31% 31% 43% 24%

100% 96% 63% 57%

86% 68% 34% 28% 10% 87% 32% 28% 26% 41% 35% 28% 30%


WHICH THREE AREAS OF PRACTICE ARE YOUR MAIN INTERESTS IN? DESIGN. ANIMATION/FILM. PHOTOGRAPHY. ILLUSTRATION. WEB.

VALUE CRITICAL FEEDBACK ABOUT THEIR WORK. FEEL THAT CRITICAL FEEDBACK IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF THEIR PROCESS. ENJOY GIVING CRITICAL FEEDBACK ABOUT OTHER PEOPLES WORK. RATED THEMSELVES ABOVE A 5/10 WHEN ASKED HOW GOOD THEY THINK THEY ARE AT GIVING CRITICAL FEEDBACK.

WHICH THREE FORMS OF CRITIQUE DO YOU FIND MOST HELPFUL? ONE ON ONE WITH A CLASSMATE OR TUTOR. GROUP CRITIQUES WITH 3-5 PEOPLE (EACH PERSON HAS A TURN EXPLAINING THEIR WORK). FOCUS GROUPS WITH 3-5 PEOPLE (ONE PERSON PRESENTS AND OTHERS PICK DESIGN TO PIECES). POSTING WORK ONLINE TO A SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE SUCH AS FACEBOOK, TUMBLR, NING ETC. SURVEY - A FORMAL ORDERED CRITIQUE THAT ASKS SPECIFIC QUESTIONS.

WHICH THREE THINGS WOULD MOST MOTIVATE YOU TO CRITIQUE OTHERS WORK? WOULD CRITIQUE OTHERS WORK TO IMPROVE THEIR CRITICAL THINKING. WOULD CRITIQUE OTHERS WORK TO GAIN EXPOSURE. WOULD CRITIQUE OTHERS WORK FOR FUN. WOULD CRITIQUE OTHERS WORK TO WIN PRIZES.

IF PRIZES WHICH THREE WOULD BE MOST APPEALING? INDUSTRY EXPERIENCE. TECHNOLOGY. TRAVEL. VOUCHERS (FOOD, COFFEE, BOOKS).


“Motivational elements encourage the idea of give and take, on an interactional and conversational level. This critical balance of exchange determines the success of knowledge sharing within an educational setting.”

The key contextual references that I have based my project and corresponding research around this year have been that of communities of practice within the bounds of tertiary education, specifically surrounding visual arts. Looking in to catalyst’s of participation and continuation within knowledge sharing systems, motivation, both extrinsic and intrinsic, have become increasingly important elements within the contextual discussion surrounding my project. Motivational elements encourage the idea of give and take, on an interactional and conversational level. This critical balance of exchange determines the success of knowledge sharing within an educational setting. “Members get involved in acts of knowledge creation, motivated by factors related to their personality and the satisfaction they feel when sharing their knowledge with others.” (Krogh and Grand 164) This quote relates to how intrinsic motivation effects and stimulates those within a knowledge sharing community. However both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are needed to truly stimulate all members to develop their level of participation and input. “The involvement of workers (members) in the process of knowledge development is conditioned by cultural factors; a culture that motivates and rewards knowledge sharing creates advantageous conditions for the development of knowledge creation.” (Correia, Paulos and Mesquita 13). The culture or semblance of a community of practice requires multifaceted theoretical and practical elements to enable satisfaction within its members and create an environment in which there is trust and equity.

The process of determining factors that will increase participation and continuance within a knowledge sharing system has lead me to develop a self moderating system, that allows the community to control its own hierarchy of members. While cultivating this system and its internal workings I have been looking into how other websites use rating systems to order and actuate the hierarchy of information and users. There are similar rating systems throughout the internet, however, most websites use rating systems to order information rather than users. In some ways my website also does this, ordering information first and foremost while ordering users in a secondary sense. However the rating system I have developed is built into the identity of each user, creating a personal relationship between the users participation and corresponding intrinsic rewards. An examination of hierarchy and procedural systems within social networking websites, both popular and those contextually related has lead to many interfacial and ideological developments of my project. I decided at an early stage to approach my website’s aesthetics through the ideals of function over form. The form is influenced by popular social media sites that hold uniform style and allow user input to create visuality and interest rather than the interface. I have explored this approach through trialing more graphically interesting interface elements, however, these elements were found to be distracting to the main focus of the website, the students work. Based on a knowledge sharing system or forum

model, the website acts as an enabler or encourager of creative and critical discourse. Students are able to post work, receive critique and critique others, aiding their educational and personal development. To ensure that this website acts not only as a platform to display work and develop critique, but also as an educational tool, I have created a page in the website where a student is able to view records and analysis of their participation and development in ability throughout their time on the website. The pedagogical implications will enable students to understand how they interact on a critical level within the context of visual arts, and in comparison to other students. An examination of the analytics of each students personal ability can be seen as an educational aid, one that holds core relevance within tertiary education and the wider visual arts industry. It has the potential to work in with visual arts tertiary marking systems to create a broader acknowledgement of a students participation, motivation and dedication within their progression of learning and external visual arts discourse. This could enable a broader awareness of individual educational growth, leading to the advancement of systems of learning. One of the reoccurring theories within the context of my project has been peeragogy, Charles Jeffrey Danoff defines this as “A theory of peer-to-peer learning and teaching that addresses the challenge of peer-producing a useful and supportive context for selfdirected learning”. (qtd. in Fernanda


Arenas) Another theoretical ideal incorporated into my research has been Heuristic learning, encouraging a person to develop their own solutions through problem solving, discovery, experimentation and evaluation. These two theoretical learning methods interact collaboratively to bring about education inductive of critical discourse. “Self-discovered learning in a group that designates a facilitator is the new approach for education.” (Carl Rogers qtd in peeragogy.org) These two educational systems have strongly influenced the methodologies behind my website, activating an environment that encourages contemporary learning in a distributive and non-linear manner. (peeragogy.org). “Thinking about thinking” has to be a principal ingredient of any empowering practice of education. (Bruner 19) Etienne Wenger is a significant contributor to the field of social learning and communities of practice. He defines Communities of practice as being “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” (Wenger ewenger. com). In his writing Communities of practice, a brief introduction he identifies three characteristics of a true Community of Practice. One of these key-contributing factors is a domain. A domain is a shared identity one, which implies membership through shared knowledge that distinguishes members from other people.(Wenger ewenger. com). A sense of community is of course a crucial element of a community of practice. However Wenger defines

community specifically by engagement and participation in peeragogy. Wenger insists that unless “Members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, share information and build relationships that enable them to learn from each other, they do not form a community of practice.” (Wenger 2) “Members of a community of practice are practitioners.” (Wenger 2) Only practitioners, people with experience within their area of interest, are able to help build up a wealth of information, skills and shared knowledge. This is the third and final element of a community of practice and perhaps the most important, as without initial knowledge of a practice, no knowledge is there to be shared.


Positive Knowledge Quality Positive Self - Worth

Rating system Intrinsic motivation

Positive Social Interaction

Distributive Justice

Procedural Justice Procedural Justice

Figure 1: Chiu, Chao-Min., and Wang, Eric T.G. 536.


Spin and Win Extrinsic motivation Playfulness

Satisfaction

Continuance

Rating system Student x critiques student y’s work. Student y is then able to rate student x’s critique in terms of how constructive and helpful it was. This rating is a percentage out of 100. All of the ratings a student receives average out to form their overall ‘critique rating’ which is then displayed everywhere there name appears in it website, enabling it to become a part of their identity. Spin and Win An game within the website that ‘spins’ all of the posts from that week along with prizes such as cameras, vouchers, magazine subscriptions etc. The game then gives the player a random selection of both prizes and posts or just posts. If 4 of the same prize line up the player wins, if 4 prizes do not line up then the player must critique one of the randomly selected posts to continue playing.


“Familiarity, through aesthetic, functions and form, has been a deciding factor in terms of placement and clustering of elements, buttons and pages.”

Grid structure and hierarchy have both played decisive roles within the interfacial design of my website. These two elements control not only the structure of the website but also the movement or flow of people through the website and can be either constructive or destructive depending on the arrangement and balance of the elements within the interfacial space. The grid structure that I have employed throughout the development of my website has been that of the 960 grid. This structure is simple and can be manipulated into several different column widths leading it to aid the conceptual form of my initial drawings. Columns have become the most structurally important feature of the website’s layout. This is because of the nature of the multiple news feeds within the index page and the ability of columns to order diverse visual elements into categorized arrangements. Familiarity, through aesthetic, functions and form, has been a deciding factor in terms of placement and clustering of elements, buttons and pages. Familiarity incurs trust and ease in terms of way finding and interacting within a website. Zhang and Ghorbani’s research states that “Trust is a combination of selfesteem, reputation and familiarity. The relationship between familiarity and trust is the clearer model.” (Zhang and Ghorbani, 23) The familiarity aspect of the website has been influenced by observations of similar and popular social media websites. By using recognizable elements and layouts, the functionality and usability of the website

has increased, enabling it to become much more accessible to a wider range of students. According to Zhang and Ghorbani “Unfamiliar things in a website will give a user reason to pause. As a result, the access and transaction rates will drop off.” (Zhang and Ghorbani, 23) As this is a social media website, appealing to a global audience and functioning as a educational aid, it is important that the unfamiliarity of the functions specific to this website work similarly to the rest of the website, bringing about a cohesive interface that implies familiarity if not explicitly being familiar. Important functions of the website’s interface have been tested throughout its development. These tests have occurred in both live and recorded situations, the most accurate and informative results coming from an online usability analyst Usaura.com. This website allows you to upload a screen shot of a webpage and ask a question associated with this page, for example, “If you wanted to post something to this page what would you click?” The test then allows you to create a target zone and records user clicks to analyze the usability of the page and how people will react to it. Initial tests I created had 60% of users clicking the target zones I set, however after further development and feedback from live test, users clicks on similar target zone increased to 80% accuracy. This improvement in usability was due to the simplification and corrected hierarchy of elements within the interface. Dominance of the most important aspects of the website was increased through the use of colour, size and isolation. Visual

clutter was removed from some areas of the website where there was too much visuality to determine the specific purpose of the page. The corresponding outcome of these tests has lead to refinement of form and aesthetic. The website is now a lot simpler and straight forward. The interface is now one that is flexible in terms of use and function. Procedural systems have been examined in terms of the process one goes through to gain access to exclusive or closed websites. Initially my website was only open to those who expressed interest in joining a creative discourse. Students were required to submit an application to join the website and were assessed for both creative and theoretical potential by an external moderator. However as the internal rating system has progressed, a new procedure now controls a students entry to the website, one that is cohesive with the overall workings of websites system. A student can now sign up to the website via Facebook, the student is then given a 30 day trail in which they are required to participate within the website and keep their critique rating above a certain percent. If they are able to do this, then their account is verified and they are able to continue using the website to give and receive critique. The simplification of the procedural system leading new members into the website will benefit both the individual and the pre-existing creative community. The community will have control over the quality of critical discourse pending entry to the website, while the individual will need to step up their creative and theoretical practice to gain entry to the community.


“This tool will prepare young developing designers for the higher levels of critical discourse that will be presented to them within the wider creative industry.”

I will be producing a working wireframe of the website and a promotional video as my final outcomes this year. I decided to create a working wireframe for my website firstly because coding this website and getting it up and running this year was neither cost or time efficient. Secondly the website has the potential to merge in to several different formats, and I have not yet decide which of these would be most appropriate. The reasoning behind creating a promotional video is that it is an informative extension of the websites potential. It expresses the inner workings of the website, while also advertising and expressing its potential. A question raised repeatedly throughout the development of this project is; how will you identify if the people applying for membership are actually visual arts students? It is important to protect the Intellectual property of creative students as their raw ideas can hold a lot of unrealized potential, which could be seen and exploited by others. This interface, although currently in the form of a website, has the potential to become a platform accessible only through a university certified identity. Universities would subscribe for membership of their visual arts department’s student and identifications provided by the university’s database would enable protection against those without proven student identification. If this interface remains a website, it would be in the best interest of the members if membership was only granted after a scan of a current university identification card was processed and verified.

This website encourages the exchange of visual intellectual property between students. Concern have been raised about the protection of IP within this community. I have conducted several informal surveys with students and asked them how threatened they feel by the potential loss of Intellectual property within a contained community. Most answered that although being slightly wary, they were not overly bothered by sharing their work within a community of creative students. With social networks and visual portfolio sites such as behance.com becoming such dominant aspects of our creative careers, visual arts students do not seem to feel overly uncomfortable about sharing their work for the purpose of gaining critical feedback. It is potential gain versus potential loss, where potential educational gain seems like a more likely outcome. I see this website as an encourager of critical discourse. It will enable a diverse and global range of students to interact with a critical context. It is a simple yet progressive tool that can be used to facilitate educational and professional practices within the context of tertiary studies. This tool will prepare young developing designers for the higher levels of critical discourse that will be presented to them within the wider creative industry.


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Contextual Document  

A essay that contextualises my studio work this year.

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