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Posts tagged ‘graphic design’

oceanic crossing…from the middle

March 4, 2016

lisa hammershaimb


Getting a doctorate is an oceanic crossing…and I am in the murky space, somewhere between one third and one half across. The timelines keep getting redrawn not because I am lazy but rather because the landscape is so vast. I know the place I will eventually land but the process is largely non-linear, meandering. I want my supervisor to be the cool, calm, GPS navigation to my journey…and instead of explicit mandates, we bounce around the Cynefin framework–simple to chaos, complex to complicated, complicated to simple. Winds are unpredictable in the crossing. Even as I’m enjoying a sea-like-glass, I have learned to be ever-watchful, eager for the perfect wind to carry me yet also bracing for potential gale force gusts.

And so every day mostly finds me engaged in the repetition of decidedly unsexy routine tasks: Read. Write. Think. Share. Repeat.

The crossing is teaching me to find insight through process rather than only seek out flashes of brilliance. And increasingly, the crossing is teaching me to be patient and to be part of the complexity rather than try to be master of it. The only way I will eventually land is if I trust the water and the wind–work with them in harmony.

So…back to work for another day: check the maps, adjust the sails, broadcast my own position, check the horizon…and even as I long to arrive, be dazzled that I get to be part of this story, part of this crossing.

day 2: Digital Spaces for Learning and Assessment in Art and Design

February 9, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

Article Title:
Digital Spaces for Learning and Assessment in Art and Design 
by: Ian Pirie, Stewart Cordiner and Jenny Triggs

Identifying a need for greater communication and transparency in the art + design critique process, in 2010 Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) created an online digital space to aid feedback and help support engagement in the critique process. They still continue to meet face to face in studio spaces but critique is largely conducted in an online interface.

What they did:
ECA created their own custom LMS where students upload their work in progress and completed work. Along with their image files, students complete a series of reflective questions describing their process journey and rating themselves on a series of skills acquired. Instructors also complete critique using a series of reflective questions and comments and rate the students on skills shown. When both parties have completed their responses, they are shared and an online dialogue begins about the work.

Why it is interesting to me:
A fully face-to-face, traditional design program identifies what I think is a key positive to online art + design learning: the ability to move critique from the often nerve-wracking dog and pony show within a studio to a space where people can reflect and receive comments and feedback and engage in a dialogue on a more personal basis.

When analyzed, data showed that students identified value in feedback that was mutually constructed and dialogical which the online interface easily supported. Instructors too found value in seeing projects progress through various stages and reading the students’ backstory in creating them. That said like any time feedback is given…it varies based on writing ability and overall engagement with the process. Some students were frustrated with lack of communication from the instructor and vice versa.

Overall, it’s an interesting look at how the internet is bleeding into a fully face-to-face art and design program and I’m curious how the program has progressed these past six years.

Pirie, I., Cordiner, S., & Triggs, J. (2011). Digital Spaces for Learning and Assessment in Art and Design. future learning spaces, p. 43-67. Retrieved from:

day 1: on mixing tools, mixing paint, and coming to terms w/the algorithm

February 8, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

Three days ago news broke of a potential change in Twitter, moving from a sequential to an algorithmically curated timeline.

Coincidentally, I heard this news after just listening to a HybridPod episode where Bonnie Stewart and Chris Friend discussed Bonnie’s dissertation research into networks/academic Twitter. In the interview, Bonnie mentioned that whilst engaged in research she witnessed firsthand a watershed moment within academic twitter regarding hashtag activism where prominent voices began to use their influence to weigh in on public issues that often impacted negatively those with less influence.

Watching the speculative algorithm ripples begin to take over my timeline I wonder if we are again at a watershed moments where things are (or soon will be) shifting in big ways?

Though I am not an expert in algorithms, it seems that the proposed changes will be a bit like Facebook, where the information presented is curated for each user. Voices that aren’t as algorithmically engaging will slide away while those most popular will be further amplified. In theory, it sounds like an efficient move but, because I see Twitter more as bookstore browse than Amazon direct buy…the change feels threatening.

In addition, as someone who has a relatively tiny pool of followers and tends to Tweet almost exclusively about somewhat mass-market obscure things, I know I am not very algorithmically sexy. I have a feeling that my voice is one that will begin to slide to the margins and there’s a good chance mine will most likely be the Tweets that go missing.

Though it’s convenient to give into dystopian techno determinism, get bitter, and never share again because clearly I’m not going to be trending anytime soon…I think there’s a better mindset to adopt…and it’s called being a creative human who remembers that these things are tools created by companies. Just tools. Only tools.

Though algorithms may change the volume on this particular tool, the only way I’ll be truly silenced is if I stop sharing and being open…if I stop reaching out through a variety of computer mediated/face to face interactions and if I stop being intentional about authentically engaging with others.

In the same way, the voices all around me will never be silenced (no matter how quiet) if I am intentional about listening and being present to others and letting them know they matter. Though I’ve been guilty of fan-girling people like Jesse Stommel and Bonnie Stewart and George Siemens and Catherine Cronin because I love their ideas, I think what I love even more is that they actively use their highly visible positions not to garner fans but to amplify voices of those who are less known and remind people on the margins they are seen. They remind us how rich and diverse the world is, and this reminding is good work that we can all do.

As I tell my design students…the tools we use as artists are powerful and our skills matter. That said, as humans we may not be smarter than our tools but we are infinitely more creative. Our ability to combine and create something new far surpasses anything a pre-made tool could cobble together.

In painting we never use pre-made black…we mix your own and the work comes alive with personal touch. I think that holds true here too. Though I am not downplaying issues of structure, voice, agency, and power as mediated through tools…I think we must remember that our most valuable asset is that we are creative and if we take steps to be authentic, we have the ability to connect with those around us no matter the circumstances. Tools used are a means of distribution, but we should not confuse a tool with a connection and even more we should not become so reliant on a single tool that we lose the ability to mix our own paint, imprint our own personal touch, and learn from others as they do the same.

day 4: research focusing

February 4, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

This was originally an email, and then en route to morphing it into another email to send to someone who’d ask the magic question “so…what’s the research about?” I thought…why all this email business? Why not be slightly more open? It feels a little hypocritical to cheer for open sharing + collaboration as presented by Alan Stearns in “Becoming Responsible for CSS” (such a great video…and though I don’t understand the jargon, the ethos is excellent) and then not be open with my own process. 

So…in the spirit of open, here’s my thinking this past week along with the updated big question and one subquestion (there will be more…but, for now just one). Thoughts welcome!

Basically the more I’ve been connecting with people the more it seems that–though there aren’t many art + design programs delivered fully online–there are lots of instructors integrating online elements in their courses to encourage community, conduct assessment, and build cross-disciplinary collaboration. 

Because the art + design discipline as a whole is historically very place-centric, I think it would be beneficial to document what is being done to extend the studio from a bounded group to a somewhat more porous digitally networked space. I think my dissertation could help encourage that dialogue as I give voice to educators who are currently doing innovative things that are blurring the lines and creating coalescent spaces

I’ve not been able to find any “official” research documenting what’s happening or how these learning networks are emerging and even more it seems instructors doing these things often feel that they’re all alone as they often are the only ones in their departments/institutions who are exploring these ideas. 

I also think that (probably post-dissertation/further research…because it might extend my scope too far) it would be excellent to build an open repository tool of networked curriculum resources so that art + design educators would have a peer reviewed pool of resources from which to draw and even more…an interactive community. It’s great to do your own thing but I think like design itself…without connection it’s easy to keep reinventing the wheel and forget you’re part of a much larger story. 

Big Question:
How are graphic design undergraduate instructors using the means of the internet and computer-mediated communication to augment, expand, and extend studio learning spaces?

Sub Question:
How do instructors view the integration of internet resources into traditional studio courses as being a link to the larger professional world of design?

day 1: intentions + lists + photos to assuage guilt

February 1, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

And here we are back to Monday. Apparently if I were going all quantified self, between this Monday and last there’s been shockingly little data recorded via blog. Last Monday I waxed poetic about landing planes and pounding down posts and then disappeared completely into an abyss.

This past week illustrates why defining yourself and your learning by only one output is tricky business. Though I don’t have the pixels to back me up, in reality last week was a flurry of productivity as I met my supervisor face-to-face for the first time + had some very profitable time with him, wrote an obscene number of potential research questions via analog methods (and may have fallen a tiny bit in love with them all), had a tough-love chat with a fellow design educator who is deeply enmeshed in these ideas, rethought everything, and am now back to circling with another landing strip in sight.

Last week I learned a bunch but it was definitely of a highly rambling, meandering, not-easily-quantified-nature. I have do doubt it will manifest itself sooner than later and yet for right now I very honestly have nothing to distill into words.

This week, once more, my intention is to land my research questions and continue to be uncomfortably transparent with my process and highly intentional about inviting others (who legitimately have experience/investment) into my process. Basically, if I want my dissertation to be an open dialogue there’s no better time to begin building that practice than to be less hoard-y and more open even in its conception…which is deeply scary because I’ve only just begun to feel modestly legit in an academic sphere.

Will this week land my questions for real, for real? Probably not but…I think it can be for real, for now. Maybe.

A few things I do know is that my dissertation will:
1. Focus primarily on instructors
2. Focus primarily on graphic design
3. Focus on experience exploration/baseline discovery
4. Be a connection point/dialogue builder amongst all design educators as opposed to an exotic gaze into a far off world (i.e. present online integration within the context of studio learning continuum not isolate online as a world onto itself)

And now for images of the past week to assuage my own latent guilt at being silent in one venue even as I’ve been quite active in others. And bonus: at some point when all this is over I’ll be able to smile as I remember the hyper reality that marks these days of living in the dissertation tension that is both the now and the not-yet of being a doctoral student.

CZsbwNvW0AAJ616Photo 1: Meeting the supervisor for the first time. Turns out he’s pretty cool. 

Photo 2: Artfully composed post-it notes after meeting the supervisor for the first time…because he told me in pretty definitive terms that research questions weren’t likely to come via sky writing.


Photo 3: Slightly less artfully composed questions + ideas after two days of occasional writing + iteration.


Photo 4: Even less artfully composed questions and ideas after two days of writing + iteration following a meeting where one question amongst many was “So…help me understand. Why are you choosing to ask questions that seem to fetishize online art + design learning? Do you want your dissertation to further separate online + face to face studios?” Oops. 

day 1: intention

January 25, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

It’s Monday once more, which means it’s back to writing and back to intention setting. Last week my intention was to engage with materials that explore the relationship between the academy and the art education world, with a particular emphasis on the fuzzy place that is training in vocations that once were considered “craft” and thus outside of formalized academic learning but for the last almost 100 years or so have moved into institutions of higher learning.

What that ended up meaning—which feels somewhat appropriate retroactively—is that I did equal parts reading articles and spending time with people actively engaged in these fuzzy spaces learning about their experience of learning and teaching. I spent an evening with fellow designers/design educators breaking down design real life versus academic real life (I wish there wasn’t an binary but I think there still might be…), talked hair styling pedagogy whilst I got a wicked fade from my stylist (what if graphic design had gone the route of hair cutting/color/styling and stayed true to its trade roots rather than jumped ship and become “academic”? So many questions about identity and where you plant your disciplinary silo!) and read lots I didn’t record because I just ran out of both time and words.

My intention for this week is: for real, for real begin landing the plane of my dissertation topic. Though I’m all about serendipity and chance encounters and staying open to new ideas…I know at this point I’ve put enough time and probing into this beast that the next step is not to jump down another rabbit hole, rather it is to set a few posts in the ground, declare some things in a more formal way, and begin building.

When I’m working on a design project there’s a key moment every time where I have to take all the inspiration I’ve gathered and all the ideas I’ve dreamed up to a blank page in front of me and begin making. I’d love to say it’s this beautiful romantic moment of creation and eventually it is but…at that single start moment it’s scary and so hard. Moving from head to heart to hand to page is uncomfortable and awkward and difficult and revealing because what comes out is both completely me and no longer me. The words or ideas or images I create are both all mine and begin to live a life of their own the moment I write them. I set them free and I hope the relationship is reciprocal.

I think I’m at that place with this whole business. I’ve thought and researched and tried and failed and learned in an iterative cycle over the past two years, which has grown me in profound ways as a researcher and as a human. Now comes the time to begin making.

I know who I am. I know what I want. And it’s scary stuff but…I also know that I am strong enough to see it through and bring it into the world.

So this week begins that process of declaration and statements—of signals and foundations—of stepping out and stepping into and seeing what might happen next.

day 2: research, relationships & narrative inquiry

January 6, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

Article Reference:
Caine, V., Estefan, A., & Clandinin, D. J. (2013). A return to methodological commitment: Reflections on narrative inquiry. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 57(6), 574-586.

Article Overview
Narrative has become a buzzword in research today. Though the authors acknowledge that diverse opinions allow the field to be enriched, they are concerned that narrative inquiry is being used as a catchall that does not represent the larger ontological underpinnings of its origins. This article is meant to be a refocusing, setting an ontological true north for narrative inquiry.

The authors begin asserting that narrative inquiry is more than a research methodology…it is in fact a narrative view of experience (p.575). When narrative inquiry is viewed solely as a research methodology, it runs the risk of being a one-way street where the researcher holds the power as she gathers the stories of research subjects. When narrative is viewed as an experience, it opens the way for narrative to become something multi-dimensional, co-composed, and changeable within social context. No longer do researchers become the harvesters of narratives, rather researchers acknowledge and live together in the endlessly complex/changeable social world with research participants and from that place of interwoven relationships begin to distill and sense make.

In addition, the authors deem that a “narrative ontology” is key to narrative inquiry. Narrative ontology “implies that experiences are continuously interactive, resulting in changes in both people and the contexts in which they interact” (p.576). The researcher’s lived experience too becomes an important part of the research process because narratives are not received in a sterile lab rather are received in the thick of daily life.

“To engage deeply with experience, an ontological commitment is, then, a relational commitment. It is a commitment to a form of togetherness in research that seems to explore how we are living in the midst of our stories” (p. 576).

In narrative inquiry, the researcher always draws on personal experiences when encountering research puzzles and attention to these personal experiences become the genesis of the relational commitment that is foundational to narrative inquiry.

My Thoughts
This was an interesting article for me because previously, when thinking of narrative inquiry, it was more from a place where my participants would tell me their stories, I’d dutifully record/code, and form some larger theory of experience, phenomenon, etc. To me, narrative was a unit of measure and though it might make me feel something…I’d do my best to bracket and stay true to the facts that were presented. After reading this article, I’m thinking that view was reductionist of me.

The idea that narrative inquiry promotes an interweaving of a researcher’s narrative with the narratives of research subjects rather than a bracketing out of researcher’s narrative is very appealing to me. In addition, the idea that narrative inquiry is relationally constructed resonates with me because I tend to think all of life is relationally constructed and understood. In my case, I am researching a topic that I am passionate about and have experience working within. Hearing relationships are okay within narrative inquiry (and indeed even part of its core) makes it attractive.

Additional Questions
That said, I wonder how objectivity is achieved within narrative inquiry. Could the relational construct obscure or gloss over the truth of a phenomenon? Or am I only thinking that because I’ve been steeped for so long in the validity of research that retains no fingerprints of the researcher? If narrative inquiry is all about exploring the interweaving of your life as a researcher and the lives of your participants…how can you avoid getting hopelessly tangled up in their lives and vice versa? What is professional (or even mental health) distance as a researcher engaged in narrative inquiry?

Overall Learning
Overall by defining its boundaries in general and the importance of a narrative ontology in particular, this article was a good way to begin my narrative inquiry exploration. My overarching takeaway is that not all research that uses narratives is narrative inquiry. If I do want to follow a narrative inquiry focus…I must be prepared for a deep level of engagement, immersion, and co-construction with my participants because research really might be in relationships.



day 1: finding, figuring, and settling in

January 5, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

In September I began writing my first, draft dissertation proposal. Couched within the penultimate doctoral course, Research Seminar 1, the idea was that we’d all write practice condensed dissertation proposals to test-drive research questions, methodology, and literature review

After writing juicy research questions about the experience of co-presence within the online graphic design studio, I began the hunt for a methodology. (Though graphic design education as a whole tends to skew opposite…I strongly believe in the potential of the computer-mediated + distance-distributed. I think it’s possible to listen well (even if your ears aren’t involved in the sensory process), walk with someone through a difficult season (even if you can’t be there to physically hold a hand), and have learning epiphanies that make you feel deeply connected to the larger world (even if you’re home alone and clad in pajamas.)

Having been impressed by dissertations that used ethnography, I decided it was “the one” and began writing. Though I came to ethnography because I resonated with its embedded focus, I soon began to wonder about if my own ontology might not be quite “ethnographic.” For example, in the literature there were many cautionary mentions of “going native” or losing outsider objectivity.

While I understand the rationale, one of my delights is the ease with which I “go native” with those I meet, actively interweaving my life with theirs. I love being a catalyst in forming/fostering community. I believe strongly in co-creation, collaboration, and that if one is curious–it’s quite possible to find and be accepted into the most significant moments in people’s humble, daily places. To me going native feels in many ways like the best validation ever because it means you’ve moved beyond an “I’m studying you” mentality and into a space of co-construction where we’re both living in “it” and studying/constructing/navigating what that experience might look like.

These realizations made me think that maybe I didn’t know myself as a research as well as I thought and…it might be advantageous to reflect on just what I bring to this process. Though I believe it’s important to choose a methodology that fits research questions and best serves the unit you want to measure, I think it’s just as important to choose a methodology that fits your own ontology as a researcher otherwise….eek…the process could be very square-peg-into-round-hole-awkward.

When I turned in my first draft proposal in early December, it was with the knowledge that I was still on the hunt and even more that I needed to clarify a couple more things within myself before I could commit to a framework. And so…over the past three weeks I’ve begun to window shop once more to see if there might be something else out there that’s a bit more in line with both my research questions and myself as a researcher.

I’ve currently settled into narrative inquiry. Though I have yet to fully decide if we are MFEO, I do know I’ll be spending this weeks #5papers looking at different facets + foci of narrative inquiry in an effort to better explore all it has to offer.




meandering into 2016

January 1, 2016

lisa hammershaimb

Today marks the first day of 2016. To commemorate what feels like a start much fresher than an average morning, I decided that I should get back to writing more about academic stuff…which actually means I should make reading + reflecting on academic stuff more of a priority.

Coincidentally, I stumbled on Jeffrey Keefer’s #5papers initiative (here’s his first 2016 post) this morning and that coupled with having just read Mobile Photography and Open, Networked Learning by Mark McGuire seemed to be the perfect alignment of elements to start the new year on a good, word-filled, academic trajectory.

In addition, Jeffrey had broken down #5papers initiative on his blog with guiding questions so all I really had to do was filter my thinking according to his seven points and then write, share. Basically, I’d be a model open educator and competent digital citizen by happy hour.

And then I hit point 1 “Write a Reference to the Article” and all began to unravel.

Read more

One year ago….

March 15, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Pre-reading disclaimers:
I am writing this one day post-Assignment 2 submission thus will freely admit what follows has been born from mostly half-formed ideas created while running, while drinking, and in pre-dawn hours while trying to go back to sleep. Please forgive the ramblings, unformed ideas, etc.

Due to the magic that is the Timehop app, I realized that one year ago this week I was at the AIGA Design Educator Connecting Dots Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.  Timehop informed me that apparently I was a Tweet-writing machine as I was encountering so many new ideas, meeting so many new people, and in many ways coming out as not only a design educator of the online tribe (which is rare in design education) but the dean of a fully online graphic design program (which in the graphic design education world is pretty much the equivalent of being a unicorn.) As it was only a year ago, re-reading what I’ve tweeted has brought back the memories and the overall context of the experience which has been the catalyst for a good nostalgia session as I compare where I was a year ago with where I am now.

The main theme that seemed to stick out to me last year was the need for designers to be engaged in Research (yep….cap R for “Research” because designers love a good capital whenever possible!) This checks out with my own memory as it seems a lot of the keynotes rotated around the fact that design pedagogy kind of has its own “cold start problem” going on because it wants so desperately to be a legit academic field but because graphic design is ubiquitous, young, and practice/apprentice based and designers are very much an “other”…it’s just an academic hard sell.

In addition, I think what really might contribute to these notions is that designers and even design educators don’t interface with more mainstream academia because they have so effectively established their own communities of practice. Don’t get me wrong, these communities are amazing and I love designers almost as much as I love people from Canada. But…this year has convinced me that designers have done a fabulous job establishing their own niche at the expense of becoming part of the larger education conversation, and especially educational technology/digital literacy conversation that is going on.

This lack of voice is curious to me as graphic design in general and design educators in particular seem to have so much to bring to the table when discussing how to navigate the very murky spaces of technology, learning, and human empathy. Perhaps it is because I’m ignorant to the conversations (as I have legit spent more time lately in the edu sphere as opposed to the design sphere). I hope this is the case as I think this bleed area matters in some pretty profound ways.

For the next couple days I’m going to both get back on the writing wagon and engage a bit more with these ideas. What is design pedagogy? Why are designers not integrating with the larger narratives of digital literacy and network learning that are going on? Or are they and it’s me that’s just missing it because my own vision and network is too narrow?

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