Mark d’Inverno

MA MSc (Oxon) PhD (Lond)
Professor of Computer Science
Pro-Warden Research and Enterprise Goldsmiths
EPSRC Peer-review college
Visiting Fellow IIIA and Sony Research Labs

Over a number of years, Mark d’Inverno and I co-supervised PhD researchers  at University of Westminster and Goldsmiths College, London. We are both committed to co-supervision of PhDs and to supporting researchers who work across disciplines and across theory and practice.

The numerous discussions we had together, and continue to engage in, have contributed to the syllabus of this course. They include debate about what constitutes effective supervision, the need for compassionate and rigorous supervision, and the importance of the post-PhD careers of the researchers we work with.

In November 2014, Mark gave a talk to my class and he has generously agreed that I can take these and incorporate them into this course.

David Jenkins

David Jenkins was my PhD supervisor and he taught me how to write for a PhD, using the formal style expected in academia. He did this through discussion and by closely editing my draft documents. Those documents were printed (it was before Microsoft Word) and handed back to me, almost obliterated with red pen. The mistakes I continue to make are all my own!

It was an era when professors had more time available to spend with their PhD researchers, but even so, what he did for me was extraordinarily generous. By doing this, he ‘paid it forward’ and I do the same, most of the time, with the PhD researchers that I supervise, and the junior faculty that I mentor. But I use Word and other online tools for marking up documents.


My PhD experience: reading and writing

I am a first-generation university graduate. Having said that, although my parents never went to college, they provided me with many socio-economic advantages and encouraged me to work out ‘how’ to succeed. I did my PhD at Warwick University following a BA in Fine Art and a Masters in Electronic Media.  In 1990, when I began my PhD research, I was a visual artist with a part-time teaching job at a local Further Education / community college.

I am a visual thinker, an avid reader and an anxious writer. My mother, Joan, an extremely well-read autodidact, started me reading early. From a young age I read anything and everything I could get my hands on. At breakfast I compulsively read cereal packets, classified ads, motoring magasines and the newspaper. Starting from when I was a small kid, reading under the bedclothes with a torch, I read myself to sleep for an hour each night.  Back then, I secretly raided Mum’s bookshelves aged 10 onwards, reading “The Joy of Sex”, to everything written by James Baldwin, from then-baffling books by Henry Miller to the classics, and I returned, again and again, to the Liverpool poets. You can read more about my family and their influences on my life and my art website, here.

When I was fourteen Mum signed me up for an advanced reading and study course. I learned to speed read, how best to mark up texts, how to make notes to help me revise and summarise texts. It was a blessing and a curse. To this day I struggle to ‘switch off’ my speed reading which is premised on reading a text at least three times. This is no problem when reading papers and academic texts  as this is what most of us do, read repeatedly. However, it’s a curse when I fly through novels, my habitual bedtime reading, but apparently retain almost nothing afterwards and I don’t want to re-read them 3 or 4 times. Having said that,  if I pick the novel up again, even years later, and start reading, the whole story comes back. Nowadays, I love my e-reader because I can store hundreds of texts and speed read chapters and articles multiple times, highlighting sections for quick reference using those study skills from so long ago.

Despite my love of reading, my writing skills were weak when I went into my PhD and I still have to work hard to write an acceptable academic paper, such as these I’ve posted to My inspirational PhD supervisor, David Jenkins, taught me to research and he honed my reading skills.

Taste, Teaching and the Utah Teapot

Link to Jane Prophet’s PhD thesis, “Taste, Teaching and the Utah Teapot: creative, gender, aesthetic and pedagogical issues surrounding the use of electronic media in art and design education, with particular reference to hypertext applications.”

The following is unedited from the 1994 thesis 
This investigation charts a number of complementary explorations at the site of electronic media in art practice and design and media education. Artists are increasingly using video and computer technology in the production of their work, and these shifts are reflected in the way design and media courses are taught in Higher Education. This study seeks to relate a number of often contentious issues, but complex questions are central to any debate about the use of electronic imaging technologies by artists and the implications for teaching and learning. In this respect, the thesis is informed by my dual role as an artist using electronic media and as a lecturer in video and digital imaging in the Media Department at the University of Westminster.

The study is based on a particular model of action research, and seeks after the manner of Glaser and Strauss (1967) to “ground” theory in the aggregate perceptions, understandings, and artistic or pedagogical orientations of those seeking to bring order to their own experiences in the settings.

The text is arranged in eleven chapters. It begins by introducing the boundaries of the phenomena under study (which is necessarily ragged and untidy and challengingly gritty, since the composite issues have yet to have attracted any clarity of exposition, and the field is in any case characterised by imaginative leaps and cross-fertilisation) and the methodological and idealogical stances adopted. Methodologically the thesis is wide-ranging and eclectic, although also contained within the kind of feminist epistomology proposed by Sandra Harding (1992), Marnier Lazreg (1994) and others. It then moves on to examine a number of focal points and issues related to the use to which electronic media is put by artists. These topics include my own sustained attempts to develop non-linear computer systems for mapping associative thoughts, and a more general and more detailed study of the principles and characteristics of these systems when they are used for holding information about knowledge domains. Following this, there is a chapter dedicated to the application of these principles to a particular knowledge domain, colour theory, with the aim of designing a computer aided learning package. The interconnections between all the topics, issues and themes studied in the text are highlighted in the middle of the thesis before moving on to more specific investigation of the issue of gender in both technological education and creativity, with an emphasis on the use of imaging technologies by women artists. The impact of these technologies in terms of shifting aesthetic values and tastes forms the basis of the final chapter, and a conclusion seeks to offer both a tentative intellectual synopsis and to indicate how the exercise has influenced and affected my work as an artist.

I am aware that to some extent this arrangement challenges both the linear quality of conventional research reportage and academic distrust of promiscuously interpenetrating ideas. I trust that this form of discourse, deliberately chosen, is experienced as working within its own terms.