Friday, 19 June 2015

New WVC issue: Between Texts and Cities

Between Texts and Cities” was prompted by a suggestion by Grace Lees-Maffei that Michael Heilgemeir and I guest-edit an issue of Writing Visual Culture, the journal of the TVAD research group. The issue is part of our joint project Texts+Cities, an exploration of the relations between texts and urban spaces in contemporary societies. We both have a keen interest in contemporary cities and urban issues: Michael’s book The Nomadic Studio explores temporary artist-led spaces and their role within the redevelopment of cities, and my research is on urban regeneration, focusing on London Docklands and the Greenwich Peninsula.

Fig. 1: Michael Heilgemeir (2013): The Nomadic Studio.

Our first Texts+Cities activity was the seminar Texts/Cities: From the 1970s to the Present, which took place at the University of Hertfordshire in January 2014. In conceiving the seminar, Michael and I were guided by a number of questions:

·       How do urban spaces relate to artistic, political, or economic texts and ideologies, and vice-versa?

·       What transformations occur between the designing and imaging of urban spaces, and the building and eventual inhabiting of those spaces?

·       How do the technologies employed in designing and imaging architectural and urban spaces (computer modelling and simulation, CGI renderings of future buildings, etc.) contribute to the ‘idea’ or representations of a city?

·       In what ways can Big Data, New Media, and Imaging Technologies influence understanding of, and policies within cities?

Poster for seminar Texts/Cities: From the 1970s to the Present, University of Hertfordshire, 2014. Poster design: Michael Heilgemeir; photograph: Hong Kong 2003 © Daniel Marques Sampaio.

The exploratory nature of the seminar enabled us to identify the central issues on which to focus, and the present issue of Writing Visual Culture springs from that process. Our call for papers for the issue produced responses from scholars within an interdisciplinary range of humanities, social sciences, art, design, and media practices.

Between Texts and Cities
 (WVC # 6) cover. Design and photograph © Michael Heilgemeir.

The seven contributions in “Between Texts and Cities” were selected from abstracts received from the UK, the USA, Belgium, Canada, Germany, India, Malaysia, Russia, and South Africa. Our imaginations were sparked by their themes: cityscapes of exclusion; liminal, interstitial spaces between city and country; places of refuge for sexual and racial minorities; modernist utopian designs ill-equipped to respond to the dynamics of contemporary Capitalism; imagined cities that amplified traits of existing ones to the point of entropy.

These all related to the concerns outlined in our call for papers. However, the variety of approaches and the specificities of some of their cultural and geographical settings required us to contextualise them very carefully in relation to our project. In this we benefited enormously from our conversations with Susan Parham, Head of Urbanism at the Centre for Sustainable Communities here at the University of Hertfordshire. Susan’s comments and advice were always given in a spirit of openness and generosity, and we enjoyed immensely working with her.

I invite readers (shameless plug alert!) to have a look at the Introduction to the issue, which sets out a context for the papers within the thematic scope of the Texts+Cities project. That context invokes the literal and metaphorical ruins of Modernism’s urban utopias, and the emergence of a new political and economic configuration in the wake of the structural crises of Capitalism of the 1970s. Naturally, such context, “narrative arc” even, is only one of many possible contexts, and we welcome debate on alternative ways of reading this issue.

A final note on the issue: there are two versions of “Between Texts and Cities” on the TVAD website. The first version follows the prevailing model of digital delivery in journal publishing, whereby journal articles within an issue can be accessed individually as pdfs. If you need to print an individual article, that’s the place to go (mind the trees!).

In addition to this, we have brought all the papers together in a single volume, soon to be uploaded on the WVC site. Michael designed and produced photographs for the volume, which is designed to be read/viewed/studied/devoured on screens/tablets. This second version aims to preserve the papers’ place in the wider context of the issue (that “narrative arc”), and emphasise the dialogue between the articles. We also intend it to explore a bit more the visual side we have always felt is a strong aspect of the Texts+Cities project, in an attractive publication that hopefully will help us communicate the project in future activities.

Daniel Marques Sampaio

Reframing Spaces: A pedagogic provocation from the School of Creative Arts

Exhibition Open: Tuesday 23rd June to Thursday 25th June, 9:30am – 7:30pm

Venue: Art and Design Gallery, University of Hertfordshire, College Lane Campus, Hatfield, AL10 9EU
Admission: Free

Reframing Spaces is an exhibition designed to illuminate some current issues around pedagogy and to share different approaches to practice led by staff in the School of Creative Arts, at the University of Hertfordshire, including TVAD researchers. Acknowledging that education is constructed within a context of performativity, the work explores how limiting frames can be challenged to enable students to engage wholeheartedly in learning. Staff can create spaces and use materials to enable students to reframe their expectations and understandings of how they will engage in learning in the creative arts. Materials that have been developed and used with students will be available for critique.

Reframing Spaces identifies that spaces themselves may need to be reframed if staff are to collaborate to create a rich learning environment for students. Dialogic spaces for colleagues to share and mutually challenge ways of thinking and acting are essential for professional learning. The exhibition shows three approaches to using non-traditional spaces and approaches to enable staff to engage in dialogue and construction together. Research, scholarship and critical reflection on pedagogy are shown in the exhibition in visual form.

The exhibition itself brings into the public space an account of emerging, difficult-to-quantify change in professional practice. Making visible the work in this new way offers opportunities for the learning community to continue to shape its own agenda around the development of practice and to provoke others to do the same.

Reframing Spaces Exhibition Tours
Colleagues interested in the development of learning and teaching are invited to participate in tours of the exhibition led by staff members including Rebecca Thomas (exhibition curator) Ivan Philips, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching in the School of Creative Arts, and Joy Jarvis, Professor of Educational Practice. Participants will be able to discuss the approaches to L&T development represented and the resources being created for induction, and consider any connections with their own work and context.
Exhibition Tour Times:
Tuesday 23rd June, 9.30, 11.30, 2.30 and 6.00
Wednesday 24th June, 4.30 and 6.00
Thursday 25th June. 2.30 and 4.30
Venue: Art and Design Gallery.

Please contact Rebecca Thomas for further information.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium

The Comic Electric   

Call for Participation

Led by renowned comic writers Leah and Alan Moore, The Electricomics project launched in May 2014 with funding from The Digital R&D Fund for the Arts. Now, as the project nears the conclusion of its initial research and development stage, we seek to establish a new academic symposium through which to share our findings and expand discussion and debate around the field of digital comics research.

The Comic Electric: A Digital Comics Symposium will be held at The University of Hertfordshire on Wednesday 14th October 2015. As part of this symposium participants are sought to present papers across a wide range of topics that relate to comics scholarship and digital media. Appropriate subject areas include:

  • New and emergent digital comic forms and technologies.
  • Changes to the underlying structures of the form as a result of digital mediation.
  • Crossovers, adaptation and hybridisation between comics and other digital media.
  • Acts of reading and the impact of digital mediation.
  • Aesthetic and literary analysis of digital comic narratives.
  • Digital distribution, changes in the industry and the threat of piracy.
  • Webcomics, widening readerships, minority voices and fan cultures.
  • Multimodality and comics relationship with larger transmedia narratives.

Other areas relevant to the study of digital comics will also be considered. Abstracts of no more than 300 words for papers of 20 minutes in length should be submitted via e-mail to Daniel Merlin Goodbrey and Alison Gazzard at by Monday 27th July 2015. If you have any questions about the symposium or need clarification on any aspect of this call for participation, please also contact us via the above e-mail address.

The Comic Electric 

About Electricomics

The focus of the Electricomics project has been the creation of a new digital comic anthology app and an open source toolkit for the creation of digital comics. Towards this goal, the project has examined how the language, tropes and production processes of traditional comics are impacted by digital technologies. Our research has also explored how an easy to use and openly available toolset might facilitate content creation both in the comics sector and amongst a wider arts community.

Electricomics is collaborative project between arts, technology and research partners. Arts partner Orphans of The Storm was founded by comic writer Alan Moore and film director and producer Mitch Jenkins. Technology partner Ocasta studios are responsible for the creation of the Electricomics app and comic creation toolset. The research partners on the project are Alison Gazzard from the London Knowledge Lab at the UCL Institute of Education and Daniel Merlin Goodbrey from the University of Hertfordshire’s School of Creative Arts.

The Comic Electric is a joint symposium between three of the School of Creative Art’s research groups; TVAD (Theorising Visual Arts and Design), G+VERL (Games and Visual Effects Research Lab) and The Media Research Group. It is held in conjunction with the DARE (Digital Arts Research Education) research centre at the UCL Institute of Education.

The Comic Electric 

About the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts

The Digital R&D fund for the Arts is a £7 million fund to support collaboration between organisations with arts projects, technology providers, and researchers. It is a partnership between Arts Council England (, Arts and Humanities Research Council ( and Nesta (

We want to see projects that use digital technology to enhance audience reach and/or develop new business models for the arts sector. With a dedicated researcher or research team as part of the three-way collaboration, learning from the project can be captured and disseminated to the wider arts sector. Every project needs to identify a particular question or problem that can be tested. Importantly this question needs to generate knowledge for other arts organisations that they can apply to their own digital strategies.

Lottery Funded