Quality and Higher Education.

Posted by PH on October 04, 2015
Education, Students / 1 Comment

The stated “mission and strategic goal” of my employer—University of Wales Trinity Saint David—is Transforming education, transforming lives. My default view on mission statements is to view them with some suspicion: however, I actually kind of like this one.

Can we transform education? Well, maybe… that’s actually a pretty tall order. However, it’s true that the practice of teaching and learning in the vast majority of Higher Education establishments is largely archaic and no longer fit-for-purpose: almost anything we can do to transform this has got to be A Good Thing. When our SA1 campus with its new-fangled teaching spaces has been built we’ll be in a better position to judge. Let’s just say the jury is out on this one, because the challenge is not going to be in building those new spaces but in fundamentally changing long-established and deeply engrained habits and practices. As Robert Pirsig has said:

If a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory.

Can education transform lives? This one’s easier to answer: yes, it definitely and unequivocally can. I know this to be true from personal experience: a year’s study at City University completely and utterly changed me forever. It remains one of the most profound experiences of my life, and I remain eternally grateful…

But looking at this idea a little more critically, it’s obvious that just saying we’re “transforming lives” isn’t really good enough. Surely we need to say that we’re transforming them for the better? And, from there, go on to say what we actually mean by “better”. Happier? Ready for the workplace? More confident and mature? Perhaps all of these things…

The word that I am going to use as a unit of measure here is quality. Now quality is a concept that we all think we understand. I’m pretty sure that if I put a selection of objects out on a table somewhere—it wouldn’t matter what: cakes, or watches, shovels, underpants—we could all reliably pick out the high quality items from the poor. Quality, then, seems to reside in the objects around us. It is a property of things. But if we think about this a bit more, we can see that this is only actually true for a limited set of things. We do not, for example, say things like “oh, look at that high quality sunset”, or “look, there goes a high quality bee!” In fact, the only things we describe in terms of quality are those that are man-made. And the reason we describe an object as “high quality” is because someone—a designer, artist, craftsman, engineer—has invested that object with quality in the first place. Quality is something we make.

And the way we make quality is by engaging openly, honestly, calmly, and skilfully with our materials, whatever they may be. We have to pay attention to every detail. We must show infinite care. We must love what we do. It is our total commitment to the creative process that makes quality, that invests our animations, our games, our films, our music, with quality. In other words, quality is a function of the creator’s interaction with their materials.

We can take this train of thought further. Even if we do our very best and create a high quality product, that still isn’t enough. Before that quality manifests itself someone has to interact with it. So, yes, quality is embedded within man-made objects. But much more than that it is the fundamental descriptor for all human experience. Quality is the means by which we measure what is happening to us in the here-and-now. Quality is a function of interaction. It is the human measure of experience.

So what happens when we bring our new understanding of quality back to our mission statement, to transformed lives? Well, firstly, it implies that there should be a high quality interaction between the student and the university, particularly (obviously!) a high quality learning experience. Our job as educators, therefore, is to teach the student to engage openly, honestly, calmly, and skilfully with their materials, to pay attention to detail, to show infinite care, to show love for their subject. Then, secondly, it should follow that our transformed students go out into the world and make it a better place by investing everything they do with quality.

That is the goal. That is what we are here for.

[This is an edited version of a speech I gave at the School of Film and Digital Media end-of-year show in June 2015.]


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Simon Kilshaw

Posted by PH on November 15, 2014
Education, Music & Technology / No Comments

Video of a presentation made by Simon at an Interdisciplinary Research Forum in the Reading Room at UWTSD on Wednesday 12th November, 2014.

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Leeds Metropolitan University

Posted by PH on April 17, 2013
Education, Music & Technology, Visual Culture / No Comments

Just after Easter Simon Kilshaw and myself drove up to Leeds Met at the invitation of Dr. Nikos Stavropoulos. Nikos kindly took out a large part his day to give us an extensive tour of the campus and the Music Tech facilities in particular: all very impressive.

Nikos (left) and Simon.


Unusual B&K dummy head.

Plink. Plonk.


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Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris

Posted by PH on March 30, 2013
Education, Narrative, Photography, Visual Culture / No Comments

This chilly Easter weekend I’m in Paris for the 3rd Conference of the European Narratology Network. Here’s some pics of the venue: a lovely and extremely varied campus, if a little run-down in places:


The delegates gather.


Brian Richardson delivers the one of the first keynote speeches on Friday morning.


Human sacrifices entirely absent!


Exciting but brutal modernist workout. Derelict.


Interesting juxtaposition: Bauhaus-style building with man-monkey statues.


Raphaël Baroni delivers the final keynote on Saturday afternoon.

The conference? I delivered my paper yesterday and it went as well as could be expected. Overall? Let’s just say that I found the limits of my interest in narrative quite early on…


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SDM 2012 3DCA Showreel

Posted by PH on December 01, 2012
Education, Visual Culture / 2 Comments


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SDM 2012 Games Showreel

Posted by PH on September 23, 2012
Education, Students, Visual Culture / No Comments


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SDM 2012 Showreel

Posted by PH on September 19, 2012
Education, Students, Visual Culture / No Comments


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Bauhaus Documentary

Posted by PH on March 31, 2012
Education, Visual Culture / No Comments

A very good 1994 BBC documentary on the Bauhaus:


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Gypsy Jazz – Puttin’ On The Ritz

Posted by PH on March 11, 2012
Education, Music & Technology / No Comments

From last November’s surround recording sessions at SMU:

Just recorded onto an iPhone 4S, topped and tailed, original audio track.


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SDM Showreel 2011

Posted by PH on December 30, 2011
Music & Technology, Students, Visual Culture / No Comments

Just in time for 2012 here is the School of Digital Media showreel with its new soundtrack (by BSc Music Tech graduate James Radford):


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