Let’s talk apps: meeting with Digital Innovations.

I messaged the Digital Innovations team back in December after thinking of an idea for a children’s app whilst participating on their Tech For Good workshop (The Shed, 6/12/16). We have been going back and forth since then until finally Paul contacted me to apologise as they have been spread so thinly. He then set a meeting up between Laurie Cooper and I where we met to discuss whether my idea had any legs.

I want to create an app which helps children to believe that any future vocation is possible regardless of gender. I came up with the storyboard during the workshop after we discussed the reasons behind women being under-represented in tech. It was suggested that girls need to visibly see role models in the industry before being able to see themselves. As I discussed my aim with Laurie he asked if I wanted to create the app to empower girls, I said it needs to be inclusive for everyone, not just girls.

Admittedly, I had not done any research as yet as i didn’t think the meeting would happen and I was in the midst of my practice deadline. My partner and I searched children’s apps over the weekend to see if there was anything on the market that was doing the same. We found something with a similar idea about showing many job-roles and you built your own character which looked a little androgynous, but it was a little messy compared to what I have in mind. There was also one that links children around the world and gives a day in the life story in different countries. I really like this concept.

As I searched through, I became quite disturbed by how many pregnancy surgery and plastic surgery apps there are. I’m not sure why there is a need for this? Are they trying to appeal to girls to be interested in the science and medical side to giving birth or are they trying to put girls off surgery by showing what can go wrong? There is room for more research here on my part.


There are so many apps that are trying to interest girls in science or engineering, but just as I saw in the toy stores, it’s as if everything needs to be pink to get them interested or the intention has to be linked to something associated with femininity; make up, baking, etc. One of the ones that appealed to me was an app called Fix It Girls where a female team fix things in the home. I really don’t remember things being so pink when I was a child, I don’t remember things having to be a certain colour to feel like they appealed to me. I remember not being interested in certain toys or subjects and looking at what my favourite things were then, seeing how they are not typically feminine and how I felt more ‘tomboy-ish’, but I don’t remember the colour being a determiner.


There are an excellent group called Tinybop who are developing educational apps in a visually beautiful way that encourages play. They are different to what I have in mind, however, I wish that they were around when I was a child as I would have been a lot more interested. These are going to appeal to the visual and kinaesthetic learners that could otherwise be lost when using text books and text-book diagrams.

At first I was thinking of aiming it at 4-7 year olds but as we were going through the details we found it may be better to aim at the youngest children possible. Laurie drew on how his daughter is obsessed with pink and he and his wife don’t know where this has come from. They guess it could have been nursery as they both went back to work when she was at a young age. We discussed other options, for example, if we aimed at 7-8 year old we could go into more detail regarding the vocations and refer to government legislation on education in schools about job possibilities, but we would be relying on the child having a certain amount of reading capabilities in order to skip the parents. If we aimed at 4 year-olds, the children would have to have a much simpler content, but if we are aiming young and they need help setting up the app at first, why not start even younger and say 1-4/5 years old?

When speaking about his daughter and his experience that pink does appeal to girls and form a part of their identity, Laurie suggested entering the child’s gender. I do not want this. I would rather a child enter their favourite colour so they feel the app is personally tailored to them and rather than expecting a girl to prefer pink, this gives more flexibility. All children can try the app in different colour combinations and choose the one that represents them the most. To invest the child even further they will be asked to draw something for the background and enter their name and age. Ethical implications were debated and we are sure we have the best ways to carry out the task whilst protecting the child.

Details and thoughts are all collated in the notebooks and the summary email. As advised, I have spoken to a friend who is a deputy manager of a nursery and she is interested in being involved in the design print stage. Laurie has given me a quote for the design spring so I now need to research where to apply for funding or sponsorship. The design sprint will run across 4 1/2 days. We would meet with Natalie for a half day workshop were we would discuss the logistics and see if Natalie’s experience highlights anything we have missed. I would then meet with the digital team and work with the artists to get some wire frames made to show how the app would look visually. There will then be a further quote to get the app up and running.

I am enthusiastic about this and truly believe it could be successful. It would be a great personal experience to work with others who are passionate about what the app stands for as Laurie does. Sometimes it would be helpful to me to have someone else who is on the same page to bounce ideas off rather than going around the ones in your own mind over and over.




Lecture on Ethics.

This weeks Thursday lecture was on Ethics held by John Spencer. The talk was really informative and relevant to my work but the slides changed so quick. I may contact John and ask if it is possible to be sent the slides to look back on as there was too much information to retain and not enough time to copy all of the notes I would of liked to.

It is a very complex issue and there is a lot of debate within Arts and Humanities regarding ethics as art is intended to challenge. Where is the line that says something is for the greater good and beyond this is unethical? We were informed that we should complete an ethics form for every project. Everyone involved in the research should be given a consent form and they have to give their permission for their input to be used. I presented the same question to John as I did to Olivier Kruegler regarding my reportage. Where do I stand with ethics if my research depends on conversations and statements that are raw and un-edited? If someone knew I was planning on documenting something they said for my research project their reactions and conversations would be edited, therefore detrimental to my research. I see my research as being for the greater good, so am i harming by releasing my findings or merely offending? It was suggested that I would be working ethically as my reportings are not released in a way that the person is identifiable. Even then if someone admitted that conversation came from them, there is no link in my work to them.

Copyright surrounding images, found imagery and collage is extremely complicated. It was recommended we refer to Fair Dealing- Copyright for more information. For found photographs and imagery, you will be entitled to use these if you can prove you have exercised all avenues in trying to find and contact the original owner. I asked where I stood with using collage. I was under the impression the image could be 70 years old in he public domain and therefore free to use and if you manipulate the image to the point of it not being fully recognisable as the original image. John said there is room to manipulate and room for argument within copyright laws, moreso in the Uk than compared to the USA and perhaps I could look up the USA copyright laws in relation to manipulation. Also, look up the Orphan Image government scheme to see if there has been any new legislation approved.

Michele recalled a time she received a solicitors letter after she held an exhibition of which her work incuded manipulated wallpaper she had found in a skip. The wallpaper was only an element in the pieces of her work and someone mustof come across them and reported her. She destroyed her work but never heard any more from the solicitors.

The tutorial I was dreading turned out to be a blessing.

Today I had my first tutorial with Clinton since November and I had been dreading it. Since having to stop working on my research through December and January being dedicated to Contested Territories, I am well aware I am behind on my practice. I have managed to read more on it, but not get fully stuck in to making. I mentioned how I felt disheartened since we found out last week that the pieces of work are not assessed. After feeling a fraud for wanting to exhibit an image I had made a couple of years ago, I felt it was only right to make a zine to map out some the protests going on across the world. Now I feel this was unnecessary and I have taken the long way round. The project has taken me a lot longer than expected, possibly four times longer, due to making the work and external factors. After looking through my work with Clinton, it is obvious that I haven’t exhausted all options for the images. I could have played a bit more. And what is painfully obvious now it is pointed out, is the type. I think I have clung to the sentiment of cutting out the words from the newspapers and magazines to show the desire for anonymity. But realistically, it isn’t the most aesthetically complimenting way. I do not know where the time has gone. When I look at what I have made I can’t understand why they have taken me so long, especially when I haven’t experimented with variations and type, but I genuinely have worked every minute I could have on it.

It was brought to my attention that this project is still not a waste in the sense that although the work is not being marked, I will still have learned from it. I have made the conscious decision to not read the academic reading and focus on the editorial reading. Being interested in editorial illustration, I am interested in the information that is readily available and aimed at my target audience. This is one medium that contributes to the way my target audience thinks. It is also a medium that divides and persuades. I am interested in how my views differ greatly to my family’s and I wonder if that is partially down to reading and watching different media coverage. It is also critically in tune with what is going on right now, not histories people have written about. I engage with this and articles can fan the flames of my area of interest and will help me generate work in response. After so much academic reading and not much practice, I needed this ignition. The subject matter is in-line with my interest in identity. Contested territories has also made me start to learn InDesign, question my layout, what information needs to be included or not, and led me to think about print. I have benefited from the conversations with the group and it has helped me to understand more of what is needed to be done to form an exhibition. I have been pleasantly surprised at how well the group has come together, I didn’t expect that from a group of 20. Some have taken a more back seat approach but that has given others room to share their expertise and there have been no objections to proposals, only the generation of ideas.

I visited the print services at The Shed today to get a rough estimate on pricing for my zine and for my large print. I was quoted very little for the zine but I am expecting the price to rise once I take my work ready and go through the different kinds of paper. The large image for my exhibition is 7ft x 4.6 ft. I want her to be large and occupy space. She needs to command attention and own her body as other people judge and debate it. The Shed can only print 3ft at the widest. If I scale her down she is not going to have the impact I need her to have. I could either test reducing her to maybe 6ft and seeing how she looks if I trim the sides of the image. Another option is to print her out in  two halves and join her up. Although this is a risk as I have requested that she has a space to free hang within the room from one of the pipes running across the ceiling; so she occupies the space in the room and not against a wall. If I join her and there are any lights behind her, I run the risk of a visible shadow where the seam is. Angela asked me to call into The Shed again so I can speak to her or her team.

Returning to the subject of my practice, I spoke to Clinton about how I have started to question and splice the language used in children’s magazines aimed at girls and boys. I would like to highlight the differences and make the language nonsensical, ridiculous even, and hopefully people may look at the material that is aimed at children. I felt sad reading the girl’s magazine. The tasks were all about love, baking, fashion, best friends; sickeningly sweet. Asking to write a letter to someone they love, enlightening them to the fact Valentines Day is the 14th February, and asking them to tick the correct box in correspondence to what Barbie and her friends were wearing. The magazine also asked them to send in a photograph of themselves to be in with a chance of winning a free future edition. Gary Spicer mentioned not patronising kids when making my work yet I feel both of the magazines I worked through did this. The girls magazine stated the competition entrants must be three years and over and on another page pictured a girl of eight. There are five years of advancement blurred into a pink blancmange. The boys magazine did include a girl, in an almost token-like way. She was allowed to review one film out of ten and that film was Beauty and the Beast. The language used in this magazine was more varied and the whole feeling of the magazine was more of a real life approach. There were a lot of photographs of character figures rather than illustrations, and more screen shots of games and films. The readers were encouraged to ‘check this out’, go on the internet and feed them with ‘facts’ from pages headlined ‘all you need to know about…’. It was still very stereotypical; computer games, football, superheros, and fart jokes, but I can almost forgive them. It is conditioning, but I was more disturbed by the Pink magazines way of encouraging the girls to stay at home and thread some paper ribbons through a heart. The girl’s magazine also prompted the girls to ask for adult help numerous times where the boy’s magazine encouraged self-improvement and felt more independent. I was concerned with one piece around the Best Superhero Powers section that included ‘Rage’ stating that the madder you got, the more powerful you become.

It was suggested to try out forensic questioning. To choose a typical gendered spread and pick it apart. Question everything about it, why were these colours used, the shapes, who are the publishes, who are the designers, what is the aim, where does the reference or narrative come from, who is the real target audience? Really dig deep. My picking apart of toys should also be seen as 3D sketches and experiments rather than focusing on trying to make a finished piece or illustrating a particular section of text. The information will already be imbedded, so I need to relax and be guided by the questions the work asks back.


Contested Territories and Grayson Perry, and how they help me to approach my practice.

The thing with Contested Territories is it is almost too interesting. I think I have mentioned this before, at least I have in conversation, it is so big. It is a huge option with so many avenues you can walk down, however, so is my practice. I have read some of the required reading; if I am honest, for where I wanted to initially take this project, I found the reading was too distracting as my area of interest was being documented by the press regularly. I felt engaging with editorial pieces was more important and relevant than academic reading. Some of the talks have been fascinating and today’s has made an impact. I have found throughout the option, my ideas and thoughts have flown freely but for my practice research. I’m not sure whether I have been stimulated enough but not fully engaged with some of the lectures and this has triggered me to take what is being said and take bring it into the context of my option.

I have been watching a lot of Grayson Perry documentaries and questioning how he is able to approach people and get them to engage with him. Is it because he is male? Surely this makes it easier to approach other men and question their identity and ideas of what masculinity means than if I asked them? Is it because he is open about how his inner research on his own identity has enabled him to unpack this in relation to masculinity? Having already done the work on himself, so to speak, does this break down barriers and enable his subjects to feel less judged. Is it because he is an established and celebrated artist who is successful and has acquired a certain status? If you look him up on google, he will appear first, not hundreds of other people with the same name. Is it because he has money behind him and camera crews that makes it easier to source the exact people he is looking for? It would be reasonable to believe it could be a combination of these things and I commend him for using all of them to work to help people. Because that is the desire behind his work.

Perry made a comment during the first episode of Grayson Perry, Who Are You?, ‘there is always an element of myself in there’. He said there are issues that are talked about that remind him of things he has dealt with or questioned. I wondered if that helps to make his work work? Because there is always a personal element in there or because he is able to empathise with the subject/ topic. When I released the videos of my reportage illustration, I might have got a few ‘likes’, but no one really engaged with it. I gave an interview for GRRRLIZM digital art collective magazine and released that across my social media. I spoke about what I was trying to do with my work, what I had found so far and a couple of my own personal childhood experiences. People liked it, shared the post and messaged me about it to say it made them think. I wonder if this is a good place to start? Maybe I can address my experiences first and use them as prompts? Would people open up if I could show this when asking for their stories?

Today’s Contested Territories lecture was on memory and trauma. Something was said; trauma is never in the past, it is always in the present. I believe this is true. Is trauma on the body worse than trauma on the mind? And how is trauma measured? If something small affects you for years, is it huge? Can it shape you even if you can’t see it? This lecture gave me lots to think about and also artists to look at. We spoke of how trauma can be embedded in objects and materials; as with gender. Memories can be triggered by objects, songs, certain smells and maybe this is where I need to be looking? I will research in to the artists over the weekend and go rummaging through my parent’s loft for old objects. I have the email of the lecturer to talk with her about my project.

I am going to email Sian Bonnell too as her artist talk was inspiring and I am thinking about placing objects in certain places to evoke certain feelings… this is a separate blog post, I think.

At the end of the day I wanted to hear a talk given by Gary Spicer as part of his PhD journey but my train was booked for 7pm… I did manage to quiz him on his approach to his work. He said he sees no separation between his reading, writing and practical work. There is no order, he may read until he feels he has to make or document; they are equal in value to the Phd as a whole. He is allowing his research to guide him and has no end goal. He wrote a letter to himself asking what it was that he wanted to find out knowing that he knows himself best and would subconsciously be able to answer. He has his interest in memory, and again, his personal aspect of being of half Jewish and looking at the Holocaust. He found his area of interest during his MA and even though he took a long break after his MA, his interest remained. What resonated with me is that I feel like I know my area of interest, I have a personal aspect invested, and I also have no firm idea after this. I do not know what I want to make and I can not imagine getting to the point where I feel I have read enough and I fully need to make practical work now. I’m not sure whether I need to be completely experimental until I touch on something, investigating one thing, then maybe another area? What if I don’t make anything that particularly works? Does this matter? Because I am still investigating and unpicking? Do I have to be set in where I want to go on MA or can I deliberately leave it open? With this topic of gender and identity, I can’t imagine my work will be done by the end of MA.


Photographs of Gary Spicer’s PhD practice, Necessitating My Alliance.

Creative Provocation proposal.

What If Pets Were Sexist?

What can I do about it? Society is sexist, and innocently sexist at times. How can I help children feel that it is OK for them to be a girl who likes dinosaurs or to be a boy who likes to dress hair? How can I do that if their family is trying to push them towards dolls or football? What can I do to lessen the terror felt by a father when his son wants to dress as a Disney princess in class for half an hour? What can I do to make a mum think twice about mentioning that her daughter is assertive and how she knows it can be overbearing for other children? What can I do when I don’t have children of my own? What can I do when this discredits the childhood experience I had just because I don’t have a child on my own?  What would I do if my mum called my dog a ‘tart’ again for wearing his fancy baby blue striped harness complete with huge bow?…

I’m asking for help. I want to address gender stereotypes in a way that connects with adults. I would like to show how they effect children’s moral, self image, job prospects, family life, and so on. It is so intertwined in all aspects of society; how do I find just one area to focus on? How do I as an illustrator, visually engage with my target audience? Especially when I constantly feel I need to be able to academically justify myself at the risk of missing my audience.


Soul Scripting Workshop and the first week back.

16003327_10154832751273886_3506358859038274580_nLast week I attended a workshop outside of the university called Soul Scripting. It was described as a workshop to learn techniques for written meditation. I felt this may help me sort through my thoughts on my research and help me gain focus. I am hoping that after reading, watching and engaging so much, using these techniques to get everything out may generate ideas and lessen my anxiety over the issue and also about the work itself. If I go back and reread what I have wrote I might find ideas to pursue.

I was tempted not to go into uni on Thursday as I felt I hadn’t caught up to exactly where I wanted to before starting again, but I went in anyway. I am glad I made the decision to as I was automatically more focused. It is very like to me to want to bury my head in the sand when I feel overwhelmed or not in control. It was scary getting given the deadline dates and the breakdown of the weeks because it is all too apparent that the time is going to pass so quick and I feel like I have nothing done even though before the Christmas break it took over my every thought. This could be the momentum I need to start making decisions, admitting I will not be able to read every book and paper and I need to test pieces of work and following this, narrow down my area of interest and tease out what I want to propose.I have put a call out on social media asking for old toys. I’m not sure what I am going to do with them yet in some way, I would like to the gender association away from the object or to open it up. I will test this once I have the zine made for my Contested Territories exhibition.

I received an email today to say that my application to be a Make a Difference Ambassador has been successful. I have been given some training dates and I am looking forward to the experience, although I am aware that my time is already spread pretty thinly. I’m looking forward to engaging with people and this opportunity could possibly allow me to find a place for my work or steer me in a direction I have not already considered. The training will start next month.

Also, as I am typing this there is a small section of BBC news being dedicated to fathers and what they are terming, The Fatherhood Gap. Men are speaking up and addressing that they would like the chance to have a less stressful job to free their time to help raise their children. It made me happy to hear this. The men said they dropped their high positions and took pay cuts to feel more fulfilled at home as they felt they were missing out and felt guilt that they were not giving their pars the support they needed. They are wanting more men to speak up and are wanting the support to do this in the work place. One man commented that he did not want to be the father he had; a man he did not see apart from at weekends. It makes me feel hopeful when I see people putting these issue in the public eye that society could be changing for the people that want it.





Finding the flow again…

December became a no-go for my studying as I was really busy with work. I had to be realistic as it had got to the point where I was double booking appointments, turning up at personal appointments at the wrong time, booking train tickets at the wrong time, loosing stuff… something had to give. Then after being all worked out I needed a little time off to find my sanity and enjoy some holidays.

It is hard getting back into it. Being an anxious person anyway and then being anxious about initially starting again and logging on to my emails, then being anxious as I feel I’m now behind… and being too anxious to start illustrating… it doesn’t really help. It sounds like a cop-out but I think the way forward for me is to start slow and try to incorporate a bit of time to myself into each day. Looking at how overwhelmed I was before the Christmas break, I can’t really keep going at that pace, 6 days a week and work at my optimum level. I need to accept that I can’t know and do it all. I can know and do what I can and l will be better for it. Once I have caught up with my reading and referencing I want to see if my old routine works for me again. During my third year I would get up early, do house tasks, exercise, catch up with emails and blogging, speak to friends then sleep. Once I would get up and have dinner the day would become quiet and I would be more creative carrying on through the early hours. It was a routine that worked for me.

Over the next couple of days I plan to get myself caught up with what I can. Next week, or earlier if possible, I want to get making images. I have deadlines coming and the longer I put this off the harder it will become. I still have no real idea what area I want to focus on although the idea I have for an app for children is still in the forefront of my mind.

Digital Innovations workshop.

In December I attended a workshop held by Digital Innovations at The Shed, Manchester. The workshop was designed to help you generate ideas and to open you up to working collaboratively. An example they based the workshop around was how to get more women into tech. We broke down the problem into different sections but tackling gender stereotyping early kept cropping up. There were so many comments on why there are not so many women in tech; not enough role models, not being known as a job for women, not knowing the different types of roles within tech etc. The guy helping facilitate the workshop commented that this actually wasn’t a straight forward example to use as the more we spoke about it, the more it became obvious that it was a ‘wicked problem’. The issues and complications were completely intertwined with gender stereotypes and roles within society covering all stages of life from childhood through to adulthood. Funnily enough, the women outnumbered the men in the workshop and I felt that helped add weight to the issues that hold women back from tech as we were all saying similar things.

At the end of the workshop we were asked to storyboard an app. I found this really helpful and from the workshop have come up with an idea to help open up ambitions for young children. I have tried contacting the Digital Innovations team as it was suggested to contact them and collaborate on ideas (as I have no app making experience). Not heard back as yet, will try again now the holidays are over.