I dont follow too many blogs, but I do take the time to look at Lenscratch.com's daily postings. If you dont know them, you need to!
I was double excited to see Lenscratch's post on one of my favorite artists, Heidi Kirkpatrick. In my Alt Photo class last year, I showed plenty of her work to the students. I love her imagery and that she is able to integrate her images onto so many surfaces and objects. Read the the article and check out her site.
Another repost from Bill Caraher.
This past week I enjoyed a nice set of papers at the annual School of Graduate Study’s Scholarly Forum here at the University of North Dakota. I was, however, struck by some trends in the graduate student papers that I did not particularly find useful. My papers tend to conform loosely to a template and some folks have nudged me to write a bit on my template and my general critique of conference papers in my blog. I am not super excited about writing such a pedantic post, but I’ll do it anyway. As always, if you do it some other way, have differing opinions, or just want to hate on me, the comments are open.
So, here are five rules for any graduate student giving a paper at a conference:
1. Read your paper. There are three reasons for this. First, it is tremendously difficult to present a complex argument from short notes. Complex arguments rely on a certain amount of intellectual and rhetorical rigor that is typically foreign to a conversations style of speaking. Second, if you have rather extensive notes, one gains little advantage from reading them. If you have extensive notes, might as well write out the entire paper. Finally, people at academic conferences are not there – in general – to be entertained. We’re there to hear sophisticated arguments. If someone in the audience is bored because your presentation style is boring, then they aren’t doing it right. Present a good argument and no one will be bored.
2. No More than Five Words on a Powerpoint Slide. My policy is to avoid the dreaded “Powerpointer” whenever possible. In fact, I’ve given it up for Lent this year. I’ve never quite understood the practice of putting words on a Powerpoint slide that are the same as the words you are reading in your paper. At best, it encourages us to ignore you; at worst it is a distraction. Use The Powerpointer for images that help advance your argument. If images are unnecessary, then skip The Powerpointer and force the audience to focus on your text.
3. Thesis. Provide your thesis within the first 2 minutes of your paper (or in the first 10% of your content). If I have to wait 5 minutes or more to figure out what you’re arguing, then I have lost interest. Your thesis should be supported by historiography or a literature review. As soon as you tell me your thesis, tell me why I should care. My rule is: drop your thesis within the first 2 minutes and then spend the next 2 minutes contextualizing your argument. For a 1500-2000 word paper, it should be 200 words for an introduction concluding with a thesis and no more than 300 words on the secondary literature supporting your thesis.
4. Use a Case Study. I am guilty of trying to say everything that I have ever thought on a topic in a 15-20 minute paper. While these papers stand as personal monuments to my brilliance (cough, cough), they are usually pretty rough on the audience. Recently, I have tried to focus my papers by using a single case study or single, focused argument. I try to keep the case study to around 1000 words and leave a couple hundred words for a conclusion that will relate my single argument or case study to a larger body of evidence.
5. Chose your Last Sentence Carefully. I just discovered this very recently (and in part it is a product of blogging because I never know how to end a blog). A nice, final sentence tells the audience and the moderator that your argument is now done. It avoids the dreaded “that’s all I have to say”, awkward conclusion moment. It also gives the audience something to remember from your paper and gives you one last chance to exude confidence before people begin to pepper you with questions.
I know everyone has their own style. In fact, when other people have delivered papers that I wrote, I’ve been told that my somewhat Billtastic style comes through. And I also realize that adhering to a rather formal template can imply that an argument resides – somehow – outside the text (rather than being coterminous and intrinsic in the text). I also know that some disciplines love The Powerpointer more than knowledge itself and so my somewhat primitive attitude toward The Powerpointer probably reflects my rather conservative disciplinary leanings. My post is meant mainly to offer some practical tips to students as try to figure out how to present their research at academic conferences.
That’s all I have to say.
Since it is the beginning of the semester (2nd week actually) I thought I would share this little piece that is widely known. I generally go over this in the first or second day of class. Its funny how this is a continual process to me. I have read this a hundred times, but each time, it challenges me in a different way.
RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for awhile.
RULE TWO: General duties of a student - pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.
RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher - pull everything out of your students.
RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.
RULE FIVE: be self-disciplined - this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There's no win and no fail, there's only make.
RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It's the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.
RULE EIGHT: Don't try to create and analyze at the same time. They're different processes.
RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It's lighter than you think.
RULE TEN: "We're breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities." (John Cage)
HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything - it might come in handy later.
A while back I posted images of some of my cabinet cards from my ever growing photo collection. With some, I have been doing a little investigation into the photographer and such.
About a year ago, following my exhibit at IAM in NYC, Emily Clare Zempel of Spark and Echo Arts contacted me. She asked if I would be interested in joining them on their efforts to make a multidisciplinary illuminated manuscript/Bible.
Here is their mission statement,
"Spark and Echo Arts is creating the world's largest multi-disciplinary illuminated Bible with a piece of visual, performing or literary art covering every passage of the Bible. We commission artists from diverse backgrounds and showcase their works online and at live events in NYC and beyond."
I was offered the theme of memory which is a perfect connection to my work with vernacular photographs. Many people have had quite strong reactions to the work, its sense of loss and partial identities. I cannot help but wonder if they too sense their future and memory in these tangible displaced objects?
Carrying those ideas forward, my goal was to find passages in scripture and allow my work to be moved in some relationship to the passage. While I am generally reticent about illustrating scripture, using it as a text that inspires (no theological intention here) is something quite different. I went back to my seminary class at Sioux Falls Seminary on the Psalms, with Dr. Mike Hagan and began exploring the lament and complaint Psalms again.
Below is the statement I wrote to accompany this piece,
"Since seminary, the Psalms have had a special place in my heart and theology particularly the provocative lament and complaint Psalms as they draw upon memory in such interesting ways. Faith and our utter need for salvation allows Christians to boldly approach God baring the ugly realities of all that is wrong in the world to the only One who can set things aright. The psalmist’s testimonies left nothing out of their purview: praise and bitterness, hope and fear, life and death. In addition to the psalms that convey this emotional gamut, some also contain brute and penetrating questions of Yahweh: Why? Where? How long? These laments (and these questions of complaint) are firmly rooted in Israel’s covenant with God, utilizing memory of the both the individual and community. But more provocatively, many of the Psalms remind God of God’s own past promises and salvific actions. In other words, they remind God to be God.
I chose two Psalms to inspire this work, Psalm 88 and 106. Both use memory in curious ways as alluded to above. The psalmist in Psalm 88 recalls his current desperate circumstances and fears that having been forgotten by God. He then challenges God to recall God’s own attributes and past actions of “wonder”, “steadfast love”, and “faithfulness” in efforts to stir God into saving action once again. Psalm 106 recalls both sides of the covenant: God’s salvific actions on Israel’s behalf, and Israel’s efforts and failures to live out their part of the covenant relationship. The psalmist says, “For their sake he remembered his covenant, and showed compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love.”
Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise."
Please take some time to visit Spark and Echo Arts and see some of the other work they have collected.
Last year I started a project for a show here in Minot that attempted to image the strange condition of living in two different cities that were 3 hours apart. Recently I returned to the project by converting the photo sculpture piece into a book. Keeping the transitory concept of the photography,, I printed on both sides of the book board...one side reminiscent of a double centerline on the highway and the other the gravel shoulder. I love when things together better than your original vision.