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  • cameron tonkinwise

    • “How to determine if the studio practice is at PhD level?” is not a different question from “Is this faculty member tenurable?” The answer is either criteria-based assessment (hello, audit culture) or peer-review (“I’d never want to be a member of a club that accepted me as a member…”).

    • The economics of higher education (and the world) are very different from the 1960s – this will temper the way PhDs roll out in the creative industries in the US significantly.

      One thing that I haven’t seen reference to in your analysis is the question of tuition (might be there, in which case, apologies). You mention the way UK/ANZAC and to a lesser extent European and Scandanavian higher education budgets incentivize enrolling PhDs; and I think you mention that in those countries, PhDs are normally tuition-free and often with a stipend – except for foreign nationals students. As with undergraduate degree programs, significant revenue comes from full fee-paying ‘international students’ undertaking PhDs. Professional Doctorates were attempts to create fee paying doctoral study programs for locals.

      Mention a tuition-based PhD program in the US, and people have conniptions. To a US university administrator, a PhD is always a $100k per year cost (tuition reduction, stipend, benefits) that is only possible if there is an external funding source (NSF, NEA, Foundation, etc).

    • Isn’t the correct analogy that in the (social) sciences there is:

      1) actual lab work (which includes non-specific to the experiment labor, like cleaning and callibrating equipment, etc) – or in the case of social sciences, raw interview/observation data

      2) a curation of the lab work (or excerpted transcripts) which the advisory committee (if doing a quality job) will want some first hand experience of

      3) a contextual account of significance of what has been done (the dissertation)

      This correlates with:

      a) studio work

      b) exhibited work

      c) exegesis


    • I’m not understanding this point. This seems to me precisely a reason to advocate strongly for practice-based PhDs, so that practitioners can teach studies subjects and not just studios.

      The problem with the MFA as a terminal degree is that it is very rare for an MFA to include a course on ‘teaching studio-based art (or design),’ or have the kind of qualifying exams that North American PhDs have to accredit the graduate as being capable of teaching (along with some process of being mentored into teaching via TAs, etc – though this often ends up being, exploited to teach junior level courses with no instruction/support). As a result, the great black box that is studio (apart from your investigations, James, I must say) is perpetuated. The only qualification needed to teach a studio is to have suffered in one. (See http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1162/104648800564608#preview )

    • In design, there is a significant body of literature building on Hubert Dreyfus’ Heideggerian/Merleau-Pontian account of expertise development. The argument provides a useful (and I believe phenomenologically accurate) explanation for the role of the dialectic of self-consciousness/incorporation. In short, it is not that mastery = less self-consciousness, but rather  pattern-based metaconceptual capacities.

      The larger context here could be the attempt to recover phronesis (the ‘art’ of judgement?) from the dominance of techne.

    • MA or MFA?

    • Barbara Bolt’s work is useful on this:


    • It is crucial to point out that North American PhDs in the end are examined by the Committee who has been advising the candidate all along. There is a public defense, but the final decision is by the Committee established at the beginning of the research. Elsewhere, PhDs are examined externally.

      An important point: part of the infrastructure established at RMIT, one of the leaders in practice-based (design) research, was what was known as the GRC – Graduate Research Conference (it is now called something different). Every 6 months, every candidate, no matter where he or she was in their candidacy was required to present on their progress before their peers and a panel of experts external to their supervision. This meant that everyone involved – candidates, prospective candidates, supervisors, externals – was exposed to the collective process of evaluating practice-based research. The intense weekend events were a combination of boot-strapping and quality assurance, with benchmarking possible between different disciplines (landscape, architecture, fashion, visual communication, etc) and between different stages of the process (seeing a candidate’s first progress review vs a candidate’s ‘penultimate’ review, prior to submitting for examination). The weekend was bookended by public defenses on the Friday and Monday. As a result, I believe that RMIT would strongly push back on your claim that ‘no one knows how to assess the (practice-based) PhD.’

      The GRCs I attended were the richest aspects of my academic career to date and I miss them so much that I am now determined to establish the ritual as part of practice-based design PhDs at CMU (having failed to get up design PhDs at Parsons).

  • James Elkins

    • Comment on 1 Introduction on February 8th, 2020

      Note to readers: a number of people have visited looking for the materal on definitions of artistic research. It is in the chapter “Fourteen Reasons”; scroll down to numbered para. 90.

      And as always, comments are welcome!

    • Thanks, that’s an excellent suggestion to help broaden the discussion.

    • You’re right, from the point of view of the graduates; I was thinking of the administrators’ and institutions’ perspective! I’ll add something to balance that out.

    • Yes, another nice addition, thanks so much! I wonder what the best book on this might be.

    • There is some material on tuition — I think it’s at the end of the “Reasons to Mistrust” chapter? — anyway it’s difficult to get that information because supposedly inexpensive EU institutions charge a lot for non-EU students, but those fees are meliorated by grants, etc. The best I’ve been able to do is estimate.

    • This goes with the international listing.

  • Mirette Bakir

  • Susan Halvey

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