Student Perspectives from Unconference, Tate Exchange, Digital Maker Collective

Summary of Highlights: by Sabrina Faramarzi, (LCC Journalism student) with contributions from Shinji Toya (CSM Alumni & UAL MA Academic Practice)

The idea of the Unconference was to challenge ideas in a participatory, public way, in order to locate art and design practices in the digital era. The Unconference reflected on the Tate Exchange event, held earlier this year, and one key question resonated throughout – should the Tate Exchange show be a work of art or a platform of participation?

The benefits of the Digital Maker Collective came through at the Tate Exchange with students and staff helping one another with feedback and technical support to develop their projects. There was a discussion of Tate Exchange 2018 being more curatorial.

The Digital Maker Collective and its activities were discussed as a possible cornerstone of practices that could be implemented within the curriculum. But this could see its openness, freedom and dynamics altered or constricted, therefore losing some of its key benefits. The Tate Exchange was a reflection of these key characteristics which contributed to its success, as well as a kind of horizontal, non-hierarchical platform – staff, students, industry and the public were pooled together as peers which provided key learning opportunities. Bringing different networks of people and different skills and silos together satisfied the purposes of the collective by helping to point people in the right direction and building communities around exploratory and emerging digital making practices.

But has the Tate Exchange ever transformed the institution of Tate? And could the practices of the Digital Maker Collective spill out of its current role?

Constraints such as expense have helped fuel creativity with digital making. Highlights of the Unconference saw students like Zoe Foster, Ryan Tennant, Rose Vinnicombe & Kez Dearmer of Chelsea BA Fine Art, who formed a collective to find more opportunities to show their work. Spaces were expensive, so virtual reality provided them an interesting platform to explore this in new ways to reflect and redefine their work.

Chelsea BA Fine Art student Florentine Rualt discussed how technical issues hindered some of her work, and this theme continued to resonate when Jennet Thomas (WCA Artist, Tutor, Reader & Camberwell MA Student) discussed how her collaboration with MA Fine Art student Alejandro Escobar enhanced her practice through the sharing of technical skills. Patrick Morgan pointed out the benefits (and downfalls) of student-industry collaborations. But the expectations of industry from students and students from industry aren’t yet aligned. Through his work he helps students move more fluidly to industry and how future arts education could utilize evolving practices by offering students the option to build their own curriculum or even use specialized artificial intelligence tutors.

Questions of industry’s role in digital making practices within education also arose, with Patrick Morgan working on the frontlines of this through the building of key partnerships and managing expectations from both industry and students as well as educators and academic practitioners.

Jonathan Armistead 3D workshop technician at Camberwell demonstrated the importance of providing an accessible workshop for students’ digital creative practice, by presenting a number of students’ projects he worked with. This presentation led to a series of discussions concerning the need of the visibility of facility services for students.

The second day of Unconference further explored some of the themes in day one, but moved on from a reflection of the Tate Exchange to a wider discussion of digital making practices in education. Discourse circled around how digital making activities were valued, what benefit they have as an informal exploratory practice but also how those exploratory, extra curricular activities could be used or facilitated within the curriculum as an assessed practice - or again, would that hinder the principles of the Digital Maker Collective?

The day began with Ben Nuttal, Community Manager of Raspberry Pi, a company that provides high-performance, low-cost computers that aim to increase access to technology and creativity. Ben spoke about the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a learning and skill sharing initiative that offers free training and access to computing worldwide through a number of outreach projects such as locally run Code Clubs and Raspberry Jam events that offer digital making for everyone.

Chelsea BA Fine Art student Daniel Bandfield explored the interaction of technology within an art experience and the issues that arise from this interaction, with an open question of whether technology heightens or hinders a piece of interactive art?

MA Academic Practice student Shinji Toya presented a perceptive look at the relevance of critical skills in digital art education and hosted a roundtable discussion of how art education has been responding to digital media and culture - and what we can do about it in the future.

Sinead McDonald, arts educator presented her case for an ‘anti-disciplinary’ model - the difference being that multi and cross disciplinary focuses on exchanging skills across previously established disciplines and hierarchies whilst antidisciplinary does away with silos and hierarchies altogether to allow for collaborative and continuous collaborative practices.

The conference ended with subject leader of Innovative Media Practice (LCF) Julian Stadon, who discussed his 15 year practice using digital technologies so far and the issues he has encountered teaching innovative media and new technologies to students. He presented that there is a general lack of teaching methods that utilise practice based research that also combine with critical design thinking. He showed that simple, alternative methods can be used and showcased a card a cards based system, inspired by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies. By simplifying methods of practice, students can find creative ways to use technology for the anthropocene age.

19 May 2017 Programme Tate Exchange Unconference (Day 2 Images)

17 May 2017 Programme Tate Exchange Unconference (Day 1 Images)

Stay up to date with developments leading up to Tate Exchange 2018 

Unconference 17th / 19th May 2017 - Discussion Themes Summary Toolkit

  1. Tate Exchange: what were the findings? What are the future plans?
  2. Relationship between curricular design and digital creative practice
  3. Art education and the relationship to public galleries and museums
  4. Critical skills and critical media studies in relation to art and design education, and creative practice
  5. Challenges in technical difficulties and support concerning digital creative tools
  6. How could education work together with the industry?
  7. Participation in art and design education, and creative practice
  8. Collaboration in education and practice: its benefits and methods

Technologies mentioned: VR, AR, Physical computing, Robotics, Creative programming/coding, AI, Raspberry Pi, Social Media Platforms, Blog

Technology related terms mentioned: Internet of Things, 4th Industrial Revolution, Open Source, Interactive Art, Internet Art, Innovative Media Design

Summaries & Notes for the Day 1:

By Shinji Toya (CSM Alumni & UAL MA Academic Practice student) with contributions from Sabrina Faramarzi, (LCC Journalism student).

Introduction and overview by Chris Follows

The introduction by Chris Follows had two components: firstly the introduction of the idea of Unconference, and secondly reflection of the Tate Exchange event.

Unconference was based on the idea that it provides a space to invite speakers and participants (e.g. audiences), to engage with activities of presentation, provocation, discussion and feedback in an open manner. Therefore, the environment of Unconference was meant to be informal, flexible, collaborative and to some extent undoing the boundaries between university staffs, students and the members of the industry. The main aim of Unconference was to provide an opportunity in which the attending members can work together to discuss, decide and plan what Digital Maker Collective will be doing in future, by building on the previously established activities and network.

In the reflection of Tate Exchange, Follows reviewed the event involving 150 students and staffs. The event had brought about a constant and dynamic current of participation between students, staffs, industry partners and audiences, in a highly technical environment. The event also raised the question regarding the need for more support in managing event organisation.

In turn, he started to synthesise the reflected content with his research and practice concerning participation, and discussed how it could be located in the digital era, and this was done in a manner of provocation. He provided a scope of how art and life can merge through participation and spontaneity, and how a self-orgnaised group of learning and its pedagogy may be seen as a work of art. He continued to introduce thought-provoking ideas such as merging of education and entertainment, the blurring boundary between the ideas of audiences and participants, and undoing of distinctions between different occupations, and distinction of exhibitors from audiences.

In the end, he questioned how could such activities like Tate Exchange be integrated into a curriculum, or should it locate outside the curricular structure to sustain its pedagogical strategy and direction.

Florentine Ruault: Chelsea BA Fine Art Student – How new technologies impact the relationship between the viewer and its surrounding?


Florentine Ruault’s presentation showed her research concerning digital interactive art and reflected on her interactive, immersive audio/visual art practice presented at Tate Exchange.

Initially, she illustrated her generation (Generation Y) being surrounded by new technologies, and how interactivity has been ubiquitous in the society. In turn, she pointed out the increasing proximity between the tech industry and art by providing a few examples. And she indicated art education is preparing for the societal change due to development and distribution of new technologies so that art practice can reflect the technological society of today and future.

Ruault reflected on the event of Tate Exchange by showing a video of her work presented. She added that she encountered some technical difficulties constantly at the event. She also stated that the event opened up possibilities of collaboration between members of Digital Makers Collective, at the same time it provided a space for creation and presentation.


The topics of the discussion included:

1.     Learning technical skills for new technology: its difficulties and need of support

2.     Tate Exchange as an opportunity of collaborative learning

3.     New technology as inspiration of creativity

4.     Recognition of interactive digital art in the art world

Highlights of the discussions for the topic 1:

This was by far the most discussed topic in this discussion. The challenges of learning skills for new technologies lie in technical difficulty of coding, lack of technical support, the current limitation in an inter-college technical support in UAL (such as access to the physical computing workshop at CSM, which has the most technically advanced staffs in UAL). In response to the situation, currently Follows is planning on making a case to approach different workshops of different colleges. To do this, he is collecting stories from students that relate to the situation.

Highlights of the discussions for the topic 2:

Ruault thought Tate Exchange has become an opportunity to learn in a collaborative environment; peers gave each other technical feedback and support. According to Follows, the collective is made for this opportunity. Not only the students bonded through creative practice, but also they formed a community (of collaborative learning).

Zoe Foster, Ryan Tennant, Rose Vinnicombe and Kez Dearmer: (Chelsea BA Fine Art Students – Virtual Reality perspectives of exploring VR at art school


Zoe Foster shared processes involved in building a VR exhibition space with her peers. The students were given the assignment to present an exhibition outside the college, and in response, they decided to produce a virtual space collaboratively for the exhibition and present their artworks in this space using Unity software.

The incentive for the use of VR for the students was to seek a more economical solution to exhibit, than paying for a gallery space. The project is on-going now, and students are still working on it.


The discussion has become a kind of feedback session for the students’ project, and some participants asked questions to know more about the project.

Some remarks in the discussion are:

●      Zoe and peers sought as much resources as possible, and have been learning the skills.

●      The students were often asked the motive of the approach, and Zoe responded with the financial incentives.

●      Zoe said she had learnt some skills, and now she is more capable of handling the technology.

●      Tutors at Chelsea are accepting of the technological approach.

Jannet Thomas & Alejandro Escobar: WCA Artist, Tutor, Reader & Camberwell MA Student – Staff & Student collaboration, photogrammetry, processes, ideas & perspectives on PTBM students ‘digital opera’ at Tate Exchange

Jannet Thomas reflected on and reviewed the project she has done with students at Tate Exchange, and this accompanied with some documentation images she recorded on site. The project is called “digital opera” and based on an operatic concept Gesamt, and it had a Dadaist, improvisatory approach. The performance piece of the project formed a simultaneous presentation of a live performance in a physical space and a digital live streaming/manipulation of the image of the performance.

Using Isadora (software) green-screen and live keying techniques, Thomas and the students staged a space of participatory performance; they invited in some visitors to perform. The piece provided a space with performers/participants having their bodies painted with green, and they performed against the background of a green-screen. This process is filmed, live-edited algorithmically (by replacing green-coloured parts of the live-video with other digital images) and streamed on a monitor alongside. As a result, the performance appeared mysterious to the public, as it was not instantly apparent what was happening.

In prior to the performance, Thomas had not choreographed the performance in its entirety due to the improvisatory nature of the piece, although the piece had appeared to be self-organising and autonomous as one improvisatory act led another.


Topics of the discussion included:

●     Creative practice concerning curricular framework

●     Relationship between art education and industry

●     How situation limits or encourages creativity

Highlights of the discussions for the topic 1:

Patrick Morgan pointed out a curricular requirement such as Learning Outcomes (LOs) may have a disadvantage, as the use of the words and concept of LOs may let students feel the need to align with it. This statement was supported by the fact that when he was a student of LCC, without the concept of LOs students achieved what would be qualified as LOs. Morgan encouraged the unconstrained aspect of creativity such as the one seen in the digital opera, and not to worry too much about LOs.

Although Morgan implied the potential marginalisation of LOs, he also claimed that to produce and present a form of outcome gives purpose; there seems to be no purpose in a residency project without presentation of its processes.

Highlights of the discussions for the topic 2:

Regarding collaboration between education and industry, it seems to be not very clear what industry expects from students and vice versa.

Patrick Morgan: Creative director VR projects St.malo.Avenue & Room One – HUG OR ROLE, Man and Machine working more in partnership rather than divided and industry helping students to move to industry more fluidly.


●     He is working on possible ways to blend education and industry

●     He mainly works on VR technology

●     He works with a number of companies dealing with new technologies, as well as UK universities

●     He is interested in relation between social behaviours of individuals and the situation he/she is in: university or industry.

●     He remarked that industry is lost; “they are following instagrammers who do not have ability or rigor to be popular”

●     There is a learning programme called Deep Learning, and it is an AI led mentoring system already in place. Morgan thinks this can be added to existing infrastructure of education in future.

●     He mentioned Marvelous Design: a platform made by Elon Musk and SpaceX technology; it is a game-based 3D clothing design platform, and it reduces waste.

●     He mentioned an online mentoring system, and in relation to this, he stated that educational organisations in future will have to deal with the situation in which learners can access the programmes much more economical than paying for a university course.

●     There is a gap between education and industry; tutors do not have time to go and see cutting edge industry work (e.g. at a company’s conference)

●     Design Thinking originally proposed by IMB is an overused idea.

●     He thinks students should rebel, not conform with corporate ways and be creative.

●     Students should be independent: having the sense of working on their own.


●     Morgan said companies like Youtube should put some educational functions in the interface and for the content.

●     It will be beneficial to gather collaborators from tech industry, PhD researchers, marketing and work together.

●     “Incubator” is a space to shape a project, and it is located in different universities in the UK.

●     How can we realise collaboration between education (students) and companies? Can students take charge and run projects?

●     Follows said Digital Maker Collective is a kind of Open Source

●     How can digital artists become able to work in the art industry, if they are not working with companies.

●     Companies and organisations like Tate feeds creative projects and “lift” them up.

●     If an artist’s project deals with corporate companies critically, which is often the case in the contemporary art field, then their projects are less likely to be supported or funded by corporate companies.

Jonathan Armistead: Artist & technical specialist Camberwell

●     Armistead works in the 3D workshop of Camberwell

●     He teaches students technical skills by building on what students already know

●     He assisted uses of 3D printing/scanning, laser cutting, and wearable technology for students’ projects

Highlights of the discussion:

●     It is important that workshop services are visible to students; we should think about how to increase the visibility of facilities and services

●     Providing an inter-college workshop accesses in CCW will be beneficial for students’ engagement and learning


Summaries & Notes for the Day 2:

By Shinji Toya (CSM Alumni & UAL MA Academic Practice student) with contributions from Sabrina Faramarzi, (LCC Journalism student).


Ben Nuttal: Raspberry Pi Foundation – Digital Making for everyone


Ben Nuttal has provided a presentation about Raspberry Pi that is a minute, low-cost desktop computer. Also he introduced activities and educational programmes of Raspberry Pi Foundation. 

Nuttal introduced two models of Raspberry Pi and various functions that are available on the devices, such as general computing, physical computing and cross-platform operations with Arduino.

Raspberry Pi computers are used in school education context, mainly for youth. Also, the computers are used for both hobby and industrial purposes.

Raspberry Pi Foundation (RPF) provides educational programmes, community events, free teacher training and professional development, and publication of a magazine. The educational programmes of RPF are not purely focused on computer science, but apply the technology broadly in different areas. And the curricula that they provide are created and tuned for their clients and students in a unique way.


The topics of the discussion included:

1.    Integration of digital making in curricula

2.    Benefit of education in relation to its cost

3.    How to deal with technical skills of digital tools in education?

4.    Potential change of the mode of corporate employment in association with educational organisations

5.    Critical thinking in education

6.    Uncertainty in future of technological development and its relation to education

7.    How should different colleges of UAL work together to build a better environment for learning and assessment?

Highlights of the discussion:

●     In response to the question “how to integrate digital making in curricula with Raspberry Pi?”, Ben responded that RPF has been providing community and support that are the learning foundation. [1]

●     The low-cost nature of Raspberry Pi as a learning material and the free education of RPF, contrast the costly nature of university education. A BA Fine Art student from the Chelsea College responded that she thinks of the university course fee as payment for the resources and the community of education that the size of institution can provide. [2]

●     Despite the assumption, in which technicians are more skilled than students, sometimes students are more skilled at using digital tools. [3]

●     Universities may need to unlearn some methods of traditional learning and adapt more contemporary methods of learning. [3]

●     Ben said that at the beginning of an educational paradigm shift in relation to new technology, education aims at achieving a basic technical competence of students. But as the students learn more and the institutional frameworks become more prepared, the average competence can be lifted up. [3]

●     An audience commented that the fact RPF had to come up with its own curriculum suggests how it differs from current models of curriculum making, and how the current model is “narrow”. [1]

●     A Student from LCC claimed suggested that her course does not provide much of technical support concerning VR technology, which is a vital aspect of her research.  [3]

●     The colleges of UAL should work together to make an environment where people with different skill sets can work together across different colleges; the inter-college communication and exchange should become agiler [7]


Shinji Toya: CSA MA Fine Art Alumnus / UAL MA Academic Practice – Relevance of Critical Skills and Discourses in Digital Art Education


Shinji Toya presented his research findings concerning relevance of critical skills and discourses in art education in the digital age. The presentation dealt with contexts of art education, digital art education and digital art industry of the post-millennium age, and how critical thinking can be seen relevant in each contextual section.

At the end of the presentation, he gave two points of problematisation related with critical skills and discourses in art and digital education, namely difficulty of students utilising critical skills and discourses in order to analyse and theorise digital media and art. Subsequently, he questioned if these problems remain in the art education of the UK today.


Some remarks from the discussion

●      Definition of criticality in question; is rationality enough?

●      How criticality can be embedded in practice not only in a theoretical curriculum

●      Could criticality be disruption of practice, or does it guide practice?

●      Should critical studies be done as an independent curriculum that is separate from the curriculum of practice?

●      Critical studies (theory) can be integrated with practice; this is something Camberwell college is working on now

●      It is problematic if there is a gap between practice and theory (critical studies).

●      Early Net Art employs critical approaches considerably. This close association between practice and theory (criticality) is not well-known in the art world because of the ephemeral nature of Net Art.

●      Electronic Superhighway at Whitechapel Gallery presented the history of Net Art in the context of contemporary industry; it contributed to the recognition of the art


Daniel Bandfield: Chelsea BA Fine Art student – The value of Interaction


Daniel Bandfield presented his research and practice concerning digital interactive art. He showed examples of his studio practice and his collaborative practice with Rosie Kerr at Tate Exchange.

Bandfield’s practice deals with three-dimensional presentation of interactive systems and robotics. And the methods include physical computing, algorithmic detection of human body and object, computer graphics and sculptural object-making.

In the presentation, he explored the relationship between interactive artwork and audience’s interference and participation. Furthermore, he asked the question of how meaning and spectacle can be separated, and whether it is desired that sometimes a spectacle of interaction can conceal a lack of content of artwork. Moreover, he provided a few examples of artwork dealing with the issue.


The discussion dealt with:

●      Suggestion and exemplification concerning reflection of cultural language and behaviour into interactive functions

●      How interactive art may be perceived and interacted as a kind of gamified object

●      Feedback and suggestion regarding interactive art based on an open system that can provide more diversified results than the examples provided


Nicola Rae: Artist & CCW Academic Support – Collectively Learning and Teaching Technologies in Collaborative Teams to make Interactive Installations


The presentation by Nicola Rae and her collaborators introduced their workshops that invited school children to engage with digital learning activities and develop the workshops through the process.

The workshops focused on physical computing and interaction in order to realise a range of different digitally created projects with the participating children. The children engaged with activities that included elements of physical object-making and sound art, furthermore the workshops were being developed performatively. And these workshops have been run on various platforms such as Chelsea’s Digital Maker Collective Space, Tate Exchange, Tate Kids at Tate Britain, Venice Biennale, and South London Gallery.

Nicola asked the question in which such a performative and interactive learning approach has advantage and disadvantage, and if there was any impact in relation to interest in art education and art industry.


Highlights of the discussion

●      Tate is working on stretching the budget to support and pay for activities by collectives

●      Running the workshops has become a pedagogical opportunity


Julian Stadon: Subject Leader, Innovative Media Practice UAL London College of Fashion – Random Cards/Oblique Strategies for Innovative Media Design Presentation

After introducing the trajectory of his early career briefly, Julian Stadon presented his research and work with the industry and in the art and design education of different levels and disciplines.

His approach to education has a particular emphasis on ideation as the marriage of practice and theory. And this area of research is divided into three aspects of investigation: the making of innovative platforms of participation with digital technology, critical understanding of media industry and society, and processes concerning the algorithmic society of today. He pointed out the importance of these three areas of inquiry relates to the pervasiveness of digital technology today.

The other topics of the presentation included process-driven learning, storytelling, relationship between rules and design, action-based research, craft-based technology, and Anthropocenic design. Moreover, the presentation came across different technological methods of education such as uses of VR, AR technology, creative coding, videos, blog and social media. Moreover, Stadon provided various examples of creative practice and teaching, which are related to the topics and technical methods of the presentation.

In addition, throughout the presentation, Stadon had been comparing how different cultures (e.g. in England, Austria, Australia) see aspects of education differently.

Some highlight statements in the presentation                                             

●      Collaboration is always beneficial

●      Participation is important; we value experiences today, as opposed to objects; today the idea of passive interaction no longer exists

●      In art and education, ideation process is very important; for Stadon there is no gap between theory and practice

●      Cultural producers and researchers should closely work with digital media that is the cultural fabric of our age

●      It is important to demystify digital technology, through understanding of technological processes


Sinead McDonald: Dublin based artist, photographer, digital media producer, and arts educator - Multi/Anti/Cross/disciplinary education and practice models

●     Presented a newly designed 2 years course based on an anti-disciplinary curriculum making

●     UAL has a multi-disciplinary approach as opposed to the anti-disciplinary

●     The course is mixture of media practice and contextual studies

●     The curriculum are concerned with technologies of VR/AR, 360 degrees video, projection mapping and physical computing

●     The course encourages collaboration, and provides a space and facilities for it

●     The graduating students of the course may work in industries of media or engineering

User login