237.130 Studio Session Notes (as a single page)

  • 237.130 – Week #1 Notes

    Session 1: The Consequences of our Making

    On judgement

    I was interested in the comments on judgement versus being judgemental. Interesting point on consent. Consent should be given to be judged. We ask to be judged.

    Q: by making Art, are we inherently asking to be judged? Do we seek criticism through the act of making Art?

    Constructive criticism as an approach to judgement.

    On help

    We watched a video on disability, considering it as a physical state and a social status.

    I really enjoyed having the space to think through this topic.

    Of particular interest was the concept of help/helping. Is “help” a human right? Should help be something we can expect from people?

    In the video, Sunaura Taylor described her interactions in coffee shops. Considering how she could need help, and does ask for it, but also sees the difficulties in both asking and giving.

    It’s interesting to think through the layers of context here. There’s the legal framework, like, a coffee shop may need to have an accessibility ramp; then, as this was a US-centric video there’s tipping culture, which could I guess act as either a barrier to helping (thinking reducing the number of server transactions) or may enable helping, although that feels like paying for help? Surely the US’s individual-centric culture itself also has influence.

    Then there’s the individual themselves. How does the context of their upbringing, home life, good/bad experiences, education, and so on – their “character”, if that’s a thing – affect their willingness and ability to help.

    On disability and appearance

    I was really struck by the concept of “no ideal morphology”, and considering what the boundaries of being “human” are.

    Reminded me of The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell.

    Note to self: read What Can a Body Do? by Sara Hendren

    I perceive Sunaura as a “human being”, and don’t feel any nuance or shades of grey there – she is human. For full disclosure, I had written, “in every way that’s important”, at the end of that sentence? Should think more about that.


    Conversely, when I’ve experience artificial human-like constructs, for example in the Miraikan in Tokyo, even though they have been noted by experts as being extraordinarily lifelike, I do not perceive them as “human beings”. The photo below hints at what’s missing, but don’t let the image fool you – there is something that’s just not there when you see one of these “things” move and interact.

    This is coming too damn close to religion for this old Atheist, so I will need to ruminate on this further.

    Q: Do humans have the ability to see a human “soul”? That word’s too overloaded with religious meaning, so let me rephrase is as, “can human beings perceive and assess consciousness?”

    Then again, there are the human and animal-like robots built by Boston Dynamics. I experience feelings of pity or wrongness if one falls over or, worse, somebody pushes one over. They’re clearly artificial and “inhuman”, so why have I been hardwired to feel pity at their misfortunes?


    Finally, in a class discussion we heard about caring as an evolutionary adaptation. Interesting to consider altruism versus selfishness. What’s the evolutionary advantage in selfishness?

    Key takeaways

    Is disability more about designed environments than morphology?

    Does, “can I get help?”, really lead to, “do we live in a society that helps?”

    Where are the boundaries of “human”?

    Do these things link together? Do people help others that are more (or less!) like themselves? So I guess I should ask, what’s the societal boundary? Do people, perhaps unconsciously, draw boundaries around people they’ll help versus not help? How do they do that?

    Examined Life - Judith Butler & Sunaura Taylor
    Sunaura Taylor
    The Sparrow (novel)
    What Can a Body Do? by Sara Hendren
    Miraikan, Tokyo, "Android - What Is Human?"
    Boston Dynamics
    Compassion helped Neanderthals to survive, new study reveals
    Discourse Theory - some definitions
  • 237.130 – Week #2 Notes

    Session 2: Curious Instances

    Part 1: Where are you at?

    It was hard to get a lot out of this half hour. We did talk a little about what we’d learned. I don’t think that the tutors stressed hard enough in Session #1 that we needed to get stuck into the main project, “The Making Of”, as part of our independent study.

    We did each talk a little about the places were had chosen or were thinking of choosing.

    It was interesting to hear why people had chosen their places. For some, it was because it was where they’d grown up, so they felt a personal connection since childhood; for others, it was where they lived now.

    I think we got a little more out of this part when we got back together. Again, interesting to hear why people had chosen their places. One guy had chosen a place in the UK because of an old family connection. People’s history seemed to play a big part in why they chosen. I’m at such a distance from the place I grew up, and even now the countries I’ve lived in previously, that I feel more connected to New Zealand, and to my chosen place, Days Bay.

    On reflection, I feel even more connected to Days Bay now that I’ve read more about the history of the place. The Wellington region has been occupied for about 650 years, with Europeans arriving in any numbers about 180 years ago. Neither of those numbers seem very large coming from the UK, when it’s not that hard to find bits of 2000 year old Roman stuff around the place, and it’s maybe even easier to find 5000 year old stone circles like Castlerigg, below (there are known to be around 1300 in the British Isles).

    So, perhaps I feel like my 13 years here are a significantly long time, particularly when contrasted with the 180 years of European settlement?

    Part 2: sharing our walks

    We broke out into the same groups again and talked about the walks we’d had and the enabling/disabling things we’d found. I talked about the tree I’d seen where blocks had been placed around it, but the tree was pushing them out of the way.

    Gobi Blocks around tree, Days Bay

    Later, when I showed this image to the whole group, Matthijs commented on the pixelated effect of the yellow paint on the blocks, and Dick said that the tree didn’t look very happy to be surrounded by Gobi Blocks.

    I hadn’t known that those blocks were called that before! I know what they remind me of though: Dragon’s Teeth. That’s the nickname for a type of wartime fortification used against wheeled or tracked vehicles.

    Gobi blocks must look like Dragon’s Teeth if you’re in a wheelchair.

    Others in my group talked about their walks to the supermarket, and the ramps they’d seen. One of the other student had a photo of a ramp on a community centre, and it was a bit depressing to see, at the top of the ramp, a final step to get into the building.

    I still find it fascinating that every design decision for a built environments is necessarily an active choice. It’s a choice between providing access to people who are mobility impaired or other disabled people, or, choosing to disadvantage them by denying or restricting their access. Two weeks into this course and I’m starting to feel pretty strongly about that choice, and I’m seeing the results of it everywhere.

    Part 3: Curious Instances

    We got into groups again to talk about the curious instances we’d found on our walk, and then took that back to the larger group. A couple of stories that stuck out to me.

    One photo was of two basketball nets on poles. After a short conversation about them, another student posted in the chat that these weren’t both basketball nets; one was a netball goal. Nobody picked up on the fact that one of the nets was for netball; people just kind of talked about basketball. Dick challenged us on this and said that this was a patriarchal attitude – we put the male dominated item first. Not sure I can really agree that it’s entirely patriarchal – I think there’s a degree of sports knowledge in there too, because to be honest I’ve not watched either sport – but I take his point. It pays to look carefully at things, and to try to and see them with unbiased eyes.

    Part 4: Why good urban design requires a better understanding of Tikanga Māori

    Another interesting conversation related to Māori culture and its influence on urban design. A point that came up was the language used when talking about about this subject. One of the others students said, and I’m heavily paraphrasing here, something like, “I think we … and that they …”.

    So… “we” and “they”. I knew what she was trying to say, but that’s pretty charged language, and Dick challenged us up on it. I think he’s good at that – he’s challenging, but not confrontational. Makes you think, as any good “teacher” does (and I’m using that word just to mean “a person who teaches”, not teacher as a profession).

    We talked a bit about how Auckland is, and these are my words, “just another big Asian city”. I don’t mean by that, “a city with lots of Asian people living in it”, I mean, “a city that feels like other cities in the Asia region”. Meaning, lots of concrete, wide roads, a “standard” set of retailers, lots of traffic issues, a token “large tower-like structure”, and so on. Going to need to be a lot more careful with language on this course!

    Auckland doesn’t feel like New Zealand, to me anyway. Then again, I’ve been to Invercargill, and that didn’t feel much like New Zealand either.

    Why isn’t there more of New Zealand’s unique Māori culture represented in its largest city. Don’t know. I have been thinking about it a lot though, and came up with a difficult question:

    Are many New Zealanders worried so much about Māori cultural appropriation that they miss out on the opportunity of Māori cultural appreciation.

  • 237.130 – Week #3 Notes

    Session 3: Who is here?

    Tikanga – some definitions

    One person on my team talked about how some aspects of Māori cultural tradition, for example the dawn ceremony, have been adopted into wider New Zealand Society, but done so without the full cultural context. We discussed how, even though this is probably seen in a positive and appreciative way, it can also be considered to be cultural appropriation.

    Contrast dark/light, potentiality/actuality.

    Known/unknown both seen as part of light in Māori culture; both are active/actuality; not dark/potentiality.

    Tika: to be correct, true, upright, right, just, fair, accurate, appropriate, lawful, proper, valid. Genuine.
    Pono: be true, valid, honest, genuine, sincere.
    take/utu/ea - Breach, Balance, Restoration/Return.

    Mana: prestige, power, attitude. Understanding of a person with mana of the implications of having mana; cv patronizing.

    How was Tikanga Māori affected by colonization

    One of my team commented that more words were created for concepts not used by Māori, e.g. “confiscation”. I had not known this.

    We discussed the suppression of Te Reo Māori, and the impacts of Western-style education..

    Changes to ways of thinking?

    Your culture—the traditions, lifestyle, habits, and so on that you pick up from the people you live and interact with—shapes the way you think, and also shapes the way you talk.

    Does the language I speak influence the way I think?[1]https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/does-language-i-speak-influence-way-i-think
    Linguistic Society of America

    Interesting point from Dick: don’t fetishize colonialism, e.g. jumping to the conclusion that for Māori, “colonialization stole their Mana”; whereas a person of Māori descent might call bullshit to that, and say that their mana is their mana, but isn’t being fully acknowledged or understood.

    We talked about the fundamental differences between the concepts of “Land” and “Whenua”. People often think of these words as a one-to-one translation, but that just isn’t the case. Land’s origins are geographical – defining areas of territory – whereas whenua can also mean placenta, which I guess brings connotations of origins and ancestry.

    Representation in Art/Design

    Didn’t really get to this…

    Big Life Fix – group discussion

    What ‘rights’ do the people we interact with have?

    • Respected (e.g. for their own definition of themselves)
    • Set your own boundaries
    • Heard
    • Honesty
    • Space to speak
    • Religious viewpoint
    • (and other basic human rights)
    • Property

    To what extents were the rights of Emma and James correctly taken into account?

    Were they asked?

    What effect did being part of a product have?

    Use of language at some points was a bit cringeworthy, “so amazing”, “so brave”.

    It’s easy to make an assertion that James’ rights were violated; he may have made a conscious choice to show his pain so that it created a visceral response in the audience.

    There’s a cultural dimension in how the person is presented, personalization, privacy, and so on.

    How can we know what is right for someone else?

    Talking! Communication. You can ask them.

    You can reference the community view; don’t forget the individual.

    Our Project – where are we up to?

    • Weeks 1-7 Explore
    • Weeks 8-11 Express
    • Week 12 Present/Reflect
  • 237.130 – Week #4 Notes

    Session 4: How do we know? Part 1

    Start to consider how we acquire, understand and apply information. Information comes to us via all kinds of sources and systems of knowledge.

    ‘Artefact’ discussion: Exploring worldviews

    Rewatching clips in class.

    What’s a worldview?

    • A viewpoint from which you see same info, but with different filters?
    • A set of beliefs and prejudices?
    • A perception?
    • How people believe things should happen?
    • A way in which an individual sees the world around them?
    • Religion? Spirituality?
    • Can’t grow up without some kind of worldview, but it is individual.
    • Morals, culture, sciences, class, economics, education, gender, race, age.

    What worldviews are encountered?

    • Accidental arrival vs voyaging/travelling
    • Navigational: Spiritual vs Scientific
    • Documentary makers view: compare 16th Maori navigation vs Viking navigation
    • Documentary makers and emotional manipulation
    • Museum curation vs indigenous culture
    • Museum people and patronization
    • Museum have power to control the narrative and tell the story on their terms

    In what ways is information shared and passed down?

    • Oral history, books, memories, etc.

    Communicating knowledge: Oral traditions

    Something somebody told you…

    Cake! Dick has a theory that cake(yes, cake!) is “deep knowledge” and is reflective of the patriarchy… Might want to review Dick’s theory…

    Why is oral history and knowledge so important in indigenous societies?

    Embodied knowledge and discussion of Richard Sennett’s ‘The Craftsman’ interview article.

    • Considering how to learn to walk
    • How to drive
    • How to ride a bicycle
    • Humour? Learning it through interaction with others.
    • Musical instrument
    • Empathy? Body language?
    • How to tie your shoelaces!

    Consider lockdown and how that affected embodied knowledge.

    Introduce independent study


  • 237.130 – Week #5 Notes

    Session 5: How do we know? Part 1

    Library Day

    Today was a bit different – we found out about how to make best use of the library, and how to properly use references in our reports and writing. This all seemed a bit, “been there, done that”, to me, but if there’s one thing this course is teaching me it’s to just shut up and listen, and I just might learn something.

    We had an introductory session, then the main part of the day which was a trip to the library. That was split into two, with one group getting an overview of how best to search for information and access the library’s resources, and other group doing a self-guided tour to learn more about how the Massey library is laid out, what facilities it has, how to track items down, and so on. I was in the latter group first, so wandered off on my own. Bit tired of dealing with people this week, sadly. Burning out?

    Looking around the library

    So I love library’s anyway, and have already spent a few hours in the Massey one in the evening because it’s a good place to work, and I was in Welly anyway. So, not much to learn, except where the stapler is.

    Finding information

    We had session with a librarian who told us about the various ways to tap into the university library’s information, and info in general via Google. How to get behind the academic paywalls, because we’re students, so we’re paying to do that.


    The final part of the day was an overview of referencing. We made use of the referencing sections of Massey’s own Online Writing and Learning Link.

    We are expected to use APA style references in our work.

    I did learn something, which is that referencing is a standardized thing, and there are patterns and principles to follow. I’ve been doing this in a toally ad-hoc way since forever, so I guess I need to adapt.

    We also had a stern, for Massey, talk on plagiarism. Good o.

    Let’s have a practice then…

    When you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.

    Johnston, A. The Legendary Mizners. Farrar Straus and Young, New York, 1953
  • 237.130 – Week #6 Notes

    Session 6: Taking care of knowledge

    Skipped due to Easter weekend, so no group activity notes.

    Independent study for this session done, and documented elsewhere in my notes on the “Explore” part of my project.

  • 237.130 – Week #7 Notes

    Session 7: Talking ink

    Notes on the Treaty

    We were given Page 8 of the Treaty to review. This was written in Te Reo Māori.

    None of the signatures on it were signatures resembling names; they’re all a “mark” made by the chief, with “his mark” written after it. There’s a strong implication that none of the chiefs were able to read the text, so had it explained to them and were then asked to put their mark on it. Literacy among Māori was high though, so this is probably cultural bias sneaking into our assessment. The marks made as signatures are more likely to have been culturally significant to the signers, perhaps an element derived from ta moko or other important design elements.

    Notes on the document, taken from the website:

    James Fedarb, a trader, carried this treaty sheet around the Bay of Plenty on board the schooner Mercury. During May–June 1840 he visited Ōpōtiki, Tōrere, Te Kaha and Whakatāne collecting the signatures of 26 chiefs. Lieutenant-Governor William Hobson’s signature on this sheet is forged.


    Not sure why the signature would need to be forged.

    So, various people took their own sheets around the country.

    Interesting that the patriarchy is again raised in this context, as an influence on the relationship. Perhaps if Jewish people had been the first settlers, where being Jewish is passed through the matriarchal line, or people from Iceland, where the names come from you mother if you’re a woman and your father if you’re a man, things might have been seen differently?

    Group work on Treaty comic

    Q: What did He Whakaputanga-The Declaration of Independence provide for Māori?

    In theory, Māori got friendship and protection towards the British settlers and traders.

    Q: When we consider both Te Tiriti and The Treaty, what are the different understandings held by peoples about what these two artefacts stand for? Name more than one.

    As an example, sovereignty may well have had no meaning in a Māori context. The concept of a treaty or agreement in and of itself may not have been meaningful to Māori.

    Did Westerners understand how agreements worked in Māori culture.

    So why so few female signatories on the Treaty?

    Reminder to not make the assumption that Māori culture was patriarchal and that men held the power. Maybe Western cultural expectations were that a man would sign?

    External cultural pressure perhaps pushed Māori men to adopt a dominant position in relation to women?

    Dick: all issues of sovereignty, e.g. societal control of women’s bodies, lower/working class men being sent off to war by society, etc.

  • 237.130 – Week #8 Notes

    Session 8: Kaupapa and ethics

    Group feedback on previous reading

    Don’t use the word “tribe”; use “iwi” instead. Tribe meaning originates in “tribis”, Latin for “lowest common order”. Anyway, makes sense to me as I wouldn’t say “raw fish on rice” for “sushi”, and so on.

    I’d thought a heck of a lot about the article by Professor Mutu before this session. I’d also considered what the other students would say when asked what they’d got out of it, and my predictions were depressingly correct: highly orthodox responses from those that spoke. I hope some of the people who didn’t speak had done some deeper thinking about the unaddressed “failure modes” in the article.

    My peers are young adults straight out of high school, and I do have some experience of what “NCEA thinking” does to children, i.e. my own, and their friends. I think I’m now seeing some of that in my own class. It’s along the lines of, “do you want to think about it, or do you want the grade?”. I’ve heard that from my children and their friends. Hopefully, university shakes that out of people by year three.

    I should read more at Prof. Mutu’s writings to see if she has – with reference to Tikanga Māori- done work on what happens if the societal changes she’s advocating don’t work. If things aren’t working, firstly, how will we tell? If they’re failing, what is plan B?

    Look at the kaupapa Māori framework.

    Discussion in class about the main ways by which both systems seek to uphold the interest of people.

    It’s an ethical principles based approached, so seeks a level playing field on which to talk to people.

    Ensures that you get the right information and transfer it in the right way?

    Sets boundaries/clarity on terminology – common use of language.

    Defines what the mutual benefits are?

    Reflections on this session

    This was probably the hardest session so far, and taught me a lot. Probably some of those things are not what was intended by curriculum…

    I thought about the session all weekend. It got me thinking a lot about what is and isn’t “orthodox” thinking. Arguably, with a Labour government very much in charge, a MinEdu approved curriculum, and the course being taught in a public university, then it’s orthodox. Sorry, Massey, you’re not the Rebels; you’re the Empire.

    So, I found myself questioning what the course is really after. We’re asked to be very open in our discussions, and prepared to challenge and be challenged, but maybe only if we stay within this orthodox framework? That feels a bit depressing. I thought university was supposed to be the last safe place for difficult ideas?

    I wanted to ask this question: “if you have a student who’s a communist/fascist/libertarian, then is Massey’s role to enable them to express their communist/fascist/libertarian tendencies through their practice, or is its role to align them to how the orthodoxy wants them to think?”

    That’s a really hard one.

    Then again, this isn’t the Art part of the wider course; this is communications. Perhaps the creative arts courses will be doing the former? I can certainly see why the latter would be viewed as the right response in a communications course.

    I do worry that I can easily be dismissed as male/pale/stale guy who thinks Māori should suck it up, and that’s not the case at all. I’m not sure what political pigeon hole I should be occupying, but it’s probably “Libertarian”. Meh – I hate labels! I guess this is why I’m struggling with bringing Tikanga Māori so much to the fore, as it’s a system very strongly influenced by ancestry and familial descent, which drifts worryingly toward favouring a particular group because of who their parents were, and that just does not sit well with me.

    As always, more pondering needed…

  • 237.130 – Week #9 Notes

    Session 9: Explore and Express

    Less on the lecture stuff; more about our individual projects this week.

    Comments from others on ethics

    Others initially reflected my thoughts, which is that the Maori approach feels more personally and individual, rather than the more rules based approach of the Massey framework.
    About not just your own view, but connects to future people.
    The Massey view may apply both to you as a researcher, and also perhaps you as the person being researched.
    Can be applied in different ways; can maybe argue the other way, that some people are not worthy of respect.
    Perhaps applicable in the longer term; do people who are ex-Massey have an ongoing connection to the ethical framework.
    …on the qualities of the Kaupapa Maori framework

    Requires a level of trust in the value system
    Acknowledge what you are taking, and perhaps become engaged in the conversation and dialogue before asking for or taking things.

  • 237.130 – Week #10 Notes

    Session 10: Making in progress

    This session was a 1:1 session with Matthijs to discuss my concepts for the “Making Of” project.

    I discussed the idea of reworking advertising from the 19th and early 20th Centuries to reflect what might have been if the activities were more integration that colonization.

    Matthijs expressed a concern that this was potentially a dangerous path, because it was still bring very much a Western approach to the issues. I suggested that I could speak with a Māori person about this, to bounce some ideas around, so I took that away as an action.

    I also think I might revisit the concept to see how else I might present the fundamental divisions I feel between UK/Japan/NZ life, and how that three sided thing can be reflected by the three sides of my section on land in Oruamatoro, and so on.

  • 237.130 – Week #11 Notes

    Session 11: More Making Of

    This session was an other quick check in with Matthijs on my progress. Although concerned that I’m running out of time, I think I’m heading in a slightly more definite direction now. Still want to bring in the three cultures contrasted with triangular section concept, but in a less dangerous and culturally insensitive way (hopefully!). Matthijs asked me to note my conversation with a Māori person and reflect more on that.

  • 237.130 – Week #12 Notes

    Session 12: Present and reflect

    We gathered around, so that each person could have a minute to explain their work and get some public feedback from Matthijs and Dick.

    This is a creative arts college full of people who are there to, basically, be creative, so I wouldn’t say that I was surprised to see that people had had all sorts of ideas, but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t interested to see the results.

    Items presented included paintings, dioramas, textile art, sound art, baking, etc., etc.

    Mine was an abstract collage:

    • I wanted this piece to feel uncomfortable and unfinished.
    • I wanted to show the disconnect in my previous and current thinking about my place.
    • I don’t think I’ve achieved this, but I have taken a step towards it, and in the process of working towards it, I do think I’ve learned things.


1 https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/does-language-i-speak-influence-way-i-think
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