General Description of Group Critiques

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Group critiques provide an opportunity for you to share you working process and to receive feedback from your peers. Group critiques are meetings in which participants discuss and comment on each other’s work. These meetings take place on a regular basis and all students are expected to participate in them. At the beginning of each trimester, you will be assigned a date for your critique.

In preparation for your critique:

  • Consider how visual/auditory aids could help your presentation. A graphic or animated sketch could greatly help to convey your intentions. A short video may be a useful way to document experiments or sample uses of your work.
  • You may want to take snapshots as you work (screenshots, HTML files, backup versions); show the problems you encounter and the solutions, discoveries, surprises you uncover along the way. During your critique, it can be very useful to show these snapshots and talk through your experience.
  • After good results in a previous Thematic Project, many group critique presentations will be based on the “pecha kucha” format, with 20 slides and 20 seconds for presenting each of them.

The core of a group critique is a presentation or demo of a work in progress. It is not expected that you show a polished, finished product during your critique. You could also use it as a forum for user testing, or think of it as an available time for attention to be paid to your work by the group and in which you step outside of the usual demo framework. The intention is for you to share your working process, complete with any unresolved problems. You may find it helpful to take notes during the feedback.

If you are presenting your work to the group, the group critique functions as a forum for critical reflection on your practice, and allows you to test your work and intentions in relation to the ways others read the work. The comments of fellow participants often open up new perspectives. Vice versa, discussing the work of fellow students is an exercise in reading design, and in understanding how certain decisions generate particular meanings and effects.

The learning objectives of the group critiques are:

for students presenting:

  • to reflect on practice and its interrelations with theory and technology
  • to question and problematise (aspects of) practice
  • to learn to differentiate between intention/concept and outcomes
  • to analyse working processes, and to gain an understanding of their effects and consequences
  • to understand and enhance the ability to steer processes of reception, interpretation and use
  • to locate the work within an appropriate conceptual, historical and critical framework
  • to develop your own criteria for the analysis and evaluation of your work
  • to formulate the aims and objectives of specific works and of your design practice in general
  • to explore appropriate ways of relating work to the contexts in which it becomes public
  • to enhance the ability to write and to make an argument
  • to clarify potential technical resolutions to working problems

For students commenting:

  • to enhance the ability for critical analysis of theory, practice and technology
  • to enhance design literacy
  • to understand processes of reception and interpretation
  • to enhance the ability to compare different perspectives and positions on a subject
  • to develop a critical vocabulary
  • to develop skills of communication and dialogue
  • to engage in peer-group assessment and to make possible collaboration on specific problems or projects
  • to develop a capacity to talk about technical objects in terms of their specific domain of articulation and their wider implications

How do the group critiques work?

For students presenting

For each group critique, two or three students prepare a presentation of a few selected works. You may present finished or even ‘older’ work, but are also recommended to present work in progress. The students may choose to collaborate, for example by making a joint presentation or by jointly formulating questions or issues for discussion. The work should be on view at least two working days prior to the group discussion. Preferably before. If it is online, email all participants and staff with a URL where it may be viewed and otherwise make sure that people are able to view it.

To steer the discussion, the presenting students each prepare a short statement introducing their work and a number of questions related to the presented works. Statement and questions should be distributed at least 2 days before the discussion.

For students commenting

During most of the discussion, it is not the student presenting his/her work, but the others who do the talking and reflecting on the work and questions presented to them. It is useful to make notes and formulate your thoughts on the subject before entering the discussion. In the last part of the discussion, the student whose work and statement have been discussed joins in.

How do I prepare for the statement and questions?

In relation to your presentation, you are expected to write a general statement about the aims of your work and to formulate a number of questions you would like to see addressed during the discussion.

The following questions could function as a guideline for preparing your statement and questions:

  • What themes are central to your work? What subjects or questions do you research through your work?
  • Which approach or methods do you employ in this research?
  • In what ways do the particular media and technologies employed in the work inflect each other?
  • What are the particular implications for the work of its digital nature?
  • How would you evaluate the development of the themes,
  • research methods or media within your work?
  • What modes of presentation are relevant to your work and how does it imply certain kinds of social relation, such as a user?
  • Which site or situation forms the context for this work?
  • Motivate the choice for the particular works you are presenting, and then formulate the main concern or issue you want to address.