Cultural Studies Homepage

Subject - CSG (Cultural Studies)

Courses: Diploma of Graphic Design (CUV50311)

VUIT Digital Arts

Teacher Name: Lisa Cianci - email:
Education Manager: Adam Hutterer - email:

Class Website -


Class 01 - Introduction to the unit / research skills exercise

This document URL:

Lecture / Activities

Welcome to the Cultural Studies subject.

The usual format of this subject will be:

  • 1 hr Lecture at the start of class
  • 2 hr Workshop for working on current assessment tasks

We will begin with an introduction to the subject, classes and assessment tasks, and look at what you need to know for writing and research skills in this subject.

Today you will be working on your first assessment task: Task 1 - Essay (Research & Writing Skills).

See the Unit Guide for all assessment tasks:

Unit Guide


This first assessment task is asking you to write a a short text, so you do not need to present it as a formal essay, rather look at it as a review - in the manner of a creative review you might find in a design or fine arts journal. Despite this, you still need to adhere to academic standards for referencing and copyright issues.

Many of you may be unsure how to put your thoughts, critical analysis and research into a coherent format. You will need to express your ideas in a concise and clear manner. The content presented in today's lecture will assist you in achieving a well written piece, which you will have time to work on, ask your teacher questions and get help in the workshop session.

We will also examine Assessment Task 2 (Participation & Online Discussion) to be found in the Student Guide linked above



What is Research?

Research may be defined as the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

Creative practitioners (Artists/Designers) need to understand their place in a continuum of creative practice to enable them to work from a position of knowledge - to become better practitioners.

This subject is designed to present you with a range of very interesting and engaging creative work as a starting point for your own journey in researching and developing your own creative practice. We learn about art and design history because it shows us not only the works that were created, but also how and why these works were created in a socio-political context, at a certain place and time. Context is a crucial aspect in understanding a work of design or art, and often different meanings, different readings of a work can be made based upon the viewer's own knowledge and experience.


What is Creative Research?

"Creative Research" is a term that is being used a lot at the moment in academic circles. This includes the research we do to learn about other creative practitioners, and the creative practice itself - the works we create may form part of the research cycle. Methodologies employed in undertaking creative research are often described as Practice-Led or Practice-Based:

Practice-led research means that the research outcomes are not necessarily the works themselves, but new methods, new practices that have developed through research.

Practice-based research methodology is where research is carried out through a project. Practice-based Research is an original investigation undertaken in order to gain new knowledge partly by means of practice and the outcomes of that practice. This may be demonstrated through creative outcomes in the form of designs, artworks, music, digital media, performances and exhibitions.


How do we know if we are doing research?

How do we "research" and what is research and what isn't? Not all of what we do as artists and designers is research - making an artwork is not necessarily research, but some aspects of it might be - so how can we tell the difference?

The research component of the practice-based research is, in most respects, similar to any definition of research, a key element of which is the transferability of the understandings reached as a result of the research process. (Candy 2006)

This essentially means that we need to be able to transfer the knowledge produced through our research somehow - this might manifest itself in different ways, such as the development of a technique that can be passed on, or the documentation of a performance work that demonstrates the development of a concept and its realisation, or the keeping of a visual journal that can show how a series of designs or artworks were created. Or in this case, through a written review of the creative works that are the focus of the research.

Consider: what methods are you engaged in that might qualify as "practice-based research"? Or what parts of this subject can we consider to be research? Discuss...


How does this relate to the Learning Elements in the Unit of Competency for this subject?

This Subject / Unit has the following four learning elements:

1. Select focus for research

2. Conduct critical analysis

3. Present ideas about visual communication history and theory

4. Develop own practice from research

The assessment tasks we have created focus on these learning elements and you will find yourself working through these elements in each project. We want you to use the work we do in Cultural Studies to ultimately develop your own practice from the research. To do this you need to be able to communicate (present/discuss/write) about what you have done, how you have done it and why it's relevant/important/necessary.

In your own time, look through all four assessment tasks in the Unit Guide. You will see in the assessment rubric how each task addresses the elements listed above and the detailed performance criteria for each element.


What is critical analysis?


Critical analysis is a central process in all academic work. It involves thinking critically, which is applying rational and logical thinking while deconstructing the texts you read (and write) at university. (Deakin University 2015)

Browne and Keeley (2001, p. 2) define critical thinking as:

  1. an awareness of a set of interrelated critical questions
  2. the ability to ask and answer critical questions at appropriate times
  3. the desire to actively use the critical questions.
(Deakin University 2015)

What kinds of questions might we ask about the works viewed at the NGV last week? Discuss...


How do we think critically?

When we think critically we are being active; we are not passively accepting everything we see, read and hear, but questioning, evaluating, making judgements, finding connections and categorising. It means being open to other points of view and not being blinded by our own biases.

Critical thinking is useful for most activities associated with tertiary study, such as forming judgements in lectures and tutorials, and when reading, writing essays and assignments, making decisions and developing arguments, and developing projects.

Critical thinking involves various processes in different disciplines. In the arts, it can include asking questions, identifying problems and solutions, relating theory to practice, stating an argument and supporting it with evidence, making comparisons and evaluating.

Some useful references for critical thinking:



How to write your review in the correct format

As the text for this task will be short (~1500 words), you don't need to structure your text formally as you would with a longer essay-style piece. You don't need a lengthy introduction and conclusion that repeat the body of your writing. Rather, you may plan a path through your review - it should be coherent andflow well from paragraph to paragraph. Think about writing an outline where each paragraph addresses a different part of the review.

Judy Radul's interpretation of how one might structure a review can be found at this URL:

Notes on Writing Exhibition Reviews:

You might want to include for example (not necessarily in this order):

A brief overview of the works to be discussed - e.g. time, place, movement;

Physical description of the work - e.g. mediums and materials used, size, genre (for example painting , sculpture, print, photography, drawing);

Information about the artist (that is relevant to the work) - e.g. name, aesthetic focus, artist associates, movement associated with;

Contextual information: how, where, when why was the work created - e.g. visual elements such as line, form, texture, space, movement, color, tone, meaning of the work;

Second-hand sources that have informed your review - e.g. articals, reviews, discussions;

Observations, anaylsis and critique of the work, comparisons between the works, links to other works/artists/genres that have infuenced the work.


To help you think about how you might interpret the works you have selected for this assessment ask, I have referenced these principals as a starting point that you might wish to consider - you don't have to use them or agree with them all.

Barrett's Principles of Interpretation

1. Artworks have "aboutness" and demand interpretation.

2. Interpretations are persuasive arguments.

3. Some interpretations are better than others.

4. Good interpretations of art tell more about the artwork than they tell about the critic.

5. Feelings are guides to interpretations.

6. There can be different, competing, and contradictory interpretations of the same artwork.

7. Interpretations are often based on a worldview.

8. Interpretations are not so much absolutely right, but more or less reasonable, convincing, enlightening, and informative.

9. Interpretations can be judged by coherence, correspondence, and inclusiveness.

10. An artwork is not necessarily about what the artist wanted it to be about.

11. A critic ought not to be the spokesperson for the artist.

12. Interpretations ought to present the work in its best rather than its weakest light.

13. The objects of interpretation are artworks, not artists.

14. All art is in part about the world in which it emerged.

15. All art is in part about other art.

16. No single interpretation is exhaustive of the meaning of an artwork.

17. The meanings of an artwork may be different from its significance to the viewer. Interpretation is ultimately a communal endeavor, and the community is ultimately self-corrective.

18. Good interpretations invite us to see for ourselves and to continue on our own.

(Barrett 1994)


Extra Viewing:

If we have time, we may watch part of Ways of Seeing presented by John Berger - a documentary made in 1972. It may seem a bit outdated (you may also find parts of it humorous) and he does focus on traditional western art, but he does make some bold statements which are still valid today when thinking critically about art.

Ways of Seeing - Episode 1

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:


Referencing and Copyright

Writing at university involves researching the ideas of other people, which you can combine with your own ideas and conclusions.

In all of your written work at VU, you are expected to maintain certain standards relating to how you give credit to the work of others, respecting intellectual property and copy rights.

Learning to acknowledge other people’s work through in-text citing and referencing will help differentiate between their ideas and your own.

This is central to the idea of academic honesty in Western academic institutions.

The VU Library site has some very useful information that you will need to refer to in writing your review (see the link above). Despit the review not taking a formal essay format, we still expect you to use in-text citing and referencing for any content that is not your own intellectual property.

As we are asking you to research and find text relating to the artworks you have selected for this assessment task, you may want to quote short excerpts of others' texts in your text. This demonstrates that you have taken the opinions of "experts in the field" into account when forming your own analysis.

The next section on VU Harvard Style will show you how to quote texts from various sources, and how to reference content that is not yours and create a bibliography at the end of your review. You may have noted that I have references in these classnotes and have placds a bibliography at the end of the web page. You are expected to do likewise.

We recommend Harvard Style as it allows for differentiation between in-text citation and endnotes/footnotes which you may want to add with your own additional commentary. We will look at the differences...


VU Harvard Style Guide:

You can download the PDF for the Harvard Style Guide and keep it handy for all written tasks.

Here are some examples that you can refer to for Assessment Task 1:


1. how to quote someone else's text (in-text citation)

This is an example of a chunk of text from my PhD thesis:

The above creative projects and texts do, I believe support my theory: that remix can be a method of preservation. While the works of those outlined above do this quite explicitly I am arguing further that remix is what artists do, whether explicitly or implicitly in their practices and processes.

As artist and theorist Eduardo Navas states:

The contemporary artwork, as well as any media product, is a conceptual and formal collage of previous ideologies, critical philosophies, and formal artistic investigations extended to new media. (Navas 2010)

Recognising this may be the best way to engage artists to adopt preservation strategies into our work.

Navas hosts a website “Remix Theory” (Navas 2012), which is a portal for accessing his remix artworks, research and texts, and provides links to other related artists and theorists. Navas’ definition of the types of remix (Navas 2011a) are based upon his own artwork and research that begins with a history of remix in music of the late twentieth century, and continues with the inclusion of art and digital media practices in popular culture and academia.

(Cianci 2012)


Note how a large chunk of text quoted is indented and in italics without "quotation marks", whereas a short piece of text within the paragraph text is placed within "quotation marks". This just makes it easier to read. Can you tell why one of the references has the date as 2011a?

Refer to the VU Harvard Style Guide to see how to use in-text citation for more than one author.


2. how to use footnotes or endnotes

A footnote is a numbered notation at the bottom of a page with a number corresponding to a section of the text. An endnote is the same thing, but placed at the end of a chapter or at the end of a document.

Some style guides such as Oxford use footnotes or endnotes for referencing, but we will not be using that method as we are using Harvard in-text citation.

If you have additional information that does not belong in the body of your text, you may use an endnote. Here is an example:


In Australia, in the early 1970s, artists Mike Parr, Tim Johnson and Peter Kennedy established "Inhibodress", a gallery space and artists' cooperative that produced conceptual art, performance art and video. Inhibodress was similar to Fluxus in some ways. Event and performance were a means of engaging and sometimes shocking the audience.[3]


Endnote at the end of the chapter:

[3] Mike Parr’s performance work often involved self mutilation: winding a fuse up his leg and setting light to it; or simulated self-mutilation as with the now infamous performance where Parr, (who only has a partial left arm), takes an axe and proceeds to chop up his prosthetic arm - the audience unaware that the arm is prosthetic and filled with meat and blood.


3. how to annotate images (figures) in your review

Here is an example of placing an image that is not your own in your text (called a Figure, it can be used for images, diagrams, tables and other graphical content):



Figure 1.25 Stelarc, Multiple Hand, c1998 (Stelarc 2012)
(image with permission from Stelarc)


4. how to create a bibliography of your references - books, journal articles, websites, etc...

Excerpt from the Bibliography for the example from my PhD as used above...

Cianci, Lisa 2012, "The Blackaeonium Project: Workspace/Keeping-Place - An Archival Continuum of Creative Practice", PhD Thesis, RMIT University, published on, Lisa Cianci, viewed 15/02/2015, <>

Navas, Eduardo 2008, “The Author Function in Remix”, Remix Theory, Eduardo Navas, viewed 13/04/2011, <>

Navas, Eduardo 2010, “Regressive and Reflexive Mashups in Sampling Culture” (2010 Revision), Remix Theory, Eduardo Navas, viewed 13/04/2011, <>

Navas, Eduardo 2011, “Remix Defined”, Remix Theory, Eduardo Navas, viewed 13/04/2011, 

Navas, Eduardo 2011, “Notes on Everything is a Remix, Part 1, 2 and 3”, Remix Theory, Eduardo Navas, viewed 13/12/2011, <>

Navas, Eduardo 2011, “Research on Remix and Cultural Analytics, Part 2”, Remix Theory, Eduardo Navas, viewed 13/04/2012, <>

Navas, Eduardo 2011, "Radiohead Lotus Flower YouTube Remixes", Remix Theory, viewed 12/06/2012, <>(Navas, 2011d)

Navas, Eduardo 2012, Remix Theory, Eduardo Navas, viewed 10/10/2010, <>

Stelarc 2012,, Stelarc, viewed 26/04/2012, <>


Use the online Harvard Style Guide to see which parts of the reference are necessary and how to reference different types of source such as books, movies, DVDs, websites, emails, twitter feeds etc.



Workshop Activities

Class Exercise - In-text Citation & References

Using the information presented in the lecture today, work on your class exercise. You will be given an exercise sheet and sent to the Library where you must find examples and write down references for 6 items of different types.

Here is the referenece exercise sheet: CulturalStudies2015referencingExercise.PDF

Submit your referencing exercise to me by the end of class.

You will be allocated "breakout groups" and allocated a room on Level 16 or Library for your research activities. We will rotate rooms so that you each get to work with the teacher in the lab on a regular basis.


Use the Guide to Action Research (PDF) to get you started in thinking about your essay.



  • Digital camera to photograph & document what you see at the gallery (mobile phone camera is OK)
  • USB memory stick or external Hard Disk for backing up any electronic documents
  • Access to a computer, Internet and browser software to access online class materials & conduct research
  • A current email address that you check on a regular basis (daily or at least several times a week)
  • A current phone number (preferably a mobile number) so we can contact you if classes are cancelled or changed etc



National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) website:

NGV site maps:

Barrett, Terry 1994, Criticizing Art: Understanding the Contemporary. Mountain View, California: Mayfield Publishing Company.

Borgdorff, Henk 2010, “The Production of Knowledge in Artistic Research” in The Routledge Companion to Research in the Arts, Routledge

Browne, M & Keeley, S 2001, Asking the right questions: a guide to critical thinking, 6th edn, Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, N.J.

Candy, Linda 2006, Practice Based Research: A Guide, Creativity & Cognition Studios, University of Technology, Sydney, CCS Report: 2006-V1.0 November, viewed 22/11/2010 < >

Critical Thinking URLs:

Deakin University 2015, Critical Analysis, Deaking University, <>

Fortnum, Rebecca 2009, "On Not Knowing; how artists think – Symposium Introduction", Symposium: On not knowing: how artists think, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, < >

Smith, Hazel & Dean, Roger T. (Editors) 2010, Practice-led Research, Research-led Practice in the Creative Arts, Edinburgh University Press

Windschuttle, K & Elliot, E 1999, Writing, researching, communicating: communication skills for the information age, 3rd edn, McGraw-Hill, Sydney.