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1 Introduction
2 The lecture series
3 Statements on IT provision

4 Observations

5 Appendices

Case Studies

"Digital Futures": A Case Study in a Faculty of Art & Design



I suppose as someone originally operating as a 'Lecturer in Theatre' I have a conceited view of my own sense of timing: at least I enjoy, given a 'formal lecture' situation, the opportunity for some 'drama' - the dénouement, the sudden gesture, the lengthy silence. So it was probably this sense of 'the performance' that led me to inquire of the Bonington Lecture Theatre Technician if I could operate a video-player from the front of the lecture theatre, cuing it myself rather than depending on the standard system of introducing the 'clip' and then waving to him peering from a projection box or pressing a buzzer to ask him to dim the lights etc - a process which in my eyes was likely to get the extract off to a shaky start and an even more grinding halt.
Despite it being the Summer Vacation and arrangements to check technical aspects being beset by all manner of complications I was delighted to be told that, though rarely requested, it was easily possible for the lecturer to control video from the front dais area. A date in the "pre-term administration week" was set to test out the facility and I duly arrived clutching VHS tape. A video-player magically appeared on the front table with a lead going to a socket in the wall linked to the overhead video projector. Despite the fact that the light dimmers were on the wall some 5 paces away - which would make some aspects of perfect synchronization difficult - it was not an impossible situation. The video worked perfectly, casting an impressively large image with clear soundtrack. This, if a trifle testing for handling lights, notes, video cue and delivering Riveting Phrase with aplomb, was manageable.
It was only as I was leaving that I happened to ask where the computer would be situated.
"What computer?"
"The computer that I'm using in the lectures."
"We haven't got a computer."
"What d'you mean you 'haven't got a computer', I'm talking about 'The Lecture Theatre Computer"...? It's a PC isn't it, they said it was a PC. Don't tell me it's a Mac, is it?"
"There isn't a computer here."
"There isn't a.... A computer? You mean there isn't a computer?
"But... but....! But I've been specially booked into this Lecture Theatre to use... the whole lecture series is about computing.... I've been booked in to use.... they changed the times... they couldn't get me in at the standard time so they changed the time... so's I could use the computer...." The word 'babbling" comes to mind. Finally: "You're kidding me!"
"No I'm not, there's no computer here. There was talk of getting a computer, in fact there was talk ages ago of getting a computer - that's probably why the office probably think there's one here now... But somebody raised the problem of security and then they wanted a special dais built and then I think there was a bit of a tiff about who was paying for it and who could use it and what was going to be needed on it and then it was the Summer holiday.... There's no computer here, I assure you. There will be a computer. Sometime. Sure as eggs, there will be a computer, probably more than one in time. But not now, not till Christmas now at the earliest.... When d'you start your lectures?"
"Next Monday."
"Hhh! Not a hope!"
There followed a dismal conversation: Graphics and Photography, it transpired, were the only art courses to date that had used a computer within the lecture format and they had both lugged a Mac in for a special Visiting Lecturer occasion (and both happened to have accommodation adjacent to the Bonington Lecture Theatre - my decidedly unluggable PC was 300 yards away in a different building and the thought of carting tower and monitor etc through winter weather on fifteen consecutive weeks did not appeal). There must be an alternative.
Having been at the university nineteen years I knew some dodges and had some favours to call in...
BS September 1997
See Appendix 2.7 for developments in 1998.

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