Studio 02: The Critical Thinker’s Guide to You: Making Sense of Writing in Creative Cultures

Robert Urquhart

This studio focuses on the relationship between creative practice and criticism – and how theories and cultural and social networks help shape and define the creative process.

Let us demystify the act of writing by learning to absorb our creative practice into the process. Let us unpack ‘academic’ writing to reveal a way of furthering our understanding of the motivations and alienations that mark our creative journey through comparison and translation of cultures.

We will be looking at actor-network theory, a ‘sociology of associations’ advanced by Bruno Latour and championed by Rita Felski as a way of looking at literature. We’ll be observing the creative practice of cultural-pop critics and provocateurs such as (non)-collective Hard Werken, and The White Pube who broke, and break with, convention to create studio cultures and critiques that challenge us.

We’ll be discussing auto-ethnography and themes of ‘interloper’, ‘nonconformist’, and ‘autodidact’ to better understand our sense of self in the creative landscape.

How does creative trade journalism – Wallpaper, Frieze, Dezeen, It's Nice That et al. affect how we view our role with creative cultures? Is there a clash between ‘high-brow’ and ‘low-brow’ forms of critique? Is there a place for gonzo criticism in academic writing? Let’s map our creative journey against the landmarks of theories, ideas and ambitions of those that have written before us.

Seminar outline

  1. Introduction to the Dissertation Module – Networks & Practice
  2. Motivation and Alienation – Fear and Loathing in Critical Thinking
  3. Making Sense of our Practice – Writing as Thinking & Making
  4. Everything is Nothing is Everything
  5. Group Tutorials & Writing Workshop
  6. Cultural Provocateurs & The Gonzo Critic
  7. Presentation/Reading of Student Texts/Review

Readings and references

  • Bauerlein, Mark. The Critical Pulse: Thirty-Six Credos by Contemporary Critics, Columbia University Press, 2012
  • Bochner, Arthur, and Carolyn Ellis. Evocative Autoethnography: Writing Lives and Telling Stories, Taylor & Francis Group, 2016.
  • During, Simon. Exit Capitalism: Literary, Culture, Theory and Post-Secular Modernity, Routledge, 20210
  • Felski, Rita, Muecke, Stephen, Latour and the Humanities, John Hopkins University Press, 2020
  • Malpass, Matt. ‘Criticism and Function in Critical Design Practice’. Design Issues, vol. 31, no. 2, 2015
  • Latour, Bruno. Reassembling The Social. Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Latour, Bruno Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern, 2004
  • Horton, Ian, Furnee, Bettina, Harkworken, One for All, Valiz, Amsterdam, 2018
  • Hoy, David Couzens, Critical Resistance, From Post Structuralism to Post Critique, Bradford 2004
  • Twemlow, Alice. Sifting the Trash: A History of Design Criticism, MIT Press, 2017.
  • Urquhart, Robert, Silicon Valley Versus Creativity. Elephant Magazine, 2016
  • Wallace, Michele, Dark Designs and Visual Culture, Duke University Press, 2005

Studio image: Robert Urquhart. Banner: Hans Op de Beeck, Staging Silence (3), video still (detail), 2019

Mind map of writing project


Tutor Robert Urquhart

Dissertation Studios 2021–22