Pilot operations, James Joyce, creative learning and phobia: Research Café XI

Left to right: David Tyrer, Mark Feltham, Gerry Smyth, Mohd Hafizi Said

Left to right: David Tyrer, Mark Feltham, Gerry Smyth, Mohd Hafizi Said

Our June Research Café was held in Aldham Robarts Library on 18th and offered the usual mix of interesting topics.




Mohd Hafizi Said (School of Engineering, Technology and Maritime Operations) Safety assessment in shore-based pilotage operation

Currently doing his PhD, he has practical experience as a deck cadet and watch keeping officer which has given a rounded approach to his research. Maritime pilotage operation is an essential part of docking a vessel. The pilot is a professional qualified position and it is essential to have people from the shore to meet with the master of the ship in for safe docking to take place. Traditionally the pilot gets to the vessel by pilot boat or helicopter in order to guide the vessel to shore (this can be from 5 miles offshore). There are safety issues in relation to this for example during pilot transfer pilots need to be incredibly fit to transfer to the boat. Also fatigue is a major issue due to a shortage of pilots and the amount transfers they need to do each day. The other problem is delays in shipping operation, for example due to weather conditions making it unsuitable for the pilot to board the vessel.

The proposed solution to some of these issues is shore based pilot operation where the pilot instructs the master from the shore. Only 12 countries in Europe employ this kind of operation, for example Rotterdam and Antwerp. There is no standard procedure for shore based operation. In his research Mohd developed a generic safety criteria model and the establish the weighting of the different elements that can affect safety using an analytical hierarchy process, then synthesising the results. This can then be used determine whether shore base pilot operation is appropriate.

He tested this model in Netherlands using 3 case study vessels and took into consideration elements such as the experience of the master, the age of the boat, fitness of the pilot and competency as well as other environmental factors.

He concluded that shore based pilotage is only suitable is if they achieve 75% or above using the model. In some cases a combination approach is needed and in others shore based pilotage isn’t suitable.

Dr Mark Feltham (School of Natural Sciences and Psychology) Creative Learning using Facebook

Mark teaches a year-long, first year undergraduate module (Fundamentals of Scientific Research) across six programmes in the School of Natural Sciences & Psychology at LJMU. A large part of this module comprises learning about statistics, something that students have in the past found exceptionally ‘dry’ and difficult to understand. The statistics module is timetable for a Monday morning at 9am (not the best slot for a difficult subject) and Mark wanted to take into consideration the diversity of programmes and learning styles this module needs to cater for.

In an attempt to overcome these issues, the module was designed in a way to enables students to choose how, when and where they study by picking one of two entirely different modes of study: didactic (‘traditional’ lectures, workshops) and creative (social media, creative projects). Students study via both modes in semester 1, and choose one to pursue exclusively in semester 2.

Mark was particularly interested in 2 key questions;

  1. How do students use social media for learning?
  2. How does this compare to more traditional methods of teaching in terms of student learning?

Students who chose the Creative approach interacted with learning materials in the usual ways in which they interact with Facebook, by liking, commenting, messaging and uploading. There were 1300 student uploads to their Facebook groups and the y fell into the following categories: 46% were text based (mostly Word *docs), 9% were graphs (mostly Excel) but 46% were images or video, of which 72% were their own images, typically uploaded from mobile devices. Mark showed us some examples of where students had drawn or created graphs using objects (like empty beer cans or nail varnish) and taken a photograph and then uploaded to Facebook.

The times at which they worked varied greatly but mostly not Monday morning 9am and many of the uploads were from mobile devices.

Students fell in to four groups:

  1. Didactic Individuals (students who preferred traditional teaching methods and to work on their own) comprised 41% of students;
  2. Didactic group workers 24%;
  3. Creative individuals (students who preferred social media and autonomous learning via creative projects) comprised 21% of students
  4. Creative group workers comprised the remaining 14% of the cohort.

This showed that contrary to the popular wisdom in many academic circles the majority of students (a) want traditional lectures and workshops and (b) do not want to work in groups. However interestingly, the performance by students in the four groups was significantly different with didactic individuals performing on average 9% more poorly than the three other groups. This group also contained all students who failed the module and all students who dropped out of University in their first year. This raises interesting questions about how students learn and how we can best support them.

Dr Gerry Smyth (School of Humanities and Social Science) James Joyce: Irish Novelist / Elizabethan Poet

Gerry is a reader in culture history and his area of interest is James Joyce. Joyce is best known for his prose works and some of which has had a lasting impact. What many people don’t know is that Joyce had a major interest in music and considered a career as a musician. However he set his musical career aside to become a writer but his writing is infused with music. His work contains many references to music but he also writes in a musical way. Gerry talked about his first little-known publication Chamber Music (1907), a book of love poems which are written as lyrics. Joyce’s estate was very litigious but this work is now out of copyright and many people have set all or some of the lyrics to music, with varying styles. Gerry and his daughter have also taken on this challenge, recording this as an album setting the entire work to music. Joyce was influenced by the Elizabethans, when others around him were writing about revolution. Chamber Music is written in a formal way using courtly language and tells a coherent love story from beginning to end.

Gerry played an extract from the album demonstrating the style they chose, which is a lone voice with guitar accompaniment, reflecting the idea of an Elizabethan lute player. He is also currently working on a website which will include video and text material relating to the album and James Joyce’s book and they hope to develop this into an app.

This is a great example of creative research.

Dr David Tyrer (School of Humanities and Social Science) The politics and aesthetics of phobia

Dr David Tyrer is a Reader in Critical Theory at LJMU, his particular interest being the public life of the idea of phobia, and he is currently undertaking a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship on the Ethics and Aesthetics of Phobia.

David began his talk by showing a fragment of a cartoon showing the umbrella as a magical childhood object, and working through a number of images and stories to show how the umbrella became a ‘phobic object’. He was keen to point out that he is not interested in the medical diagnosis of phobia, but rather the public perception of phobia, focusing much of his research in early twentieth century France.

He recounted a number of stories relating to phobia, including a woman who signed over her estate to her nephew, but later sued to cancel this arrangement claiming that her brother had caused her distress by playing on her phobia. However, his main story was a man who attacked some umbrellas in France in 1932, and was released after payment of damages, with the incident noted as a clear case of phobia. David’s interest was in the way the story was received at the time – many would have found the story faintly amusing if not downright absurd. There is, of course, no real evidence that the attacker was indeed phobic, and the crime was seemingly without victims (i.e. only the umbrellas were hurt).

The ironisation of phobia had been developing since the nineteenth century, and by around 1910 phobia was always represented in the press as ridiculous. The naming of phobias had become something of a word game for medical professionals, and this was regularly parodied, particularly in the French press.

If the mass media can be taken to constitute the public consensus, then by this time umbrellas as an object had lost their magic, and had been represented as deadly weapons in both the press and nineteenth century medical texts (incidents including prods to the eye, and insertion into the body). Umbrellas are often seen as symbolic in a number of ways – they can be phallic and are anamorphic, they can be seen as a type of prosthesis, they have been seen as a useful tool for agoraphobics, and everyone forgets them. Phobias tend to be centred on the most ordinary, banal, non-threatening things, and thus the umbrella makes the perfect phobic object.

The talk was followed by a series of short animated films on fear, “Fear[s] of the Dark” (2009) directed by Etienne Robial, more information along with stills and clips from the films can be found at http://www.primalinea.com/pdn/.

The recordings of these presentations will be available shortly here and our final Research Café of the Academic year will be held on 23rd July in Avril Robarts Library, more details coming soon.

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