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New Creative Industries Projects for Ipskay
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Throughout this week, my students in the KKB018 Creative Industries unit are exhibiting their project proposal posters. KKB018 is a core unit in the Creative Industries Faculty, and for many of them is the first unit which introduces them to the core concepts in creative industries theory and practice, which is always something of a challenge - especially considering that students in the unit come from all disciplines across the Faculty: there are dancers and journalists, writers and communication designers, actors and musicians, fashion designers and filmmakers. So, one key aspect of the unit is also to encourage interdisciplinary approaches, of course.

I developed the unit in 2001, as the first of its kind in the world, and I've run it ever since (and for the last time this semester). Developing the content structure itself was relatively straightforward: there's a good deal of core theory which quite clearly needs to be covered. What was more difficult was to come up with an effective, authentic, and interesting assessment structure that went beyond the standard (and boring) 'regurgitate theory by writing an academic essay' model. Last year, I think I finally cracked that challenge: I worked out that beyond all disciplinary knowledge, amongst the core skills our students will need to acquire is the ability to develop, propose, and critically assess project ideas. Whether pitching a story idea to an editor or producer, proposing a creative project to a funding agency, applying for funding for a research project, or presenting a new product to the company board, what they will have to do in their future careers as creative practitioners is to come up with that great idea, present it effectively, and demonstrate that it would be appropriate both for the organisation they're proposing it to, and for the local, national, and global environment within which they're operating. And if they're not developing new projects themselves, then chances are they're probably working for the organisation, assessing projects which other creative practitioners have proposed.

Further, many of such projects are inherently interdisciplinary - they require team work amongst a diverse group of participants to be fully developed. They may also rely on funding from a variety of sources, and may need to respond to specific selection criteria set by the funding bodies. Being able to do all of this would stand our students in very good stead.

So, what I ended up doing was to develop two key assessment items: in the first one, teams of 3-5 students develop a proposal, which presents an interdisciplinary creative industries project, takes advantage of their specific disciplinary skills, and demonstrates that the project is feasible, relevant, and appropriate in the current creative, economic, and intellectual environment. In the second, we select a small number of project proposals and ask the students to write up an individual report which critiques a given proposal, assessing it against the available theory, checking its feasibility, and making recommendations on how to improve the proposal to make it acceptable.

But such work cannot take place in a vacuum, of course - proposals always also respond to specific local needs (and frequently, to particular selection criteria set by a funding agency). This was why I worked with my colleague Jane Turner to develop Ipskay, a fictional environment modelled on real towns in regional Queensland and presented through a deliberately somewhat dingy-looking city council Website: in Ipskay, the city and business councils have established seed funding grants, and students are asked to respond to this funding opportunity in their project proposals. This means that they need to read the local environment and identify opportunities for new creative industries projects; it also means that we can tweak the environment to highlight particular issues which we want to draw their attention to: so, for example, Ipskay is a town on the move into the knowledge economy, and a place which looks to establish a new identity as a means of counteracting the decline of traditional industries and of attracting more members of the creative class to the area.

So that's what we do in the unit now, and that's where we're at this week: now, half-way through the semester, our students have developed their project proposals and present them both in a written proposal and (in condensed form) in a poster exhibition; these posters are designed to give their tutors and me (in our role as councillors) a quick overview of the project ideas. We've also encouraged students to give some feedback to one another (using post-it notes), and as you can see from the photos that's been taken up very enthusiastically. Some really exciting ideas in those posters - looking forward to the next assignment!

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