Anna Persson defended her thesis at Boras University on 5th June. It was an interesting discussion across design disciplines, and Anna presented her work very well. Anna works in the area of smart textiles, developing new technical knowledge and design methodologies in the manipulation of knit surfaces for aesthetic expression. Projects include methods for reversible and irreversible pattern creation, and results that focus on texture, repeat pattern and handle.
The School of Textiles is an active research centre in smart and technical textiles, with excellent facilities and staff. The workshops include an impressive range of knitting and weaving machinery, including large circular knit machines capable of handling metal fibres. The Smart Textiles research project has resulted in the series of Ambience conferences, and now the Arcintex research network for architecture, inetraction design and textiles.
The School also publishes doctoral theses and staff texts, and these are available for purchase.
Anna’s is Textiles as Materials for Interaction Design. See this publications page for details.
the role of the opponent
I was very pleased to be invited to act as opponent at Anna’s viva, but had no experience of the traditional German public doctoral defense. It was hard to find any accounts of it online too, so I’m adding a short note here for anyone else who finds themselves in the same position. Basically, as opponent, you are effectively conducting a tutorial as a piece of theatre. By the time you read the thesis, the examiners will have made their decision and recommendations, and so the process bears little resemblance to the UK system in which the student commonly leaves the (closed) viva with a list of amendments to address; there is no opportunity for you here to request changes, as the thesis will already be published when the defense takes place. Instead, there is a balance to be struck between ‘torturing’ the student (the supervisor’s request) and accepting that there is not much point in asking questions that cannot be answered. The audience will be mixed, and of course include subject specific experts as well as the general public and representatives from related disicplines, and there is a benefit in making the discussion meaningful to them all. Then there is the amount of preparation involved; PhDs at this institution tend to be both practice-based and achieved through publication, so there were eight papers plus a significant contextual document to read. In the end it was a research process, and I found a thematic approach allowed me to cover all the key issues through a couple of pressing questions in the time given (in the end just 45 minutes)…but this way of getting the questions ready would allow you to scale your interrogation either way. I also didn’t realise that when I was invited to introduce the subject context, that a powerpoint might have een appropriate – as it was I found myself making notes ten minuutes before going on – but then that made sure the student was the main act. After the opponent and the student have finished, the rest of the examining team asked questions and the audience was invited to contribute too. This was followed by a private meeting of the examiners, opponent and supervisor, where the examiners officailly state their decision: pass or fail.
One thing to bear in mind is that as opponent on receipt of the thesis for the first time, your very first task is to confirm for the supervisor that the student is ready for the public defense. Don’t be scared – it’s an important step.
On Wednesday 5th June I will be acting as opponent for Anna Persson at the Swedish School of Textiles in Boras. This is a public defense so you are welcome to attend! Please see this link for the venue and other details:
arrive at 12.45 for a 1pm start