Friday, 2 December 2011

Considering university terminology

I have mentioned before that there are differences in terminology between UK and Australian universities - sketchbook/visual diary etc.  I have been considering the terms "privileging" and "finessing". 

I found it very difficult to get to grips with privileging on my Visual Inquiry class.  Privileging is where you identify your best work and put it in a prime position when it comes to your display of artwork.  This requires you to have the competence to identify your best work (my best work often was not what the tutor and rest of the class liked) and to have the equipment to display it to greatest effect, whether this is fishing twine, a hollow pole of the exact length and a ladder to hang lengths of fabric, or a tall display mount to show a portfolio.  This is a term that I had not come across in the UK, but will help me display my work to better effect when I return. 

My friend, Sal, was talking about her most recent essay for her studies.  Sal referred to "finessing" her essay.  I had never heard of it, and had to look it up online.  I found a fantastic description. 

"Working through the details, one sentence at a time, until every word serves a purpose.  It is time intensive and terribly hard work but it is what sets a great essay apart from the rest"  (Tricia Fields) 

This is what I have learned to do to improve the quality of my writing during my studies.  My essay results have steadily improved during my degree and it was particularly during my Public Issues, Private Lives class that I really got my head around choosing my words carefully to make best use of the word count required.  Without being told what "finessing" was, I had started to do it in the final stages of my essay writing - checking that at each stage of my essay I had fulfilled my plan to articulate each point, clearly and concisely, but with the right level of detail to back up my conclusions.  It is the detail that I find difficult.  It is certainly time consuming, and fiddling about with the details, which makes me tired and irritable, does make me wonder whether it makes enough difference to be worthwhile, but since I've been doing it, my grades have improved.  (I still think some of the marking is generous, but I choose not to use my powers of argument with the tutors!) 

Finessing takes huge amounts of time.  I suspect it increases my result by one grade.  So because of the amount of time finessing takes - after the body of work is completed - it is essential to start work well before the hand-in date.  Students with poor planning skills lose the opportunity to gain this extra grade, simply because they don't have the time to do this process.  Additionally, for people like me with poor finishing skills, it takes a lot of determination to keep working on an essay to get all the nuances right, because I lose interest once the body of work is complete.  By this stage, I'm bored of what I have to say, and just want to move on to the next interesting subject.  Of which there are many.  I think the only thing I would add to the definition I found, is that it requires personal commitment.

I am absolutely confident that Sal will be thorough in finessing her essay.

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