Mr Michael Meany
|Work Phone||(02) 4985 4525|
|Fax||(02) 4921 5896|
School of Design Communication and IT
The University of Newcastle, Australia
|Office||ICT3-62, Ict Building|
My background includes work as a freelance writer, photographer, a typesetter and publication designer, and as a playwright. This diverse media background allows me to bring an eclectic mix of skills to my teaching and research. I was initially employed at the University of Newcastle as a lecturer in professional writing partly on the basis of my freelance experience. However, as media technologies changed so to did my teaching role - desktop publishing evolved into web-design; film-based photography gave way to digital photography; audio and video on the web became multimedia. Mirroring this media and technological convergence I now teach audio, video and web-based multimedia.
My research interests, like my teaching, evolved with the changes in the media landscape. My research interests include: narrative and interactive design (particularly in online media), script writing and character development; virtual environments and immersion; and, the relationship between creativity and humour. As an early-career academic the majority of my research outputs have been related to undertaking Research Higher Degrees. In 2006 I graduated with a Master of Creative Arts from the University of Newcastle. In 2008 I enrolled in a PhD program at Victoria University, Melbourne. During my candidature in both of these degree I have generated journal and conference publications.
My career has been punctuated with periods of where I have undertaken administrative duties. I have undertaken the Program Convenor role on several occasions for the Bachelor of Communication and the combined Bachelor of Communication/Laws, as well as, the Master of Multimedia. Mostly recently, my service to the School has been as Deputy Head of School. Evidence for my effectiveness in this role will be based on my engagement with the Singapore delivery of School courses, and the development of initiative to address quality assurance and student recruitment/retention.
- Master of Creative Arts, University of Newcastle, 2006
- Bachelor of Arts (Honours), University of Newcastle, 1997
- Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies), University of Newcastle, 1991
- Computers and Theatre
- Interactive media
In 2006 I graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Master of Creative Arts degree. The title of this work is: A Playwright's Toolkit : The Instruments, Tools and Agency of a Playwright in the Creative Writing Process. The project included a creative work and an exegesis. The Things We Do is the title of a triptych of plays that comprises: His Story, a ten minute multimedia presentation; The Things, a longish one-act play of forty minutes in a more traditional theatrical form; and, Her Story, a ten minute multimedia presentation. The play has three human characters and three computer characters. Using an interface similar to a web browser, the characters interact with one another: human-to-computer and computer-to-computer. The computer characters are represented on stage as data projections of the interface. Their voices, audible from a loudspeaker, were developed using Apple Script to modify the standard Apple text-to-speech computer voices, and then incorporated into the interface using Adobe Flash.
The willing suspension of disbelief, a phrase coined by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, describes the poetic faith that an audience needs to have in the ontology of the fictional world presented to them in the theatre (Coleridge 1906). Suspension of disbelief has long been considered a requisite for development of dramatic closure, that satisfactory end promised by the beginning. In the writing of the triptych of plays a primary research objective was to examine the proposition that it is belief, not disbelief, that is automatic (Reeves and Nass 1996, p.27). The purpose of the exegesis was to illuminate the instruments, tools, and agency of the playwright employed to support belief and, in doing so, examine the nature of the creative writing process. To examine this research objective, consideration is given to the development of the computer voices, action and character, humour, narrative structure and the effect of cognitive load.
This work, and the associated conference and journal publications, caught the public imagination and received considerable media coverage.
In 2008 I enrolled in a PhD through Victoria University, Melbourne, under the supervision of Dr Tom Clark. This work extends my previous investigations of the integration of computers and new media into the performance of humour. This project is composed of two parts: a creative project; and, an exegesis. The creative project will develop a pair of online chatbots that will interact as comedian and straight man when a human user delivers a topic. A chatbot (chatter-robot, talk-bot, or simply, bot) is a computer-based conversational agent that simulates natural language conversation.
Several publications have resulted from this work.
My primary research interests revolve around the combined domains of humour studies, creativity research, and the use of artificial intelligence agents as comic performers.
My PhD topic - Development of humour in artificial intelligence agents - is a project composed of two parts: a creative project; and, an exegesis. A chatbot (chatter-robot, talk-bot, or simply, bot) is a computer-based conversational agent that simulates natural language conversation. The creative project will develop a pair of online chatbots that will interact as 'comedian' and 'straight man' when a human user delivers a topic.
The project is uniquely positioned to offer an examination of the unstable frontier between the human and non-human. Henri Bergson in his seminal essay on laughter stated a new law of humour, We laugh every time a person gives us the impression of being a thing (Bergson 2005, p.28, Original Publication 1911).
This project integrates human agency (the scriptwriter and the scriptwriting process) with the non-human agency of the artificial intelligence of chatbots (the interface and the scripted processes). As such, it tests if Bergsons law will stand if it is inverted; will we laugh every time a thing gives the impression of being a person? Further, and importantly, it examines the unstable frontier between the human and the non-human to offer an insight into the boundary negotiation at the frontier.
This then frames the primary research question: What processes does the new media scriptwriter need to employ when developing a singular assemblage that exists at the unstable frontier between the human and non-human.
Fields of Research
|190199||Art Theory And Criticism Not Elsewhere Classified||25|
|200102||Communication Technology And Digital Media Studies||25|
- Member (International Society of Humor Studies)
- Member (Australasian Humour Studies Network)
Assumption University, Bangkok, , Thailand (Invited Presenter)
The following section will describe my major service contributions to the discipline of Communication and to the School of Design, Communication and IT. My career has been punctuated with periods of where I have undertaken duties usually reserved for more senior academics. For example, as a Level A academic, I undertook my first term as a Program Convenor (Program Coordinator as it was known then) for the Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies). Since being promoted to Level B I have undertaken the Program Convenor role on several occasions for the Bachelor of Communication and the combined Bachelor of Communication/Laws, as well as, the Master of Multimedia. Mostly recently, my service to the School has been as Deputy Head of School. Evidence for my effectiveness in this role will be based on my engagement with the Singapore delivery of School courses, and the development of initiative to address quality assurance and student recruitment/retention.
2010 (1 year) - Member of the Faculty Community & Marketing Working Group
Maintaining the communication flow between the Working Group and the School of DCIT.
2008 - 2009 (2 years) - Deputy Head of School; MFP Supervisor; Complaints Officer
2008 (Occasional) - Acting Head of School
2007 (Sem 1) - Acting Program Convenor for Bachelor of Communication and Bachelor of Communication/Laws. Submission of Degree Review documentation
2006 (1 year) - Program Convenor Bachelor of Communication and Bachelor of Communication/Laws. Development of Degree Review documentation
2004 (1 year) - Program Convenor - Master of Multimedia
2001 (1 month) - Acting Head of Department
2000 - 2001 (2 years) - Program Convenor Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies)
Contribution to developing Degree Review documentation
- Audio and Video Editing
- New Media Production
- Print Editing
- Professional Writing
My teaching philosophy can be summarised through these main points.
- As an over-arching pedagogical position, problem-based learning satisfies the needs defined above.
- Skills development should take a constructivist approach formative assessments leading to a summative project.
- Knowledge development should require the student to reflect on their work and the work of others.
- Assessment should aid learning and clearly articulate desired learning outcomes.
- Learning should be 'hard fun' - cognitive pleasure should be the reward for achievement.
- Teaching is a performance art - I firmly believe in the importance of humour and performance in teaching.
This section provides a rationale for the assessment strategy that I employ in my curriculum design and teaching. Assessment events can be defined as either formative or summative. Formative events are design to build skills, knowledge, abilities and attitudes in a particular content area of the course. Summative events are those that allow the student to display the combined effect of what was learnt in the formative stages. My courses employ a collaborative learning approach where students and staff are expected to share their knowledge, skills and abilities. To further this teaching and learning strategy, students are allowed to resubmit assessment events where they feel they can demonstrate enhanced learning outcomes from assessment feedback. This strategy seeks to deal with the following issues:
1. Students undertaking technology-based courses, and on-line courses, tend to have 'penny-drop' moments of understanding that may not occur in time for an assessment event.
2. Students may not fully understand the assessment criteria until they see the quality of work produced by others in the class or until they receive specific feedback on their work.
3. These courses require students to develop their visual, written and oral communication skills and to be not only competent but also literate across a range of media forms.
4. The 'one attempt only' approach to assessment discourages students from taking creative leaps and academic risks.
This strategy is intended to allow students to fully engage with the course material and to develop for themselves the best learning outcomes. The course resubmission policy only applies to selected formative assessment events with comparatively low marks value (less than 20%). There is no penalty for resubmitting an assignment. It is not, however, intended for students wishing to engage in a petty 'marks chase'. Assessment descriptions, criteria and fully developed marking guides are supplied for each assignment on the Blackboard site. For these formative assessment tasks, the marking guides are quite prescriptive - the student must undertake the required skills development in accordance with the outcomes made explicit in the course outline. Students resubmitting an assignment need to take into account the assessment criteria as well as the specific feedback provided by their lecturer. This strategy also encourages rigorous assessment and grading. In other words, resubmission does not create a soft option. Students are completely responsible for their results; they cannot blame the course or the lecturer for their results. The only way to do well in the course is to behave professionally, stay engaged, learn from feedback, and develop critical self-reflection skills. Students are told that it is possible to do worse on an assessment event after resubmission. Where a student has thoughtlessly created new errors in their work in a poor attempt at 'fixing' the original submission, their grade can be reduced. This again reminds students that they are responsible for their grade and for the approach they take to their studies.
The application of these strategies leads to a high level of student satisfaction, evidenced through formal survey results and informal communication. In 2006 I won the Faculty Teaching and Learning Award.