International Week at Fontys Academy for Creative Industries, December 2015


Fontys Academy for Creative Industries (Fontys ACI) organised an international week for 7th — 11th December 2015. I participated as a representative of Høgskulen in Volda and attended from the evening of the 8th-10th. Volda has an exchange agreement with Fontys ACI.

My aims for the week were to strengthen the understanding of the programmes on offer, make further connections with international delegates and experience life at Fontys ACI.

Review of International Week:

Day 1:

Sadly I could not get to Fontys any earlier than the evening of Tuesday 8th due to travel times from Volda via Schipol. I joined the delegates and hosts for an evening meal at La Cubanita — a local restaurant. This was a very good icebreaker and opportunity to get to know one another and discuss the variety of global universities the delegates were from. I was greeted by my hosts from Fontys, Eva M. Knechtl — International Policy Advisor, Michelle de Bruijn-Meijer — International Officer and Kim Corstjens — Fontys Student.

At dinner I talked a great deal to Marlin de Bresser — Lecturer & Researcher in Leadership & Innovation. We discussed innovation processes, start-ups and collaborative projects. We discussed how we have a mix of PR, Journalism and media production here in Volda, along with the outdoor nature and how there is opportunity to do something event based that mixes all of these. She took me to meet a local company Livewall who specialise in second screen experiences and we discussed how the X2 festival was a potential event to explore possibilities and will continue this dialogue in future months.

Day 2: My aims for the week were to strengthen the understanding of the programmes on offer, make further connections with other international delegates and experience life at Fontys ACI.

I arrived slightly ahead of the scheduled events so that I could explore the campus a bit, Fontys has a very modern open layout where staff and students are “nomads” in the sense that there is plenty of space, but no fixed desks of their own, this is very similar to many creative tech companies now. I discussed with staff and students what this was like and they said it took some time to get used to, but it enabled more frequent dialogue and better dialogue between staff and students. There are still plenty of small meeting rooms for private discussion and meetings when required to be private.

I then joined a transmedia storytelling class (a 30 ECTS minor class available for exchange students) with Maaike Rijinders and her students where they explained a transmedia narrative campaign they were currently running live across multiple platforms, they showed me some footage of a fake documentary and a treasure hunt of clues that viewers needed to follow. They showed me all their narratives and user journeys mapped out on the walls of their workspace, along with their Scrum project management wall. They were then in a heated discussion about the team dynamic and how some of the team members were not contributing, we discussed the issues of this within a student project dynamic and a professional dynamic. I was able to draw on some of my lessons within MID to explain organisational design and project management with them, along with experiences from work. It was a fun dialogue and enjoyable to sit in an active work session.

Project Wall in Transmedia Storytelling Class

After lunch we had an arranged workshop on “Creativity & Personality” by Chris Gribling that was well designed and an excerpt from their wider IEMES programme. The session was very good at encouraging moments of reflection and active learning. It had some very similar themes to what we cover in terms of design thinking in MID112 and therefore good synergy. After the session Chris introduced me to James Pattinson of Reluctantly Brave which is based in London and they have an industry partnership with, students do both work experience, but James is also involved in setting assignment briefs and marking student assignments with Chris. Involving industry in this way brings a good informed practice for the students that I could see really benefitted them. James has invited me to visit when I am next in London — maybe something to connect with UEL too.

The second session of the day was a presentation from Carl Rohde about Trendwatching, which is another minor (30 ECTS) programme available from Fontys for exchange students. Carl explained the analysis work they do globally to identify trends in all manner of products and so forth using a methodology they enact through the vehicle Science of Time and they freely collaborate and do special sessions with global universities — this could be a very good guest series for Volda in terms of MID and PR students to see research and data analysis through a trend watching lens.

Early evening we had some networking drinks with the delegates and I had a good conversation with Venancio Almanza Franco and Enrique Páez Agraz, both from ITESO University in Guadalajara, Mexico. We discussed the issues around developing creativity and production techniques amongst media production students. I additionally met and discussed Transmedia storytelling and Nordic university connections with Rikke Thomsen -Project & Study Co-ordinator at VIA University College in Aarhus, Denmark. Again we saw opportunity for synergy between our topics and the topics they study, along with potential for collaborative projects.

Day 3:

I returned to the Transmedia Storytelling class in the morning to have a further chat to them, particularly about their production. They showed me in depth the tool they were using to run the transmedia narrative: http://www.conducttr.com/ which has already lead to a number of thoughts on how to use within Volda setting (particularly induction week and for open days in the future) along with lessons. It was also a good opportunity to further the discussion with them about team dynamics and how to deal with classmates who do not contribute to the project and how it’s a valuable skill to develop. Maaike Rijinders and I then had coffee and a good debate about transmedia and it’s labelling (the below flowchart was discussed quite a lot) and how Fontys comes from the marketing perspective often with it, whilst I was coming from the simulation and Alternate Reality Game learning perspective. With their focus on eyeballs and data capture as a marketing goal of the story, which means they need a big audience for the story to work (I argued you need an existing fan base for it to work properly) whereas I argued that the story works best when immersing the audience into a specific event, goal or quest. Learning simulations are very effective for this and then is good potential for a DKL and MID project to develop an ARG simulation for industry utilising transmedia storytelling techniques (and conducttr would make it easier).

I then rushed across town to join the next set of workshops that were taking place off campus in a space that Fontys uses extensively along with the startup community of Tilburg, reclaimed warehouses originally used for railway carriages.

In one of the rooms we had a workshop “Let’s Play Innovation” with Annemarie Steen which utilised improvisation, game storming and design thinking techniques which we also have used on MID. The main exercise was exactly the same as one recently used by myself which is inspired by the D-School at Stanford University. It was good to be a student in this active learning experience and aligned with my own views on active and exploratory learning techniques in creative industries. These are also the same techniques employed in many start ups and creative agencies all over the world. This was also a good mix of Fontys students, international delegates and local businesses.

The space they were using and how they were using it was so refreshing from your typical classroom setting, predominantly to the warehouse feel and the lighting design, but the space was incredibly flexible. When we make learning spaces in the future we should take this very much into account (tips to new Media Building).

The next space we went into was another “class” who were re-designing a local hospital’s identity and service culture. It was essentially a “hackathon” in which the students worked for a 24hr marathon stretch in this space. I felt very at home here (hackathons were a common occurrence when I lived in London) and enjoyed walking around and discussing with the students, there was a good mix of mentors and students co-operating (the design of hackathons is very essential for efficacy). There was a good space for working, a bar with food and drinks, a social media wall and a DJ providing music to keep the energy in the space. This was all very effective and the students were totally immersed in what they were doing. I’d like to see much more of this in Volda.

Hackathon Space
Concept Development in Hackathon
Pecha Kucha Presentation

We finished the day with a short pecha kucha presentation from a nutritionist and then a fresh cooked meal (based on the presentation) from a local artisan pop-up restaurant within the complex.

We were due to all attend a theme park on the final day, but I couldn’t go as I had to make my flight from Amsterdam and time would have been too tight. So we said our goodbyes after this session and agreed to stay in touch.

About the school:

Fontys Academy for Creative Industries (Fontys ACI) is situated in Tilburg, Holland and has 2500 students working towards a bachelor of Business Administration (International Event, Music & Entertainment Studies and Digital Business Concepts), a bachelor of Communication (International Event, Music & Entertainment Studies) or a bachelor of Lifestyle (International Lifestyle Studies). Fontys ACI hosts a staff of approximately one hundred (teachers plus support staff) as well as about fifty regular visiting lecturers. The visiting lecturers come from a wide range of both industry and other institutions and are graded on student feedback, if a lecturer does not meet a certain satisfaction grade, they are not used again.

Fontys ACI is part of Fontys University of Applied Sciences. Fontys accommodates over 40,000 students and about 4,000 staff members; the largest university of applied sciences in the south of the Netherlands (main branches are located in Venlo, Eindhoven and Tilburg).

Fontys ACI is a member of Cumulus, the International Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media. Cumulus is the only global association to serve art and design education and research. It is a forum for partnership and transfer of knowledge and best practices.