My Doctoral Defence

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POSTED: August 24, 2015

This is the mail I sent to everyone announcing the YouTube URL for my doctoral defence

You may have received an official invitation to my doctoral defence earlier in the week, and if you didn’t then I apologise and, by way of penance, I have copied it below. I am now writing to you again to inform that the entire defence will be streamed live on YouTube, so if you are too far away to attend you can watch it online. If you are nearby but too busy to attend then, once streamed, the defence will remain on YouTube as a video, so you can watch it later at your leisure.

This is being organised by Nicke and Mirko from Arcada’s Department of Culture and Communication, to whom I am extremely grateful.

The URL is and it is working now. If you go there you should see an image of the cover of the thesis. The stream will start broadcasting live at 12:00 noon on Friday August 28, Helsinki time.

Noon in Helsinki is currently 09:00 UTC/GMT, so you can convert to your local time zone from that. Don’t forget summer time though! The stream will begin at 10am in London, for example.

I hope you watch if you can’t attend, and I hope you attend if you can. My only fear is an empty hall!

Official Invitation from Aalto University

Dissertation in the field of art education: MA Owen Kelly
28.8.2015 at 12:00-15:00
Full details:

Location: Aalto University School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Media Centre Lume, Sampo-hall, Hämeentie 135 C.

MA Owen Kelly will defend his dissertation Ambient Learning and Self Authorship
PhD Bryan Alexander , National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education NITLE, will act as the Opponent.
Professor Kevin Tavin will act as the Custos.


MA Owen Kelly will defend his dissertation Ambient Learning and Self Authorship on Friday 28 August 2015 at noon in Aalto University, Media Centre Lume, Sampo hall, Hämeentie 135 C, Helsinki. PhD Bryan Alexander (National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education NITLE) will act as the Opponent. Professor Kevin Tavin will act as the Custos.

This thesis takes the form of an interdisciplinary examination of the relationship of so-called “virtual worlds” with reality, and the possible uses of such “worlds” as learning tools. To do this it unpeels the core question, layer by layer until we reach the fundamental question: when we talk about people learning, what exactly do we mean by “people”? From there it builds up a view of consciousness that strongly suggests that our relationship to the world is narrative; that we “are stories all the way down”; and that, once we understand this, we can begin to construct artistic tools to help people begin to co-author themselves.

The thesis has three parts. The first analyses eight years of empirical research. The second lays out a theoretical discussion that takes the empirical research as its starting point. The third draws conclusions from the discussion and offers a programme for the construction of creative tools for self authorship using a process of arts research.

The first part of the thesis offers an examination of the Marinetta Ombro project, a lengthy exercise in exploring a virtual culture, carried out by staff and students at Arcada, a university of applied science in Helsinki, Finland. Arcada’s experience in Second Life revealed much about the ways people think, feel and act inside synthetic worlds such as Second Life, and led the author to research the ways in which people live their lives as narrative.

The second part examines the implications of these findings with reference to the work of artists, neuro-scientists, philosophers, psychologists, sports coaches, and theologians. It looks at how we relate to the world, where our ideas come from, what “it is like to be” us; and concludes that, in contrast to our usual view of ourselves, we only imagine that we have a single, unified consciousness. It would be truer to say that we regularly make ourselves up.

In the third part of the thesis the author looks at how we can apply this knowledge socially and politically, in a world of ambient learning; and finally suggests what tools we might build to assist us in authoring our (social) selves.

About Owen Kelly

Owen Kelly is currently senior lecturer in online media at Arcada, a university of applied science in Helsinki, Finland. He has a B.A. (Hons) in English and Sociology from the University of Keele; and an M.A. in e-pedagogy Design from the University of Art & Design, Helsinki.

He thinks, writes, lectures and makes digital things; but not necessarily in that order.

He is the author of the books Community, Art and the State; Culture & Democracy (with John Lock and Karen Merkel); Digital Creativity; and The Creative Bits (with Eva Wojdat). He has also published numerous articles and book chapters, as well as self-publishing e-books including A Short History of the Tripartite Church, Should It Exist and Urban No-mind.

The dissertation will be published in August 21st by Aalto University. Order Aalto ARTS Books, information: