What’s in/on a cover?

Bristol University Press has asked me to send them some ideas for a possible cover image for my book. This has seen me looking through image banks for the last few days to try and find the perfect image and doing lots of brainstorming with Paul, my more creative half. Needless to say, the perfect image does not exist but it has got me thinking about what I want to say with my cover, what I want people to feel when they look at the book. The book’s title Creative Universities: Reimagining Education in an Age of Global Challenges can of course go in lots of different ways, so I thought I share some of my current ideas to see how they resonate with you, my fellow blog readers. If you need a reminder of what the book is about, the blog’s home page is a good place to start and has hyperlinks to chapter summaries.

From flowers to fractals

My image of the book has for a long time been the photo I myself took early on in the project, of wildflowers growing in front of the cracked concrete wall of a building on Sussex campus. For me, the photo encapsulates the idea of ‘let a thousand flowers bloom,’ of creative forces being able to change things that seem set in stone but are not, of growth, possibility, emergence. I still love this picture, although I am not sure if the quality would be good enough for a cover shot. Keeping with the theme of flowers, I also like daffodils, especially at this time of the year when they are the first sign of spring, hope, awakening, and because there is an unruliness to them, a resilience or courage (keep in mind that the book will be published this September though, if everything goes to plan). And they bring yellow happiness, just like sunflowers, which I also love. And sunflowers got me thinking about fractals.

What I like about the three images above is their organic shapes and bold beauty that also convey complexity. They are quite open-ended and thereby invite the viewer’s/reader’s imagination to project unto the image what they think creative universities or reimagining education could mean for them. I could imagine a cover with an image similar to the ones above that grabs people’s attention and intrigues them. But would it be too abstract, too vague? From there, the journey somehow led to architecture.

Being grounded

I like the first of the three images above because of its combination of fractals and blue sky thinking. The other two photos are from Sussex university, which is my academic location, the ground I stand on and write from as most of the examples in the book draw on my own and my colleagues’ teaching. As I wrote in a previous post, the university and its architecture have a particular history and these photos might evoke particular associations – of radicalness, modernism, access to university education – at least in UK audiences familiar with this context. But what about international readers or those who would not recognize the buildings? And where are the people, the students and staff who are a university much more than its buildings?

Old school

And then there is a last set of images that I came across on the image banks, of different messages written on blackboards. I like the old-school style of the chalk and blackboard, combined with the messages that speak to some of the things I am writing about, such as the importance of unlearning. In this day and age, where many books about education will probably be about what Sussex calls ‘the digital pivot,’ would a cover that has an image like this stand out or feel completely anachronistic? My book is not about the shift to online learning, although I am reflecting on the impact of COVID in most of my chapters.

So, four very different sets of images. You can clearly see why I need some help here, so if any of these images resonate with or speak to you, please let me know. If you think any of them would absolutely not work, definitely let me know. My editor and I are looking forward to your thoughts!

Universities – there is another way

At this time of year, these ubiquitous clusters of yellow remind me not only to be optimistic that spring will come but also of the power of re-emergence

One of the joys of this project has been to find the work of other academics and practitioners who are working in the creative and alternative education space. I just discovered the research of Keri Facer, who has the fascinating title of Professor of Educational and Social Futures at Bristol University. In this post from her own blog, Educated Optimism, Facer writes about several alternative educational initiatives, ranging from Unitierra, an autonomous university in Oaxaca, Mexico, to the Red Crow College in Canada, that are showing how universities could be transformed. Although having grown up in East Germany I slightly disagree with her about the alternatives provided by the Soviet Union, the initiatives she writes about are important sources of inspiration. I would also add the Enlivened Learning project, where two former academics working in anthropology and international development, my home disciplines, spent a year traveling the world to learn about alternative higher education initiatives and places. I hope you enjoy reading these kindred posts as much as I do.

Educated Optimism

Growing up in the UK in the 80s under Thatcherism, an era of strikes, hostility, growing inequality and racism – not to mention stone washed denim and dodgy perms – the Soviet Union played an important role in the imagination. It was a land where things were different, it was a whole chunk of the world where society, economy, culture were organised in a completely different way.  It opened up an imaginative space, a little crack in the perception of the world that encouraged you to think that what you were living with wasn’t necessarily what you were stuck with.

We need that crack in the imagination today in relation to our universities. We need to know that there are other foundations upon which education can be built, and other forms that it might take. Such a crack exists and is growing.

A couple of years ago, the Ecoversities network…

View original post 624 more words