My degree is stupid

The first bunch of marks just came in, and I’m forced to conclude my degree is broken.

Theory side: The module this term was ‘Contemporary Photographic Practices’, which is pretty much what it sounds like, if you pretend it’s 1997. One of the guest lecturers actually puts his photos on the Internet, but only one, and I don’t think Flickr was mentioned once. It was all about photobooks and gallery spaces, which are the primary practices of contemporary wanky photography, and I didn’t feel anything at all. Last term’s module, with its focus on anti-scientific Freudian bullshit, annoyed me no end. But this one didn’t even get that far. Sure, I’d be interested in the lecture for 2 hours, but nothing followed me out of the room. I wasn’t all that interested, but there was still an essay to write.

So an essay I wrote. About Flickr. And it was woeful. I managed my time very badly this term, and knew it would come down to two weeks of crazy work+worry. At the same time my personal life had a few unexpectedly exciting turns, and the essay took the hit. I typed it in a day and a half, in my uncle’s flat in London, with barely any research. It should have been ‘critically informed’, and I found one appropriately highbrow article talking about Flickr (it was silly). I made up bullshit theories about gallery-wall-whitespace having parallels with Web 2.0 page layouts, with nothing to back me up. Most of my topics were stuff I remembered reading about online, and quickly googled to fill in the blanks. My references were all blogs and tech sites. I hit 2500 words without a problem, because it was – genuinely – a long blog post. It felt exactly the same as writing for this site, and I handed it in knowing my notoriously sarcastic head lecturer would rip me to shreds, but I didn’t care – I’d handed something in, and it should scrape a pass.

I got a first – 73. This can only be because I know how to structure an essay. There’s no other explanation: that essay went against everything we’ve been taught, and had hardly anything to do with the module! This isn’t me being modest when in fact it was secretly good – it was honestly appalling. In the end, it apparently all comes down to writing style. While this is good for me personally, it’s stupid. That shouldn’t be the point.

Practical side: We’ve only been given the marks for our workbooks, which are are worth ~25% of the final mark when combined with the photographs themselves. My workbook for the ‘Happy Humanists’ project was less than ideal. I can’t claim it was excellent. I can’t even, hand on heart, claim it was particularly good. But it was ok. It had research, written notes throughout the project etc.. The stuff you need. It was, however, a bit of a departure for me by being scrapbook-style. Notes and pictures were pritt-sticked in, and almost everything was hand-written. A similar-style workbook on a different project netted me 64 – a 2:1 – which was fine. Another, a 16-page typed report, got 63. No problem. I’m not great at workbooks, but they get by.

My Happy Humanists workbook scraped a pass: 43 – a low third. That’s enough to get me in trouble – anything below 50 and they’re worried about you. 43 is going to raise questions. I haven’t seen the detailed feedback yet, but it’s going to be damning. I have to hope the photographs themselves do ok and bump my mark up a bit.

But I’m still pissed off – it wasn’t that bad. Jesus. Somewhere in the 50s, sure, but 43? What the hell? Much as I hate to be this guy, I have to mention these are the teachers with whom I had the fairly exciting public disagreement about how much I cared about visual consistency. Plus, one gave me my only other <50 mark, in the first term of the first year – I’ve yet to drop below 60 with any other teacher. Clearly I’m doing something they don’t like.

Hell, maybe it’s deserved and I’m just annoyed at getting such a terrible mark. Maybe my judgment’s off and I need recalibrating. I don’t know. But right now, 43 feels ridiculous.

I’m not actually bothered about workbook scores, above and beyond their repurcussions for my university career. The marks for the photographs themselves are more interesting to me (although increasingly less so, but that’s another post) and I’ve yet to receive those. But these two marks are way, way off. Not impressed.