Written by Sonja van Kerkhoff

Copyrighted: ask my permission first if you wish to use anything I've written unless you source where this comes from and it is clear that what you've used is an excerpt.
None of my images may be used without my explicit permission.

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My own work

Papers | Essays | Notes

  • paper: An Exploration of a Diversity of Vision in Digital Art Projects in Relation to Issues of Engagement 12 page pdf), 2009, presented at the 5th European Symposium on Gender & ICT, Digital Cultures: Participation - Empowerment - Diversity,
    March 2009, University of Bremen, Germany

    An adaption of part of my masters thesis, "Engaging Media: issues of engagement in digital media art projects"
    "Contemporary digital art projects are often dominated by an emphasis on the technology. What is striking is the uncritical approach taken towards the use of much of this technology in contemporary art projects. There is also the idea that interactivity and reflection interfere with each other, which seems to follow on from the idea that a medium is either invisible (like a mirror of 'reality') or mediated. The assumption is that it can't be both or that as participants we cannot multi-task or switch between modes of reception.
    Artists and theorists in digital media also tend to focus on the technological, ignoring the role of reception. In terms of making the works, technological requirements are distinctive, but we do not discuss literature in terms of the technical requirements and potential of the printing press, but from the point of view of the reader. My position is that any art form is primarily a question of achieving engagement..."

  • presentation: Touching Media: issues of engagement in digital media art projects vs literature and film (pdf), 2008, presented at the minisymposium, Issues of Engagement, 11 September 2008, University of Leiden,
    organized by Sonja van Kerkhoff, Kirsten Korevenaar + Alex Reuneker.

    It was a 20 minute adaption of part of my masters thesis, "Engaging Media: issues of engagement in digital media art projects"
    "Experience without emotion is like a day without weather. Emotions are the very stuff of what it means to experience the world."
  • masters thesis: Engaging Media: issues of engagement in digital media art projects (900kb, 27page pdf), 2008, Media Technology, LIACS, University of Leiden, The Netherlands
    supervisors: Dr. Michael S. Lew, LIACS Media Lab, Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Science, Leiden University, The Netherlands. www.liacs.nl
    Dr. Sarah Kettley, Nottingham Trent University (School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment), U. K.
    Abstract This paper explores how engagement, the sense of feeling immersed in or consumed by a medium, is mediated in digital projects and whether this is significantly different to other media such as film or literature. The user's immediate experiential engagement with the digital environment is also related to social engagement in general. The paper takes a number of theoretical and methodological approaches in analyzing particular digital media projects, drawn from research and theories in fields as diverse as culture studies, philosophy, psychology, literature, art history and media studies, and draws particularly on discourse analysis. This exploration is intended to yield both theoretical and practical benefits. A theoretical benefit could be in developing diverse paradigms for reading digital media or narrative in general, which in turn could contribute to new practical applications by developers, artists and designers. In more practical terms, such an approach to new media applications could lead to a design process that does not end with the user but also includes a social dimension. My reading and analysis, and my own experience, show that realism and interactivity are not sufficient in themselves to achieve engagement, and support the hypothesis that socially charged content can be a significant factor in engagement. The effect of charged content is tested using an online questionnaire: an analysis of the results is included.

    Excerpt 2. Methodology
    In discussing the examples in relation to issues of engagment my approach is influenced more by a qualitative than a quantitative analysis of data because I am interested in exploring creative uses of digital media for new insights into the nature of engagement as a phenomenon rather than to prove or disprove a theory. Discourse analysis is the methodology which most influenced my approach: one strand of this emphasizes analysing narrative styles and another strand focuses on content "as deeply embedded in a variety of social and discursive practices". Even though discourse analysis can be criticized for its subjectivity, I would argue that research such as that by the cultural theorist John Fiske (1987) (cited in Giles, 2003, p. 44) in his analysis of extreme close-ups in a television detective show, where he argued that the invasion of personal space conveyed intimacy or hostility depending on the context, is useful for a qualitative analysis of how a medium achieves effect.

  • online experiment: What Do You See in a Face (webpage), 2008
    I created an online experiment to test a hypothesis concerning engagement.
    The results of this are in section 4 of my masters thesis paper but this is presented in more detail on this webpage.

  • A Picnic Sampler (article), 2008
    I was one of 25 researchers who gave presentations at The Enquiring Minds : New Media Researchers @ Picnic session (www.picnic.org). My article, A Picnic Sampler, is also on this blog with links here.

  • paper: Making Communities -a survey on the use of web media to foster community experience (pdf), 2008
    Paper for the course: "The contemporary explosion of today's European Festivals,
    Department of Performing Arts, Leiden University, given by Dragan Klaic (theatre scholar and cultural analyst).
    "A major difference between a festival and a series of performances is the experience of community created by the exchanges between the visitors and often between the visitors and the artists. Increasingly websites are becoming significant aspects of festival presentation or programming. Festival websites could also contribute towards the development of the relevant artistic community and of the art form itself by providing a platform for artists to contribute not only to the physical festival but also to the future development of the particular art form..."

  • essay:A State of the art of bio-art (pdf), 2008, for an honours course, The Art and Genomics Centre, University of Leiden.
    Lecturer: Jennifer Willet (Concordia University, Canada).

    It introduces some issues related to the current practise of bio-art.
    "For the purpose of this paper, I am defining Bio-Art as an art practice in which the medium is living matter that has been cultured or grown or produced in some way by the artist. ..."

  • presentation notes: Spivak + Kabakov (pdf), 2008, for a presentation for the master's level course Methodological concepts in Literature and Art (Prof.dr. Kitty Zijlmans (Art History), Dr. Peter Verstraten (Literary Studies)).

    This material accompanied a presentation: it begins with some biographical notes on the literary critic and theorist, Gayatri Spivak and then uses her approach to interprete a few Ilya Kabakov installations, followed by a critique on Ilya Kabakov's use of the word "in" in his text titled 'In the Installation.'

  • essay: Some thoughts on the differences between new media and print or cinema, in response to Lev Manovich’s list of five principles for characterizing new media (pdf) , 2007
    Essay for the course Paragone, Department of Literature, University of Leiden, The Netherlands. (dr. Yasco Horsman)

  • paper: Through Other Eyes (pdf), 2007
    Paper for a responsive web imaging assignment for a Masters of Media Technology, University of Leiden.
    Lecturer: Joost Rekveld.

  • presentation images: Presentation for a course on Artificial Intelligence (pdf), 2007
    I gave a summary of some points Stefan Agamanolis makes on the design of interactive systems. This presentation of a thesis was one part of this course, the other part being a practical application of an AI gadget which is here

  • essay: Time in a cartoon, 2007
    short essay for the course Paragone, Department of Literature, University of Leiden, The Netherlands.
    "...in the world of comics time and space are one and the same."

  • paper: The Experience of Change, 2006
    for a presentation of an interactive artwork influenced by the I Ching canon, for the course Making Art of Databases research group, Department of Image and Sound, Hague Conservatory, The Hague, The Netherlands. (with: Crit Cremers (Linguistics Dept. University of Leiden), Jan Peter van der Wenden and Joel Ryan (Dept of Image + Sound))

    The aim was to create an artwork in groups of 4 or 5 individuals. >> Interact with the artwork here

  • paper: What's in a Name (pdf), 2006, written by Sonja van Kerkhoff with data collected by Ning Shan for a "Creative Research" course as part of a masters in Media Technology, Leiden University.
    An outline on the background of family names is China presented, followed by some points on the demography of Beijing which also gives some general impressions about employment there. This can only be superficial because the main thrust of this course is on creative research as a topic in itself: the details of a particular society are not at issue. This is followed by a discussion of the data collected by Ning Shan. The data is divided into 7 job categories and 11 categories of family names. 1111 names were collected, showing in general that surnames derived from the names of provinces and cities show correlations with the job categories. Finally the paper finishes with some general thoughts and problems on the topic of creative research in relation to writing a scientific paper in 3 weeks.

Art Reviews

Presentations | Articles

  • Art and a Memory of Water
    A discussion of a few artworks from Botticelli to contemporary art in which water is memorialized.
    This is an elaboration of a presentation given for the 2013 Waterwheel Water Day Symposium on March 22nd, 2013

  • Art is a Creative Process -slide presentation, some aspects from the Bahá´í Writings, 2004

  • Rewriting the Script a short photo-essay about gender and the Bahá´í Teachings, 2000

  • The arts in an optimal society, a slide presentation given at the Association Bahá´í Studies Conference: Models for an Optimal Society, Waikato University, Hamilton, July, 2000

  • A song outside my window, and the traffic wrote the words, image-essay on the theme of 'silence'.

  • More than the eye sees, 1999
    My contribution to the materie/mysterie (materiality/mystery) exhibition, where 4 wrote texts and 6 made installations on this theme in the DeFKa exhibition space, Assen, The Netherlands.

  • Talk About Art As A Creative Process, 1996
    A slide presentation read on my behalf at: the English Speaking European Bahá´í conference, Cambridge, U.K., 1997 the Australian Bahá´í Studies conference on the theme: "The Creative Inspiration", Melbourne, 1999.

  • Gendered categories, 1995
    A multi-media presentation for the English Speaking European Bahá´í Studies special interest "Gender" conference, Newcastle upon Tyne, U.K.

  • Feminism as a means towards diversity, 1994, -short essay

  • A perspective on the Bahá´í Faith and the Arts, 1994, I was asked to write a Bahá´í view on the arts and this is what I came up with. All comments, criticism, insights and more information or quotations are welcome.

  • In a New Zealand Landscape (expressions of culture through the visual arts), 1988
    A slide presentation given at the New Zealand Association Bahá´í Studies Conference, near Christchurch.

  • New Vessels, 1988, About a series of images for a poem by Sen McGlinn (Printed in Herald of the South, Australia, April-June 1990).

  • If there is no link, it means that I have not put the text up yet.


  These are on the Arts Dialogue site.

  • Mahinaarangi Tocker, singer, songwriter, poet, Aotearoa / New Zealand, 2003.
  • Sandy Hoover, music producer, musician, U.S.A. + U.K., Arts Dialogue, October 2001
  • Alí Allié, filmmaker, U.S.A., Arts Dialogue, June 2001
  • Murk Jiskoot, percussionist, The Netherlands, Arts Dialogue, September 1999
  • Ben Roberts, actor, U.S.A., Arts Dialogue, June 1999
  • Miep Diekmann, writer, The Netherlands, Arts Dialogue, Dec 1997, March 1998, September 1999
  • Anna J. van Stuijvenberg, visual artist, The Netherlands, Arts Dialogue, September 1998

Artwork arranged by medium    Sonja's c.v.    Sonja's Design page    The Guided Tour - Click on images