Speaker: Professor Ross W. Prior
Date: 19th March 2019
Location: Chancellor's Hall
Watch video interview with Ross Prior about the lecture here
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With growing concern over the rise in mental health issues, particularly amongst the young, researchers and organisations across the globe are searching for causes of this alarming phenomenon. One of the most frequently agreed reasons is the pressure that the digital age is exerting upon its users. Undoubtedly Post-Millennials, otherwise known as Generation Z, or the iGen, have a range of new pressures unknown to previous generations when growing up. Although it cannot be claimed that life is necessarily more difficult for the Post-Millennials than previous generations, there are new pressures that seem to be developing as a result of the digital age.
The easy and prolific use of the smartphone, social media and YouTube fuel people’s desire to be recognised, validated and liked. Increasingly it is the norm for young people to engage in online performative behaviours of various types. In feeding individual egos the digital age puts into peril many of the values that were once considered part of ‘polite and decent’ society and exposes the vulnerable in new ways. In the short-term, many experts are now asking us to control our digital addictions, to actively switch off and have a ‘digital detox’. Whilst this plea challenges the uncomfortable extent of our digital addictions, it fails to offer sustainable solutions for improving mental wellbeing.
One solution offered in this address is the use of art, that is all of the arts, to capitalise on art’s healing properties. Art offers solutions in the development of young people and can be used within educational settings, not least higher education. The philosophy of this working is encapsulated in the term communitas – simply defined as ‘inspired fellowship’. The fundamental importance to human personal, spiritual and social wellbeing is most purely evidenced in a group’s pleasure in sharing common experiences, being ‘in the zone’ – the sense felt by a group when their life together takes on full meaning. Moments of purpose and elation can be entirely spontaneous and communitas is a group’s pleasure in sharing common experiences with one’s fellows. Integrating arts practices offers considerable potential.
Ross W. Prior is Professor of Learning and Teaching in the Arts in Higher Education at the University of Wolverhampton. He is best known for his pioneering book Teaching Actors: Knowledge Transfer In Actor Training (Intellect and University of Chicago Press) and his work in applied arts and health as principal editor of the Journal of Applied Arts and Health, which he established in 2009. He has a record of research surrounding learning and teaching within a range of educational and training settings. He is a member of the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Peer Review College, a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), Member of the Australian College of Educators (MACE) and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA). He is also Chairman of the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, which runs ten museums and manages 35 historic sites within the UNESCO World Heritage area of the Ironbridge Gorge, widely considered as the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. His latest book is Using Art As Research In Learning And Teaching: Multidisciplinary Approaches Across The Arts (Intellect and University of Chicago Press).