Friday, November 11, 2011

Artisic L'earners at Play in the Age of Networked Individualism

The artist is the man in any field, scientific or humanistic, who grasps the implications of his actions and of new knowledge in his own time. He is the man of integral awareness.  - Marshall McLuhan 

  Attempting the Allatonceness

 As this marks the end of the conference, my last entry attempts to synthesize the rhizome of ideas that have grown from McLuhan's work and apply them to education. He is most-often attributed a prophetic or oracular quality for having lucidly anticipated our current techno-social existence. His ideas on education clearly and almost exhaustively anticipated the current progressive educational agenda popularly known as "21st Century Learning Skills".

From Little Boxes to Glocalization to Networked Individualism.

Social networks have become increasingly complex. They are physical and digital webs of overlapping, intersecting and coextensive associations. Antonio Casilli and Barry Wellman explore the evolution and impact of social networks in today's society. Wellman describes an evolution in social networks that begins with the "little boxes" model of geographically determined communities, where socialization was of the door-to-door variety. Glocalized networks communicate in a place-to-place fashion and include both intense local communication, as well as a global reach. This is made possible by telephones and the Internet. Finally, we find ourselves in a phase of networked individualism, where wireless Internet combined with handheld devices create a person-to-person communication model. Individuals are members of dynamic networks that are decontextualized from any geographic setting.

The implication is that the individual can carry out any networked activity, be it social, work-related and, most pertinently, educational from any location. This allows for information to be produced, transmitted and accessed without spacial or geographic constraints. Alternately, it allows for a more meaningful interaction and exploration of geography, particularly urban spaces, revitalizing and possibly popularizing the psychogeographic movement. As mentioned in a previous entry, the city is an artform that is an extension of the human brain. To interact and explore the city, is to explore the mind. 

Shawn Micallef created a career for himself that combines art, the exploration of urban space and technology. Similarly, 22-year-old Rob Bliss is an urban experimentalist who leverages social media to create large scale urban events. Rob and Shawn have creatively invented careers for themselves that employ technology and art as a means to play with the urban canvass.  Both would also qualify as l'earners, a useful term coined by progressive trade unionist and McLuhanite, Marc Belanger.

Here Come the L'Earners

There has been a great deal of discussion about the advent of right-brain thinking as the key to future career success. As flows of information increase and mediums multiply, creativity, or the artistic mind-set will be most helpful in shaping and re-shaping the emergent world. McLuhan believed that the industrial revolution created a work-force that was fragmented by specialization. The specialized and repetitive actions of the worker, enslaved by the clock and chained to the workspace, amounted to a form of torture. As education exemplifies this system, it is no wonder students often look so tired, so pained and so at odds with their studies. McLuhan further speculates that in the age of electronic (digital) media, the whole person can be reclaimed. 

Rather than a job, individuals will assume roles that undertake many jobs, many tasks and many relationships. In line with the artist, the role will be total involvement. Shawn Micallef does not stop Tweeting, Blogging, or exploring at 5PM. Much like being a mother, it is a full-time, demanding, but willing commitment. Creativity must be enhanced, nurtured and kept abreast of recent developments with a program of life-long learning. Finally, as in all creative acts, there must be an element of play as information is gathered, probed, reconfigured and transmitted. How can success be measured? That will largely be a question of klout.

Preparing for the Playforce

This is a small an imperfect picture of the emergent playforce, but it begs the question: what do we do to prepare our unapostrophed learners for the roles that don't exist yet? We can draw from Marc Bellanger's McLuhan inspired artistic l'earning kit:

1) Break away from the restraint of step-by-step thinking and engage the whole environment, the acoustic space, admitting and playing with seemingly disconnected objects and ideas.
2) Practice pattern recognition by playing with data in a variety of ways.
3) Practice the art of the probe, or the exploratory, inciteful (insightful) statement
4) Undertake opportunities to explore figure/ground analysis.
5) Employing the tetrad (Retrieval, Enhancement, Obsolescence, Reversal) as a creative exploratory tool.
6) Minding the intervals or bridging; in other words, explore how two seemingly unrelated objects or situations can be relate to each other.

These practices are all open-ended, allowing for the emergence of unpredictable, creative outcomes. These are whetstones for the imaginations and kindling for the creative flame. Teachers who practice these methods or the like will find themselves transformed into the l'earners that they hope to perpetuate.

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