Category Archives: Creativity

Raspberry Pi launched

Today the low cost, credit card sized computer Raspberry Pi was launched with the prime purpose of encouraging young adults and children to learn computer programming. This has been an area sadly lacking in UK schools since the demise of the BBC Micro Computer in 1994. The initial cost of the computer is just  £22 ($35) and runs on open-source operating system Linux.

At the moment it’s just a board (below) weighing about 45g that can be plugged into a TV and a keyboard. But it potentially marks a turning point when children and young adults are given something more exciting and challenging than building PowerPoint presentations in their ICT class. This is a generation adept at playing sophisticated online computer games. How uninspiring it must be to “power down” their brains and work on a spreadsheet or a powerpoint in the classroom.

But it’s more than this, it is about understanding the workings of technology both technically and critically, often referred to as digital literacy. Recently I had a discussion with a friend about the need to put digital literacy education on a par with other forms of literacy like the reading, writing and maths. He disagreed and, using the car analogy, said that you don’t need to know the technical workings of a car to drive it – that’s what mechanics are for. At first this seemed to me like an inapplicable comparison. Nevertheless, after refection, I could see that, in a way, it proves my point on two different levels. It’s an interesting analogy because one can drive a car without knowing it’s workings (other than knowing when to fill it with fuel!). Most people do. But knowledge obviously helps if the car develops a fault. However, to point out the other side of this analogy, you would not think it wise to drive a car without becoming proficient at driving it as this could be physically dangerous to you and other people.

A similar comparison can be made for the digital world. Of course the danger of using the internet may not be physical but knowing what happens if you open an email with a virus or even what to do if you are a victim of “trolling” may be of some benefit to your mental health. This knowledge could be on an even more banal level like knowing what happens to your data when you type a query into Google. As with the car analogy there could be said to be two levels of digital literacy in this case. Firstly, educating young people in the necessary skills to develop critical judgements and understanding of how the digital world functions seems sensible (the learning to drive bit) so that they can use the Internet confidently and analytically. And secondly, access at an early age to learning the basics of programming is an advantage because then they will have an understanding of the technical structure of the Internet (the technical workings bit) and be able to make, adapt and customise things for themselves. This adds a creative element too.

This is one of the many reasons why the release of Raspberry Pi is so crucial to the latter. Learning basic programming at an early age will make it seem a natural, basic and potentially enjoyable activity. Last year, at his MacTaggart lecture, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt criticised the UK education system by saying that he was “flabbergasted to learn that computer science is not taught as standard in UK schools” He went on to say this also ignored the legacy given to us by pioneering UK computer scientists like Alan Turing. Here’s a link to a post I wrote at the time.

In my experience computer/video games courses, at the few schools and colleges that run them, are the courses that fill up straight away because the students are passionate about gaming. It would seem a perfect time to start the process of educating our childen and young adults in the art of programming not just for their own benefit and education but to stop us lagging behind other more technologically ambitious and savvy nations that have had computer science programming on there curriculum for many years. Raspberry Pi is the perfect starting point.

Below Robert Mullins, co-founder of Raspberry Pi Foundation, is interviewed by Harriet Green about how and why Raspberry Pi was created.

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’308′ type=’video’]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Gky68aE578[/pro-player]

 

Transcription time!

So we’re well into 2012 and I’ve been busy transcribing my interviews since before Christmas along with arranging the last phase of interview participants. Transcribing is a slow and laborious process. I’ve tried plenty of transcription software which managed to recognise words in the recordings (although often not the correct ones) but the real problem was that the words didn’t make any sense when put in sentences! Pretty useless really. It’s what you’d imagine using William Burroughs book writing software would look like. I could use a commercial transcription service to produce them for me but, apart for the fact that it costs money, I don’t think this is a good way of getting a rich understanding of the text. If you transcribe the interviews yourself it enables a greater understand of the themes that are developing within the data. It’s very time-consuming but necessary… I think.

On Monday I conducted an interview Peter Oakley who is well known for his YouTube channel geriatric 1927. He’s been broadcasting his thoughts through self-recorded online videos since 2006 and he regularly gets over 1600 hits for every video he posts. Pretty impressive. He’s a warm, easy-going and very approachable man who’s in the 9th decade of his life and still extremely alert and on the ball. It was a pleasure and a privilege to interview him. He gave me permission to mention him on this blog and to embed one of his videos.

After the interview we compared notes on our experiences of Art Foundation courses and going to Art College in different times and at different ages. Like Peter, my Art Foundation course was one of the most enjoyable and creative periods of my life. Anyway, here is Peter describing his thoughts and the experiences of his art education in one of his videos.

Higher Education Academy Art, Design, Media Creative Learning and Teaching Day

Last Thursday I went to the HEA Art, Design, Media Creative Learning and Teaching Day at Ravensbourne.  This was a well attended event that was the first chance to get involved in wider discussions about government polices and the forthcoming education cuts and rise in student fees. But it was also a chance to see the sort of initiatives taken by individuals and higher education institutions in art, design, media creative learning. A brief overview of the event can be seen in the following video.

 

[pro-player image=http://www.timrileydigital.com/phddiary/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/HEA_logo.jpg width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33503530[/pro-player]

 

The early morning keynote presentation was given by former NUS President, Aaron Porter, who is now a freelance journalist & higher education consultant. His presentation (below) used statistical data to analyse and show the current state of HE and then to present the (mainly) negatives and positives of the proposed changes to education funding.

 

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33684129[/pro-player]

 

There were many parallel sessions through out the day so it was impossible to see all the presentations but one notable and memorable presentation that I managed to see was by James Corazzo, Senior Lecturer in Graphic Design, University of Derby, who put forward the rather provocative statement “Sometimes the best teaching is no teaching at all”. Although on the surface this could be seen as self-defeating James showed that empowering students to use their initiative could be very creatively productive. It reminded me of the ideas of the American adult educator, Malcolm Knowles, in the 1970s and his ideas of self-directed learning that he called ‘andragogy’.

The day’s conference culminated in a keynote presentation by Pro-Vice-Chancellor of  University of Brighton, Professor Bruce Brown who gave a speech that followed the history of creativity and learning from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. (below).

 

[pro-player width=’465′ height=’291′ type=’video’]http://vimeo.com/33489589[/pro-player]

Application to Transfer Interview

Yesterday I had my application to transfer interview. The interview as one would expect was quite tough and a couple of the questions were difficult to answer. The interview started with a review of the parts of my research that worked well but as this was more concerned with critical aspects of the research these were not discussed.

Much was made of a need to be more explicit with my conceptual framework with my regards to my use of motivation within the research. However, the theory and concepts relating to creativity, generations and literacy were judged to be more clearly argued. About half an hour after the interview I was called to be told that the panel had recommended that I transfer to PhD status. This was more of a relief than an celebration.

However I did go out last night. I’d  already got tickets to see my favourite band, The Fall, (left) at the indigO2, a few months back.  This helped take my mind off the events of the interview, although I have slightly wooly head this morning!

Anyway now I can get back to progressing forward with my research without the worry of having to re-apply in the summer.

Teaching WordPress at Ravensbourne

I’ve been using WordPress since my MA in 2007. It had nothing to do with my studies apart from the fact that it was open-source software and a subject I was covering in one of the modules. I was intrigued to know more about it. I’ve since built and worked on about 10 sites and used it as part of the case study for the Social Media book chapter I’ve just completed. Indeed this diary uses WordPress. It’s so customisable and can be used, amongst other things, to collaborate online and as a content management system. It’s a good example of a data mashup in that it takes data from many different sources and integrates it one site.

It is now being used widely at Ravensbourne College as a way of getting content creation students quickly up and running and using a website to collaborate and create content as a team. This gives them the opportunity to get going, creating content without the need to spend weeks designing and coding a website. Over the last three days I’ve been teaching first year students how to use it. But first I gave them two lectures. The first was an introduction to the Internet and Web and the definitions and practices of Web 2.0. It’s surprising how many don’t know the difference between the Internet and the Web. The second (below) is intended as a bit of background before using WordPress. It describes open-source software and gives examples and definitions.

I spent three days with them and generally there was a very positive response to the use of it.

Content is the Fuel of the Social Web

I’ve finished re-writing and updating my literature review which is now around 20,000 words. It covers a wide range of subjects including digital content creation and user-generated content, new technology and user agency, generations and technology, virtual/online communities, computer-mediated identity and digital literacy.

Just as I was finishing I found this slide show which gives some data from December 2010 concerned with the widespread use of content on the web (although I’ve not included any of this data in my lit. review). It’s orientated towards marketing, as much of social media is nowadays, but gives some useful quantitative research findings.

There’s also a web page called ‘State of the Internet Now’ which shows data from social network sites.

State of the Internet 2011
Created by: OnlineSchools.org

Re-starting the interviews 13 – 15

A couple of weeks ago I was introduced to an artist, Adam Justice-Mills, at an open-day in East Finchley. He told me about a project he was organising involving two Artists’ Open House Weekends in the first two weeks of July. This consisted of 50 artists from around the area opening up their houses so the public can view their art. This saves on renting space and gives the viewer the chance to see the art in a natural environment.

On Saturday I intended on visiting five houses but stayed at the first due to the willingness of two artists to let me interview them about how they use the web to create and share content. On the Sunday I managed to walk to five venues and arranged an interview for the following day.

What are really excellent idea this is. It’s community based and just a really relaxing and enjoyable activity for a summer’s weekend.

Everything is a Remix Part 3

I recently found this video which continues much of the content in my Remix Culture lecture earlier this year.

In it the film maker Kirby Ferguson argues that the basic elements of creativity are to: copy, transform, and combine. He cites Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press, Henry Ford and The Ford Motor Company and Tim Berners-Lee and the World Wide Web as all possessing elements and components that have already been in existence, which helped make their technological breakthroughs possible. Ferguson argues; “nobody starts out original. We need copying to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding”.

What follows this is an interesting examination of the rise of Apple computers via previous computer innovations from Xerox and Alto.

[vimeo 25380454 460 345]

You can watch the other two in the series here.

 

Creativity and Remix Culture Lecture

Yesterday, I gave my lecture on ‘Creativity and Remix Culture’ as the final lecture on the Creativity module. I used a lot of music examples to add some variety and to slow down the pace in-between the different stages of the presentation. Using music in this context was valid as artists such as Grandmaster Flash and Danger Mouse revolutionised how music is remixed. As for remixing on the web the Google Chrome and Arcade Fire project ‘The Wilderness Downtown‘ shows how current web technology can mashup content to create a truly immersive and emotive experience. The lecture was well received by the students but this may have been more to do with the content and subject matter than the lecturer.

And here is the RiP – A Remix Manifesto – Trailer that’s linked to in the presentation.

[youtube 9oar9glUCL0 460 277]



“Kill Your Theoretical Darlings”

Over the last few weeks I’ve been grappling with issues that have risen over the summer. These need resolving before I can move on to the empirical research of my project. They are namely  the use of the words ‘creativity’ and ‘collaboration’ in the title of my research. I’m also finding that my reading in the area of ‘generational theory’ is posing many contradictory issues.

The title of this post paraphrases one of Nico Carpentier common expressions describing the need for radical revision. After careful thought and with consultation with my supervisors I have ‘killed’ the use of ‘creativity’ and replaced it with ‘digital content creation’. I’ve also lost the element of ‘collaboration’ and replaced the use of the word ‘generation’ with the phrase ‘3 age groups of…’. I’ve made an overhaul of my methodology by simplifying the stages to reflect the theoretical changes.

This changes the emphasis of my project but I think it gets closer to my original idea and definition. I think the three main ideas and themes in this are the use of (3) different life-stage, creating and sharing digital content and digital literacy. I’m hoping this refinement gives a bit more clarity.

I met with both my supervisors separately this week and my changes were met with a positive response. I met David Gauntlett at Policy Studies Institute where he was giving a talk on his new book Making is Connecting. He’s very kindly given me a pre-publication copy to read. I’m about half way through and enjoying it immensely. He argues that “through making things, online or offline, we make connections with others and increase our engagement with the world”. It’ll be published in spring 2011.