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Reflecting on H818: The Open Studio

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 21 Oct 2014, 08:06

I'm getting a sense of deja vu as the rhythm of this module reveals itself.

Openness comes with some caveats. It is not everyone's cup of tea.

As people we may change or behaviour in different environments.

I am not saying that we as individuals necessarily behave in the same way in an Open Studio online (a virtual studio no less) than we do or would in an open studio, as in a collective in a workshop or 'atelier' that is 'exposed' to fellow artists -  but is nonetheless human interaction with all the usual undercurrents.

What I believe will not work is to put a gaggle of creators in the same room and expect them to collaborate.

The studios of the 'open' type that I am aware of are either the classic Renaissance workshop with a master artist and apprentices at various stages of their own development, or,  with a similar dynamic in operation, the 'occupants' of the studio are exposed LESS to each other and more to external commentators and contributors and this requires some formality to it .i.e. not simply 'the person off the street' but an educator/moderator in their own right.

Is H818:The Networked Practitioner too dependent on chance?

The foibles of a small cohort and the complex, messy, moments 'we' are in. Three years of this and, by chance only, surely, six of  us in a subgroup jelled. More often the silence and inactivity of the majority makes 'group work' a myth - partnerships of two or three were more likely. The only exception I have come across in the 'real world' have been actors working together on an improvisation - they have been trained however to disassociate their natural behaviours.

Some of us study with the OU as we cringe at the 'exposure' of a course that requires us to meet in the flesh - distance learning suits, to some degree, the lone worker who prefers isolation.

By way of revealing contrast I am a mentor at the School of Communication Arts

Modest though pivotal role given their format and philosophy - exposure to many hundreds of kindred spirits who have been there ...  a sounding board and catalyst. NOT a contributor, but more an enabler. 

We'll see. My thinking is that to be effective, collaboration or exposure needs to have structure and formality in order to work.

At the Brighton Arts Festival the other evening I wonder how the 80 odd exhibitors would cope if the Corn Exchange was also their workshop?

In certain, vulnerable environments, the only comment should be praise. Feedback is invited from those who are trusted.

A school setting is different again, as is college ... people share the same space because they have to.

Open Studio apears to try to coral the feedback that comes anyway from a connected, popular and massive sites such as WordPress, Linkedin Groups, Facebook and even Amazon. Though the exposure, if you permit it, is tempered and negotiated - Facebook is gentle amongst family and friends, Linkedin is meterd and professional in a corporate way, Wordpress is homespun while Amazon, probably due to the smell of money can be catty - and in any case, the artefact is a doneddeal, it's not as if, to take a current example, Max Hastings is going to rewrite his book on the First World War because some in the academic community say that it is weak historicaly and strong on journalistic anecdote.

We'll see.

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Exposure or participation?

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Mar 2012, 16:30


The idea of and value of 'exposure' has been debated since the early days of blogging.

I could call up entries from my blog in 2001/2002.

The feeling, amongst those of us who felt like blogging pioneers, was that by opening up we shared our common humanity and in many respects become less lonely souls as a result (not that I didn't need additional companionship being happily married to my soul mate with two small children at the time!). The press picked this up as scandalous and novel.

This kind of blog is a genre in its own right amongst the thousands of genres on 120 million + blogs.

I question any need for us learners to 'open up' in this respect. Indeed for most of the last module I 'hid'behind an image of an MRI scan (something I might return to). I see no need to reveal who I am, my face, age or gender. In this environment what counts (or can be discounted) are these words.

In terms of our relationship with the tutor, I would expect in a Summer School, or if attending the Oxbridge style one-to-one Tutorial, that a relationship could/might form.

Indeed, attending by father-in-law's 70th and then 80th and even his 85th I've been impressed by the 100s of former students who turn up. Some guy.

I don't think (their names already escape me) want me as a friend, or a friend for life ... though as a colleague for sure.


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H800:8 Activity 2 Reflection on Day One, Week One!

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 18 Oct 2014, 16:04

H800:8 Activity 2

Rather than a stiff, post-graduate and academic tone and choice of words I found the introduction to H800 engagingly informal and personable with everything covered: the practicalities as well as emotional response the task ahead. I find this a significant shift from H807 which had little introduction and was presented more like a piece of self-managed distance learning – you’ve signed up, here’s the door, enter and begin. I wonder if this is a sign that the OU is following the trend towards more informal learning practice?

I find it odd the way I now comprehend and relate to something that is said because I’ve experienced it, whereas before it would have registered simply as something I’m yet to do. All I’m talking about here is Elluminate or Skype, talking one to one or in a group to people whose personalities and interests you may only have some hint of from what they say and how they say it (and how often, and when). We reveal so much in our voices; our humour, mood, age, gender, where we grew up in our formative years (or not, which says something too). As someone who has for many years taken an interest in character and how it is revealed by these things I cannot help but think that I am taking part in some online improvisation.

By doing, we normalise it.

Speaking to people via the Internet is just a four/five or six-way conference call … with, synchronised computer diddling. The other week I met people I had only ‘met’ through the OU Blog which demystified and normalised the process (about time too). Blogging from 1999 it felt weird to find yourself hearing a person you’d spoken to for years, or to see them as they are rather than how you had them in your mind’s eye. Which in part explains my continued us of an MR scan rather than a mug shot (though there are plenty of these scattered through my OU blog). This was in part informed by some research on role play in online learning.

On reaching the end of H807 I felt I wanted to do it all again, that I’d missed a great deal, at times en missed the point.

On settling into H808 I found that what I needed to repeat was the way to work collaboratively online and to make some choice tools sing; this happened, so I got those parts of H807 I need over again. Entering H800 I look at any hint of repetition in a positive way, as a chance to pick it up again, engage a bit more, understand a bit more, perhaps even to take the initiative, and most certainly to guide or propose ways forward for others. The shocking thing is to feel that this is not the same person at the keyboard who was here a year ago. I have fire in my belly, a sensation that was my motivation in my teens, twenties and thirties. Where this will take me is another matter!

How people learn remains my fascination; the better I understand this, the better I will be able to apply it. This is primarily an intrinsic motivation – I find it extraordinarily rewarding to find ways to help people be the best that they can be, to create opportunities, to point them in the right direction or to offer support myself as a non expert tutor, or on a few topics as a subject matter expert myself. The short term reward is their progress; if I am paid to do this because I do it well, this is a bonus and would and in part does, allow me to be better, and more comfortable at it still. Even a roof over one’s head, food, the means to get around, the means to get online and bills paid is an achievement in the 21st century.

2) The MA is letters after my name (my second), so the cumulative benefit of the MAODE is the confidence, supported by the work undertaken to take on contracts, or to transition from agency work into working in-house.

My relationship to fellow students, as with a team in the real world, is far more one of contributing, sharing and experiencing this together.

Personal Development Planning came to the fore in H808; from this I recognise my need here to take the lead as someone who is on his third, not his first module. Already I hear myself thinking about how collaborative exercises have over the last 12 months either failed or succeeded. Someone has to take the lead, though this can and should be a ‘baton’ that is passed between those who during that period are most available to keep the kettle boiling, or the ball rolling to mix metaphors and trip myself up in the process!

I already use external blogs and forums extensively, something that has developed over the last 12 months.

I also feel that I participate actively online with a number of communities. Increasingly, as I would have hoped I am being proactive, setting up forum threads, leading interest in a community blog, even presenting potential projects to sponsors … and having a high profile job interview.

3) Therefore, the outcome for me in H800 is either to have a professional e-learning project financed and in production, or to be contributing to the learning and development needs of a global enterprise on contract or as an employee.

4) I hope I will start getting some of the IT basics right. To feel comfortable online with the fundamental tools of receiving and creating content.

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