Archive for January, 2012

The Social Artist – What is liberal arts?

Posted in eci831, MAIS, Online with tags , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by onepercentyellow

The question, “What is a liberal arts university?” is a little like asking someone to describe post-modernism. Often people know more what it feels like and looks like rather than exactly what it is. A description involves questions of the value and purpose of a post-secondary education, and, as such, becomes a rather self-revealing political statement, rather than a detached list of descriptors. Individuals are involved in the telling of liberal arts stories, and perhaps this passion is the most revealing of all.

In this second video of the Social Artist, we discuss the makings of a liberal arts university in general. For me, this video has been created alongside readings in the theory of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) for my MAIS 638 course with Dr. Carolyn Redl. As a part of CDA not only am I considering the responses to the question, “What is a liberal arts university?” but this new theoretical background has me pondering the context each person inhabits in the liberal arts system and how that has influenced their responses. What’s more, I am reflecting on how my role as editor is manipulating the recordings to speak back to the audience in an abridged, entertaining and engaging format. I find it fascinating that in many ways, my own voice is populated by a series of clips of the voices of my interview subjects.

I have also been contemplating my goals in creating these videos. I want the story I am portraying to encourage people to take up their own conversations on liberal arts and online learning. From this perspective, I wonder how the individuals interviewed view the responses of their colleagues. From the social artist perspective, I wonder how presenting an audience’s words back to them influences levels of interest, involvement and buy-in on a project.

These ponderings are simply questions I have come up with along the process of creating the videos. I hope to share more of my reflections on the creation of the videos and the OLI process in this space. In the meantime, enjoy the show!


The Social Artist

Posted in eci831 with tags , , , , , on January 4, 2012 by onepercentyellow

In June of this year I returned from my world travels to my undergraduate university, the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta in order to volunteer at the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges (COPLAC) annual general meeting.  I simply couldn’t miss the opportunity to connect with people who may be able to help in my investigation of the role of narrative in liberal arts education.  I knew that should I attend this meeting, I would be inspired by initiatives at other institutions, and find a way into the COPLAC group.  Much to my surprise, I knew one of the speakers!  I had been following Jim Groom (@jimgroom) on Twitter due to the activity around his digital storytelling course, #ds106, and he was scheduled to speak, along with John St. Claire and Steve Greenlaw (@sgreenla), on the Online Learning Initiative (OLI) at the University of Mary-Washington (UMW).  While Jim was not on the campus in person, choosing instead to Skype into the presentation, I was able to continue the conversation with him via Twitter, and came to volunteer as a reviewer for the upcoming online course.

In the meantime, I continued my masters work, taking Dr. Alec Couros’ (@courosa) Educational Technology and Social Media course, #eci831.  For this course, I created a proposal to broaden my role in the OLI.  Since the summer I had been investigating UMW’s online presence, and, being an online student myself, was quite impressed with the openness of their digital campus.  I wanted to not only assist the UMW with the review of their online learning initiative, I also wanted to showcase the possibilities for connected online space to the folks at Augustana.  In order to serve these two needs, I conducted a series of informal interviews regarding liberal arts values and the role of online learning.  I have compiled these interviews into short videos meant to not only inform my role as course reviewer, but also to digitally introduce, or e-troduce, these groups of people to each other.  In short, I want to become a social artist that helps link these two institutions.

I hope that in this space, interview participants as well as others who are interested in online learning and liberal arts will engage in a discussion of the topics presented.  Feel free to comment, even if it’s just a short hello.

And feel free to connect with each other!


Enter the Dragon

Posted in travel with tags , , , , , on January 2, 2012 by onepercentyellow

First off, as I write this I am struck by the fact that I have live music that comes to me through my computer.  It’s lovely to be able to tune into #ds106radio or to skype with Sean Hillaby and have sweet sounds coming to me.  Thanks for the tunes all!

So, as I was listening to #ds106radio on new years eve, @Stephen_Hurley was playing lovely piano and chatting (very much like he’s doing right now as I write this blog post) about his yearly tradition of choosing a word to guide him.  What a fantastic idea!  My own experience with choosing a title (like a musician) and working within that identity had shown me the power of just deciding to ‘be’ a type of person.  So I began to think about some of the words I could use to frame my world in the upcoming year.

After chatting for a bit with my sister @plind on skype, I greeted @cogdog and @giuliaforsythe and we shared some stories and chit chat while tuning in to the casa bava new years cast.  I shared Stephen’s story, and deepened my resolve (and theirs!) in choosing a word.

I passed on the story throughout the evening and when I awoke this morning, and then promptly went back to bed, and woke up this afternoon, I continued to meditate on my word.

I noticed that @malynmawby had put up a sweet post, and followed her ideas to my first exposure to Joseph Campbell.  The interview helped me to further conceptualize my word, both in filling out the ideas, but also in a visual representation as I sat and listened.
Before watching the interview I had considered the word ‘courage’ and what it could mean.  Why had such a word leapt out at me?  I realized that it was directed at my plans for the summer: returning to Alberta to make music with my friend Sean.  While this sounds easy and a whole lot of fun on one level, moments of doubt from the last year have left a lasting impression on me.  When we share our gifts, especially those that we are just encouraging into existence, there is always that epic battle with feelings of inadequacy.  Self-consciousness can be crushing – paralyzing – and it’s so hard to sing with an elephant of doubt sitting on your heart.  And so I chose this word – COURAGE – as a mantra for myself in those moments.  I have a feeling, though, that this word will reveal itself in complex ways that I cannot yet anticipate.

Joseph Campbell’s talk of ego (somewhere around ¾ of the way through the video) resonated with me.  He spoke of the mythology around the European dragon.  It is a selfish creature that guards gold and virgins, two things that it cannot use itself, but that it hoards for its value to others.  When we bind ourselves to our ego – to those ideas of what we want to be, who we are, what we can and can’t do, what the aim of our life is – we trap ourselves within our own dragon’s cage.  You see, all these things are relational.  Not a single one of them exists in isolation from others and from the world around us.  I cannot do, be, think, love, dream without interacting with the whole of existence that is around me.  That great dragon of my ego guards these notions from the outside forces that give them value in the first place.  What’s more, the dragon keeps me in an existence that may be too small to fully encompass my potential.  When I hear myself saying “oh no, I couldn’t do that” I will recognize this as my dragon blocking me in, keeping me from, as Campbell puts it, my “soul’s high adventure.”  How do you slay the dragon?  Of course… follow your bliss.

So the dragon came to be on my bit of artwork that will come along in my nomadic knapsack.  It was only after the fact that I realized that the coming lunar year is that of the dragon!  And the great news is that the Chinese dragon yields the bounty and is a great laughing spirit that reminds us of the vitality of life.  Oh 2012… with courage we shall explore…