16 August 02011

The Whys and Wherefores of Creativity and Sharing: Review of Making is Connecting

Making is Connecting book coverOne of the beauties of David Gauntlett's Making is Connecting is the way it develops a fundamentally simple idea with successive layers of richness and power. The cover captures the kernel of the book: the core thesis that making (with hands and brain, resourcefully) is connecting (in terms of relationships, meaning, learning); the context that extends from scissors and thread to YouTube; and the ethos of the personal, handmade artefact captured in the stylish smudge that subverts the sleek sans-serif typeface.

One of the perils of writing anything related to Web 2.0 over the last four years is being painted into a corner opposite Andrew Keen and his Cult of the Amateur broadside against the threats to the hieratic hierarchy of professional power. In this case I think the comparison is justified, because Making is Connecting is everything that The Cult of the Amateur was not. Where Keen reductively polarises and thins out the issues he addresses, Gauntlett's treatment is embodied, his points rounded out with substance and complexity. Where Keen uses "amateur" as term of haughty derision, Gauntlett gives us back a fleshed out sense of the word, capturing the care and dedication that come when people make things for love, not money.

Regular readers of this blog with good memories may remember that David Gauntlett is a friend of mine. I interviewed him a year ago when he was writing Making is Connecting. (On the same morning, as well as interviewing me for this blog, David also interviewed me about my blogging on another site for his book — you may be thinking I only review books I've been interviewed for, but I promise that's not true.)

In that 2010 interview, I complimented David on his plain speaking style and how he makes his ideas accessible. That holds true throughout Making is Connecting: it's rare for a book to cite Adorno and Horkheimer while still remaining readable, but this one does. Of Ivan Illich — one of David Gauntlett's guiding lights, along with the likes of William Morris, John Ruskin and Richard Sennett — he says "his writing feels earthy, and engaged with real things." The same could be said of David himself, and I confess I envy him in this.

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1 August 02011

Round-up of recent writing in other places

Foraging BeeAgile learning: How 'making do' can evolve into 'making good' is my latest attempt at developing and honing what I mean by agile learning and why it's important. Written for the newsletter of the Association for Learning Technology, it's aimed at the ALT constituency which is mostly people in Higher and Further Education along with a scattering of commercial learning tech companies — and, at just over 2,000 words, it's reasonably long. One of the ideas I use as props is the learning ecosystem. Since I wrote this, Adam Curtis's TV essay picking apart the ecosystem metaphor has been broadcast in the UK. I like having my premises challenged, sometimes, and hope to explore this in a forthcoming post.

Also for ALT I contributed a short presentation to the Making the Most of Informal Learning webinar. You can watch and listen to the full recording: best experienced from the beginning (which, oddly, starts at 1 hour 9 mins on the clock) with Jane Hart and Charles Jennings presenting before me, then I come on when the clock says 1 hour 40 mins. You can also download my slides, though they make little sense without the accompanying ramblings.

I'm one of the friends of New Public Thinking, another of Dougald Hine's many interventions into learning and intellectual culture. My contribution so far is called When Should We Eat Our Brains? It's a sceptical look at the idea that getting a bunch of clever people to "co-create" is the answer to any and every problem.

The open source movement has got us into the habit of believing that "with enough eyes, all bugs are shallow". But lots of the problems we face are very different from debugging software. Solving them is more like unpicking knots. The more hands and eyes you devote to unpicking a knot, all at once, the tighter the knot gets.

This piece is a kind of companion to another I wrote last year for The Future We Deserve book, which, frustratingly, has yet to be published. You can see what I submitted, which pulls the lens even further back to ask whether we have what it takes to husband the planet, comparing the prognoses of Stuart Brand and James Lovelock.

On a completely different note, here's my review of a Trembling Bells gig in Lewisham.

Finally, I'm blogging more frequently (though erratically as ever) on the Agile Learning amplify site, plus occasionally on the Everything Unplugged group site.

Bumble bee photo by tassie.sim, licensed under Creative Commons.