DIGITAL EDUCATION. MULTIMODALITY. LEARNING SPACES
The Manifesto for Teaching Online is a series of short statements created by the Digital Education group at the University of Edinburgh. The Manifesto articulates a position about online education that informs the work of the Digital Education group (of which I am part) and the MSc in Digital Education programme it leads.
Earlier today (1 November 2016) my colleague Siân Bayne (Professor and Personal Chair of Digital Education) spoke about the Manifesto during her keynote presentation to the Next Generation: Digital Learning Research Symposium being held by National Institute for Digital Learning in Dublin City University. Within her keynote Siân showed a short video that I prepared to support the Manifesto. As I sat at the back of an Architecture class this morning (as part of my Doctoral research into multimodal assessment) I sensed from the flurry of Twitter-notifications lighting up my phone that the Manifesto has attracted some interest.
I have since looked back through an impressively lengthy conference hashtag to pull together some of the responses to the Manifesto. The Manifesto was always intended to be provocative and to encourage reflection and debate therefore it has been intriguing to see how different statements from the Manifesto resonated across the audience. I'll let the Twitter commentary speak for itself.
I was recently invited to make a video to accompany the Manifesto for Teaching Online (2016). The Manifesto comes from the team behind the MSc in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh and comprises a series of short statements which articulate what it means to teach within digital learning environments. Whereas our work to put together the Manifesto was collaborative, the video should be seen as my own personal interpretation and response each of its 22 statements. Here's the newly completed video:
Rather than trying to explain how I attempted to represent the different statements in the Manifesto, I'm instead going to describe how some of the key ideas around online education influenced my approach as I put the video together.
To begin, reflecting the growing interest in the multimodal character of digital scholarship, I spent time thinking about how the particular configuration of images and sounds could work together in juxtaposition, or what Carey Jewitt (2009) has described as the way that meaning emerges from the particular relationship between different modes. This became quite an iterative process where I would start with a rough idea in response to a Manifesto statement, which would in turn prompt the gathering of field recordings, which then sparked a visual idea and subsequently led to the creation or collection of further sounds. Maybe the best example of this from the video is the ‘Digital Natives’ statement where I started off thinking about Bronislaw Malinowksi’s Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) and ended up burying a Nokia 5510 (1998) in a sandbox.
Whereas the critical interest in multimodality is often concerned with focusing its gaze on the semiotic resources at work within a document, an artefact or a communicational event, sociomateriality asks us to pay attention to the ways that the wider milieu shapes our meaning-making practices. Therefore where some of the images/sounds in the video seem haphazard or untidy it should be seen/heard in light of what Fenwick et al. (2011) describe as:
I also wanted the video to itself provoke questions about digital authorship, ownership and plagiarism. For instance, what responsibility do we have to the author of a piece of work that we record and then remix beyond its original form or meaning? What are the ethical implications of adding reverb to someone's voice or recolouring their textile work? And how do the conventions of referencing and plagiarism that were conceived around words-on-the-page, take account of video and other digital formats? These are questions similar to those raised by Kathleen Fitzpatrick (2011) in her work around digital authorship and it seemed fitting that she should 'appear' in the video.
Finally, as I prepared the video I also wanted to challenge the visual conceptualisations of online teaching which neglect the physical places where the corporeal bodies of teachers go about their scholarly business. Behind the virtual worlds, learning management systems and social media spaces that are often used as icons of online, there exists the campus, the cafe and the couch. These ‘teaching spaces’ are represented through sight and sound: an office on the 4th floor of St John’s Land in the School of Education; the space at home where I write and read and where I worked on the video itself.
I hope you enjoy the video.
Fenwick, T., Edwards, R. & Sawchuk, P. 2011. Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. (Oxon, Routledge). pp. 1-18.
Jewitt, C. 2009. An introduction to multimodality. In The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. Jewit, C. (Ed) (London, Routledge): pp. 14-27.
'Kathleen Fitzpatrick: "The Future of Authorship: Writing in the Digital Age"'(2011) YouTube video, added by FranklinCenterAtDuke [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4qq01Qskv0 (Accessed 12 June 2016)
Malinowski, B. [1922}. Argonauts of the Western Pacific. Prospect Heights, 10 IL: Waveland Press, Inc. Pp. 1-25 (Introduction).
The Manifesto for Teaching Online was conceived in 2011 by my colleagues within the Digital Education group at the University of Edinburgh. It set out to articulate a position - and provoke discussion - surrounding online education. My contribution to the original Manifesto was the preparation of a short home-made video that offered a visual representation of the twenty statements. I revisited and revised the video in 2013 with a closer attention to how the images could align with the messages that I felt the Manifesto was trying to convey.
Four years down the line I've been very glad to participate in the reconsideration and reconfiguration of a 2015 version of the Manifesto for Teaching Online. The notion of the remix features prominently - loudly! - in this new Manifesto.
Remixing digital content redefines authorship
One of the things that I like about the Manifesto is its intention to prompt discussion rather than dictate a set of hard-and-fast rules: we are encouraged to approach and interpret the statements in our own way. My own take on the 'Remixing' statement is as follows. The increasingly vast and varied amount of digitally-mediated content enables us to construct knowledge in new and exciting ways. At the same time we have access to a growing array of devices and other technologies that allow us to convey or re-shape what we draw from the growing body of digital content. This in turn pushes us to rethink what we understand by 'authorship' and 'composition' of scholarly work. To illustrate my point in a very basic way I've created this (very basic) animation:
Returning to my interpretation of the 'Remix' Manifesto statement, the digital content that I drew on within the animation features audio taken from two web-hosted video clips. This includes a seminar discussion on the subject of the 'digital city' featuring Mathias Fuchs from Leuphana University. I also introduced the voice of Kathleen Fitzpatrick, taken from a lecture she delivered on the subject of digital authorship, at Duke University. The music track is 'Scratched' by Etienne De Crecy (no explanation required). Listen carefully and you'll also hear the sound of needle static, previously downloaded from a sound effects archive and unearthed from my iTunes folder. The digital devices and technologies that I used to put the animation together meanwhile included my computer, an iPhone for the lazy recording of sound from the video clips, and then software in the form of PowerPoint, Photoshop and SoundStudio.
Perhaps more interesting than the animation itself is the questions that it asks about the way that the scholarly remix problematises conventional understandings of composition and authorship. For instance, how much of the animation is really my work? If there's any merit in the animation, how much of it is attributable to the technology? Is it ethical for me to have taken Mathias Fuchs' voice out of context? How would Kathleen Fitzpatrick feel about my manipulation of her voice with extra reverb? And, as Fitzpatrick points out herself (2011), how does this type of 'mash up' sit within existing guidelines surrounding plagiarism?
In keeping with the ethos of the Manifesto, with an eye to encouraging reflection I won't try to answer the questions that I've drawn attention to here. I'll include some references though, just to be on the safe side.
De Crecy, E. (2000) Scratched. Tempovision [CD]. Paris. Disques Solid.
Fitzpatrick, K. (2011). The digital future of authorship: rethinking originality. www.culturemachine.net. 12: pp.1-26.
'Kathleen Fitzpatrick: "The Future of Authorship: Writing in the Digital Age"'(2011) YouTube video, added by FranklinCenterAtDuke [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v4qq01Qskv0 (Accessed 24 October 2015)
'Mathias Fuchs - Remixing Digital Cities' [video] (2013) Transmedia.de. Available at at http://www.transmediale.de/content/presentation-mathias-fuchs-remixing-digital-cities (Accessed 24 October 2015)
I am an ESRC-funded Doctoral student in the Centre for Research in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh.