Embracing the Remix

I would consider myself an artistic consumer. From getting lost in a painting to finding comfort in a song, my days are filled with finding moments to be creative. My art teacher once told me that we are always inspired by the work of others. Inspiration is transformed into your own creative work because we become open to the way our eyes see and interpret the beauty in someone else’s work. I usually find inspiration for the art I create in the photographs that I take. I love to create linocut pieces and am drawn to the bold lines found in graphic art.

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Currently, I am working on my first commission piece and in all honesty, I am hating it. A friend has asked me to create a piece for her based on a photograph she has taken. At first, I thought, sure thing, I can do this, fits with my process. What I didn’t recognise at the time was how much this would feel like copying and how it has stunted the creative interpretation that usually inspires me. In Ferguson’s video, Everything is a Remix, he describes the three elements of creativity as copy, combine and transform. He explains that copying is how we learn, it is the act of building a foundation of knowledge and understanding which we will later combine with our own ideas to transform content into our own creative interpretations. It could be that I am still learning how to use acrylics effectively and that is why I feel trapped in the copying stage or is it that I am trying to replicate her vision and not my own. Regardless of the reason, I will have to find a way to finish this piece in the next two weeks and feel like no matter how long I spend on it, I will never be happy with the result. My artistic struggle has me wondering, is this the environment our learners are working in as we implement traditional content and assign specific guidelines to follow?

In hopes to find some perspective on this wondering, I turned to the paper, Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture. The MacArthur Foundation describes a participatory culture, “as one in which members believe their contributions matter, and feel some degree of social connection with one another”. If I were to consider this definition, can I say that my learners are taking part in participatory culture? Are learners seeing me as a teacher or more as a mentor? If I am just the teacher, how do I shift this perception and tap into others as mentors for my learners? More importantly,  how do learners become mentors? How do we remix the content we need to cover to create “a shared pool of knowledge open to all,” as described by Furguson. 

As a literacy coach, I have a strong understanding of how to encourage learners to become strong readers and writers but do I take into account how I am preparing them for new media literacies. Traditionally, we assess individual learners on their reading and writing skills, to set goals and provide personalised instruction. What is missing is the development of social skills because collaboration is not at the centre of my instruction. I may use mentor texts to inspire writing craft moves or interpret the way an author hook’s his audience, but ultimately learners are creating a piece of writing as an individual. How can I move away from creating a class anthology as being a way we collaborate as writers to building capacity in collective intelligence? I am hoping that through course two I am challenged to work within a participatory culture and remix the way I approach literacy instruction.

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