Reading Tactical Media by Rita Raley has provided both an escape from the tactical activism expected on the domestic front on a sodden Sunday afternoon in Auckland and an escape from my current way of imagining the “future” of school.
I enjoy thinking about the future of museums, libraries and school. They are all institutions that face precarity - uncertainty and challenge - in their current architecture.
Raley’s critique let me think in a new way about Robert Jane’s questions in Museums in a Troubled World: Renewal, Irrelevance or Collapse (London: Routledge, May, 2009) cited in Pallazo Strozzi Blog
If museums did not exist, would we reinvent them and what would they look like?
Further, if the museum were to be reinvented, what would be the public’s role in the reinvented institution?
When I replace [museum] with [school] I get a much better start point for thinking about the future of school.
If schools did not exist, would we reinvent them and what would they look like?
Further, if the school were to be reinvented, what would be the public’s role in the reinvented institution?
Raley made me realise that whenever I think about the future of school through questions like Janes - there is a unacknowledged sense of a permanence of place or places (real or virtual) –
If schools did not exist and I did re-invent them - then in my imaginings I create a spatial identity albeit in some cases a fractured spatial identity – what I mean is there is a sense of permanence in how I imagine school.
You can see this assumption of permanence – this focus on a space/place is not mine alone - in the provocative thinking in “Witnessing the future” – and in “Just the other day I saw the future ...” or school2.0
It is interesting that our use of media in education is no different – we seem hell bent on using Web2.0 all that “participatory media” to create Raley’s “ever hardening totems of identity” – both personal and institutional – We use participatory media like attention whores - creating multiple textured “look at me spaces”.
When I read Raley on tactical media the focus is different – her analysis is on the “experiential” – the value of tactical media is to be found in its ephemerality.
Media tacticians challenge even the digital preservation of "the experience" - asking
“How can Tactical Media be preserved and made accessible without altering the value produced by its ephemerality?” Politics of the Ephemeral: Rethinking the Archive
This made me laugh for this weekend's media details an instance in New Zealand schools where we see the reverse happening –
Possibly because of our current focus on totemic place in education – our schools are intent on preserving and making accessible their places and space online.
It seems this extends to making claims over the ephemeral use of media for conversation.
The irony is that by claiming the right to preserve a selection of their student ephemeral online conversation (by printing out selected conversations (from some but not all Dio students using FaceBook) and by handing these to school authorities); and then by making the ephemeral conversationalists accountable – and by withdrawing access to learning for those students whose conversations were chosen to be preserved by printing, the school has effectively preserved, archived and made the content of those ephemeral conversations accessible to much, much, much, wider audiences than the students themselves could ever imagine or have intended.
It makes me wonder if the follow up headline will read “School stood down for actions that led to the preservation, publication and digital archiving of the ephemeral Facebook conversations of young people .”
I am interested in what happens to our thinking about the future of school if we refuse anything that creates Bourriaud’s “ever hardening totems of identity” (p13).
What happens if we imagine “school” as an experience – a learning experience where learning and the learners themselves are both flexible and ephemeral like the conversations we might hold when walking across a mall.
“Future School” becomes an experience where afterwards there is little material trace – a concept where “living memory” rather than “products of learning” dominate our discourse.
When school is imagined as “nomadic” experience, then pedagogy becomes a “deliberately slippery and heterogenous practice”?
Raley describes the categorical unity of tactical media as “disturbance”. What if we understood “school” as disturbance?
Citing Geert Lovink and “The Next Five Minutes” (N5M) festival of media arts and politics - Raley argues that tactical media is intended to disrupt dominant ways of thinking so that critical thinking can occur.
What if we understood “school” as any open to anyone at any time experience, where critical thinking can occur?
It is this inclusivity and flexibility of tactical media – that is powerful in reimagining “school” in this way.
Can “school” be imagined as a process – as a “tool for creating temporary consensus zones based on unexpected alliances”.
And all this makes me wonder will our future questions about “school” reject notions of does it work? – or how well have the learners in an identified physical or virtual space met “national standards”? – or Greg’s fear that the place of school might be ladder ranked in league tables.
We would ask instead if the experience is virtuous?
Virtuosity – described by Virno as “activity which finds its own fulfilment (that is, its own purpose) in itself, without objectifying itself into an end product or an object that survives the performance. p29
Does the experience - “future school” - strengthen interpersonal relationships in society?
Raley cites Bourriaud who suggests ... the role of art is “learning to inhabit the world in a better way” p27
So perhaps “future school” can be an experience rather than a place – and we can understand “school” as we do art – as something transitory, precarious, and uncertain that helps us learn how to inhabit the world in a better way.