Week 04: Culture Machine

"Here comes everybody" - Clay Shirky

story and culture ... chicken or egg?

Instructor's Notes

We tell stories in our families, our worship, our countries, our politics, our news, and our schools - all sustaining and promoting our preferred tribal values.  This is how culture grows and works. Stories are the means by which this happens; reinforcing our values, our beliefs, and our wants in an ongoing cycle.  The art of storytelling in many ways is an instinctual element of being human, and being tribal.  

You may recall the Michael Wesch video we watched about Unboxing Stories - about the culture machine as it works in New Guinea and here/now as well.  Wesch is a cultural anthropologist who also happens to be a prolific digital storyteller, and is most widely known for an open course he runs called ANTH101.  ANTH101 is a massively open online community of learners engaging in digital sharing and digital making.  The are a learning culture, studying culture.  As are we.  

story machines

Vintage black typewriter
Photo by Daniel McCullough / Unsplash

The predominant culture machine of today is the internet. It is a ubiquitous, all reaching, never-ending digital storytelling machine, that empowers everyone to broadcast, make, and remix stories. This phenomena takes our tribes in a variety of interesting directions, and produces a very distinct shift for modern learners - essentially producing a type  of new-constructionism.  This idea isn't new to our study, but is interesting to consider as a cultural phenomena of auto-didactic sharing and creativity.  Modern Learners are fluid consumers and producers of knowledge. They teach themselves easily and avidly within naturally occurring affinity groups (pull).  The topics that formal education promote are often resisted or resented (push).  The modern learner is a part of a pull-culture, which is accustomed to learning on-demand - - pulling knowledge from the cloud and the community as they wish.  They have evolved.  The education system represents a push-culture - pushing curriculum in a systemic factory model.  We have not evolved.

The culture of the modern learner is at direct odds with the culture of the education system.  

They are DIY learners;  they find it, watch it, make it, learn it, teach it, and master it with great independence.  It is a DIY culture - telling and consuming digital stories fluidly.   This is not all good; nor does it mean formal education is a loss.  This is a critical point, however, and worth noting because there has been a distinct cultural change in the past decade, which educators need to understand - so we might evolve as well.

Thinking about this as a cultural phenomena and a tipping-point of sorts, we have an emergent culture of aesthetic learners who are digitally fluent at storytelling.

"When we went to school, we were kept there with a story which is that if you worked hard and did well, and got a college degree - you would have a job. Our kids don't believe that. And they're right not too..." - Sir Ken Robinson

Thinking about this through the lens of John Seely Brown (JSB), we see that modern learners are defined by a questing disposition of continual and persistent learning.  JSB suggests that learning is joining, i.e. the most important learning that occurs comes through the act of joining and participating in affinity groups.  This is social learning - the culture machine at work.  

“Institutions designed for push cannot easily accommodate pull.” - John Seely Brown

This Week's Tasks
  1. Read & watch all of the above.  I've posted some questions for you in the margins above.

  2. Smile and complete the Weekly-Thing, posted to Slack on Wednesday. Be thinking of what topics you'd like to explore in the coming weeks - we'll use the Weekly-Thing to vote and discuss. Here are the nominees thus far...
    • Generation Z Culture
    • Case Studies - Practical Examples of Digital Storytelling
    • Critical Media Literacy
    • Transmedia Storytelling
    • Empathy Building
    • Persuasion & Propaganda
    • Digital Identity & Social Media
    • Reality Distortion
    • Mediascape
    • Immersive Storytelling (VR)
    • Social Media Influencers
    • Consumer/Storyteller Motives

    • Read & annotate the following article(s) within our private hypothes.is group:

      Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Mit Press.

    • This is the midpoint of our course. Produce a reflection on your learning-journey thus far, and post it to the StoryLab - OR - send it to me directly in a document (DM in Slack). Broadly, tell me...

      - What have you learned or gained thus far? Details.
      - What would you like to learn more about? Why?
      - Have you left the status-quo behind? Do you feel challenged? Explain.
      - What did you expect coming into this course, and what have you actually received, thus far?
      - What would you like to learn and do for the second four weeks of our time together?
      - Reflect specifically on the ideas/ideals presented in the videos above, and the article we annotated this week. With whom do you agree or disagree most strongly - Sir Ken Robinson, John Seely Brown, or Henry Jenkins? Explain.

    • Once you've done all you plan to do for the week, complete the Check-In for Week 4 to claim your points.
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About Brad Hinson

Teller of stories; drinker of coffee; father of kids; tinkerer of tools; geek. I am an SEHD Assistant Dean, an LDT Instructor, and a ThinqStudio Director @ CU Denver.
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