As I mentioned in the last post I’ve been setting up a new business, Flow Associates. See www.flowassociates.com If it was simply me mutating into a company it would be simple but I’m forming it with a full-time partner, Mark Stevenson. It’s more exciting this way but a bigger investment of energy, exploring how we can co-operate with our diverse backgrounds (him: marketing, technology, comedy, science, writing. Me: education, public cultural organisations, literature, culture, art). Despite these different skills we have a lot in common: a love of words; but also thinking in terms of systems; a belief that learning is about making sense of big ideas and solving problems; an interest in new technologies and futures. We’re thinking hard about our ethics and methodologies so I’ve been searching out common interests, e.g. in these links.
I recently twice met an interesting man called John Wood and each time he had a T-shirt that said Attainable Utopias. So I Googled it.
Thinking about innovative ways of establishing partnerships between creative businesses/cultural organisations and schools I came across this:
And the inspiration for our company name, is Csikszentmihaly. I’ve never been one to follow tracts on how to be happy, especially not ones written by Americans, but Flow is different.
Anyone who has worked with me will be shocked. I’ve said ad nauseam that museums are all about learning more than any other function. So what am I saying? I’ve been thinking hard about learning in the process of setting up a new company Flow Associates. What if we said that schools and other learning centres are not about learning but about making, if their purpose is not primarily to impart & test facts & skills but to make makers? But how can making be valid in the information age when craft is less important than abilities to access information across many modes? I mean that we need makers of:
Self: Reflecting, growing, relating
Things: Texts, artworks, products
Meanings: Seeing patterns, links, purposes
Solutions: New ideas and applications
Enterprises: Creating projects and businesses
Changes: Sharing ideas, applying solutions
The world: Expanding realms of action
At the weekend I might say to my daughter, what shall we make today? We’ll make cakes, pictures, dancing shows or plaits in her hair. I might also say, what shall we play? We might invent a new skipping game or a display of cuddly toys. I don’t think I ever say to her, what shall we learn today or what skills shall we practice today? That isn’t natural in a conversation between adult and child. As a fairly academic learner myself, I still struggled to be motivated by formal learning which is driven ultimately by prospects of certificates or good marks or by the threat of failure. Some rare people may be disciplined and able to practice skills for the sake of proving that they’re getting better at them or to be able to read a book when ordered. But what are they disciplined by? I would guess they are either disciplined by fear or they have an extraordinary ability to see a longer-term application of their efforts now, or an uncomfortable swing between the two depending on the particular activity. How many times have children heard teachers say ‘You come here to learn’? What if we changed the record to ‘You come here to change the world’?
I haven’t posted for a long time as I’ve been so busy with work, in particular working with a dynamic company called Metaphor http://www.mphor.co.uk/metaphor.html with whom I share a lot of beliefs about the importance of emotional engagement and narrative in exhibitions and museums. I’ve also been away from this blog rediscovering music, because I was recently given an i-pod and it’s got me so much closer to the lyrics and the structure of songs than listening to CD’s. It inspired me to write some songs and I churned out nine – but I’m still working out how to make them sound good. I used to be very involved in music but I’d not been able to give it any time for years. I don’t know how much time I have to give it now but I’m really going to pay attention to how music and song can be used in museums and exhibitions. I’ve also been on holiday to France, where we visited the Museum of Bande-Dessinee (Comics) in Angouleme ( http://www.cnbdi.fr/ ) in the same week that the very earliest representation of a human face was discovered in Angouleme ( http://arts.guardian.co.uk/features/story/0,,1791174,00.html ). I would love to write a complimentary review of this museum’s displays, as they had put so much effort in to make it theatrical and quirky, but I admit I enjoyed the shop and the library more where I could actually see the comics. One day, I’ll write some more about comics and also some more about drawing the human face.
http://www.theprivatecollection.org.uk/credits.html I’m really interested in cultural audio tours (or audio-visual tours) that are way beyond, or not at all, informational. I think this field is wide open for development. This example is by Sara Heitlinger, a writer who created this wonderful, spooky, sexy, moving tour of the British Library. She’s also made a tour of Sydenham Hill Woods this weekend (May 13th). See ‘news’ on the private collection site for more. It would be great to see Sara and others like her making tours of other places, literary houses, ghost-ridden heritage sites, the hidden parts of museums…
I just read Douglas Rushkoff’s blog http://rushkoff.com/blog.php and he makes a good point about fun at work as opposed to fun as work. This is explored more in his new book about innovation in business Get Back in the Box. http://www.rushkoff.com/box.html It relates to my point about fun and creativity in education. I don’t believe in just adding the arts as rewards or light relief extrinsic to the process of learning. I believe that fun in education happens when you feel as if you are making real, valuable stuff happen, when you are being inventive and being sociable.