Social artistry in the context of educational change was the subject of Nancy White’s presentation for changemooc this week.
I haven’t come across the term before – but everything I have heard this week and read suggests that the ideas are not necessarily new – just expressed differently to fit our changing context in relation to learning in a digital age.
So what is it? It’s interesting that when we can’t explain or define something, we end up with falling back on the argument that defining something can often destroy what you were trying to capture. This argument was put forward earlier in this Mooc in relation to defining Moocs – and was put forward again in the Friday online session this week. Half of me understands the dangers of pinning something down with a definition, especially too early in people’s understanding, but the other half says we need some common understanding or terms to be able to discuss it at all.
This is what I picked up from another rushed week.
A social artist is a person who creates a social space for learning – and is not the same as a social reporter. A social artist invites you to engage – listens, empathises, values, validates, amplifies and most of all asks the questions that will create the social space needed for learning. A social artist connects people and encourages participation, which in turn leads to reciprocity, reification of ideas and a developing shared history.
In 2008 David Wilcox talked to Bev Trayner and Josien Kapma about social reporting as opposed to social artistry and blogged about Etienne Wenger’s reference to social artists
In September of this year Etienne and Nancy were discussing the same ideas in their presentation at the Share Fair in Rome – where the importance of social artists being able to work in both the vertical and horizontal systems of accountability in organizations was also discussed – i.e. with the hierarchy and with peers. This is significant for a social artist’s ability to influence change.
And then – this week Nancy talked with Giulia Forsythe, Zach Davis and Tim Owens in DTLT Today as well as in changeMooc about these ideas.
The question came up – is this any different to what the best teaching or the best facilitating has always been? I am struggling to find a significant difference. There might be some differences in terms of the technologies we now use for connecting people and the scale (size) of the networks in which ‘social artists’ work, but my feeling is that the skills mentioned above – listening, connecting, questioning, empathising and so on are what the best teachers have always done (see for example, the work of Lisa Lane ) and the skills that Fleming Funch lists on his post are the skills of a good learner. So maybe a quality of a ‘social artist’ is also to be an effective learner.
I think Nancy’s right – focussing on the words ‘social artist’ does not help. It’s the process we need to be talking about and how this might be changing in our changing educational environments.
I have just come across this blogpost by Jupidu – Are we Social Artists? – which is great not only for the thoughtful reflection on the question, but also reminding me that Etienne Wenger has written an essay on social artistry – which I know I have somewhere in my computer files. It obviously did not resonate at the time, but maybe it will now.