A manifesto for being a part of strategic pedagogical change

Where we hope our students will engage and thrive in the theoretical and practical communities created through our learning design, teaching and assessment, the same cannot be said of how we initiate and implement teaching and learning change from an institutional through to curricular level. Driven by the sometimes-disruptive predictions for the future of our Universities, pedagogical change is often seen as the panacea for all manner of strategic threats or the rocket fuel to take advantage of the opportunities the new environment affords. Almost every institution undertakes programs of pedagogical change in regular cycles, shifting philosophies and modes of assessment, identifying and implementing technological solutions and translating the complex frames of future prediction, industry expectation and market potential into readily deliverable forms of learning. We are often behest to whatever trend, assumed strategic necessity or technological payload everyone else believes they need to have. What is interesting though is how little the core fundamentals of our pedagogy have changed, whilst the periphery and the compliance have turned over dozens of times.

Real pedagogical change (the kind the addresses the core experiences, practices and realities of teaching and learning) needs people to lead it, challenge it and make it happen, as technology. goodwill and assumptions will only carry you so far. There is no magic fix or single system that will bundle up all the experiences, capabilities and outcomes for student learning and deliver them in a cloud shaped box. This kind of change needs to come from the very cultural heart of the institution, the critical centre shaped by our common experiences of being part of this highly fraught, polarised and often lonely place we call our University, with its frayed boundaries and contested and liminal spaces. Successful pedagogical change happens because the institution (from the top and the bottom) listens and engages with the people in the middle. It makes sure the right people are in the right rooms, participating in the conversation. It challenges the assumptions around why are we making this change and who are we making it for. It understands and recognises that change elicits fear, challenges confidence and fuels assumptions of obsolescence and redundancy. It happens because you are a part of it, you have a voice in it and you understand what it means to own and participate in collective strategic responsibility. And yes, I know it isn’t easy. Maybe you are not let into the room. Maybe, if you are there, you don’t know what to say. Perhaps you are the person who pipes up when no one can connect to EDUROAM and you help out. Perhaps, the louder voices and dominant perspectives simply cancel you out, filling your eyes and ears with white noise and anger.

No one has all the answers. No one can say they don’t have frameworks, memories, experiences or fears that don’t get in the way of making education better. Equally, no one can say that they have nothing to add to the story. But whether it is colleagues or friends, your professional associations (like SEDA or ALT or ASCILITE), your senior management teams or mentors, being a part of something, being in the community and drawing inspiration, ideation and support from them makes it easier, We encourage our students to learn collectively, to construct knowledge socially and challenge critical assumptions to help address wicked and pernicious challenges; maybe we need to start heeding our own message. So, we come to this manifesto for being a part of strategic pedagogical. It is drawn from my own personal experiences, my own successes and my own heroic failures. I have sat in the room with the VC and had to sell the kind of change I wanted to lead in 30 words or less. I have had to make the case for funding when my idea was only one of hundreds competing for the same diminished pot. I have had to argue for change when almost nobody at the institution wanted it, the majority resisted or ignored it but almost everyone knew that we desperately needed it. It is nerve wracking, frightening and exhilarating often within the same gulp of air. But it was being a part of a network, running Future Happens with colleagues and friends Donna Lanclos and Dave White, taking risks with pilots and stepping into the dark barefoot that made it work. I don’t have the answers, all I got is how I work everyday to make education better. I hope it helps you.

1. Have a plan
Come up with ideas. Think through how they might work or fail. Ideate outside and inside the box. Know how you will make it happen. What are the risks and pain points. How much money/resources/people/policy do you need. Don’t go in empty handed. Have a plan.

2. Reward and recognise excellence and achievement

We punish failure or set standards to ensure we are not bad (as opposed to getting better). Reward people intrinsically and tacitly. Listen to people and hear them talk about teaching. Share those lessons with others. People respond to being seen and recognised. Reward and recognise excellence and achievement.

3. Be in the conversation

It easy to throw stones from the outside, it’s harder to put those ideas and opinions into the conversation. Be in the room, influence those who are if you can’t. Don’t let pedagogical changer be done to you. You know stuff, you have done stuff, you have something to say. Make sure you say it. Be in the conversation.

4. Connection is the glue

None of this can be done alone. Finding, nurturing and leveraging connections is critical to being a part of change. This not about alliances and political expediency, although these play their part in any change. Connections join the dots of knowing, doing and making. Connection is the glue.

5. We don’t know what the students want – but we need to

There is so much telling and not enough listening in terms of student engagement. We assume so much through distorted and blurry filter of our own experiences as students. We need to find ways to hear the stories of students, understand them and incorporate them into any change we initiate. This is more than representation, surveys and feedback loops. We need to know what the students ‘want’.

6. Expose yourself to risk

This is not always safe. You are spending money, you are changing things that cut to the core of things like job insecurity, professional identity, graduate outcomes or rankings and metrics. Bit change means you have to take some risks. Trust your experience, trust the people around you. Safe is great, but safe can also be a form of resistance. Expose yourself to risk.

7. Look outside and inwards

You can learn from people around you. Workable solutions, innovations and transformations come from everywhere. Look inwards for experiences and look outwards for inspiration.

8. Be rigorous, evidence based and critically reflective

We work in an academic environment. We are curious, we are critical, and we think through why things. Whatever you suggest, argue or advocate for, make sure before, during and after you have built in evaluation, evidence and rigor. It is more than analytics, it is knowing why something happened and knowing how to make it happen again, scale it or share it with others.

9. Enhance, don’t replace

So much of what we do is predicated on replacing something. Technology is often simply reinforcing practice, just using the latest version or platform. The real challenge of pedagogical change is where we seek to enhance practices, technology or learning. How do we make it better? How do we argue that we have all the raw materials and tools we need and yhat it is time to learn how to use them better. Can we break break/bend/shake/remix what we do now and come up with something completely different?

10. The Future Happens

It does. It really does. We can’t go back to the way it was. That doesn’t mean all change is inevitable and it doesn’t mean we throw out every baby and their bathwater. Embracing the notion that things will change and that you want to be a part of it is the most important thing on this list.

Postscript: The dream of the nineties is alive

Avid readers will know that one of the most important parts of this blog for me is how fundamental music is to my thinking about higher education. It is an amazingly personal but shareable prism to view the world through. Running through the writing of this manifesto was some subliminal reflection on music from my past, specifically the indie/alternative scene of the 90s. From the start of the decade when I was in second year at University through to the end when I was entering my 7th year of teaching marketing and management, discovering new music was so important to my routine. Whether it was doing my radio show on 2RRR in Sydney, filtering tracks as either filler between the hours of talk in one show or telling the story of a specific scene in another, or making mix tapes for special sandgropers, being emotionally carried away or sweating until there wasn’t anything left to give was an everyday experience. I learnt to yell my insides out with every inch of breath (The Geraldine Fibbers – Dragon Lady) and I experienced broken hearts, minds and lost innocence (Scud Mountain Boys – Grudge Fuck). I danced around the room like a madman (Lush – Hypocrite) and I saw how dark it could really be (Tori Amos – Silent All These Years).

I have been listening to heaps of these songs over the last few weeks, rediscovering amazing and lost tracks, having bits of my brain activated that had stored lyrics, guitar riffs and memories of gigs gone by. But the one thing I kept coming back to was that these songs were soundtracks to a time when I felt a part of something. A community of fans who could fill a stadium or barely trouble the back of a Mini. The nineties for me were an era of learning how to learn through making, through sharing, through participating and through curating. I used music in my teaching, I shaped my identity through owning and collecting music (much to the chagrin of some around me 😉 and I took great joy in sharing music with people and having music shared with me. So, I just thought I would share some this music with you. Below is a link to two podcasts I made a few years back. I had the plan of doing one for each year of the 90s. I finished two before life got in the way. I have also made a Spotify playlist for you to browse through. Maybe you will feel like you have become a part of something different or be reminded of the things you were once a part of. Or maybe you will scream along to the Geraldine Fibbers like I am doing right now as I am 34000 feet in the air. I’ll rip myself to piece ‘til the end of time, then I’ll glue them back together in a stupid rhyme



‘They’ve got more choice!’: Technology, social media, the teacher and the higher education learner of today

There has been considerable theoretical and practice based research on the role of the teacher in a digital higher education environment. Lewis, Marginson, & Snyder, (2005) argue that the underpinning narratives of what teaching in a digital university should be are conflated with competing discourses around the wider status of the university in society in the light of agendas such commercialisation, market responsiveness and informationalism.  This blurring of the debate makes it hard to clearly identify the characteristics of teaching practice in a digital university.  Within the nexus of pedagogical, administrative and technological practice that can be used to define teaching, there emerges considerations of privilege, power, status, and authenticity.  These considerations can change the ground rules of how we teach.  They shape the modes of delivery, the pattern of assessment and even the way students are recruited.

 

The teacher that engages actively with technology that replaces, imitates or adds to the learning, teaching and assessment strategies within their practice is forced to rethink the assumptions and practices they use in teaching.  There are patterns of decision making in the academy that run contrary to this kind of critical and sometimes fundamental evaluation.  Reviews of programmes can often occur infrequently and with little critical evaluation.   The use of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) such as Moodle or Blackboard can be inconsistent and ‘…imitate, not to disrupt, particular representations of teaching and learning’ (Hanley 2011).  Whether current teaching practice is drawn from that of the past (‘it’s the way we have always done it’) or caught up in expectations (‘it’s the only way we are allowed to do it’) or through the personal choices of the academic (‘it’s the way I want to do it’), it is clear that the decision making processes around the use of technology can become beholden to cliché and rhetoric, where tradition can become practice, which itself becomes concrete and immovable.

 

The result has been extensive debates around the role and position of technology, social media, and the internet in the modern university environment.  The concept of the Digital University, a euphemism coined to describe a wide and varied array of practices, suggests that there is a difference between the analogue university and the new digital one.  There are significant elements of zealotry, parsimony, arrogance and superiority, where the views of the protagonists (both individual and institutional) are frequently opposite and opposing.  Within the more polar positions expressed in the literature and in opinion pieces, there is a tension sometimes bordering on hostile conflict between technological advocates and those who have been derisively labelled ‘traditionalists’ or ‘luddites’.  However, this artificial dichotomy, bounded as it is by literature, research, exemplars of effective and ineffective practice, along with strongly held belief, may lead to higher education swallowing its own tail; an ouroboros institution, where considerations of platform consume the considerations of content, which then consumes the platform, with the cycle continuing ad infinitum.

 

All the while the learner, who has been interacting with peers socially in a creative and collaborative environment may arrive for their university experience and find their device won’t connect to the network, that their programme is predicated entirely on lectures and tutorials, that they have little opportunity to share or create content, or that their access to sites such as Facebook and YouTube is restricted or even banned (as they were in Australia’s largest post-secondary institution, TAFE NSW, until 2010, see Winterford (2009)).  The skills learners have acquired, been able to share and pass along, re-purposed and re-used through their engagement with social media, in areas such as research, collaboration, authentication and interaction, may be redundant in their higher education and under or unrecognised in the design and development of ‘cutting edge’ curriculum.

 

I have heard the following phrases (or variations of them) at review boards, validation panels, training session, appraisals, learning and teaching committees, curriculum design meetings and in lunchrooms.  Whilst anecdotal and entirely unreliable as evidence, I offer them not as arguments but familiar friends.  They are a snapshot of some of the conditions under which these cutting edge curriculums are constructed.  It would be inaccurate to suggest that these kinds of phrases represent the entire academy, for they do not.  I would argue however that almost everyone engaged in enhancing teaching and learning would have heard them uttered at some point.

 

We have to use lectures and tutorials because that’s the way all our other programmes are delivered’

‘Learning can only occur in the institution’

‘Students learn from teachers’

‘We use exams because it’s the only way to know that the students have learnt something and haven’t just copied their previous work’

‘Group work is problematic because there are always tensions and we can’t be sure all members have contributed equally’ 

‘The role of e-learning is to replicate the classroom experience’

‘Students are blank slates when they come to university; our job is to shape them’

The most critical question for me here is; what is the role of the learner in this dialogue?   In many ways, these kinds of comment suggest that the learner is mainly the receiver of knowledge, and that the teacher has a potentially privileged position to decide the best way to transmit that knowledge through learning, teaching and assessment.  Most VLE based systems still require an editor, a selector, a moderator and a leader.  Lectures are frequently monologues.  Social media platforms often require a social authority to support engagement and to provide some form of authentication (Brauer & Bourhis 2006).  Granted, the learner can assert influence over choosing the context in which they apply their newly acquired knowledge, but this may not happen until they graduate.  Arguably, in the modern university, the learner can choose the institution that teaches in a manner best suited to their needs.  They can feedback on their experience through the NSS.  How much of this directly influences the way learning, teaching and assessment is conducted? How much of this influence contributes to the debate on curriculum design and e-learning?

 

‘None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free’. 

 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe made this comment in 1853 about society and its propensity to be lulled into a false sense of inaction.  Despite massive changes in the way universities are organised and funded, there is a sense that we may potentially be or have already been consumed by an equal sense of inaction.  Learners have changed substantially, and not just in terms of a price-service delivery expectation.  Amongst the rich traditions of debate around academic freedom, research informed teaching and professional judgement, lies perhaps a more fundamental consideration around the learner.  When I went to university over 25 years ago there was no internet or email. I had been to a library to research and was faced with row after row of card catalogues and musty, beautiful books.  I had used a PC since I was a teenager and knew how to programme it, but I was not in the majority. Arts making was the concern of the rich or the bohemian and the ability to create, distribute and promote my own art was the stuff of dreams (and record label contracts).  The modern learner has evolved.  Yet much of the way teaching, learning and assessment are conducted is the same as it was 25 years ago.

 

Now, I am not a throw the baby out with the bathwater kind of guy.   I am not arguing that technology should replace everything, burning it to the ground.  A lot of the practice of higher education is the established practice because it works.  But what I do ask is; have we evaluated these methodologies and approaches in the light of the new learner?  Even if we argue that learners are simply receivers, like radios, then there is now a variety of ways radio is made and consumed, as opposed to the one simple transistor radio of my youth.  We now have digital radios, internet radio, on-demand, podcasts, streaming, and yes, we still have analogue broadcasting (for the moment).  Taking the metaphor one step further, our learners represent similar diversity in construction and consumption, but in some cases, at University they are only receiving ‘The Archers’ (or Blue Hills for us Aussies) and not accessing the wide variety of choice that exists.  Instead of relying on what network programmers and music directors are telling them they should listen to, modern radio users aggregate content through social radio applications like Last-FM, Spotify and Pandora, share likes with friends over Facebook and make playlists and channels with multimedia content on YouTube.  These are new skills.  Skills that they want to apply to developing their knowledge and furthering their career.

 

Has the freedom we as academics have enjoyed to be creative in the past, now stifled us from making creative decisions for the future?  Those creative decisions are not always about which technology to use.  It can be about the relevance of technology, the role of the teacher, how we measure success, how we enhance practice, how we choose to engage or the type of learning spaces we provide or support.

 

What does this mean for the teacher?

Larry Hanley is his article about the changing face of higher education teaching ‘Mashing up the Institution’ published in Radical Teacher argues that the teacher in the new digital age faces a difficult choice;

 ‘We’ll have to abandon our institutional identities as users and clients to embrace more inventive, experimental, self-conscious identities.  Well have to become bricoleurs.’ (Hanley 2011)

 He goes to further to suggest what this means at the interface of learners and teachers by saying;

 ‘The bricoleur-faculty draws on and engages students in the expanding new literacies fostered by Web 2.0s new openness.  Whether via blogs or more explicit multimedia tools…the bricoleur-faculty asks students to make meaning through new conjunctions of sound, image, and text.  In the process, the bricoleur-faculty explicitly develops both students and his or her multi-literacies – navigating new semiotic landscapes that require new skills and new creativities.’ (Hanley 2011)

 

Note that one of the critical aspects of Hanley’s argument is that social media usage develops specific literacies that encourage the learner to remix and reuse (mash-up) skills in order to apply them to new landscapes (contexts).  The university has always provided a learning space, and to varying degrees these spaces have supported experimentation and creativity (Etzkowitz 2003; Power & Malmberg 2008).  However, this often occurs within strict boundaries (firewalls, enrolment etc) and with clearly identified roles for the learner and academic, supported by administrative structures that reinforce these roles.

 

Programmes that use social media and user generated content located outside the firewall, and positioned not as a replication of the classroom but to facilitate a different, connected form of education, challenge these learner and academic roles (Downes 2009).  The learning space becomes virtual, personal and interactive. The position of the academic at the lectern is replaced by clouds of knowledge that can be accessed, critically analysed and situated in the workplace by the application of trans-disciplinary skills, developed and practiced through the use of a variety web 2.0 technologies, including information literacy, evaluation, collaborative learning, dynamic searching and critical reflection (Fischer 2009; Hong et al. 2008).  This kind of environment allows the learner to utilise the skills they have acquired before and during their higher education.  It also provides for the development of connections and links that may ensure past their graduation, which in the current system will stop as soon as they stop paying their fees and lose access to the VLE.

 

I do not propose to find a clear and navigable path through these choppy and muddled waters.  I say this simply because I don’t believe there is one.  However, what is within our grasp is an understanding that learners are fundamentally different from those that went before them, as we were fundamentally different to those who went before us.  They bring with them to higher education an array of skills that are acquired through their interactions with social media platforms and other social media users.  These skills don’t sit easily in the existing infrastructure or teaching, learning and assessment practices of the modern University. Do we have a way to assess those skills, accredit them as being at a certain level, apply them to new contexts and repurpose them for engagement in and between disciplines?  Do we see the need to even undertake this kind of evaluation?

 

In a world where Facebook is often seen by employers as a way of finding out things they didn’t know about their staff, or as a waste of company time, how useful or relevant are the skills obtained on Facebook to working in a digital workplace?  Why do over a half of UK employers ban the use of Facebook at work? (Peacock 2011).  Facebook users have acquired or re-purposed skills within their usage of the platform. Facebook users are aggregators of content, they are networkers, they engage in constructive and critical debate and comment, they share creative efforts; they report regularly about their activities, they interact asynchronously.  These when broken down are valuable skills in a workplace, or relevant to a higher education.  Yet, they seem easy to dismiss as trivial or as distracting from real life.   Not all Facebook users are higher education learners, nor are all higher education learners on Facebook.  But as teachers, we cannot and should not assume our learners are blank slates.  Technology is not the inevitable instrument that will bring down lecture theatres and smash classrooms.  Our learners will be.  If higher education does not meet the needs of the next generation, then the next generation will go elsewhere for their knowledge.  They will learn, authenticate and use it themselves, within their social networks and communities created through and on social media.  They will find an authority outside the academy, or they will find or start an academy that will serve their needs.  Their own practice will vindicate and realise the learning.

 

Anna Kamenetz, author of DIY U (2010), notes that higher education is by its very nature ‘an inherently conservative enterprise’.  Conservative does not mean resistant to change.  The conditions we discussed earlier around academic freedom, learner centred learning and research informed teaching support adapting to a new learner and engaging in creative skills acquisition and learning.  However, as Goethe says, are we hopelessly enslaved simply because we believe we are free to make these choices?  Do we feel that by resisting the pull of technology, defending against its insidious influence and arguing for the way we have always done it (plus or minus one) we are defending higher education?

 

What do you think? I would love to hear from learners and teachers on this subject.  Send me a comment or an email.

 

 References

Brauer, M. & Bourhis, R.Y. 2006, ‘Social power’, European Journal of Social Psychology, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 601-616.

Downes, S. 2009, ‘Learning networks and connective knowledge’, in H.H. Yang & S.C.-Y. Yuen (eds), Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0: Implications of Web-Based Communities and Networking, p. 1.

Etzkowitz, H. 2003, ‘Innovation in innovation: The triple helix of university-industry-government relations’, Social Science Information, vol. 42, no. 3, pp. 293-337.

Fischer, G. 2009, ‘Cultures of participation and social computing: Rethinking and reinventing learning and education’, paper presented to the International Conference on Advanced Learning Technologies (Icalt),, Riga, Latvia.

Hanley, L. 2011, ‘Mashing Up the Institution: Teacher as Bricoleur’, The Radical Teacher, no. 90, pp. 9-14.

Hong, C., Caldwell, L., Ashley, T. & Alpert, V. 2008, ‘Transcultural perspective on digital practices and the arts in higher education’, paper presented to the Dance Dialogues: Conversations Across Cultures, Artforms and Practices : World Dance Alliance Global Summit., Brisbane, Australia, 13 -18 July.

Kamenetz, A. 2010, DIY U: Edupunks, edupreneurs, and the coming transformation of higher education, Chelsea Green Publishing.

Lewis, T., Marginson, S. & Snyder, I. 2005, ‘The network university? Technology, culture and organisational complexity in contemporary higher education’, Higher Education Quarterly, vol. 59, no. 1, pp. 56-75.

Peacock, L. 2011, ‘Companies ban Twitter from workplace’, The Daily Telegraph, 11th May 2011, viewed 10th May 2012 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/jobs/8505288/Companies-ban-Twitter-from-workplace.html>.

Power, D. & Malmberg, A. 2008, ‘The contribution of universities to innovation and economic development: in what sense a regional problem?’, Cambridge journal of regions, economy and society, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 233-245.

Winterford, B. 2009, NSW students tear through 40TB a month, viewed 3rd May 2012 <http://www.itnews.com.au/News/156440,nsw-students-tear-through-40tb-a-month.aspx>.

 

 

…I need you to get up for me up on that stage – collaboration in a web 2.0 world revisitied

Collaboration is perhaps one of the lost arts of participating in a web 2.0 environment.  There is a lot discussion about some of the other aspects of web 2.0 platforms.  We can find plenty of popular media and/or discussion about processes such as aggregation (friends, content etc) and sharing.  There is an interesting sideline into the ability to utilise other peoples work for commercial or other artistic uses (see Creative Commons – an article for another day).  There is even a well explored discourse on the nature of the interactions and interactivity that evolves from web 2.0 platforms. 

Of course, there have been lots of column inches written about collaboration, usual in the same held breath as sharing and interaction, but what does collaboration actually mean.  In the simplest sense, a wiki space represents collaboration.  People working together to develop, edit and present a document, sometimes in real time, others in an asynchronous fashion (where users log in and out at different times).  However, whilst this example harnesses the ability of a web 2.0 environment to empower people to work together, does it explore the process of creativity and innovation in collaboration?

I have found the notion of online collaboration one of the most difficult to engage with, yet one of the most rewarding when it actually occurs and results in something.  In some ways it is connected with the notion of professional networking.  We can decide to become more involved in a professional network.  We can identify the platform, the community, and the people we wish to network with.  The conditions however of our interactions are neither automatic nor standard.  The ability to effectively communicate with the gatekeepers, information holders or influential people in the network is sometimes the barrier to our intentions of being part of that network.  Collaboration often bears the same problems. How do you find people to collaborate with? How do conduct the collaboration?  Our blogs are a good start, but there are hundreds of thousands of new blogs being formed each week. 

I want to talk about two sites I have discovered this week, that address one of these issues in terms of ‘breaking through’ and identifying potential collaborators.  They are not solutions to the problems, just different angles with which to approach it.

The first is the Johnny Cash project (http://www.thejohnnycashproject.com).  The site was launched as part of the promotional campaign for the final Johnny Cash album.  The aim of the project is to allow you to design your own video for the song ‘ain’t no grave’, the title track from the album.  From a library of material, you can adapt, reconstruct and edit a variety of images simply, and then place them within a video, which you can then share on the site.   When the frames you design are included in a final video (that is released to the media), your name will appear in the credits.  You can access constructs such as ‘most popular frame’ right through to ‘most abstract frame’.  Each of these allows you to take someone else’s work, develop it and then share it on.

Taking a different approach was Canadian band, Arcade Fire.  Called the ‘Wilderness Downtown’ project (http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/) the site uses cutting edge web programming, that engages with a number of google enhines such as google maps, but effectively developing a collaborative movie between you and your history, the band (who supply the music) and the film maker who controls the images and constructs the shell that allows your work to fill in the gaps.  It is very hard to explain, the best suggestion I have is go and try it.  It kind of blew my mind!  What is interesting here is that our/your collaboration with the music and the film is more about your/our imagination and how you/I see the film representing a story relevant to you or I.    

   

What is interesting about both of these sites is that you become part of a community either explicitly (in terms of the Johnny Cash project where you can sign up and share with other users) or implicitly (in terms of the Arcade Fire, where you can the collaboration is perhaps more limited to the expansion of possibility or the exploration of your role in a film about your life).

In terms of where we started, both of these are a long way from what we might traditionally understand to be collaboration.  You may not know who the person is you are collaborating with.  The relationship might be entirely passive as the Arcade Fire or it might be active enough to produce collaborative works similar to those made by in-person collaborations.  There was interesting example of this a few years back in Australia, where the Arts Council who provide significant funding for the arts, issued a call for funding to support a collaborative project on second life, which is an immersive on-line social network, where you interact through a character you create (called an avatar).  The three artists were Adam Nash, Christopher Dodds and Justin Clemens who variously were composers, writers and computer programmers.  Their completed work called ‘babelswarm’ takes the words of users, makes them into shapes and constructs a virtual tower of Babel from the word and phrases of the users, with each word triggering a phrase or piece of music that forms a long musical work.  Have a look at the video of the work; it may explain it a little better!

The fascinating aspect of collaboration here once again is that we as the users can be a part of an artwork, determine the creative patterns of it, and even contribute in a lasting way to an artefact, without directly meeting or engaging with the artists involved.  It makes us think about the nature of collaboration and where it may evolve into the future.