Saturday, March 23, 2013

Week 6 Readings

The topic for week six is Social Creativity. Three major readings were assigned this week and you can find links to each piece here:

* Gerhard Fischer (2011): Understanding, Fostering, and Supporting Cultures of Participation. Interactions.

* Designing a website for creative learning
Andrés Monroy-Hernández

Designing for Remixing:
Supporting an Online Community of Amateur Creators
by Andr´es Monroy-Hern´andez

Fisher's work mixes theory with burgeoning empirical knowledge on participatory cultures. In Fisher's article, he offers a primary framework for setting up and maintaining effective cultures of participation. Cultures of participation move users from being passive consumers to engaged, active designers and contributors. Social computing allows for people to create and work with one another, to construct knowledge and products in a way thought unimaginable before.

Fisher writes, "innovative technologies are necessary for cultures of participation, but not sufficient." For this reason, Fisher offers major components of an emerging framework able to drive cultures of participation and social creativity. Simply stated, he says, "Goals should be to engage diverse audience, enhance creativity, and foster collaboration among  users acting as designers and contributors.

There are three major pieces to this framework

1. Meta-Design
-"design for designers"
-creating open systems at design time
-future problems and questions cannot be completely anticipated at design time
-contributors should not feel intimidated to make changes
-some type of benefit must be gained in exchange for time and effort
-low barriers to sharing
-designers must become meta-designers

2. Social Creativity
- increasing social creativity requires diversity in the sense each participant should have some specialization and localized knowledge
-also requires aggregation, turning individual contributions into collections
-based on the assumption that the unaided individual mind is limited
-must be motivated to contribute and be allowed to contribute

3. Richer Ecologies of Participation
-cultures of participation must handle the start-up paradox, when early in their life cycle they have few members to generate content and little content to attract members
-instead of building complete system at design time, should build seeds that can evolve over time
-Periods of planned activity (seeding), unplanned evolution (evolutionary growth phase), and periods of deliberate restructuring (reseeding)
-Not every participant must participate, but the must have the opportunity to
-Mechanism needed for motivation, involvement, and innovation
-”low threshold, high ceiling”
-scaffolding mechanism to support migrating paths
-support for different levels of participation
-rewards and incentives for final effort

In Designing a Website for Creative Learning, Andrés Monroy-Hernández describes how the website Scratch evolved into a hub for social creativity. If one reads Hernández's piece after Fisher's, it becomes clear why Scratch is successful at promoting a culture of participation. Scratch employs much of the framework Fisher implies is necessary for success. What is most interesting about Scratch is the number of young people working together to create games, animations, videos, and stories. Many of the projects on Scratch would be impossible if done by individuals. Adolescents and teens figured out early that for the success of some projects, different talents and skills were needed. If they all collaborated and contributed, the end was made greater than the pieces. This is a remarkable understanding for young people.

In the context of the two articles, I was struck by the idea that we have a moral obligation to share. This sense comes from the understanding that almost all of our knowledge and understanding comes from the aid of other people. Along the way, countless teachers, coaches, mentors, and people contribute to our unique understanding of the world. There are few places like the Internet were this shared sense of knowledge is put into action. Furthermore, I can only push my knowledge so far. If I offer up my understanding and thought for others, advancement can be achieved. Do arguments like this push people to greater openness and humility? Will it lead to unthinkable progress? Are we all comfortable with this idea? If the Internet changes our notion of knowledge as not just "mine", but rather "mine" for others to build on and improve, it will truly lead to impacts beyond technology.

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