What did I learn at Art of Hosting?

art-of-hosting-title-photoLast week I had a chance to participate in an Art of Hosting training in Otavan Opisto, Mikkeli.

The hosts did a fantastic job in making everyone feel welcome and establishing an open environment for learning. Actually, the first thing that the organisers made clear was that the participants would be the hosts, and we would be learning about hosting while doing it. The different tasks one could sign up for included Harvesting (documentation), Feng Shui (arranging & cleaning the space, organising food & coffee, etc), Check In & Check Out (tuning into learning sessions, and tuning out from them), creating the programme for the evening party and or course hosting the actual learning sessions.

I came to the event to learn some more facilitation methods (and to gain a better understanding of methods I’m already familiar with), but I actually learned something else – various frameworks for getting a better grip of the community learning process as a whole, and to understand the process of personal growth and how human-to-human communication works (or fails to work).

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‘We need courses that last a 100 years’ + ‘In order to learn, students need to break the law’

(A selection of radical thoughts about learning and education from Mobilityshifts event – Part 4)


Benjamin Bratton’s presentation was (quite appropriately) titled ‘Ambivalent Remarks on Computation, Political Geography, Pedagogy’. He referred to an interview of philosopher Bernard Stiegler and his concepts of short and long circuits in education.

“The problem of long circuits turning into short circuits is a fundamental condition which we have to grasp – that is – the time of digital technologies is too short – what we need in very very long classes, not very very short classes.”

“The condition of education… is to train the attention of next generation, to train them to have attention, to pay attention, to comprehend their own attentiveness – it is to train them to have a memory, to train them to have a conception of time that is appropriate.”

Benjamin proposes that we need courses that can be located within long arcs of time:

“I think 500 years is a reasonable span for a course to try to locate for the students, so that they can locate themselves in this arc. Courses that don’t have a 500 year arc, that aren’t teaching what it is that they are teaching in terms of a 500 year context are probably too shallow. And I think this can be just as true for very practical courses – you know, is there a way to teach a ‘how to hack a website’ workshop, or how to build an android app, with a 500 year arc of understanding what that means. How did we arrive at the possibility of asking this question and even proposing this skill.”

We also need very long courses:

“Instead of a course that goes on for 10 weeks, or even for one year, prefer courses that go on for 10 years, or perhaps a 100 years, a faculty handing off one to another, like architects of medieval churches.”


On the flight to the conference Benjamin happened to sit next to a Israeli cryptographer who had two arguments about education that Benjamin wanted to pass on to the conference audience:

“Students have to understand that we are currently building a legacy codebase at a planetary level which will exist and endure for generations.”

“In order to be successful in the design of this legacy codebase for the generations to come we have to be willing to assign students things that are as of today illegal – with the presumption that it is the things that exits outside the legal structures will form the base of the constitutional structures to come”


ABCD system is too rigid for grading the quality of meat – why is it still used in education?

(A selection of radical thoughts about learning and education from Mobilityshifts event – Part 3)

“What happens if we don’t believe the only way of giving credit is the way we have inherited?”

Cathy Davidson’s presentation was related to her book ’Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn’. The presentation included two amazing historical anecdotes:


Mount Holyoke College was the first university in America to give ABCD grades, in year 1897. The second institution to start using this system was the American Meatpackers Association – for grading the quality of meat. Soon afterwards the association gave up the system, since they found it too inflexible to grade the quality of meat.


Frederick J. Kelly was the person who proposed using multiple choice tests for large scale assessment in education. This happened in 1914, during wartime when hundreds of thousands of immigrants were arriving in the country. A new law was passed that required 2 years of secondary education for everyone and this created a crisis: the existing education system could not cope with this. Mr. Kelly proposed multiple choice tests to deal with this emergency, but he thought that this would only be a temporary solution. After the war he was hired as the director of University of Idaho where he established an education programme which emphasised general, critical thinking (“College is a place to learn how to educate oneself rather than a place in which to be educated”). He was fired from the job after only two years – the university faculty protested against his reforms, they had not expected such from the guy who invented the multiple choice test. (A longer article about this can be found here)

Cathy (as well as many others at Mobilityshifts) mentioned Mozilla Open Badges as a promising initiative to change the way learning is evaluated (more information here: http://openbadges.org/en-US/faq.html).


‘We need to refuse anonymous peer review’

(A selection of radical thoughts about learning and education from Mobilityshifts event – Part 2)

‘We need to refuse anonymous peer review’

Geert Lovink gave a presentation about the different publication methods that Institute of Network Cultures has been using so far (Studies in Network Culture, INC Readers, Network Notebooks and Theory on Demand. He also made some general remarks about ‘Do-It-Together Publishing’. I especially appreciate the idea that one of the aims of the publishing process is to further radicalize both the content and style.

– – – –

INC Principles of Do-It-Together Publishing

  • Collective decision making over the choice of format, length and deadline
  • Promotion of the concept/essay style
  • Regular support, both content-based and emotional assistance in writing process
  • Intense copy editing, in particular in the case of non-native English writers, with the aim to further radicalize both the content and style
  • Dealing together with the digital delivery

Larger Agenda of D.i.T Publishing

  • Refuse peer review and disassociate from IP-driven publishers (common exodus)
  • Conversion to a system of mutual aid
  • Critical engagement with open access standards (incl. software and typography)
  • Engagement in dialogue, discussion, comment cultures (social reading)
  • Networks to share experiences how best to distribute titles through multiple platforms

– – – –

Video recording of Geert’s presentation can be found online: http://vimeo.com/32725309

Here are a couple of quotes (at approx 25:00 in the presentation):

‘The peer review system as it exists in the academic world is  is corrupt to its core’ –

‘In particular of course anonymous peer reviewing, which is so largely used to bring down the self-esteem of many many people, it’s a very humiliating form of discussion’ – ‘it’s the most nasty form of contemporary debate we have’

Related links:

‘We can teach what we don’t know’

(A selection of radical thoughts about learning and education from Mobilityshifts event – Part 1)


The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation (a book by Jacques Rancière) tells the story of Joseph Jacotot, a French teacher and educational philosopher (born in 1770).

A key experience for Jacotot was the occasion when he had to teach French language to students who only understood Dutch, a language he could not speak himself. He gave the students a book with the same text in two languages (French and Dutch) and asked them to compare the texts in order to learn. To his surprise, the students learned French in a similar pace as the students that he was able to teach in a conventional way. He had to admit that his ability to teach was not based on knowledge, but on something else.

The key elements of Jacotot’s teaching manifesto are:

1. All men have equal intelligence;
2. Every man has received from God the faculty of being able to instruct himself;
3. We can teach what we don’t know;
4. Everything is in everything.

(Related to ‘Rancière: Ignorance Will Have Learned’ presentation by Jairo Moreno, University of Pennsylvania, Department of Music: http://soundcloud.com/thenewschoolnyc/ranci-re-ignorance-will-have)

Valise Pédagogique – teaching methods

During the past days, I have been impressed by the teaching methods that Jean-Noël and Olivier Heinry use in the ‘Valise Pédagogique Création Interactive’ workshop.

During a break I did a very short interview with Olivier, here is a brief summary –

The workshop began with a history of interactive art, starting from cave paintings, continuing with automatons in ancient Egypt and during the Enlightment era, presenting the work of Nicolas Schöffer and finally examples of interactive art done by artists today.

The workshop lessons about interactive tools and programming are divided into three parts: 1. Data capturing, 2. Data filtering and 3. Action – what are the effects that system can generate. This is an autonomous, interactive system, and also a basis for a methodology for creating interactive art. The purpose is to offer a simple approach that anyone can learn.

But this workshop actually aims for much more than just teaching these theoretical and practical lessons. The approach is holistic – the workshop teaches ‘how to be an artist who uses interactive technologies’. This means, for example, that the participants are educated about the financial aspects related to interactive technologies, so while they are learning about the tools they should also think about what kind of economical logic (not only in the sense on money, but use of time, and other resources) could work for them in future. The students learn the basics of Cybernetics through various simple examples.

In his teaching, Olivier is using the methods he has learned in working as a member of various dance projects (especially via working with Good Work Productions), and also partly from his knowledge about collective software development. Olivier studied fine arts and learned his computer / software skills himself, and he was particularly impressed by a method called Scrum. This method is an iterative process, which assigns roles to people (instead of building a top-down hierarchy) and allows the teacher not to be the ‘boss’ but rather a facilitator of activities. For Olivier, it’s important to aim for the autonomy of the participants. The participants themselves occasionally become teachers themselves – once they have mastered a skill they can assist others, or they can give a presentation about related projects that they have been previously been working on.

Here are some examples of what this approach means in practice: Every morning, the students and teachers sit in a circle and repeat each others names, so that everyone would learn all the names more quickly. In the space where the lessons are given, all the chairs and tables have been removed, the projector is also placed on the floor, to remove all the physical signs of hierarchy. Ideas are collected into a big colorful cloud of post-it notes on the wall. Etc, etc…

>> More information about Valise Pédagogique Création Interactive in French

(>> original posting on Pixelache blog)

Digital Craftsmanship

Photo: Pulse by Markus Kison (DE)

According to the participants of Pixelache09 Digital Craftsmanship seminar, Digital Craftsmanship involves:

  • Thinking with your hands
  • Developing digital media cookbooks and recipes
  • Getting different people to share same focus, taking steps in the areas where they are not comfortable
  • Contributing back to the community of teachers
  • Being cross-over artists and designers, enough skills to 99% of things needed
  • Allowing non-specialists to enter, make technology itself culturally diverse
  • Building spaces for learning that reflect the culture that we have online

The discussion involved people from UdK Berlin, Culture Lab Newcastle, Taik Media Lab, Konstfack Stockholm, Kitchen Budapest and other schools/labs. It was evident that digital craftsmanship is difficult to compare with traditional master-apprentice relationship. It seems to be more about a specific approach (or one could even say attitude) to working with digital media. All the basic building blocks (physical parts, hardware, software) are kept open for modifying and one should have enough skills and confidence to work on all different aspects of the project. A key for successful learning and development is to be connected to a network of peers and knowledge / resources that can be shared.

(>> original posting on Pixelache09 site)