Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Get educated, not credentialled

My apologies for being the late Ian Milliss, just too much end of year work to do. I also did not have this in mind a week ago but it fits in with so many other things I’m working on that it deserves to be followed up. Well done Ben for taking the initiative.

I agree with David that an OSAS would be neither an alternative nor a rival to the conventional art schools, like him I see it as a clearing house for info on art schools and art school alternatives, a place to find a wider range of art resources, art information sources and viewpoints, history, theory, art activities of all sorts. In other words a way to get educated about art in as wide or as narrow a way as you might choose. And I emphasise education, the acquisition of information and knowledge and hopefully wisdom, rather than the acquisition of credentials.

And it is interesting how this has sprung from Art Life, now busily claiming credit on the principle that you should never be modest because if you don’t claim credit then someone else will. Of course we commentators claim credit for the modest success of Art Life on the principle that we are what people read, not the reviews which are merely there to trigger the shit fights. See comments further down.

Being practical as well as cynical as well as idealist I want t get straight to the point about a few things. All activities like this have four components:
  1. a producer
  2. a medium
  3. content
  4. an audience
And unless all are functional you will fail. As David says that’s not the end of the world, we can all walk away with nothing lost but a bit of time. But we may as well try and even if we fail we may lay the groundwork for some others to succeed, I’ve been involved in a lot of projects that ended up like that in my time.

Open source projects are of course by definition the product of many hands and minds all contributing in different ways. However, despite the naïve beliefs of some people, they have to be highly organized to succeed. There is an enormous body of debate stretching back at least a decade on the issues involved in the necessary organization. For anyone interested you can start to get an idea of the complexity of issues involved if you look at the organizational pages of Wikipedia. Obviously we are not talking about operating on that scale but the same issues exist at every scale. If there is interest I’ll put together a whole post at a later date about the debates in the management of interactive and cooperative web based projects. The short version is that too much management will kill involvement and too little will kill involvement and your credibility. The immediate solution is just to get on with it in a few achievable project areas setting up ad hoc procedures as required while being aware of potential formal frameworks. In case anyone wants to get all romantic and bullshitty about freedom etc etc etc it should be pointed out firstly that the reason the extreme right is always in favour of formlessness (small government, deregulation, freedom in the George-Bush-in-Iraq sense of the word) is that it makes it easier to exploit and bully people and secondly that it makes sense for us to learn from the history of similar projects rather than reinventing their disasters. Some level of structure and moderation that defines equality will defend the rights and involvement of everyone. It helps if you assume a level of good will on the part of everyone involved (always difficult when you consider the way the ArtLife trolls drive away all but the very thick skinned like us).

In the shortest term while we work some general ideas, the way Ben is proceeding by giving posting rights to whoever contacts him by email is the right way to go.

As Ben pointed out early on, blogger is not the best way of going about this, but it is OK in the short term. We should set up a few links, or rather some posts full of links , to similar projects in existence elsewhere.

The next step would be to set up a CMS based web site with a blog section discussion forum, links to developing projects, wiki area for proposals and ideas for projects etc. There are endless numbers of models for this now in existence. A fairly elegant example is the Ubuntu Linux site - check out the community tab for some excellent solutions to the organization issues mentioned above.

At the risk of sounding complacent, this is an issue that is going to have to solve itself. We have projects of our own, there could be other content from the most banal ie the existing art schools, but with comments added by whoever wants to, art classes by artists, the real studio system ie working as an artists assistant, all the way to things like the University of Openness and icols. I suppose I would draw the line at people cyber squatting and using up our bandwidth for projects with no discernable relevance. Other than that I think it should self regulate ie we should have a system for reviewing and rating contributions, in other words you can do anything but you will have to be prepared to cop criticism for it. This is the part where everyone involved would need to work to involve others, if content doesn’t grow it all won’t happen.

Or students or whatever you want to call them. The issue here is how to get them to visit the site and use it or even get involved in creating it. The key to this is interesting and/or useful content and getting as much publicity as possible through the media, through structuring the site for best google results, and through word of mouth.


Anonymous Davh said...

Great post Ian. Busy time of the year for everyone - hopefully things will fire up in the new year and 2006.

7:17 am  

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