Here is my “Digital Artifact” for the MOOC E-Learning + Digital Cultures.
This blog post and the embedded video, form my Digital Artifact , my personal response, to the MOOC “eLearning and Digital Cultures”. In this post, I’ll try to respond to the propositions it has put before me, and to the methods and patterns I’ve observed in it and in myself.
About the Video…
I didn’t set out to emulate “The Machine is Us” or any of those first-person, typing-on-your-screen responses to modern tech, but in retrospect, my video kind of looks like one of them.
But, the way it looks came about purely practically:
- I wanted to use my voice. Maybe this was because the vastness of the MOOC classroom made me feel like it was difficult to be heard.
- The MOOC is a heavily visual experience (all those videos, and scrolling of screens to read things), so my response had to be full of images and motion.
- I knew it would be made up of some kind of collage of images, but I didn’t know I’d be sampling my own web surfing so directly. This was like a riff on the act of doing web-based research.
- I wanted the video piece to look and feel a bit obscure, rough or hand-rolled, not perfectly trim and clean. Plus, time would be an issue, so I had to figure ways to do things live, and to move things around on the screen in real-time. Time was my enemy. I’d probably need to work fast.
- I had a rough script, but was ready to improvise if need be.
How the video was produced:
The video came into being through a combination of digital and online resources, and coincidental, guerrilla production methods.
I’d originally thought about doing a Prezi or a slideshow as the format for my final piece, but after thinking about it for a while, I decided that those formats would either be too restrictive, or too over-used. I would definitely record something off my computer screen though – maybe using Jing…
My next concept was to create many little graphical clips – little cutouts – in Photoshop, and move them around on Photoshop’s artboard, like little 2D puppets on a digital “stage”. (Maybe the “Bendito Machine” video had influenced me subconsciously?)
As the deadline approached, the prospect of capturing and clipping dozens of graphics – maybe even one hundred – seemed hugely impractical. I needed a more immediate, more rapid way to get my idea across. I decided to try to stay with the “stage” idea, but move bigger and fewer pieces of art around.
I built a simple Photoshop project that used a soft-edged rectangle, like a soft viewport or blurry camera iris. I decided that the first few moments of my story could represent a frame of my expectations – the fuzzy edges might stand as a visual metaphor for the uncertain boundaries of my expectations, or the blurry boundaries that I perceived to be the student parameters of the MOOC itself.
Beyond that, I had a number of concepts that I’d thumbed into my smartphone during a coffee break. I knew the story would trace a line through the content that I’d experienced thus far, and through my reactions to being a MOOCer, in general.
I set up a small 640 x 480 rectangular area on my screen to record, and I abandoned Jing in favour of its “big brother” app, Camtasia Studio.
This became as much of a temporal collage as it was a spatial collage.
As soon as I got to record the first web page in the video (in this case the front of edcmooc), I decided to abandon the Photoshop artboard “stage” altogether, and just grab whatever I could online to tell the narrative I had sketched out in Notepad. I would just capture whatever I could in my browser (making elements bigger so they better filled the screen and the user’s field of view), and use whatever images I could find on the fly from the web.
I began recording, and would pause from shot to shot, to change what content would appear in the little 640 x 480 capture area. This allowed me to create the whole sequence in chunks of one minute or so, or sometimes as brief as a few seconds. This gave me the freedom to work rapidly and change things on the fly, spending 10 or 15 minutes between “takes” to select and compose what would go in the next little sequence, or consult my little script (which you see me doing in the video), and practice or re-do my audio narration.
The music track was from a creative commons source, and any coincidences of images and sounds (like when an image appears right in time with a strong drum cue or something) is purely and wonderfully coincidental.
So, there was some predetermined design, and there was some random chance, and some on-the-spot improv, which felt very liberating. There was a logistical framework in some of the preparation, and most especially there was a definite mental framework in all the concepts which had been interconnecting in my mind over the past few weeks.
But it was truly recorded as a sequence of brief little live performances. Recording and editing the initial 12 minute “draft” version of the video probably took me five or six hours. The next day, I emailed and tweeted the YouTube URL around to get some feedback, and then spent another hour later that night tightening up the editing, adding graphics, and refining the music volume.
Then, I spent another few hours working on this blog post, in order to try to explain (and rationalize) it all…
What my Digital Artifact probably says about my experience…
…is that after the first few weeks, I think I responded more to the process of MOOCing, of being a student in a MOOC, than I did to the actual propositions put to me by the course facilitators and the course content. I always have been a bit more interested in process rather than product. I think that working in relative isolation, with only a vague feeling of online “connectedness” to instructors or colleagues, tended to make me turn inward more and more. Instead of reaching outward to collaborate with my online classmates or facilitators, I turned inward and did a more personal analysis of the internal learning and thought processes which had been triggered – some of which from twenty five years earlier! I think that’s what my artifact communicates: my reactions to the process in which I was immersed.
I enjoyed creating something that moved and contained more than one mode of apprehension (i.e. voice + video + music). I think that I ended up responding to those same qualities in the MOOC content…
- The little animated chunks of video, which delivered little windows into someone else’s world.
- The relentless reading and scrolling and clicking to get from idea to idea (an animated experience in itself).
What does my experience reflect? Is it useful to the MOOC itself?
A friend and fellow classmate in this MOOC told me that being in it felt a bit like being in art college all over again. I must totally agree with that statement: that is very much how it felt for me as well. And for me, that’s a good thing.
But, is it useful information to the facilitators of this MOOC or to the developers of the versions of it that will come after it? Just what kind of teaching and learning have we been undertaking here in MOOCland, and what are those Masters students in the U. of Edinburgh getting from studying this massive online learning experiment? And what does Coursera get out of it?
What is a MOOC, after all?
Is it just Edutainment, as some people fear?
Is it a new excuse for more web surfing and social media?
Is it actually some yet-to-be-validated form of social learning?
Those questions will take me much longer to answer.