The major model of our project is ecological, evolutionary. The first principle is that we are not “selling” or even providing information or content. Information is a Bing/Google away. We are creating information in Bateson’s sense of, “…a difference that makes a difference.” You might want to say, borrowing a current buzz phrase, that we propose to be “experienced designers” rather than “instructional designers”. What follows is a first cut, there are a lot of rough edges, and undoubtedly errors and dead ends. Hopefully, however, it will make the 5 Friends project a little more comprehensible.
Let’s tell the story of a potential course:
Let’s make it about 3-D Printing and imagine that it starts with three departure points:
Orientation - Organization Phase (2 – 3 weeks)
Presume an initial enrollment of 20K (We’re doning fantasy MOOC here, but it’s not unreasonable 3-D printers being a hot topic). The first couple of weeks will be Spent organizing learning teams. (In the future we can imagine courses which require five person learning teams for registration, or some sort of analytic engine capable of analyzing participant applications and assigning them to effective teams [something like the DISC assessment tool?]. At the moment, however, we will have to rely on self organizing units.) We will be running on some sort of aggregation engine such as gRSShopper which will aid team formation.
In keeping with the course departure points we will assume three major areas of focus:
- Open-source hackers and coders who are interested in building things primarily for the challenge of building
- Entrepreneurs who are interested in the application of things built either for-profit or social good or both
- Cultural engineers and sociologists who are interested in the potential effects of the first two categories
While we can expect learning teams to organize around one of these focus areas, we want to encourage cross membership and thus cross-fertilization. During the start up period we want to borrow from the Open Space Technology movement the Rule of Two Feet: “If at any time during our time together you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, use your two feet, go someplace else.” we can expect a fair amount of confusion during this period, but we will insist that further participation in the course requires membership in a five person team. This will undoubtedly cause a number of dropouts, and will in fact be effectively unenforceable, but again we are trying to establish an ecology.
Research Phase: (Three – six weeks):
Now that the learning teams have been established, and the original starting points consumed, the teams begin an exploration phase during which time they follow leads, identify new information sources and potentially related projects, and begin to think about possible and practical applications of 3-D printing. Each team, or perhaps groups of teams, begin to evolve project proposals. We can expect that research and proposals will expand beyond printers, to areas such as input (Leap Motion) devices and modeling environments. The proposals are refined into presentations, and during the last two days of class the participants vote selecting the 40 projects which seemed to them to have the most real-world potential. The selected projects now proceed to the
Production & Integration Phase: (6-12 weeks):
We are now down to 40 projects and 200 participants. We now begin a phase of rapid prototyping and analysis. Are the proposed projects really practical? Can they accomplish their promise, what exactly is their promise? Ideally this phase would be tied to physical spaces, maker-labs, etc. (As every film student knows one of teh major reasons for going to film school is access to equipment).At the end of the phase another vote is held (we could use either the 200 remaining participants, that 200+ whoever from the original participant group is still following along, or some weighted combination of the two). 10 projects are selected to enter the:
Marketing & Distribution Phase: (as long as it takes):
The final 50 participants now begin to seek whatever funding is required to move forward with their proposed project. Most obviously we see a potential collaboration between the maker/coders who actually produced something concrete and the entrepreneurs who expect to “exploit” these productions. However, if you followed this far, it may have occurred to you that I have not suggested which fields of focus the selected projects live in. Logically it seems as though they must belong either to the makers or the entrepreneurs, but wo could equally imagine academic papers examining the process of said makers an/or entrepreneurs or artistic responses to any or all of the above. whatever the case, the final “product” of the course will be something that matters in the real world. Perhaps something that prints, something that makes money, or improves society, or ideally does both.
If I have captured your attention at all, you will understand that there are a variety of forks in the above story. Points at which a slight variation in the “rules” would create a very different narrative. In a sense, what I am proposing is a framework for experimentation and development. If you’ve gotten this far, you’ll probably want to jump ahead, were back to either Reboot (recommended) or Beginnings; from there I’m hoping that you’ll be interested enough to join me and start telling you own tales.
Reboot – Beginnings