Home Education Knowledge and Action
The analysis of our action experiments in the Studio for Social Creativity has permitted us to formulate propositions about the interaction between social and physical space. First, we invited people to envisage how to generate new possibilities (for interaction?) and then observed how these participants engaged with each other in the social and physical space provided for their task. On this basis we identified seven distinct configurations: Orientation, Meeting Mode, Expansion, Creation, Reflection, and Rehearsal. Second, by focusing on the video material, we revealed how anxious it makes people to be in what they perceive as undifferentiated space, how quickly they try to import rules from other spaces in order to reduce their uncertainty, and how they thereby risk getting locked into established ways of thinking and behaving. Third, the visual analysis also showed that shifting from one configuration to another involved expanding into new physical space (e.g., moving to the middle of room, working on the floor, or using the wall for exhibition) and engaging creatively with art materials and other objects. Adding aesthetic ways of experiencing and communicating increased the group’s social creativity. Fourth, we postulate that both undifferentiated and unencrusted space are conducive for enabling the emergence of newness by maximizing the choice participants have as to how to engage with each other and their task. We thereby underscore and clarify the significance of space for creativity while avoiding the anthropomorphization of space, a conceptual trap that we encountered in the literature. Fifth, we note the need for movement between nonverbal and verbal forms of interaction in creating knowledge and sharing meaning. When people limit themselves to just talking, they tend to become stuck. Choosing not to talk during a phase of experimentation with bodily forms of knowing and communicating is generative; and verbal communication is needed once more for shared reflection.
The action experiments confirm how valuable it is for us as researchers to move out of our comfort zone when we are seeking new knowledge. We took two such steps in this project. First, we decided to participate in such an open exploratory process rather than stand back as observers or facilitators of a clearly structured workshop. Second, we chose in this chapter to focus our analysis solely on the visible evidence recorded on film. Both steps have proven highly generative. However, we recognize that the focus on the visible in our analysis did not give us access to certain important aspects. In order to explore the meaning the participants were giving to their actions, we need to listen to what they said and then connect that back to what we have observed. An analysis of the spoken words would enable us to correct or refine our configurations, for example. The other aspect we have not yet attended to are the power dynamics in the Studio for Social Creativity. Of course, they were present in the situation, for conflict in the region and tensions between groups at the college were two of the drivers for conducting the sessions in the studio. Moreover, there were differences in status among the participants (e.g., students vs. different levels of faculty; Palestinian Arab vs. Jewish backgrounds; men vs. women; and artists, academics, and practitioners). Exploring those dynamics in the construction of social space and use of physical space would require analyzing the spoken and written (e.g., graffiti) aspects along with the visible process.
Another issue that needs to be examined is the potential paradox inherent in the Studio for Social Creativity. We have posited that the undifferentiated and unencrusted nature of the space is an important condition for enabling participants to generate new ideas and ways of engaging there. How will its potential as a space of possibility be maintained for groups to return to over time? The more they use the space, the more likely it is that they will build mental models of how to use it (even if they leave it unencrusted), making it harder on their return for them to break out of an unusual way of having used it. We sense a need to engage more frequently and intimately with the world of the arts to stimulate our learning. Actors and musicians have experience with the paradox because they have to keep being creative on the stages they return to night after night. Fortunately, some artists are seeking inspiration precisely by moving out of the spaces they know in order to engage in learning creatively with people from other worlds, including academics (Berthoin Antal, 2015).
Acknowledgments We are grateful to the Institute for Advanced Study, Constance, for giving the first author the time and space to develop ideas for this chapter.
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