On the network: Plenty of room for “X”

Workshop: Learning (what, how, where, who, with whom)
Organizers : Lucas Devolder / Joanne Pouzenc
Collaborator : Constructlab team members
Date: 29/10/22
Location: Germany, online

Classifying learning is quite a complicated task that requires multiple perspectives. In the workshop “Learning (what, how, where, who, with whom)” we dared to tackle the topic and discussed it with an eager audience from a variety of positions. To get a better understanding of the thematic framework, we introduced John Cage’s “10 rules for students and teachers”. Rule number 1 is especially remarkable: “Find a place you trust, and then, try trusting it for a while.” This inherits the fundamental understanding that learning demands somewhat of a safespace scenario, an environment you can rely on. But to feel that kind of safe, you need to understand your own motivation for entering the new learning terrain: Do you want to learn because you secretly want to encounter something? Or is encountering your excuse to learn? Is your learning process goal orientated or is it about the practice?
Encouraging the participants to think about those considerations, we asked them to take a quiz. As diverse as the backgrounds were, as similar were the answers. Especially the questions “Why do you want to learn/ Where do you want to learn?” unified our audience: “To be with other people.”, they replied to the first question. And “Where people are.” was their answer to the second. So for them, more important than the outcome seems to be the collaborative aspect of learning.
In line with this attitude are the endeavors of Ateliers Collaborative. Ateliers Collaborative are, generally speaking, projects that are realised by a collective of different Constructlab members and collaborators. They bring together different expertise, trades and strong characters who work together on a goal in a fixed (usually short) period of time. Why these projects enable learning so well might be explained with the factors for communal learning identified by the researchers Kate Bielaczyc and Allan Collins:
First of all, communal learning requires a group coming together to work on a clearly stated and comprehensive aim. Even though this aim does not have to be set in stone right from the start, it is important that it manifests more and more clearly in the process and becomes somewhat of a lighthouse for the journey of the group. Participation on that journey should be a 100% voluntary. That means that leaving and entering the project are always options and not directed by certain people. Equally important it is to divide power horizontally. To achieve this level of equality, roles and responsibilities should be shared within the group. Everyone should be able to take responsibility, to try out a lot of things, to change roles. This includes the accessibility of tools and knowledge and an open, mutually supportive culture of discourse. Hand in hand with this goes the need for a common language. Although the voices, backgrounds, expertises and dynamics of the group might be diverse, it is fundamental for a communal learning process to develop a way of communicating that is unifying and inclusive. Understandability also goes for the tools and the structure of the project. Both should be inviting, empowering, easily apprehensible and leave room for future transformation and re-use. In the same way inviting and open has the structure of the process to be, leaving plenty of room for experimentation and failure: Failure is a necessity, success is the sum of failures. Through this openness of the structure, the flexibility of roles and the accessibility of tools, the process enables a constant transformation of the results. That means that a successful learning process has no ending: Experimentation does not stop.
As stated at the beginning: Defining learning is a tricky task. And that is a good thing. Room for improvisation, trust in the matter and an open mindset are crucial for a learning process. A rigid definition would be contrary to this. Or to say it with John Cage’s 10th rule: “We are breaking all the rules, even our own rules and how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for “X” qualities.”.

Learning (what, how, where, who, with whom) was part of the Workshop series that flanked the digital symposium On the network and the launch of the new digital networking platform and is supported by the Fond Soziokultur with funds from the Beauftragten der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien within the framework of Neustart Kultur.

Drawing Alex Lambert

'On the network' symposium: workshop on learning