Creativity and Courage (things said at CMK): a reflection (pt. 2)

I mistakenly left my iPod in Virginia, so I was tethered to my MacBook and old school notebooks during the few scheduled sessions, impromptu conversations, and #cmk13afterhours.

outdated technologies

I’m also very embarrassed by my old school phone

I’m sure people looked at me the way I look at folks who write checks in the line at Target or use AOL or Hotmail.  Next time I’ll remember not to judge check writers or AOL users.  We all have reasons for doing what we do, I guess…  Maybe.

I’m looking back through my notes as some of the things that were said over the week.  I want to think them through here.  Feel free to support or challenge the thinking or continue as your were out there in the Internet.

Creativity and Courage

Manchester, NH is only an hour away from Boston, so a trip to MIT’s Media Lab was on Tuesday night’s agenda.  The introvert in me considered skipping out, but it’s MIT’s Media Lab.  That’s argument enough for getting over any social anxiety.

Upon entering the Media Lab, we encountered a few exhibits representing the cutting-edge work taking place at MIT.  Wheels + Legs and the Silk Pavilion are two exhibits currently on display.

part of the Wheels + Legs description

part of the Wheels + Legs description

part of the Silk Pavilion description

part of the Silk Pavilion description

 

I was especially intrigued by some of the cardboard prototyping done for the Wheels + Legs exhibit.

Prototyping from the Wheels + Legs exhibit at MIT's Media Lab

Prototyping from the Wheels + Legs exhibit at MIT’s Media Lab

We slowly made our way to the 6th floor where we were to listen to Tod Machover.  He talked about “Death and the Powers,” an opera commissioned by the Association Futurum of Monaco.  He talked about “A Toronto Symphony: Concerto for Composer and City,” a bold collaborative endeavor with the people of Toronto.  A similar collaborative undertaking is in the works for the 2013 Edinburgh Festival.

Someone asked, “Why don’t you do any work in the United States?”

Machover essentially said that American symphonies were, for the most part, conservative and hesitant to experiment for fear they’ll lose subscribers.

I wish I could remember Machover’s response word-for-word.  Basically he implored us to be creative and courageous whether we’re teachers, administrators, or on a symphony’s Board of Directors.

The advice resonated with me, because I buy-in 100% to the idea that the library should have a makerspace and digital media labs like YouMedia.  I believe that the library was a coworking space before coworking was cool.  I believe the library–a common space, a shared space–is ideal for workshops, forums, roundtable discussions.  The library is an ideal place for creation, not just consumption.  Despite the trendiness and the cliche of that previous statement, I believe it.

Sometimes it’s tempting to back away from these beliefs when we still exist in a culture where people perceive libraries to be about books and quiet and librarians to be about the Dewey Decimal system and teaching citation styles.  It’s not that these things don’t belong here, it’s just that there’s so much more to the work than that.  I can help a student think about a research paper and show her/him how to properly cite a source.  It’s equally exciting (ok, more exciting) to help a student make a movie or watch a student play around with a Raspberry Pi that she/he got from the library.

Raspberry Pi

cc licensed Flickr photo by qgil

There was a lot of talk at CMK about creating democratic cultures in school and the erosion of democracy through the defunding of public education.   I was surprised that this conversation popped up in several different venues over the week: once in a late night lobby talk and then again in some of the few scheduled sessions.

I’m thinking about libraries and how they support democracy through the provision of tools and shared space and the programming of thought-provoking workshops.  The library is a democratic space, because students (or community members) have access to books, articles, 3D printers, cameras, green screens, etc, which gives them the freedom to defend ideas and possibly create physical manifestations of those ideas.

I feel lucky to work in a pretty progressive school.  There’s a lot of tradition here both in culture and academics, but I think minds are open to change and new ideas.  As we move into a new space in August, I’m interested in seeing how new ideas take root, what butts up against tradition, and what is born from courage and creativity.

 

 

Why do we make?

I don’t have a definitive answer to that question.  Maybe the answer lies in Shop Class as Soul Craft or some article I could find in JSTOR.  

I’m going to go out on a limb and give the non-committal answer that people make for different reasons:  necessity, compulsion to make something out of nothing, the challenge of the puzzle, curiosity, and maybe even the satisfaction of seeing a successful finished project after hours/days/weeks/months/years of invested time.

I don’t even know what I make these days.  I knitted in the past.  Dabbled in quilt-making.  I spent a summer during my undergrad years in the dorms during summer school.  One of my hall mates had a sock monkey from his youth (this was before Paul Frank, thanks).  I decided then that I had to have one too.  A lot of time was spent making sock monkeys and weird sock creatures for friends and family.

Weird sock creatures

Weird sock creatures

Having a kid has cut into my time to work on fiber/textile projects.  I dread (am intimidated by) home improvement projects.  Yet I find them to be really interesting once I’m immersed.  I spent a day one summer under the house rerouting a water line.  It made for a pretty interesting day once I got past the camel crickets in the crawl space.  What’s the most fascinating to me about these home improvement projects?  It’s a peek into how the guts of a house work.  It’s interesting to see how things are put together.  That’s really something I never cared about until I bought a house.

camel cricket

photo credit: lobstar28 via photopin cc

Lately I’ve been interested in projects that seem doable mainly because I don’t know enough about the topic at hand to feel otherwise.  An example?  Arduino.  Raspberry Pi.  WordPress.  Google searches and Youtube videos bring answers or at least more breadcrumbs.  The internet keeps the trail warm I guess.  At this early point I don’t even care if a finished project results.  It’s just cool to have something to sink my brain into.