I’ve just been reading Ann Pendleton-Jullian’s paper called: Design Education and Innovation Ecotones – an esoteric sounding document. However, it has been one of the most inspiring things I’ve read over the past few weeks. She is an educator in design and architecture, however her insights obtain in many different fields. What she says maps immediately onto the current education system and how things could be, as well as numerous aspects of my thesis, all articulated with rigourously attuned metaphors and a kind of modest poise. I think I may have found the kind of writer I’d like to emulate.
Her overall intention is to articulate cultures of innovation and to integrate this thinking into current institutional systems whilst exploiting the relatively unrealised potential of digital technology. Her approach is refreshingly pragmatic and cogently theorised.She compares ecotones (sites where two biologically diverse environments meet) with sites of social tension and innovation. Pendleton advocates the development of small hubs of innovatory practice – a multiplicity of managed, porous entities – out from which extend ‘corridors’ of interdependent digital activity. The idea being that this body of ‘in transit’ skills and expertise formally links ‘edge practices’ with those of core institutions with iterative rhythms.
It reminds me of:
- Sennett’s work on problem-finding and the development of learning dispositions fuelled by curiousity. As well as his own notions of salient ‘edge’ activity (The Craftsman – in Chapter 8 – Resistance and Ambiguity and the section ‘Making an Edge’)
- Cultural Studies’ embrace of social complexity and eschewing of polarities and singular explanations
- …what Stuart Hall had to say about the strength of Gramsci’s “war of position” (the trench network) over the old-fashioned “war of manoeuvre” (the single advance) in terms of battle strategy …
- Williams’ “structure of feeling” and the significance of social interrelations amidst and between social formations
- the now largely disbanded City Learning Centres that acted as intermediary gelling agents between schools, technology and cultural institutions
Through the lens of design pedagogy and metaphor, she explores a new inclusive educational paradigm:
- the slow-moving hedgehog with the single all-encompassing idea (Gove?) whose purpose is ‘Accreditation’ on a continuum with the agile, nimble fox with many ideas (-the innovation labs whose purpose is Experimentation)
- a 20th century pedagogic model (a sail boat on a set course) on a continuum with a 21st century model (a kayak negotiating unpredictable waters, in touch with the material constitution of its context and environmental contours)
- the strength, resilience and adaptability of rhizomatic, flattened, non-hierarchical structures – like mangroves symbolising interdependence, multiplicity, heterogeneity
- the potential of concentrated “edge activity” & its “managed disturbance” in the overlap with core activities
This formulation might inform the dispersal of media education initiatives.