Notes on the chat-session from May 23rd

Some words on Noora’s project

Noora presented her project idea (she’ll post a more specific description later on), helping dysfunctional families in danger of losing their child by decree of the youth welfare service by providing them a means to photographically document and reflect themselves – photography of empowerment.

For ‘normal’ people, e.g. for students, city dwellers etc., who are integrated in their culture, it may be important to raise awareness for their blind spots, e.g. for not seeing the disabled, native customs, or allocation of power. But those blind spots work for them, enabling a smooth working of everyday life, they do not work against them as culture.

For people e.g. within a dysfunctional family, there is already psychologcal strain, they know something is not right. They may try to express it, to turn it external, workable, manageable, griefable – and maybe changable. The task would be to give them a means to express it, a fitting, unusual medium – the usual ones obviously did not work out for them. (E.g. Augusto Boal’s “Theatre of the oppressed”).

“Just last week I was talking to two children who were describing their attic to me. It has a rail track and trains and their daddy spends such a lot of time there. Daddy’s track and daddy’s train although ostensibly bought for the children. They didn’t want the train but wanted to appease their parents. They would have liked a playroom with toys and beanbags to throw and lie on, not trains, which they are not allowed to touch let alone use for play. So the children play outside on their bikes or with the stones in the road while daddy sits in isolated splendour with the trains and the track.
The children are tolerant of his needs more than he is tolerant of theirs. When he is angry he says they are ungrateful. ‘Look what I’ve made for you,’ he says.”
– Ann Cattanach (2003), “Introduction to Play Therapy”, p.5

Who are the children, who is the father?

When two ‘daddies’ with different set of toys get together, something strange may happen – like entertainingly described by Paul Watzlawick, paraphrased in the short text by Brian van der Horst in our Dropbox: Blind spots at work.

What is Pedagogical Media Theory?

I tried to explain the basic tenets of PMT in this text, but of course this is just my interpretation of things, or the interpretation of the texts I’ve read or what I learned from the courses I’ve given. PMT will become useful and meaningful for you only if you generate your own context or interpretation.

  1. Culture and society, medium and media usage, and the notion of what and how we learn is subtly interwoven and effecting each other (e.g. Schwalbe, Meyer, von Foerster). So:
  2. Becoming aware of this mutual effect which is usuably ‘invisible’ to us is the passive goal of PMT (e.g. Meder, Fromme (unfortunately only in German); derivative from e.g. McLuhan, Innis, Watzlawick, Brown/Allen/Duguid).
  3. Utilising or modifying media – not primarily its contents, but its form(!) – to influence the relationship between learner, culture, medium, learning, is the active goal of PMT. (e.g. Bateson, McCloud, Duchamp)

This course is named “Shaping Media” because it hints on two ways of awareness: media shapes our world(view); and media is shapable by us, not just within its usual contents, but by shaping the rules by which expressive content is generated or interpreted.

As Bateson explains in his “Logical Categories of Learning and Communications”, acquiring a new way to see things is the most difficult type of learning (learning type III), comparable to the reshaping of an established, invisible medium. This can happen in an educational-informational setting (the ‘classic’ PMT), in an artistic context (the most pragmatic approach to PMT) or, as Noora has chosen, interventions with therapeutic implications. All three apporaches may overlap each other.

What do I expect from you for course work and as project?

Noora’s or Jenny’s projects are good examples for a passive and an active application of PMT. While Jenny tries to raise awareness of cultural blind spots concerning disabilities, Noora tries to provide a different medium for expression to those lacking one to express their problems. You could compare this to enabling someone who’s deaf to hear, or giving someone who is mute a voice to talk: Awareness and empowerment.

This course is designed for 3 CP for theoretical work, discussion and writing down of concepts; and 2 CP for realizing your project and documenting it. One suggestion would be 20% theoretical background, 40% contextualisation of your project idea(s), and 40% documentation of your actual project, on about 10 pages of text, including your blogposts concerning the topic.

I do require some connection between selected theories discussed in this course and your project, i.e. the goal you want to achieve. It does not have to be a complete, marketable, or even workable product, but something you enjoy making, something which lets you connect dry theories with something potentially usable. Choose theoretical approaches fitting to your project or interest.
I’m not specific about the media you use in your project (though I’m a bit partial to games myself), because PMT itself is not, too (though it is a bit partial to digital-networked media because of its current dynamics). But be aware that you (re)shape perception of your audience by (re)shaping a cultural and/or technical medium.

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About Wey

My name's Wey-Han Tan, I graduated 2007 as Diplompädagoge (educational scientist) in Hamburg, and 2009 as M.A. in ePedagogy Design. Currently I work at the project "Universitätskolleg" as scientific assistant at the Faculty for Educational Sciences, Psychology and Human Movement at the University of Hamburg. My research interests are game based learning, second order gaming, media theory and (radical) constructivist approaches. I like pen-and-paper-roleplaying, especially in contemporary horror settings like "KULT" or "Call of Cthulhu".
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