Open Source vs Proprietary Thinking in Neoliberal Times

In Open Source Studio: Studio of Now: The argument that “… copyright laws… can be the enemy of the common good when they stifle creativity and collective modes of production”, compels me to think of proprietary tools like iMacs and Adobe Connect that have been used at ADM and major universities to foster creativity, and collaborative learning and production.

Owing to the richness of creative expression through the ubiquitous use of proprietary tools (even in the case of unlicensed use of software) today, I wonder if in an alternate universe where  the way of open source replaced the commodification of technology, whether creativity and collective modes of production would be radically advanced.

I ask this because of the increasing commodification of art and education (and educational technologies) in neoliberal societies such as Singapore.

Would the accountability regime within the performative paradigm undergirding neoliberalism, still compel self-serving programmers and creatives, manoeuvring the micro-politics of organizational power and control, to develop open source technology to same level that Adobe, Microsoft & Apple have, and magnanimously share this technology for free, as one would hope? Would competition make open source, ontologically and epistemologically tenable for both the programmers and non-expert end-users?

Perhaps only in a utopian (or dystopian) society, where homo economicus (or the rational economic man in Economic theory) renounces the pursuit of wealth for self-interest (much like the proverbial irrational struggling independent artist), and where collaboration rather than competition is the predominant modus operandi of organizations, and in which learners and teachers are collectively evaluated and appraised, would the way of open source vanquish proprietary thinking.

Adobe Connect Session 2, Sept 17: Reflective Notes

In the previous week, I marvelled at how novel an experience it was, to be able to instantaneously and simultaneously view the facial expressions of all the learners, at once onscreen, as they were reacting to the speaker, and media shown.

In this lesson, the emotions of the tutor and guest speaker, were similarly optically and acoustically amplified through my 24 inch monitor and amplifier, with paralinguistic markers and facial expressions more visible, than they would have been onsite — most noticeably, tone of voice, nostril flare, lip-compression, contraction of the orbital muscles narrowing the eyelids ending in a gaze cut-off (to the keyboard or area beyond the computer monitor perhaps), movement of the muscle groups lowering the brows, constriction of the facial orifices such as the oral cavity, suggesting unpleasant stimuli.

I wonder if the learners had picked up the preceding paralinguistic cues as well. Were the learners less vocal and less fidgety in the second half of the lesson that I observed, compared to the first Adobe Connect lesson? Were learners’ postures more erect, less relaxed, with their gaze more focussed?

If the technology makes paralinguistic and non-verbal cues more explicit onscreen than onsite, it would be pertinent to examine how the speaker’s level of preparedness and expressions or actions influence the learning process and outcomes, especially in learning motivation and attitude (affective domains).

Kadenze: Learning About or Learning by Doing?

Kadenze is an online learning platform “developed to benefit students and faculty members of the creative arts“.

A preliminary analysis of the course syllabus for “Introduction to Generative Arts and Computational Creativity“, suggests that learning is framed by structures of learning about, rather than learning through doing or performance, as there is no indication of how Kadenze itself can be used to evince learning by Doing it With Others (DIWO).


There is mention of the course providing “an in-depth introduction and overview of the history and practice of generative arts.”

It “offers an ontology of the various degrees of interactivity and generativity found in current art practices”, and “surveys the current production in the field of generative art across creative practices”, to “introduce the various algorithmic approaches, software, and hardware tools being used in the field”, and finally address “relevant philosophical and societal debates issues associated with the field”.


Projects 60%

Quizzes 30%

Assignments 10%

Quizzes suggest that learning is framed by the acquisition metaphor, where Kadenze’s primary function appears to be facilitating content transmission by the “course instructor” (didactically “instructing” learners, rather than dialogically and reflexively guiding, facilitating and discussing), who aims to test learners’ recall ability of delivered syllabus content.

As if learning in the creative arts can be engendered mechanically transmitted or digitally transferred and hence acquired by learners via the metaphorical Nurnberg funnel, illustrated below.


Delivered content does not engender learning, just as learning about swimming differs from learning swimming. Learning Generative Arts and Computational Creativity by doing, requires learners to generate art and compute creatively, through Kadenze, as the the mediating technology or online medium.

Like OSS, the Kadenze course designer could go beyond learning by doing, by facilitating learning by Doing It With Others (DIWO) as a Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) technology.

The Course Designer’s Philosophy of Human Learning

It is abundantly clear that like OSS, Kandenze has the potential for CSCL-facilitated learning by DIWO, but this technological affordance, cannot be fully exploited, if the course designer stubbornly clings onto Cartesian and empiricist epistemologies of learning that are oriented towards outcomes (rather than process) and advocate instructing, training and conditioning, for knowledge acquisition, retention and recall (rather than learning by doing).

It is thus imperative that course designers reframe their notions of learning, in order for the full range of potentialities afforded by technologies such as OSS and Kadenze, to be more widely accepted and realized.

Observations: Adobe Connect Session 1, September 10

Descriptive Notes (followed by reflective notes)

  1. 4 out of 6 learners were eating and drinking on camera. Chewing was amplified online. L1e only started eating after seeing the rest eating online. L1e did not eat onsite in previous weeks. (Computer mediation appears to lower inhibition to engage in extra-curricular activities)
  2. Learner 5b (L5b)—dressed in a high contrast black and white striped long sleeve blouse—participated in Adobe Connect sessions in the previous semester, and slouched against her chair (appears the most relaxed, possibly because of her prior knowledge and experience with web conferencing with the tutor)
  3. The 6 learners demonstrated an internal script that required them to click on a new tab, to play video prescribed by tutor. (When the first video was launched by tutor, I was waiting for the video to pop up on my screen, and was unaware that it was already open in another tab. Only after some time, did I realize that I had to play it. This is unlike onsite learning, where the tutor controls the video and plays and stops it. One advantage is that the learner can continue playing the video, even when the tutor assumes learners have completed viewing the video, and continues with the lesson)
  4. L4j suggested that learners “try it out”, by attempting to kiss telematically. L4j aborted the attempt to “kiss” L5b. (Computer mediation paradoxically inhibits and disinhibits experimentation)
  5. The chat and private chat features were used throughout the session. (Social aspect of CSCL was amplified with banter that would have been impossible onsite, but continued unabated throughout the session. This playfulness and directness in peer to peer communication facilitates questioning by reticent learners, and peer to peer exchange and clarification without any need for intervention by the tutor, who permitted the boisterous discourse.)
  6. Learners are positioned on screen, according to the order in which they share their webcams. Learners pointed at one another on multiple occasions with a grin, when tutor asked who read what. (Learners never pointed at one other onsite, where they remained in the same seats throughout all 4 weeks. Learners’ position onscreen changes every session, and even during the session, every time they turn off the camera and rejoin the session. The ability to stare directly at learners’ faces is new. It would be impossible for learners to see all faces (including their own) simultaneously onsite. Facial expressions and movements are amplified onscreen. L2a noticed L3p eating a second sandwich—something she did not notice the previous week, when they were seated side by side onsite. What was invisible, is now visible to learners and tutor, with computer mediation. Implications on the affective dimensions of teaching and learning are profound.)

OSS: Facilitating the Sharing of Failures & Successes

Failed research studies that have found blind alleys account for only 14% of published papers, according to this article by The Economist.

In the teaching and learning of visual representation and expression, knowing what has failed, is just as important as knowing what has succeeded, because without access to these unsuccessful attempts, we inadvertently waste limited resources exploring these same blind alleys already explored by other artists.

It is imperative that I explore how OSS provides teachers and learners with access to a repository of successes and failures in curriculum planning, curriculum enactment, and evaluation, as teachers and learners work on their individual and group projects.

How does this openness afforded by OSS and vulnerability online bear on teaching and learning? Do learners and teachers self-censor their work, and manufacture identities that differ markedly from their onsite or online behaviour? Will the openness make learners and teachers more of less inhibited? Will they be more guarded, or more impulsive in their discourse? Does this openness facilitate collaborative learning?

Did You Know? (Forward: Geeks & Artboys by William Gibson)

I’ll be extracting interesting quotes and information from the book for my literature review, and share them here, so that you can decide if they are relevant to your undergraduate work.

  1. On being an “artboy”:

Gibson felt it was imperative that he not know what he was speaking about, in order to be known “for some subrational”, “shamanistic function” that he believed he served. To qualify as an artboy meant one must not know what he is doing. (p. xii)

2. On Cinema, and its Hollywood origins:

“… (and perhaps Hollywood was where the two impulses first fused, cinema having been the brilliant bastard offspring of a union once unthinkable to anyone but a frothing Italian futurist).”

(in Packer and Jordan, 2002, p. xiii)

3. Geeks vs Artboys

President Roosevelt was advised by “geek”, Vannavar Bush, not the “Big Three” science fiction “artboys”, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Clark, and Robert Heinlein (p. xiii).

4. Gibson describes his own work as “a sort of voluntary autism” (p. xiv).

5. Poet Jorge Luis Borges, “regarded the universe itself as a library, infinitely recombinant, infinitely recursive, in which a single text might exist in variorum editions beyond number” (p. xiv).

6. Multimedia “is not an invention but an ongoing discovery of how the mind and the universes it imagines… fit together and interact” (p. xiv).

7. Gibson describes the book chapters as “an interleaving of histories intended to open inter-textual doors, some of which, given the right reader, have never before been opened” (p. xiv).

Reflective Note:

How do Gibson’s views support my claim that the media arts requires a Learning Management System (LMS) that can better facilitate teaching and learning of the media arts, beyond the limited affordances of NTUlearn or Blackboard. How do I then justify the use of OSS, to address the curriculum gap engendered by the restrictive LMS?


Packer, R., & Jordan, K. (2002). Multimedia : from Wagner to virtual reality (Expanded ed.). New York: Norton.

Observations: Internet Art & Culture Posts by Learner 1e (L1e)

L1e’s authorial voice is clear in his posts, and his brutally honest approach is irresistibly endearing.

In one post, L1e reveals his personal follies. The raw honesty makes L1e that much more human and relateable. The online discourse reveals a side of him that is rarely evinced onsite, where he strikes the observer as the quintissential or consummate artboy and undergrad.

It was observed that L1e was just as comfortable as L2a and L5j in sharing potentially incriminating information about their youthful exploits.

It would be reasonable to assume that learners who have read the same modules in previous semesters, are less inhibited onsite. I ask this because the trust that such learners have, contrasts with the guardedness evinced by L3e, L4k, and L5k.

Computer supported collaborative learning, is facilitated when learners feel safe within the online and onsite learning environments, undergirded by the affective socio-emotional dimensions of interpersonal engagement.

In L2e’s subsequent post, he pointed out how Torrent provides users with unfettered access at the expense of the artists’ intellectual (or creative) property.

It is imperative that the learners see themselves as contemporary Open Source Studio Netartizens who  “empower the spectator and deepen his or her experience” (Packer and Jordan, 2002, p. 96) as they were taught in the previous session, rather than seek to jealously guard it from potential torrent pirates amongst their passive, disengaged spectators. I argue that artists should conceive their audience as “spectactors” — a term borrowed from Drama-in-Education (DIE) literature.

Ascott (cited in Packer and Jordan, 2002, p. 96) advocated the “spirit of cybernetics” to achieve a dialogue between artwork and audience.

Artists who persist in adopting a “nineteenth-century structure of operations” (Ascott, 2002, p. 98), thus fail to include the viewers as active participants in the creative process, inadvertently encourage their “viewers” to pilfer their work, which they view a commodity that is to be transmitted by the artist and received or downloaded by the audience.

Like L3p, L1e has yet to form the habit of embedding hyperlinks into the text. L1e pasting the entire URL after the quotes. This is odd, given that the tutor emphasized this during the previous onsite session. I ascertain why this was so, when I meet L1e this Thursday.

Ascott, R. (2002). Behaviourist Art and the Cybernetic Vision. In R. Packer & K. Jordan (Eds.), Multimedia : from Wagner to virtual reality (Expanded ed., pp. 333-344). New York: Norton.