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?

Onsite OSS training + FYP + Internet Art & Culture Observations Weeks 1-2

It is abundantly clear that there are aspects of the learners and their artwork, that learners (and tutor) themselves feel safe revealing only to course-mates or to a limited audience.

There were aspects of the students and their online posts that were apparent only during the onsite discussions, away from the scrutiny of the public domain of the Open Source Studio. Theses were personal, private nuggets of information that the learners would likely never state in black an white, or on record.

There were a range of revelations privy to those onsite [to note preliminary implications on Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge or TPACK (Koehler and Mishra, 2005) if any]:

  1. Learner 1(L1) shared how useful Adobe Kuler was for L2’s work [TK].
  2. L3 professed to being a “torrent pirate” [TK, facilitates trust, socio-emotional dimensions].
  3. L4’s the pin-hole effect was accidental, and her Russian experience probably compelled her to stick the “no brand computer” label on her notebook [TK, socio-emotional dimension].
  4. L5 had a preoccupation with “meeting himself” perhaps in an alternate universe or multiverse [intrapersonal intelligence?].
  5. L6 was unafraid to utter “shitty” not once, but multiple times during discourse on separate occasions, and used her smartphone that caught the attention of the tutor, who used the moment to exemplify a learning point [PK].
  6. L7 authored a profane post on Friday, puzzling the tutor and assistant. (The post was online, but I can only imagine what it must have been like onsite at the lab)
  7. Like me, the first year 4D foundation learners on Monday, 9am, had never heard of Magellan [CK]
  8. The tutor introduced his wife, with whom he asked on Skype “Are you really my wife?”, before sharing has views on Donald Trump (PK)

The preliminary data gathered from my onsite observations suggest that while open source platforms may encourage sharing, there are still personal and profane matters that users and tutors might want to keep “closed” or private, thus giving greater significance to onsite sessions, that provide the safe space for play and experimentation, that the openness of OSS may (dis)inhibit.

There are moments where this openness backfires, as evinced on Friday, but admittedly, artists are known to challenge the status quo, so perhaps, it should not surprise me that — in Gibson’s (in Packer and Jordan, 2002) words — an “artboy” should decide to publicly, fearlessly post the most commonly uttered invective in Singapore. The modus operandi of acting before thinking fits well with the Technology of Foolishness where one acts spontaneously before thinking.

The messy, chaotic, and unfiltered creative process that I once noted conspicuously missing from the urbane online discourse, now becomes fascinatingly visible onsite. While the link between these observations with teaching and learning may appear tenuous, I believe that contribute towards socializing the learners, who create a shared space from the trust that is built from the irreverent discourse. James March’s Technologies of Foolishness and Stuart Brown’s theories of Play and Cognition inform us of the importance of such seemingly purposeless banter in constructing the social space that supports experimentation, collaboration and exchange of ideas amongst learners, who may not be as urbane and perfect as their online personas and activities suggest.

Moreover, blended learning course mates often test the waters during onsite interaction, before deciding how much information they should reveal online — both about themeselves and their work. A friendly onsite encounter is more likely to lead to online collaboration and sharing. Learners often quickly grasp that a toxic and abrasive course mate in real life, is likely exemplify and amplify that personality online. Netzley (2012), found from feedback from his Singaporean SMU coorporate communication undergraduates, that their desire to save face, engendered a reluctance to change or critique their peers’ wiki entries, fearing that they would shame them, or appear to be critical of their efforts.

Personally, I encountered the wrath of a Chinese course mate in the postgraduate programme who became so incensed when I corrected her grammatical and factual errors on Google Docs, that she cc-ed the rest of the group members, to openly lambast me: “To simply delete what had been discussed was extremely uncalled for and rude, and also demonstrates the amount of respect one has for one’s group members and also for this work” (Jessamyn Tay, 2014, personal communication).

These observations indicate that the blended approach to teaching and learning the media arts is one that requires rigorous analysis of not only the online discourse, but also the onsite discussions that are at times deliberately muted, self-censored or wholly avoided online. It would be interesting to study the dynamic interplay between onsite and offsite interactions that emerge and shape the learning experience in the coming weeks.


Koehler M.J.&Mishra P. (2005) What happens when teachers
design educational technology? The development of technological
pedagogical content knowledge. Journal of Educational
Computing Research 32, 131–152.

Netzley, M. A., & Rath, A. (2012). Social Networks and the Desire to Save Face: A Case From Singapore. Business Communication Quarterly, 75(1), 96-107. doi: 10.1177/1080569911433434

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