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.

Does OSS Facilitate Teaching & Learning in the Media Arts Better than Blackboard?

“I wanted it recognized that I was in fact an artboy. Which meant that, at least in my understanding of what it took to qualify, that I did not, must not, know what I was doing.”

(Gibson, in Packer and Jordan, 2002, p. xii)

Gibson appears to suggest that artboys allegedly “just [blindly] do it” with seemingly little premeditation — akin to the oft misconceived notion of the proverbial intoxicated abstract expressionist or improvisational performance as an unthinking, spontaneous, capricious even.

However if deep, meaningful learning involves “learning by doing” or “learning through performance” or “learning as becoming” as advocated by Chee (2002, 2011, 2015), then I argue that often the very act or process of doing (no matter how “unintelligent”, “irrational”, or “foolish”), engenders the construction of meaning through embodied cognition (where physical action informs cognition or mental processes).

Nobel laureate, James G. March (1994), terms such play “a technology of foolishness” that could be combined with logics of consequence and appropriateness, asserting that decision makers “need to think about action now as being taken in terms of a set of unknown future preferences or identities”, for “they need ways to do things for which they currently have no good reason” (p. 262) — in sum, to act before thinking, by suspending or escaping reasoned consistency through playfulness or doing or performance.

Interestingly, March (1994) adds:

“Organizations can be playful even when the participants are not. Organizational play is encouraged by temporary relief from control, coordination, and communication.”

(p. 264)

In the army, I was at times exhorted to “just do, don’t think or ask” (and to leave my brain at home, for the army only needed unquestioning and unthinking automatons to execute commands),  where over-thinking in dynamic and chaotic situations, breeds timorousness or apprehension and doubt . Often, the wisdom or consequence of the action only becomes clear much later, when at first it seemed nebulous or unthinkable.

I saw the wisdom behind doing before thinking in this morning’s OSS training session, where it was the execution of the tasks that led to a greater understanding of how OSS worked.

Is acting before thinking or not knowing what one is doing, particularly in the teaching and learning of the media arts?

I ask this because the media arts involve artistic imagination and decision making, drawing on a spirit different from that of information theory, in that “it uses evocative ambiguity to expand awareness” (March, 1994, p. 260).

March (1994) contends:

“Evocative ambiguity is far from noise or arbitrary symbols. The poet creates meaning without fully comprehending the meaning that has been created, but the words are chosen carefully to elicit the imagination of language. Poetry and art encourage the simultaneous adoption of a vision and the recognition of its unreality. They affirm life in the face of absurdity. They are comfortable with multiple, contradictory meanings and with the simultaneous truths and falsity of beliefs. In a similar, decision makers create ambiguity not to confuse, but to stimulate, not to obscure meaning but to discover it. Communications are constructed to gain access to the imagination and to knowledge carried in words and visual stimuli.” (p. 260)

Similarly, Gibson views multimedia as “not an invention, but an ongoing discovery of how the mind and the universe it imagines (or vice-versa, depending) fit together and interact” (Packer and Jordan, 2002, p. xiv).

For my study, it is imperative that I ask:

  • how does OSS as a Learning Management System (LMS) and blended learning approach, better facilitate ongoing discovery, technologies of foolishness, learning by doing, and evocative ambiguity, than Blackboard?
  • are the key problems, barriers, or challenges faced by faculty and students of the media arts largely technological, or pedagogical?
  • why are Blackboard and existing approaches ill-suited to the teaching and learning of the media arts?


Chee, Y. S. (2002). Refocusing learning on pedagogy in a connected world. On the Horizon, 10(4), 7-13.

Chee, Y. S. (2011). Learning as becoming through performance, play and dialogue: A model of game-based learning with the game Legends of Alkhimia. Digital Culture & Education, 3(2), 98-122.

Chee, Y. S. (2015). Games-to-teach or games-to-learn: Addressing the learning needs of 21st century education through performance. In T. B. Lin, D. T. V. Chen, & C. S. Chai (Eds.), New media and learning in the 21st century: A socio-cultural perspective. Dordrecht: Springer.

March, J. G. (1994). A premier on decision making: How decisions happen. NY: The Free Press.

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