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.


Stuart Brown’s (2009) Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens Imagination & Invigorates the Soul

Dr Stuart BrownDr Stuart Brown, from Stanford University

I just read a Straits Times article entitled Kids at play learn to give and take dated June 7, 2015, and discovered an area of research known as Play Science.

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play in California, and author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, contended that play deprivation is pernicious to socio-emotional and affective development, and argues that play the deprived

“… are not as curious, they lack resilience. They have difficulty regulating appropriate emotions,” he says. “People who are play deprived also tend to be inflexible, especially when something surprising happens. Novelty is unpleasant when you are unprepared for it or when you are missing the spontaneity that helps you enjoy or learn from surprises. They tend to be rigid and easily startled and will react with hostility or withdrawal rather than joy.”

Is OSS novel and thus unpleasant to unprepared play deprived users, who view OSS as merely “work that we have to do” (in the words of Jin Long), and do OSS fans such as Prakash consider the same “work” as play?

“Many activities qualify as play. As long it’s voluntary, done for its own sake and gives pleasure. Often, it engages a person deeply and the engagement itself is more important than the outcome. So one has a sense of being lost outside of time,” he says.

I see this play occurring frequently on social media platforms. Users can get lost for hours on Facebook, fully cognizant that there is very little relevance or benefit to their “work”.

In fact, many users can become so engrossed in their own online identities, that they appear narcissistic even, deriving great pleasure when others “like” their posts.

Brown adds: “It must be an activity that can be interrupted; it’s not driven; it’s not compulsive and it is not done to please others but to please yourself.”

Would a feature similar to the “like” button make OSS more “play-able”? Would it serve any purpose, other than to please the user?

Of sport as play, Brown claims:

If it’s all about kicking the ball into the goal, rather than kicking the ball because it feels good, it becomes less play and more performance and anxiety producing.

This reminds me of Jude Chua’s (2009) and Nobel laureate James March’s (1971, 2006) call for a “technology of foolishness” rather than “technology of reason” to mitigate high stakes performative pressures that focus on goals and returns on investment that are inimical to design thinking and the exploratory processes of creative expression. They argue that performance anxiety and obsession with the ends or goals, displace the enjoyment and wonder that make the exploratory process so much more important than the final product/outcome so prized by assessors.

Does OSS in its current iteration facilitate the kind of play that Brown advocates, so that ideas can be tested and toyed around with as learners become lost in dialogic, exploratory, relexive processes amongst peers and tutors, who avoid or at least delay judgement (read assessment)? Facilitating play through the virtual studio and third space, could be a key component of my study.


Brown, S. L., & Vaughan, C. C. (2009). Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Avery.

Chua, S. M. J. (2009). Saving the teacher’s soul: exorcising the terrors of performativity. London Review of Education, 7(2), 159-167. doi: 10.1080/14748460902990344

James G. March, “The Technology of Foolishness”, Civiløkonomen (Copenhagen), 18 (1971) 4, 4-12.

James G. March, “Rationality, Foolishness, and Adaptive Intelligence”, Strategic Management Journal, 27 (2006) 201-214.