How can tacit and explicit knowledge be communicated and experience online?
Reading review I am interested in exploring how students and staff perceive and engage with open learning in the arts and how tacit and explicit knowledge can be communicated and experience online. This reading review tries to examine and reflect on these processes with reference to the first chapters of the following sources: Communities of Practice Learning, meaning and Identity, Etienne wenger (1998) and Jean Lave & Etienne wenger (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation.
Legitimate peripheral participation
There are specific ways of understanding learning, Lave & Wenger describe ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’ (LPP) as an analytical viewpoint on learning, it questions how and where learning and teaching happens, and examines the informal approaches we take through everyday ‘sociocultural’ experience. In their book Lave & Wenger (1991) use historical instances of apprenticeship to illustrate the notion of legitimate peripheral participation and describe the framework of ‘situated learning’. LPP and the notion of apprenticeship provide a useful agenda to which I can analyse and reflect open learning in my own practice and the practices of others.
The apprenticeship model relates well to the formal framework of art education where artist practitioners ‘externalise' practice, pass on knowledge in often ‘replicated’ industry like environments such as studios and workshops etc, teachers deliver formal and informal presentations, demonstrations and tutorials mostly one-to-one, face-to-face or in groups. Art education has a long tradition of ‘learning in situ’or learning by doing’’ the University of the Arts is regarded as primarily a making university and has a traditional structure of ‘old timer’ (professional artist/practitioner) teaching the ‘newcomer’ (the student) the master and the apprentice, the level of participation could be regarded as full. Lave & Wenger describe LPP as a way of talking about these relationships. To analyse the traditional structure of the practice of the university as a whole would be too much for this review and Lave & Wenger suggest the same regarding traditional schooling and emphasize there point by describing legitimate peripheral participation as not being “an analytical viewpoint on learning” but a “way of understanding learning” (Lave & Wenger 1991: 40)
On reflection, its clear learning and teaching in this environment involves a continual exchange of tacit and explicit knowledge, I am particularly interested in how we utilise this tacit and explicit knowledge. Lave & Wenger argue learning is not centralised, LPP is ‘about being located in the social world’ and the same dynamic of learning is structured into everyday life and can be experienced in groups or alone ‘learning can happen on the periphery’. How can this notion be applied to art practice and open learning?
Where is meaning located and how is it constructed?
(Wenger 1998) argues ‘practice is about meaning as an experience of everyday life’ through the process of living a constant ‘negotiation of meaning’ is performed and through practice we experience life. We practice to create meaning by:
“Taking what we know through everyday ‘doing’ extend, redirect, dismiss, reinterpret, modify or confirm – in a word negotiate a new – the histories of meanings of which they are part. In this sense, living is a constant process of negotiation of meaning.”
(Wenger 1998: 52-3)
Wenger describes ‘participation’ and ‘reification’ as a duality of two constituent processes of the ‘negotiation of meaning’ fundamental to the human experience of meaning and thus to the nature of practice.
Negotiation of meaning
I would argue a ‘negotiation of meaning’ is taking place in the process of capturing and sharing tacit and explicit knowledge online, content is made open and accessible online where users comment, contribute, repurpose and reuse. Through participation the creator/s and the contributor/s become members of a community of practice, the ‘negotiation of meaning’ is taking place, through the process and convergence of participation (users) and reification the embodiment of the ‘the resource ’ (the online content).
Participation and Reification
I am interested in the different types of participation involved in open learning or ‘social learning’. Wenger describes participation as being both ‘personal and social’ (Wenger 1998: 56) its not collaboration or ‘ just engagement in practice’ that one can turn on and off as and when you feel like. Activate participation and negotiation of meaning can be achieved alone, a contributor of an online tutorial for example or as Wenger suggests, a child doing homework, a doctor making a decision, a traveller reading a book. “The concept of participation is meant to capture this profoundly social character of our experience of life.” (Wenger 1998: 57)
In a ‘teacher centred’ art school environment practical studio based learning is negotiated between staff and students through a process of formal and informal exchange. With the reduction of contact time and increasing class sizes, open online learning could prove essential as the dynamic of participation changes, for example tacit and explicit knowledge is structured in a new ways, peer learning is encouraged, less onus is placed on the teacher and the student becomes a lot more empowered in the community of practice. Open learning provides many new and expanded communities of practice by sharing the experience of ‘negotiation of meaning’.
Wenger describes reification as ‘making it into a thing’, for example the online tutorial is a thing an illustration of an action or process is objectified, ‘with this comes negotiation of meaning’. Studio experiences and actions are reordered, reshaped and experienced a new, with the potential to change the nature of the activity itself through ‘shared experience and interactive negotiation’, a new teaching dynamic is introduced.
The duality of meaning
Wenger argues participation and reification are complementary and mutually reliant on each other and one cannot function without the other, the correct balance of each is essential, for example by giving form to tacit and explicit knowledge a new tool is created, the two process must evolve along side each other for ‘negotiation of meaning’ to take place.
Wenger, Etienne. (1998) Communities of Practice Learning, meaning and Identity. USA: Cambridge University Press
Lave, Jean & Wenger, Etienne. (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. USA: Cambridge University Press
COP Reading review by Chris Follows is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
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