Final Thoughts

This category contains 1 post

The mind is a plastic snow dome

The mind is a plastic snow dome

"The mind is a plastic snow dome" - Geary, 2010

I believe I have shown through my case studies that the manipulation of non-verbal modalities is an effective pedagogic method of engaging the mind, of sharpening our meaning-making faculties and of structuring the blizzard of everyday experience. Borrowing once more from Williams, our media texts are mini material “structures of feeling” projected into the world to be engaged with anew by willing agents. Like uniquely patterned snowflakes, they combine, recombine and accumulate into compacted layers. The “snow dome” (Geary 2011:16) reference above is lifted from Geary’s ode to metaphor “I is An Other” in which he expounds the often hidden and influential workings of metaphor in creative thought across disciplines.

He argues that the mind is at its most beautiful and productive when “it’s all shook up” (ibid), when seemingly disparate thoughts collide and make new connections. These abstract concepts are made more concrete in the work of a research group called “Adventures in Multimodality” in the Dept. of Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Charles Forceville is developing a course where students understand how metaphor structures language, audiovisual discourse, and cognition on the basis that:

“…metaphor is nowadays considered a phenomenon of thought rather than language. But even today only few scholars examine non verbal metaphors.”

Earlier I referenced Sennett’s reflections on the conditions under which intuition can thrive in the world of the craftsman and the ease with which these can be transposed into the environment of media production. Similarly Geary liberates metaphor from its traditional moorings as a literary device, identifying its enduring and subtle influence in a variety of discourses. He theorizes that:

“Our brains are always prospecting for patterns” (ibid:32), hard-wired as a matter of survival to look for things that are like other things. To ensure that this is the case, when a pattern is detected “the neurotransmitters responsible for sensations of pleasure squirt through our brains” (ibid:35).

This may go some way to explaining the pleasures of flow and absorption in the processes of multimodal manipulation. Recombining the already familiar into audiovisual synaesthetic patterns connects our senses in “a meaningful cluster of purposeful activity” (Loveless). According to Geary, we humans are primordially urged not only to anticipate and perceive these patterns but to communicate and disseminate them. How can we encourage more even participation in the unconscious “blending” (Brooks 2011:248) of audiovisual data and conscious pattern-seeking/making of social relations?

To this end I have attested to the sensitive and structured deployment of media production processes as an essential component of mandatory curricula.  Currently these activities, indeed cultural education activity as a whole, according to Mark Reid at BFI Education, is subject to disaggregated “project-ism” (Reid, 2011) fuelled by “extrinsic motivations” (Pink, 2011). In the context of business performance, Pink distinguishes between 20th century “extrinsic motivators” in the form of enticement/reward and threat/punishment versus 21st century “intrinsic motivators” namely: mastery, autonomy and purpose. See his TED talk @ 12:20 mins. and the RSA Animate version of his talk on the same subject:

Pink’s research findings echo Csikszentmihalyi’s in terms of the synergy between the mastery of a skill and the appropriateness of the challenge. Pink claims that appeals to subjectivity have a more profound effect on motivation than explicit rewards and his findings mirror my own in the field of media education. Surely the ideology inherent in the mechanistic ‘carrot and stick’ model, or learning by rote, has run its course and a commitment to sustained, long term transformation, galvanized by “intrinsic motivation” must be researched and developed. Policy changes in favour of progressive media education will see all young people up to 14 years old gaining sustained access not only to the pleasures of creative digital manipulation but also to the rigours of critical interdisciplinary looking and thinking, to levels of awareness that will take them beyond themselves to ultimately perform as agents in the public realm.

This is ambitious thinking, some might say idealistic when faced with seemingly implacable obstacles in relation to socio-economic constraints, inequalities and social deprivation. However, continual pressure must be brought to bear on education policy-makers to find imaginative routes to raising teacher and child aspiration. In this way “some impact of the world” (Merleau Ponty, referenced by Furstenau and Mackenzie 2009:19) may not be met with a damn of apathy or disinterest but with the permeable flow of perception. I contend that creative media practices kick-start an alert eye and mind, fostering a disposition for more social participation in the form of judicious pattern detection, tension release and feelings of pleasure. In microcosm and on a more mundane level, it is like the feeling some get when solving a Sudoku puzzle. Brooks calls this:

“being propelled by the desire for limerence .. the moment when the inner and the outer patterns mesh” (2011:208)

Pursuing the cross disciplinary thinking in my account, I conclude with two additional observations – one by Albert Einstein, referenced by Geary in his TED talk (@ 7:00 mins) and a further one by Sennett. According to the following source,, and also referenced by Brooks (2011:168), Einstein has this to say in answer to Jacques Hadamard’s question about mental images and mathematicians:

“The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be “voluntarily” reproduced and combined …There is, of course, a certain connection between those elements and relevant logical concepts. It is also clear that the desire to arrive finally at logically connected concepts is the emotional basis of this rather vague play with the above mentioned elements. But taken from a psychological viewpoint, this combinatory play seems to be the essential feature in productive thought – before there is any connection with logical construction in words or other kinds of sign, which can be communicated to others … The above mentioned elements are, in my case, of visual and some of muscular type. Conventional words or other signs have to be sought for laboriously only in a secondary stage, when the mentioned associative play is sufficiently established and can be reproduced at will.” (Einstein, my italics)

If Einstein sanctions “rather vague play” with non-linguistic modes as an essential prerequisite to “productive thought”, perhaps there is something in this as a basis for future educational strategies, as well being a vindication of Bassey’s “fuzzy generalisations” in the field of educational research.

Inspired by Sennett’s formulation in relation to craftsmanship:

“Reformatting and close comparison decant a familiar practice or tool from an established container; the stress in the first three stages of an intuitive leap is on the if, on what if? Instead of then. That final conscious reckoning carries a burden – in technology transfer as in the arts, the burdened carryover of problems – rather than the clarifying finality of a syllogistic conclusion” (2008:213)

I argue in favour of embracing the rhetorical, open-ended and self-renewing “what if” of intuitive thought as a premise for creative media education, rather than the concluding “then” of an “if” clause – which I speculate, is the emphasis underpinning much National Curriculum decision-making. Perhaps the faltering progress of media education and the fact that it is the last profession to “reinvent itself”, as referenced earlier by Jenkins, is because it shoulders the “burden” or “gravity” of media change on behalf of the rest of society and at the expense of widespread creative practices which are crucially relevant during the switch from page to screen.


Click through to access pdfs.

London Nautical School Interview Transcript

London Nautical School Interview Schedule

Lambeth Academy extracts from Interview Transcript


Banaji, S, Burn, A, & Buckingham, D (2006) The Rhetorics of creativity: a review of the literature (Institute of Education, University of London)

Bassey, M (1998) Paper presented at the BERA Annual Conference, Queen’s University Belfast

Bassey M (1999) Case Study Research In Educational Settings

Bearne, E & Bazalgette, C (2010) Beyond Words: Developing Children’s Response to Multimodal Texts

Benedict, R (1934) Patterns of Culture

boyd, d (2008) Why Youth ¤ Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life in D. Buckingham (ed) Youth, Identity and Digital Media, MacArthur Foundation Series

Brooks, D (2011) The Social Animal

Buckingham, D (2003) Media Education

Buckingham, D (2007a) Beyond Technology

Buckingham, D (2007b) Digital Media Literacies: rethinking media education in the age of the Internet (Research in Comparative and International Education, Vol. 2:1 2007)

Burn, A (2009) Making New Media (Chapter 1)

Burn, A & Durran, J (2007) Media Literacy in Schools: Practice, Production and Progression

Burn, A & Parker, D (2003a) Tiger’s Big Plan: Multimodality and the Moving Image in C Jewitt & G Kress (eds) Multimodal Literacy (56–72)

Burn, A & Parker, D (2003b) Analysing Media Texts

Bryman, A (2008) Social Research Methods

Cannon, M (2010a) Media and Cultural Theory assignment on the MA in Media, Culture & Communication at The Institute of Education (Tutor: Dr. J. Potter) What are the implications for media education of debates about popular culture in the field of Cultural Studies?

Cannon, M (2010b) Social Research Methods assignment on the MA in Media, Culture & Communication at The Institute of Education (Tutor: Dr. Liesbeth de Bloc): What role do social networking sites play in the intergenerational and parent/child relationships in everyday life?

Cannon, M (2011) Digital Video Production assignment on the MA in Media, Culture & Communication at The Institute of Education (Tutor: Dr. J. Potter): Reflective Commentary on the DVP practical assignment with reference to current theoretical debates about digital production, creativity and media education & Youtube link to the final cut of the short film exercise.

Cannon, M (2011) Internet Cultures assignment* on the MA in Media, Culture & Communication at The Institute of Education (Tutor: Dr. J. Potter): Being Social Online: extracting and critiquing the arguments around identity and its impact on social relations, based on experiences of blogging
The Media Mélange blog was built (and rather haphazardly maintained since) for that particular MA module.
*Just FYI: I don’t actually reference this assignment in my dissertation, but without this piece on blogging I wouldn’t have thought to publish the ‘Fashioning and Flow’ piece online. I include it here for completeness sake and thank John Potter for all his input.

Csikszentmihalyi, M (1999) October 1999 American Psychologist: American Psychological Association (Vol. 54, No. 10, 821-827)

Finnish Society on Media Education (2010) Booklets distributed at the Media Literacy Conference 2010 edited by Lundvall: Finnish Media Education Policies & Finnish Media Education Best Practices

Fisher, T, Higgins, C, & Loveless, A (2006) Teachers Learning with Digital Technologies: A Review of Research and Projects (Futurelab)

Furstenau, M & Mackenzie, A (2009) The promise of `makeability’: digital editing software and the structuring of everyday cinematic life (Visual Communication Vol. 8: 5)

Geary, J (2011) I is An Other

Gray, A (2003) Research Practice for Cultural Studies

Green, B (1995) Post-Curriculum Possibilities: English Teaching, Cultural Politics and the Postmodern Turn (Journal of Curriculum Studies Vol. 27: 4, 391-409)

Jenkins, H (2007) Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century

Jewitt, C (2008) The visual in learning and creativity: a review of the literature (Creative Partnership Series)

Kress & van Leeuwen (2000) Multimodal Discourse: The Modes and Media of Contemporary Communication

Lundvall, (2010) Finnish Media Education Policies booklet. See above reference under Finnish…

Lanham, R (1993) The Electronic Word

Leander, K & Frank, A (2006) The Aesthetic Production and Distribution of Image/Subjects among Online Youth (E-Learning Vol. 3:2)

Loveless, A (2002) Literature Review in Creativity, New Technologies and Learning
(NESTA Futurelab report)

Loveless, A (2007) Creativity, Technology and Learning – a review of recent literature
(NESTA Futurelab report)

Marsh, J & Bearne, E (2008) Moving Literacy on (UKLA)

Mitchel, W, T, J (2005) What do Pictures Want?

New London Group (1996) A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures in Harvard Educational Review (Vol 66:1)

New London Group (2000) Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Designing of Social Futures (ed. Cope, B & Kalantzis, M)

Pink, D (2011) The surprising truth about what motivates us

Potter, J (2009) Curating the Self: Media literacy and identity in digital video production by young learners (PhD thesis)

Reid, M et al (2002) BFI Evaluation Report of the Becta DV Pilot Project

Reid, M (2011) BFI Education’s Response to the Henley Review of Cultural Education for the DCMS

Robinson, K (1999) All Our Futures: Creativity, Culture and Education (NACCCE – National Advisory Committee on Creative and Cultural Education – report)

Sefton-Green, J (2005) Timelines, Timeframes and Special Effects: software and creative media production (Education, Communication & Information Vol. 5)

Sennett, R (2008) The Craftsman

Simons, H (1996) The Paradox of Case Study

Storey, J (2009) Cultural Theory and Popular culture: A Reader

Vygotsky, L (1978) Mind in Society

Williams, R (1976) Key Words: a vocabulary of culture and society

Benjamin Franklin:

"Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn."

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Blog Stats

  • 7,711 hits
%d bloggers like this: