Saturday, September 15, 2012

Identity Construction: Changing Confusion to Order

John Gardner in his 1978 book On Moral Fiction challenges us against triviality, disillusion, and deconstruction; instead our composing should meet the significant nature and purpose of art.  It’s about “a game played against chaos and death . . . Art asserts and reasserts those values which hold off dissolution, struggling to keep the mind intact and preserve the city, the mind’s safe preserve. Art rediscovers, generation by generation, what is necessary to humanness” (p. 6). 

 My previous post elaborated the difference between composing a cutesy intro piece (e.g., my 1 Min Intro) and a more thoughtful work on identity construction (e.g., my On Knowing).   When composing their projects, I told my students to imagine order coming out of disorder.  Each of us had assembled our own array of ~ten images,

and in that set we could search for the nascent confusion, chaos, nonsense, misdirection, or false identity.  I believe composing our projects, as well as our lives, focuses when we look steadily for an imbalance that can be tended with the resources of imagination, creativity, and collaboration.  To do this requires a clear vision that’s not obscured by deception, dulled senses, or glitz.

While I’m a strong advocate for infusing digital media into our K-16 curricula, I also urge an increased vigilance against the dulling of or distraction from our sense of purpose.  Technology offers escape and entertainment; it can also serve our engagement with art, working in line with Gardner’s summons to bring order out of dissolution.  Our digital media project on identity construction, then, needed to emphasize the detection of and naming of the disorder that was to be attended in our composing.

I saw this happening in my own process.  As described in the previous blog, I caught myself almost missing an opportunity to discern a generative place of disorder because I’d picked a relatively trivial photo for the not-liked image instead of one that pointed much more perceptively to an important disturbance.

The initial photo was picked because I was bothered by the superficial appearance of my jeans tucked into my boots; when I realized this was more surface-level than I wanted, I found a better one.  The second one worked better because the disorder points to an imbalance about something of personal significance.  I knew I cared more about the quality of my horsemanship than I did about my exposed boots.

For me, the first image lacked the power to generate exploration into identity that I found in the second.  In making On Knowing, the image that reflected my loss of balance pushed me to look hard into what part of my identity needed work. When the disorder is detected, then the sequencing of images can be arranged to show how the construction of identity tends to the trouble.  As we ponder the ordering of images, words are generated to explain and justify the choices; this organically provides a draft script for the voice-over of the digital media production. In a subsequent blog, I’ll elaborate how this dialog among image, word, and tech effect generates the text better than a pre-written script.

Once again, I want infusion of technology to serve the big purposes of education instead of getting stuck at the technical level (e.g., pushing buttons to jump game monsters or moving pretty pictures around on a storyboard or movie track).  In this case, the emphasis on identity construction pushes past pretty photos to discerning which image opens insight into valuable knowing, character development, and social justice.