1. Cyborg feminism and meta-humanism
Youth now have, for the most part, a digital identity as important and vulnerable to them as their physical identity. On the other hand, the current educational policy does not want to acknowledge this fact, nor does it want to explore it, leaving new generations navigating solo this new, uncharted territory. I think this is a disservice to the new generation, and, even though educators (and the educational institutions) are mostly not “digital natives,” we need to explore the digital space, and we need to take those spaces seriously. Educators and students may find pedagogical benefits in engaging with our students’ digital selves.
With that in mind, I have, for the past few years, explored some of the pedagogical possibilities that digital spaces may provide for creative processes. In this particular inquiry, I have concentrated on how using “swarm-like” structures may help with this pursuit.
2. Swarm Intelligence:
I became interested in swarm theory after a lecture from Dr. Simon Garnier at NJIT, where my students and I were participating in a STEAM session to expose scientists to artists and artists to scientists.
In acknowledging the influence of swarm intelligence principles, I also have to recognize that the impact is mostly metaphorical and exploratory, rather than scientific. There is scientific backing for the idea of humans behaving like a swarm and the capacity for humans to solve problems collectively better than the highest-performing individual in the group. Krause et al. define swarm intelligence this way, “Two or more individuals independently, or at least partially independently, acquire information and these different packages of information are combined and processed through social interaction, which provides a solution to a cognitive problem in a way that cannot be implemented by isolated individuals.”
A collection of research continues to explore the capacities and characteristics of human swarm intelligence. This research is mostly restricted to problem-solving and rarely applied to human creativity. I need to personally expand my knowledge of the current research in these two overlapping areas of human creativity and swarm intelligence.
Here are some of the principles that I have used in this experimentation:
Self-organization: Swarm intelligence and behavior is at its core decentralized. A swarm may follow a lead, but the power inherent in those moments of leadership is temporary and variable. The collective decides when leadership is needed and when it must move away. The collective is always in a fluid state of organization, skewing any settling of hierarchies. In my pedagogical experimentation, I have attempted to use anonymity in the exercises to simulate non-hierarchical self-organization.
Simple attraction/repulsion rules: Swarm intelligence relies on elementary algorithms of attraction/repulsion between all of the swarm members. In my experimentation, I have used a series of “feeders” (attraction elements) and “limitations” (repulsion elements) to simulate these conditions.
A collective common goal: Swarms teem around a single biological need (build a bridge, forage, etc.) This particular aspect of swarm behavior has been the hardest one to decentralize in pedagogical situations, and for now, I have used my position as an educator to gather the collective interests towards a goal and come up with a common objective. I need more work in this field to decentralize the decision-making process in finding the goal of a pedagogical community in a way that is feasible within our current educational structures.
A defined collective space: swarms function as discrete entities, with boundaries that can be mathematically represented (Kotian et al., 2018). In my practice, I have attempted to emulate these boundaries by creating closed pedagogical spaces in the classroom--defined and protected from external influences, such as they exist in general social media spaces.
3.. Artistic Collaboration.
1. Our current pedagogy needs to concentrate in innovation and creativity
2. I define creativity as the process of discovering new patterns or connections in a manner that is useful to the human species.
3. The current education system favors theory, skills and algorithmic thinking and expects creativity to be developed by the student on their own.
4. We may need more innovation, more ability to detect new patterns and greater collaboration
5. We need to bring down the great wall between artistic approaches and education
The techniques used principles of animal swarm behavior, together with improvisation theories--concentrating mostly on self-organization in fluid, non-hierarchical processes. The development and implementation of those exercises resulted in several students awarded prizes in writing competitions and a visible bump on SAT reading comprehension scores. Most importantly, students reported a greater sense of ownership over their educational outcomes and an increased ability to take collaborative projects to completion.