Dynamic Thincing as Soft Technology

 VIA consultants in Vienna after seeing the TEDx talk, wanted to implement the Art Education Dynamic Thincing method into educational systems in the Middle East.  In order to do this, they asked me questions about the methods I have developed through 7 years of art education projects. So I provided them with the content  and they devised a format for this profile to take shape and to be presented as Soft Technology that can be applied in a variety of contexts by different people.   The profile gives an overview of what this method entails and how it can be used in a variety of contexts.

What is the soft technology, its characteristics and why is it being used?
These programs are implemented as a bridge between creativity and education. The soft technology used is systematically approaching adults, youth and children through using art and consequently increasing their creativity level.
        The characteristics of this soft technology include combining artistic processes with a variety of essential curriculum or organisational components including, language learning, numeracy, media literacy, problem solving, challenge and critique prejudice through representations of ethnicity, class, national identity gender and race-relations, cultural tolerance intercultural communication, critical “Thincing”, leadership and cross-curricular awareness. This combination of creative and education processes brings out the children's’ (the target group) multiple intelligences.

       There is a reason why this soft technology is needed in today’s world. Only less than 50 years ago, information was presented to the public and public needs were standardised; however, back then there was an emerging need for customised knowledge. Now the structure of the flow of information and knowledge has changed. We all have the opportunity to provide this knowledge in a very unique way, in a kaleidoscope of perspectives. Moreover, it can be taken a step further by connecting all knowledge through values.
      The coming of this “Fourth Wave” (industrial age being the first, followed by information age and thirdly knowledge age) turns that equation inside-out. The complexity of the Third and Fourth Wave society is too great for any centrally planned bureaucracy or for one conglomerate to manage. De-massification, customisation, individuality, freedom - these are the keys to success for Third and fourth wave civilisation and to our own future, living harmoniously in communities that we value and that we`re drawn to through our personal value tree.

Comparisons with other Art Education Methods/ Schools
      This soft technology is used, because there is a general discontent with the way that education is around the world at present. There is a general consensus that there is a need for reforming and thus there have been various methods that have been implemented such as Waldorf or Montessori which basis schools have been founded. Waldorf describes a form of education based on humanistic approach of pedagogy. According to this approach, learning is interdisciplinary; it includes practical, artistic and conceptual elements. The Waldorf education encourages the students to develop creative but also analytical thinking and to develop into free, morally responsible individuals. Within this concept, schools and teachers have the freedom to define the curriculum to a certain degree. The Montessori method basically aims at encouraging children towards a self-directed learning. The learning environment is equipped with many self-teaching materials supporting this process, which the children can use freely. The children should bring out their true natural way of being. Within this method, the teacher is more an observer and just sometimes interacts with experiments (lessons) to resolve mis-behaviour or to show the use of the materials.

Dynamic Thincing 

However, the creativity increased by soft technology is not just composed of one method, it is rather a combination of processes with the characteristics outlined below, that are diverse and fluid depending on the context.  In this way co-investigators explore their cultural contexts and situations from a critical perspective in order to transcend the it.  This means transforming both themselves and the situation, culture organisation or group through critical action.  It is not just about creating something new, this soft technology enables people to recycle so that the old things that don`t work can be used again so that there is real sustainability rather than just growth.  In current learning contexts across the spectrum of our society in both youth and adult life; co-investigators have often had to leave  parts of themselves behind so that they can get ahead. This soft technology brings this out. 
Based on primary research of art education there often is a discrepancy between the communication between different people interacting with each other or different groups working together.  Solutions to resolve this in different art education programs in Austria and UK have either focused on dialogue, discussion and debate, or on craft work.  Therefore, an objective of this technology is to merge these two aspects integrating both, theory and practice for a praxis which in turn creates critical action that multiplies outwards into society.

How does this soft technology actually work?
The creative interpretation resources dependent on context that give rise to dramatic situations; literally playing out different scenarios and futures, these dramatic interactions enable creative tension and a slowing down of experience, revealing meaning behind action, enabling critical thinking and creating expressions  that challenge, critique the original contexts or problems at hand.  This can involve, depending on the context issues such as environment, sustainability issues, economy, politics, ethnicity, class, national identity, gender and race-relations.  Participants and co-investigators recognise their situation and culture, in order to transcend it.  This is the critical action part.

Simply put there in this soft technology there is a Dynamic Thincing method that is a triangular relationship between: Intentions > participant interaction > creative processes/production or the extra-textual >intra-textual, inter-textual, these elements are not static, they are circular and inter-changable in order depending on the context.  As in the diagram below through Dynamic Thincing activates this circular motion where one is dependent upon the other to continue the flow

It is possible to focus on the didactic engagement of this soft technology.  I aim to emphasise the ‘performative’ properties of creativity themselves. Meaning: creative productions are not fixed in time and do not have an ultimate truth. They evolve, just as landscapes and people when placed in a variety of contexts. For example: an image’s meaning is not inherent just within the image itself neither is it just the intention of the image-maker, but it is a negotiable property that lies within a conceptual triangle formed by the subject, the image-maker and audience. In order to make sense of not only each other but also the systems that we use, the organisations we run and how we can transform them and find the solutions we need to sustain our future and furthermore, how diversity and pluralism are pervasive cross-culturally, we can do this through Dynamic Thincing.

In order to use/apply this soft technology, what characteristic should its target market have?
In order to apply this soft technology, the target market that would benefit the most would be those that are either struggling with change or are confronted with change in some way. This could be any organisation/s, a group of students, two or more different ethnic communities, two people, or communities that have either been cut-off from their culture or traditions through globalisation or would just like re-awaken their core values that were present in their traditions whilst remaining open to our changing times. This soft technology enables a society, group or community to be innovative, by being open whilst re-awakening core values.
       As an example, this target market may want to reveal that their symbolically simple public face, seen from the outside, contradicts their symbolically complex private face, seen from the inside. This may be important for groups, communities, countries or organisations that are in danger of suffering from discrimination through stereotypes, media or otherwise. They may be perpetuating their stereotypes or feel unmotivated to learn how to further their integration and mobility because they feel threatened by a dominant cultural climate that seems hegemonic and impenetrable. This soft technology can work to appease these factors evident in the target market concerned.
     The target market wanting to use this soft technology may also have the aim to broaden its perspectives, as they are restricted either internally or externally at present. The target market wanting to use this soft technology may want to raise awareness of cross-curricular links and encourage critical thinking about concepts of environment, sustainability, ethnicity, national identity, class and gender-relations, subsequently, increasing achievement, mobility and integration on both a local and international level, whilst simultaneously maintaining the participants (target) culture and/or heritage, whilst at the same time transcending it, so that it can be seen in a new and contemporary light, without diminishing or eradicating the valuable factors in their culture.  This soft technology reveals the exsisting values through creative dialogue and through creative processes, co-investigators and participants are able collectively decide what is valuable for them--this in turn goes towards critical action, where participants and co-investigators can then turn around whole defunct systems.

What are the pre-requisites of this soft technology?
     The pre-requisites for this soft technology are a provision of an environment that is a safe and trusting environment, but this can be actually developed in combination with the usage of this soft technology.  For instance, in conflict zones, a small space inside a house can be created by shared storytelling that gives rise to a safe and trusting environment to all the participants so that they can transcend their conflict zone and seek solutions to escape their situation in this small space.  (This has been practiced in Israel under siege)                                The organisation/party/company/group facilitator needs to provide environments where the participants experiment with their own diverse expressions of creativity. Then the chance is bigger that there will be a willingness to learn from each others experience, co-operation and understanding.  The soft technology needs to be applied through dramatic action in small groups and intimate settings. The environments where this soft technology will be applied need to be compassionate places instead of restrictive environments. The secret to change our environment for the better lies in breaking loose from the constraints that tie us, where we are locked in as preset counter-posed categories, providing less restrictive environment where this soft technology can be used as a key for doing this.
         As the demands on the economy are to be more efficient, in turn this is reflected in the organisations, classroom or groups where creativity is stifled or there is only one way of being creative (for instance in companies, often your creativity is valued only when it produces a product) that is valued, instead of embracing the different possibilities of creativity.  This is often due to groups/organisations/schools having to prove accountability measures.  There can be a system-design in which inputs and outputs are defined, but this must be flexible and constantly revised both before, during and after the projects where this soft technology has been applied.  Besides that, the presence of and creativity facilitator(s) (the number of facilitators depends on the needs of the target group) with the local understanding is one of the keys to success.

What are the necessary points to do/consider to apply when wanting to apply this soft technology? It really depends on the context as there is no singular method, but a combination of methods and processes within this technology. However, there are some essential points to consider: it is very important to conduct socio-political and economic research of the groups and environment that are going to use this soft technology. This will include using methods such as design or diagram/music/dance/photo/film/picture/writing elicitation (eliciting conceptual, historical, social information of our core values and beliefs), transcript/note-taking recording, writing ethnography and visual ethnography.  The above mentioned methods are often used so that we can understand the driving forces and needs of the people that will be using this soft technology.
       The project/system should establish clear measurable objectives, not pre-scribed outcomes and also try to keep the activity level relatively high.
       Financial support (resulting to better platform and tools) are always assistance in such projects. One should also realise that creativity workshops have both short-term and long-term effects on the target market. Even only one session can be effective and helpful. However, for the true effect continuous sessions, workshops, and educational platforms are needed.

What are the process/phases of applying this soft technology?

The first phase includes the gathering of information about the environment, the context, through some of the methods outlined above, as well as the evaluation of the resources available.

The second phase would be to define the needs and objectives of the groups involved in using the technology; this would help recognising the main driving forces that need to be addressed.

The third phase would be to use those main driving forces to shape the form and content of this technology in relation to the specific context and resources available.

The forth phase would be to apply this soft technology within an identified setting and context during this process. There would be continual evaluation throughout; one example of these would be learning logs and personal journals. Instead of focusing on goals, targets, exams and grades in isolation, the soft-technology engages students at both a creative and analytical level.

The fifth phase would be to evaluate and to archive on a shared resource space so that groups wishing to use the soft technology in the future can learn from each other.

Jessica Kennedy White (c), 2011

What is the predicted behaviour of the target market in each of these phases and how it can be managed?
  • This soft technology can enable innovation. For core cultural values and traditions to survive, they must respond creatively to new cultural and economic challenges in their environment.
  • Enabling users of this soft technology who are traditionally the subjects of this technology to become its co-creator.
  • The didactic engagement with this soft technology enables mobility and integration on both a local and international level by broadening the student’s perspective, of how each subject links into one another through greater cross curricular understanding.
  • This soft technology instead of neutralising differences actually expresses them.
  • Internalising questions raised, increasing agency (choice) of their learning, subsequently helping them to realise on their own terms-cross-cultural aims.
  • We all become co-investigators in the creative learning process.
  • Giving a voice to those who are too often ignored or silenced.
  • Enabling participants of this soft technology to become advocates for change.
  • Enabling participants of this technology to inform and affect policy on local and international levels.
  • Creativity is the bridge from what has been to what is and what can be. By understanding knowledge and systems from the past and present and unlocking creativity, as a consequence, we can expect to unlock our diverse futures, so that there are greater possibilities for us to explore that are not just swayed by mindless consumer demand.
  • This soft technology stimulates engagement at a conscious level, instead of passive consumption. It allows a dialogical process so that students can actively choose their own path to their future.  Creativity takes the focus off grades and pre-scribed outcomes and onto the different ways in which people think, taking them out of their straight-jacket and into an open landscape with many paths leading to different directions.
  • We can explore concepts of nationality, politics, religion, philosophy and the culture on a mirco and macro-level (people and groups as well as organisations within same or different countries) on an emotive level through this soft technology.
The secret lies in breaking loose from the constraints that tie us, where we are locked in as preset counter posed categories. Through creativity and play we can access broader parts of our humanity and activate a range of other images and identities facilitating some individual bonding across boundaries. The consequence could be a deep restructuring on an emotive level, one that previously has been dominated by boundary, judgement and criticism.

We all have unlimited creative potential that can reveal hidden and diverse realities. By unlocking creativity we can bring these diversities to the forefront of our lives.

By increasing intercultural dialogue through innovative creative practice, it is possible to reduce sentiments of alienation and apartness from each other. It is important to recognise that feelings of being threatened come from each other, from all sides. To feel safe, to gain peace with each other, it is essential to increase information flow through boundaries so that we can develop a positive vision of where we might head to in the future.
What is the estimated time of applying and also seeing the results of this soft technology?
The estimated time for applying and reaping its results depends on the context, resources and needs of the target group.  It can be used for a short period or a longer continuous period; from a 2 day workshop to a 10 year long program. The advantage of these creativity based programs is that the core concept can be applied to numerous situation and contexts. The main purpose of these programs is to change paradigms and gear society to a novel future in which ideas or intangible assets will be extremely valuable.