History of Manchester in 100 objects


In 2011 we were trying to turn Manchester in to an Ambient Learning City using social media. We wanted people to tell their own stories about Manchester using objects that they owned. We were working with the Museum of Science and Industry and wanted people to tell stories about their own economic history as a way of rethinking what their economic futures might be. This was in the shadow of the credit crunch when it looked like economic life might end, at least for the poorer in society.

Then the Manchester riots happened in August 2011. Many were fearful but David Caton Roberts decided to act on the principles of the project and get people to collaborate on a crowdsourced project nominating their favourite object in Manchester whilst the riots were happening. Be positive and tell good stories about where you live. He called it a History of Manchester in 100 objects after the British Museum project A History of the World in 100 objects. Click the link and have a look, it’s a great read for Mancunians and everyone else!


Some nominated objects 

…4) The tiled images on the pavement on Oldham Street/Tib Street (the Banksy lion?)…

…8) The City Silver Plate (service kept in Town Hall, piece in Manchester Art Gallery), 1870s…

…77) James Prescott Joules paddle wheel (now there is an object for you)…

What did we learn? We learnt that despite fear, and the relentless focus of news media on the bad, people have good stories to tell and great memories to share. (See our social media festival for more). We learnt that we can find new ways to live and learn in our cities as the economy changes and use social media tools for the collaborative and sharing purposes of learning and empathy, not just for consumption and manipulation.

Fred Garnett

More on Ambient Learning City lessons we learnt from the Manchester MOSI-ALONG project…

Social Cities of Tomorrow

(In London) Participatory City

(In Timisaora) Learning City 2.0

Imported or Trained

I spent many wonderful years in the Further Education sector where Britain (had) many world best qualities. It’s where I learnt to teach and help anyone cope with the education system. As we showed with I Am Curious #Digital it still has innovative Digital Practitioners

We could be training British kids using “artfully-crafted, student-centred, learning experiences” who could then build new futures rather than saying we need to import cheap labour to keep the costs of old industries low… 

Innovation economy or austerity economy? The answer lies in the education system AND the learning design it allows…

Manifesto or Policy Forest?

Leaked or Shared?

Today saw the leak of Labours Manifesto and a media debate on either the non-substantive policy issue of the lack of control of Labour on its members, or comments on substantive issues by senior Conservatives who said it showed that the coalition of chaos would not provide stable and secure leadership. We are not big fans of manifestos anyway, and given that this is an attempt to establish a Brexit manifesto, after the fact, in order to(allegedly) increase the governments power when negotiating with the EU, then the gleeful seizing upon the leak rather than the policies by the British media indicates once again that personality-driven elections obscure rather than illuminate…

We are interested in Participatory policy making and as a part of our Policy 2.0 project (participatory, creative, interactive) we developed a policy-making approach as part of the learner-generated contexts research project, called Policy Forest. It is a policy development based on our institutional Architecture of Participation work where we, especially Nigel, apply Web 2.0 principles (What is Web 2.0?) to educational institutions. First used on our LGC event on designing future learning spaces, we have evolved it further.

Architectures of Participation we have characterised as “Adaptive Institutions working across Collaborative Networks” where we see all workers within an educational organisation sharing in the decision-making process, as pioneered by Eccles College and their award-winning webactions project.

Policy 2.0 was launched at CAL in Dublin in 2007 and was in part inspired by Diana Laurillard views on the Adaptive State and the idea that a conversational framework for policy implementation could be developed

The shared policy development approach in Policy 2.0 was further developed and tested over a number of events and finally reached a workable model at the JISC workshop on Sustaining Innovation in education. In this model, experts, and politicians evolved a number of policy formulations concerning specific policy outcomes and people vote for the formulation they prefer, policy by policy. It is not a mandate, nor a manifesto, but a line by line policy review. In our model we have 3 options for each policy outcome as well as a write-in option. Significant write-ins can also be accommodated. Results are published and acted upon, not unlike environment audit statements.

The actual policy formulations for Sustaining Innovation can be found on Cloudworks

More on Architecture of Particpation on the blog, more on Policy 2.0 on slideshare

Fred Garnett

2017 or 1917?

What year is #GE2017 being fought in? 2017 or 1917?

Back in 1972 I was so shocked by how the UK establishment flat out lied to maintain power that I decided to study politics in order to understand how the manipulative UK political system actually worked. In 1984, having taught politics for a couple of years in the USA and then been employed to teach computing in the UK (as we are too scared to teach an understanding of politics to the Queens subjects) I decided to merge my interests and investigate what the overlap was between technology and social change.

2017 – By 1989 I concluded that social change caused by disruptive meta-technologies occur in 50 year cycles (Kondratieff) through “unanticipated outcomes” and “negative second-order effects” That is change is unpredictable and is NOT what experts anticipate (which is always predict “what we have now only more intense) . Social change is qualitative not quantitative. So by 2021 we would be going through a mega-set of socio-technical changes which would require us to change the constitution (outlined in Homi & the NeXT One in 1989). As pre-figured by Jonathan Gershuny on the BBC in 1984 that would reflect a social network architecture based on a “two-way, broadband, interactive, multi-media optical-fibre network that would allow everyone to be a producer as well as a consumer”; prosumer economics perhaps? Of course in 1986 Thatcher decided that the economic future was privatisation of industrial assets, not building the infrastructure backbone for the digital economy, so she privatised BT (“selling off the family silver“) who began installing copper wires instead.

Well our socio-economic assets have long been privatised and many people have moved up the Rich List thanks to the UK becoming relaxed about greed, but the digital economy still relies on a phone call to Silicon Valley rather than an universal broadband architecture enabling everyone to work. Even (beautiful) Romania is way ahead of us on broadband…

1917 – This complete inability of the current political establishment and the established elite of media experts and commentators to understand the changing economic drivers that have been present since 1971, which Kondratieff could foreshadow in 1922, has been exacerbated by our continual re-writing of WW1 since 2014; previously about donkeys but now more about Great British Lions at the top 100 years ago. We have had an orgy of self-love about how great our history has been whilst our present actively destroys communities and, under George Osborne, the Welfare State. Health-care free at the point of delivery is far more amazing than History love-fests.

Instead of examining how the combination of new technology, neo-liberal economics and freedom of migration have impacted upon meaningful work in all our communities, our political establishment has retreated into the self-regarding, well-paid towers of privilege their PPE education entitles them too, optimistic that they will retain their valuable jobs whatever the election results.

1917 or 2017 – So it seems to me that this election is being fought on WW1 principles, trust the lions of England, and not the donkeys of Europe. Everyone of the self-loving boys of the Establishment are voting for more A-level examinations and carb-fuelled school dinners without any of that European muck…
So! Do we want to e-enable 1917, where we are all dutiful subjects of the Crown, or create a transformational socially-just 2017 where we are citizens participating in the creation of a new society in which we live actively? Citizen-Generated contexts anyone?

Fred Garnett

Citizens or Mayors?

Citizen-generated Contexts

I welcomed the Maastricht Treaty as it signalled the moment I finally grew up from being the mere subject of a sovereign to a person with equal rights who could be active within a democracy. Unfortunately it also unleashed the Hobbesian anger of those who thought that life really was nasty, British and short and which ultimately resulted in Brexit for a multiplicity of reasons.

Since Web 2.0 came along we’ve been thinking about how new digital technologies might help with both new more active processes of learning. In 2006 we decided we were interested in enabling learners to “generate” their own contexts for learning and became the learner-generated contexts research group, promoting the open context model of learning which fused subject pedagogies, collaborative andragogy and creative heutagogy so people might learn where they choose, beyond the classroom.

In the City of Manchester  we tested (MOSI-ALONG) the idea of having many contexts available for learning across a city and quickly realised we needed both new metaphors to frame people’s learning in new contexts, as well as a new social media based learning process, Aggregate then Curate, to help shape how that learning might evolve from learner-generated activities. We didn’t transform Manchester but we did transform our own understanding of how to support learning in non-traditional contexts with new digital tools.

Citizen-generated Contexts was an idea Nigel and I floated as we tried to help UK online centres move from Community Grids for Learning to Community Grids for Information as part of a community-based response to e-government. We think we can create new participatory processes of democracy by “positively designing to allow for new forms of citizen engagement to emerge” We think we need to a) identify new complex social practices such as “Transition Town open space meeting agendas” and b) enabling new extra-institutional structuring, the liminal processes of WikiQuals, or Young Mayor teams in local authorities, and absorb them into mainstream politics.

New Mayors in the UK are now being elected as a new form of hierarchical local representation. Central government has defined away whatever local government can do ever since (old mayor) Ken Livingstone used County Hall to publicise the rising unemployment caused by the Thatcher government in 1981-1984. New (American-style) mayors, now exhibiting what my friend Roxanne terms the “pathology of office”, are free to make their cities world-class (building skyscrapers) as part of a new and shallow celebrity politics of spectacle. 30 years of property-driven speculation has meant communities no longer know how to define themselves and self-organise. We need to invent new ways of doing this (complex social practices) and also of recognising them (extra-institutional structuring). Citizen journalism, hyper-local blogs and Facebook groups all represent different ways of doing this.

As ever with new technology the affordances for transforming social discourse, as either citizens or learners, are there but people are more concerned with e-enabling existing processes as we are generally neither comfortable with redesigning existing institutions nor looking at how we might use. As Ben Hammersley put it, the Network Society is waiting to be born but those who grew up in hierarchical society keep recreating their comfortable pasts. We think social transformation can be better defined in context by citizens rather than in absentia by officials in office.

Here’s a new toolkit, have a play – Citizen-Generated Contexts; 

(Fred Garnett)

Mass schooling or De-schooling?

What does industrial-scale schooling mean?

“The establishment of more schools in Malaysia or Brazil teaches people the accountant’s view of the value of time, the bureaucrat’s view of the value of promotion, the salesman’s view of the value of increased consumption, and the union leader’s view of the purpose of work. People are taught all this not by the teacher but by the curriculum hidden in the structure of school. It does not matter what the teacher teaches so long as the pupil has to attend hundreds of hours of age-specific assemblies to engage in a routine decreed by the curriculum and is graded according to his ability to submit to it…

“People learn that they acquire more value in the market if they spend more hours in class. They learn to value progressive consumption of curricula. They learn that whatever a major institution produces has value, even invisible things such as education or health. They learn to value grade advancement, passive submission, and even the standard misbehavior that teachers like to interpret as a sign of creativity.” Ivan Illich 1971.

When this was written in the late 1960’s, “the curriculum hidden in the school” (despite the work of Summerhill on democratic education) was a contested concept reflecting the high point of the redistribution of income towards workers following WW2. Wolfgang Streeck looking at the end of capitalism (2016) highlights the decline of working class self-organisation from the time Illich was writing, and the hidden curriculum critique has lain dormant since.

Meanwhile there has been the growing influence, intellectually, of both critical and community-focused educational pedagogies e.g. Ivan Illich, Paulo Freire, John Holt, A.S. Neill, even Louise Michel, and many others whose ideas are continually discussed and developed on the Infed website. However resources for community education with a priority on personal and community self-formation have been disappearing as local councils have lost funding and the powers to initiate such learning initiatives. Government funding mechanisms have increasingly been used to control both the curriculum, a National Curriculum about as exciting as the National Cheese of war-time rationing, as well as to regulate the number of providers receiving funding. The takeover of ALI by OFSTED is a key indicator of this managerially regulated process.

Nowhere has this been more starkly illustrated than by the manipulation of further education funding to drive the “skills” agenda, which has restricted the scope of further education providers to widen the scope of provision and provide “the second chances” for those failed by formal education in schools and innovative ways into higher education via access initiatives.

So government policy in the last 50 years has increasingly organised an industrial-scale production of time and motion controlled education (the education as factory metaphor) and has trained and recruited educational managers to keep the factories ticking over at full output…

The developing loss of the wider curriculum and more inclusive pedagogies, as we might see in community education, will be explored in later postings.

Nigel Ecclesfield

Industrial-scale or Community-focussed?

One of the issues facing education post-Brexit is the vision of education, and the health service, for that matter, as industrial scale services organised mass provision when learning needs, and health needs, are so deeply personal. It is not surprising that the last ten years has seen reductions in those services defined as and located in “community“.

Where I live, in Devon, we have seen the running down and closure of community hospitals (six) in recent months and the relocation of services to larger regional facilities. In further education there has been a long-term running down of community provision and facilities for adult informal education and the forced merger of colleges, to create regional rather than local entities at greater scale, due to Government skills policies and their implementation by FE Commissioners conducting “area” reviews.

The concomitant effects of these changes have been to narrow down the focus of welfare payments to individuals while public subsidies are eliminated and to create narrowing of the curriculum offer to meet “the skills needs of employers” despite the evidence to suggest that employers are poor at identifying the future skills needs of their workforces, or responding to technology change or even the affordances of new technologies. Despite 20 years of Government mantras promoting “employer-led” further education, the engagement of employers in further education at local levels has not increased and neither has employer investment in training for the majority of their workers, even with incentives.

In the UK, schooling (we make a critical distinction between schooling and learning) is becoming both more prescriptive and selective, leading to the creation of failure in personal, community and class terms,  while the range of content is reduced to meet politico-industrial goals based on elitist and behavioural goals formally articulated through national agencies and endlessly reinforced through political messages.

This industrial-scale national education system characterises the Age of Anger, being focused on the adversarial and discriminatory elements of national cultures seen through the lens of economic competition. Such approaches substitute indoctrination for learning. We have learned that the most powerful learning comes from collaboration and trust (see Trust The Learner) rather than schooling and teacher focused education, which characterises the Conservative vision of post -Brexit education. As we develop this analysis we will outline more fully what a learner-centered and community focused alternative might look like.

(Nigel Ecclesfield)

A more-detailed discussion on how to achieve this can be found in our paper on Community-based hubs as part of our work Towards an Adult Education Architecture of Participation.

Post-Brexit Education Policy

In the UK the clearest evidence of populism today is the leave EU referendum result, called Brexit by media commentators who helped promote it. If our education system has helped created this rift  in society represented by the brutality and complexity of populism, could there be new education policies that might help redress it?

As two people who have worked across the piece in the English education system, and with a keen sense of history, we think that there are many dimensions of the education system that have been run down, overlooked or ignored, which, looked at afresh, might enable a fresh set of education policies to emerge. This could be based on a combination of best historical practice, such as democratic, self-organised learning (Mechanics Institutes and Summerhill for example) and new social collaborations identified in the Digital Practitioner (that we have highlighted elsewhere) emerging from the curiosity of young professionals in FE colleges applying the use of new personal technologies to the practice of learning.

In A Dominies Log AS Neill patiently documents the results of his kindness as a teacher on his pupils, which he later implemented in the profoundly democratic institutional practice of Summerhill. He kept this log in 1915 as the horrific First World War had started and stopped the instigation of a professionals teachers group coming together. This represented one of many missed opportunities of the teaching profession to take charge of its professional self-organisation and set its own standards (as opposed to being a trades union organised around pay and conditions).

The new teaching practices we uncovered in our dialogical research project Digital Practitioner, which characterised the use of “personal technologies” in UK college learning contexts as creating “artfully-crafted, student-centred, learning experiences” point another way forward for the 21st century, driven by professional digital practitioners, that we want to further examine on this blog.

We think a post-Brexit educational policy, by allowing the expression of a natural learning curiosity, could draw on a range of radical practice that has been developed locally, which could produce original and stimulating learning to refresh our thinking, rather than the xenophobic hatred that has been produced by the current high-stakes assessment model that has driven the education system in recent years. Some of these open practices we have identified in Trust The Learner

We hope to share  our reflections and learning in the manifesto part of this blog. Guest bloggers welcome too… (Fred Garnett)

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