Nothing new under the sun

One of the central ideas that Jonathan Savage and I discuss in a book to be published in 2015, is that originality conceived as the ability of someone to produce something ‘new’ and innovative, is a distraction from the actual way that culture is created. Instead, creativity is more usefully understood as a social and collaborative process enhanced by recent innovations in networked communication technologies.

Nothing comes from nothing We live in a world where stuff is made by combining and recombining cultural resources in an open-ended process of remix. In other words, all creative culture emerges from processes of plagiarism and literary debt. We do, actually, stand on the shoulders of giants. Here’s that argument made in a visually engaging way by Drew Christie in an animated opinion piece originally published in the New York Times in 2012.


And here’s what Drew Christie said about making the film:

In creating this Op-Doc animation, I copied well-known images and photographs, retraced innumerable drawings, then photocopied them as a way to underscore the un-originality of the entire process. (Un-originality — or, maybe, excessive originality — being very much in the news this week, as students of the creative process and Bob Dylan buffs are well aware.) My film is chock-full of unlabeled images that make cultural, artistic and literary references. Additionally, the two main characters are modeled to look like the Russian filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky and Sergei Eisenstein. I hope this piece is at least unoriginal in an original way or perhaps even originally unoriginal.

via Brainpickings

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Via 99U

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Learning Free

By: BK

I’ve recently been looking at some of the online tutorials that are now available for staff at MMU through the educational platform There’s nothing groundbreaking here though I have been enjoying the workshops on photography.

But why only staff? I’m not a fan of this differential in a learning community when it comes to resources; a little bit like saying a couple of floors of the library books are reserved for staff only. So, in a spirit of open learning, here are seven freely accessible online education sites that will expand the minds and spirits of staff, students and anyone in-between or beyond. Lynda, you’ve got competition!

Academic Earth

Academic Earth was launched on the premise that everyone deserves access to a world-class education. In 2009, we built the first collection of free online college courses from the world’s top universities. The world of open education has exploded since then, so today our curated lists of online courses are hand selected by our staff to show you the very best offerings by subject area. We also make sure there is something for everyone: whether you want to explore a new topic or advance in your current field, we bring the amazing world of academia to you for free.

The Khan Academy

Starting out as free Youtube video collection to help with school maths homework – it’s now much, much more.

The School of Open

a global community of volunteers providing free online courses, face-to-face workshops, and innovative training programs on the meaning, application, and impact of “openness” in the digital age. Learn how to add a Creative Commons license to your work, find free resources for classroom use, open up your research, remix a music video, and more!


What happens when classroom teachers from every country in the world take part in a global community of sharing curriculum and best practices? Teachers are empowered to create extraordinary learning experiences for their students. Barriers to equal access to education begin to lift—geography and politics become immaterial. And the economy benefits from a highly educated population. That’s why we founded Curriki, a nonprofit K-12 global community for teachers, students, and parents to create, share, and find free learning resources that enable true personalized learning.

The School of Life Library

Here you will find a selection of ideas, thoughts and further resources arranged around the themes covered in our programme. Read our latest blog posts, get reading recommendations from our faculty, browse photos of recent events or watch past sessions online. You can browse by type of resource, or by subject.  Simply click on a shelf heading to explore a range of items on that topic.


Lots of language learning exercises here including voice recognition input – great for vocabulary work and practicing pronunciation – but little in the way of conversation. Try a holiday for that!


There are over 300 self-paced courses here in everything from chemistry to social work. Worth a browse. There are also forums where you can talk to others on the course you’re studying – something that few of the other sites offer.

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Bowel Cancer Disappears

Here’s a clever video made for the Jodi Lee Foundation, an Australia charity aiming to raise awareness about bowel cancer.

As this film shows, the charity spelt out the words ‘bowel cancer’ in the centre of Martin Place in Sydney, using testing kits. As passers-by took the kits, the words slowly disappeared.

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by | September 16, 2014 · 10:01 am

You Need a Community, Not a Network

The internet is great for spreading information and rallying crowds, but you can’t mobilize people to collaborate and create something of lasting value simply by connecting them via the web.

The argument here is a well-trodden one: are built up of nodes which have weak connections between themselves. Weak connections mean that there is little incentive for collaboration and a lack of accountability. Therefore, it’s only by creating from networks that the qualities of thick ties, commitment and accountability can be enjoyed.

That’s true. But it misses the point of the value of networks. Networks are not communities in the sense that we have understood communities for the past few decades. The value of networks lies in the kinds of pattern recognition that creates and emerges from them. For example, network learning is not the same as learning in communities. Nor do we think of network learning as a prelude to learning in communities. They’re are just different.

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Evie Wylde – After The Fire

After the Fire, a Still Small Voice Book Cover After the Fire, a Still Small Voice

Fathers and sons
Random House

Frank and Leon are two men from different times, discovering that sometimes all you learn from your parents' mistakes is how to make different ones of your own. Frank is trying to escape his troubled past by running away to his family's beach shack. As he struggles to make friends with his neighbors and their precocious young daughter, Sal, he discovers the community has fresh wounds of its own. A girl is missing, and when Sal too disappears, suspicion falls on Frank. Decades earlier, Leon tries to hold together his family's cake shop as their suburban life crumbles in the aftermath of the Korean War. When war breaks out again, Leon must go from sculpting sugar figurines to killing young men as a conscript in the Vietnam War.

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A M Homes – Music for Torching

Music for Torching Book Cover Music for Torching


As A.M. Homes’s incendiary novel unfolds, the Kodacolor hues of the good life become nearly hallucinogenic.Laying bare th foundations of a marriage, flash frozen in the anxious entropy of a suburban subdivision, Paul and Elaine spin the quit terors of family life into a fantastical frenzy that careens out of control. From a strange and hilarious encounter with a Stepford Wife neighbor to an ill-conceived plan for a tattoo, to a sexy cop who shows up at all the wrong moments, to a housecleaning team in space suits, a mistress calling on a cell phone, and a hostage situationat a school, A.M. Homes creates characters so outrageously flawed and deeply human that thery are entriely believable.

Homes is a good writer with some great turns of phrase and the book has some set pieces that are laugh/cry aloud. But the characters are just so bad, so one-dimensional, so much like cardboard cut-outs, that ultimately I didn’t really care about them. Yes, there’s a little bit of me in Paul and think that’s what the page-turning appeal is. But there’s a lot more that isn’t and this is the bit that I wish Homes had grappled with. For an exploration of American angst time’s much better spent with De Lillo’s White Noise.

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