Redesign and the critique of critique

Lindsay Grant recently posted a provocative argument about the purpose of redesign over at the HASTAC blog.

In work for the Beyond Current Horizons project, Gunther Kress argues that contemporary conditions call not so much for taking a critical stance towards media, but an approach of re-design. Rather than analysing and deconstructing media artefacts, re-design draws on notions of “rip, mix and burn” in which young people appropriate the digital media texts and resources around them, arrange them into new configurations with new meanings, and share these widely amongst their networks. Re-design acknowledges that the “consumer” of media can also be its author. Rather than just deconstructing and critiquing in order to resist the ways that we are influenced and positioned by media, we are able to create and circulate new, alternative messages and meanings, even imbuing existing media texts with very different meanings through a process of editing and juxtaposition. Texts, in this view, are resources to be mined for the creation of new meanings, dramatically recasting issues of authenticity and authorship, and making questions  such as “where did this come from?” or “who is the original author” less pertinent. In education, this focuses attention on the learners’ own texts and meanings, rather than on a media text under analysis.

I’ve been hearing this kind of rethinking of critical thinking more and more lately. Michael Wesch gave a great talk at OVC last month where he argued that, while critical thinking is still a key part of the toolbox, we need to recognize that we’ve moved beyond the read-only mindset of a television dominant era. It no longer makes sense to think about critical thinking as a kind of inoculation for the spectator. Critical thinking may still be the spark and the fuel, but it needs to be let loose out into the world for the promise to be realized. This means focusing on processes of making, design, and distribution. And in the classroom it means teachers are increasingly having to relinquish the authority as expert. Instead teachers play the role of facilitator and coach as students reach beyond the classroom walls as they grapple with new modalities, resources, and audiences.