THE BLOG

Escaping Mediocrity

27/09/2016 16:41

The line goes, "There are some things in life you just can't teach". Your reaction, whether one of sage nodding or vehement glaring, will succinctly reflect which side of the line your views reside.

Without fence-sitting, the American writer Marya Hornbacher brokers a middling perspective; "You can't teach an ear, you can't teach talent... but you can teach people who have those things not to just fly by the seat of their pants."

City of Glasgow college just announced that this September they'll be running a course in vlogging.

Autumn 2016 so marks the moment vlogging has become a subject of formal learning, something 'study-able', a 'discipline', a college qualification, a practice with more to it than pushing 'Record', breaking the Fourth Wall and "flying by the seat of your pants". The sub-textual message: the path to potential YouTube stardom might just be helped by a modicum of 'classical training'.

Akin to leaning over an exam paper, the questions quickly leap:

Is Glasgow College jumping on a 'fad', riding a bandwagon craze in a Selfie Age where we all carry audio-visual means in our pocket?

Or is Glasgow recognising the above-water tip of the zeitgeist and stating itself a first-mover in what will become a more widespread field of learning?

Perhaps more fundamentally, is a class teaching vlogging and "how to become a YouTuber" broken logic - because how can you teach online eccentricity and how have a 'big personality' that can cross the divide and become captured content? Where George Bernard proposed the paradox that "youth is wasted on the young", is Glasgow's latest course a paradox in reverse, the 'Oldies' just not getting what it's all about, trying to teach aspiring YouTuber's a set of old tricks that just don't apply?

And... 'discuss'. Leaving me about 500 words to do so.

I'll start with a bigger picture point. We should applaud any course that develops understanding and skills in how to interact with the Internet and create for it.

Whether we attend a class in it or not, all of us (of all ages), should take the occasional pause and consider how we represent ourselves digitally, and how others may perceive us online. We 'upload-share-comment-like' with daily enthusiasm: every online act saying something about us and adding to the self-portrait. Institutions offering courses that help young people consider how they fairly and healthily present themselves (digitally) is judicious and astute.

Where growing-up naturally involves taking a few missteps, Social Media can become a mean-spirited companion. Ferris Bueller's day would have turned out seriously different if at any point he'd checked-in or posted to his Timeline.

The second positive point, I believe, relates to 'craft skills'. Talking to camera, behaving naturally in front of a lens, communicating clearly to an audience - these are terrific skills to have, not ones that come naturally to all of us, and are of huge benefit in a whole host of present careers, as well as future ones that have yet to define themselves. You talk to any headmaster today, and they'll comfortably discuss their school's role in terms of preparing for the unknown, in terms of equipping children for walking future career paths that don't currently exist.

So Glasgow College's latest curriculum addition is a new data-point in a trend line that shows a form of creative expression, and an Influencer Marketing industry, in evolution. You can teach film-making, story-telling and screen writing. You can teach acting and TV presenting and broadcast journalism. You can teach video editing and documentary-making. Now you can also be taught vlogging and take lessons in how to become a Social Influencer - and while this might be something you already do and that comes as naturally to you as breathing, study and practice and the accumulation of experience can only serve to positively hone your craft and creative process.

All education is a potential path to something better. The Education (or Butler) Act of 1944 is toasted by historians as a "triumph for progressive reform". It gave rise to the grammar schools, to open-opportunity for all regardless of social class or financial circumstance, inviting a post-war 'Baby Boom' generation to meritocratic rise, based solely on effort and ability. Michael Heseltine described it more pointedly, calling the Butler Act a chance for all to "escape from mediocrity". 1944, 2016, there are parallels. I see the Digital Age as a liberating invitation to all to express, create and upload. It's the opportunity for talent to 'out', creativity to find form and personalities to shine. The Digital Age is an opportunity to trash some out-dated paradigms, and find new ways of doing things. 'How to advertise', 'how to build brands' and 'how agencies stay creative and relevant' are firmly included in this welcome 'paradigm rebuild'. Whether we take formal classes in this or not, everyday is a new lesson inviting us all to learn and to escape mediocrity.

SP.

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