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Learning for Sustainability: A Report

The Elective unit essay.

The Problem

As a lecturer in Film Production with a focus on Storytelling, it becomes evident that the awareness of the sustainable issues is brief within the cohorts. Despite, the students’ awareness of the terms such as Global Warming or Equality and they can repress opinion on such subject matters, yet, it is evident that their analysis lack information, facts and broader view of the problems. In Film Production this gap might be more vivid as the size of the industry and the value of the productions those are accessible easily in cinema theatres, Netflix or other formats does not [perhaps deliberately] provide useful information to a provocative mind. A lecturer at Higher Education has the opportunity to challenge the ideas and provide the hidden concepts concerning sustainability. However, it is important to question how this is possible, and the ways we produce the argument can affect the audience [students] differently. This debate requires being challenging, open to debate, practical and finally open to disagreement. Hence, designing the suitable workshops becomes a necessity to be engaging at different levels for the students to be able to pay attention to diverse issues when developing their ideas. For originating this essay, I refer to this section as ‘The Problem’.

The Debate

The sustainability issues, as evident, caused dramatic changes to the environment we live in and consequently, they affect the ways we live. Saving the planet in the 21st century becomes a priority, and some positive methods are already taken place regarding actions and education (Gabitov & Kurmanalieva, 2014). However, a point should be considered; sustainability is not embodied in our lives. As Arianna Huffington mentions we “prioritise our health. Live our lives as if everything is rigged in our favour. Burnt-out people do not create a sustainable planet.” (Huffington, 2013) This leads us to the question of personal experiences and equity as a sustainability issue. Our behaviour relies on many situations we face in our daily lives and our reaction to those events are a personal approach learnt through our experiences. The sustainability of reactions has a direct connection to how we feel and see the society as an individual. Of course, dealing with sustainability can be part of our ordinary life in the society, but each person makes decisions to accommodate personal needs. Some of the gaps created in the society are the result of the inequality and imbalance opportunities provided to us. Dealing with such issues are related directly to our personal experiences in which can be challenged when we consider our understanding of the new concepts in our lives. The educational programmes can provide awareness in which we can understand the issues, yet, they do not necessarily relate to our daily lives if we do not get the opportunity to exercise them. Designing sustainable methods of teaching in which can create a better balance between saving the planet and also allow us to bring those understanding into our lives can create a pivotal concept in dealing with sustainability issues. This argument is designed to develop a model by approaching the individual experiences as the source of knowledge, and the workshop is aiming to generate the opportunity for the students to develop new experiences in which parallel concepts can be debated in relation to sustainability.

Throughout the sessions in sustainability, some concepts provided information to understand the mechanism of the Learning for Sustainability. Two central debates, Sustainability models and A. D. Henry’s argument provoked the plan for the workshop but not necessarily as it has been presented. Studying both ideas, developed a counterargument which this essay tends to explore as the study of ‘The Problem’. This critical debate does not mean to ignore the valid argument produced by the other researcher, yet, it encourages this examination to focus on a more philosophical debate.

The disagreement with Adam Douglas Henry argument appears as the result of the similarities it provides to the ‘Utilitarianism’ economic analysis. (Funfgelt & Baumgartner, 2014) In both arguments, the prediction of the consumption made upon the learning of the improved quality of life in comparison. In other words, both theories indicate that learning about the new values causes the improvement in people lives. ‘The understanding of the ‘quality’ as a consequence of what we learn about our lives and how we can improve it to benefit from the change’ is the method being frequently used by utilitarianism theories. (ibid) They also discuss the matter of the social communication in which we can learn through the social encounters in our daily life. Hence, the arguments are valid, though they possess a marketing concept. In fact, the learning becomes a more objective concept as the market requires providing information to the audience to encourage their buying pattern based on what they have learnt. Hence, this essay approaches the discussion in a more philosophical concept by arguing both Immanuel Kant [1724-1804] and Henry Bergson [1859-1941] theories.

Immanuel Kant’s phenomenology discusses that what we know about the world is based on the judgment we consider by referring to our experiences. He believes that the knowledge we possess is a combination of our ‘objective’ understanding of the concepts [analytic-a priori] and what we learn through our experiences [synthetic-a priori and synthetic posteriori]. (Kant, 1998) The objective knowledge is what we learn in our life as definitions, and we cannot deny them with any contradiction; (Ibid) These definitions are not changeable and embodied to our communication methods by accepting the fact that we use a similar form of expression such as the English language. Kant uses this approach and mentions that even though the objective truths we have learnt are understandable and undeniable, yet, we cannot justify how the world works as they are human-made concepts and not possible to expand to the world as a whole. Therefore, he introduces a new source of learning as the experiences. (Adorno, 2018) A synthetic-posteriori is a truth that we learnt by encountering the concept in our lives. These truths are only true for the person who has experienced them and they are possible to deny with a contradiction (Kant, 1998). So, Kant claims that what we know as what experience might be universal and true but it refers to individual’s experiences. (Ibid) This also refers to what we know culturally as people with similar cultures produce similar meanings though it is deniable and interchangeable in the future when they get more experienced. Kant continues his argument by providing the knowledge we learn from our experiences, but they are universal and not possible to deny by any contradiction. (Ibid) An example will be Mathematics; we assume that 2+3 is equal to 5 and we believe it is true and not possible to deny with any contradiction at this moment. However, it is the result of our experiences and might be able to change them in the future if we experience something new. Kant concludes that all we learn is a combination of or analytic and synthetic truths; however, the synthetic truths can help us to understand the world. (Adorno, 2018)

Up to this point, there are no differences in both Henry and Kant’s arguments. However, with a closer comparison, we can find out that the learning for sustainability challenges are the result of providing the truths as the values where Kant systematically avoids. He claims that “there is no implicit restriction or qualification to the effect that a commitment to give moral considerations decisive weight is worth honouring, but only under such and such circumstances.” (Stephenson, 2015) Moreover, he continues: “possessing and maintaining a steadfast commitment to moral principles is the very condition under which anything else is worth having or pursuing. Intelligence and even pleasure are worth having only on the condition that they do not require giving up one’s fundamental moral convictions.” (Gardner, 2011) The Henry and utilitarianism theories though use the value, in which mostly created as the market requirement component, to discuss the quality of the life in either current or future, by providing the values as the source of objective information that is not deniable. Hence the learning through such method will result in confusion, complexity and unchangeable facts.

Reflecting this argument into the teaching for sustainability and the ‘The Problem’ will show that providing values as objective matters to the audience [students], even though positive and effective, they are not as sufficient as it might accrue as the first-hand opportunity to be experienced, learnt and developed individual values. Nevertheless, to dig more into the argument and possibility to create meaningful values via individual’s experiences it is required to discuss Henry Bergson theory.

Bergson discusses the ‘fabulation’ as the way of producing stories in which the audience are imaginative on the concept provided by using their experiences. (Bergson, 2012) He argues that our memory is imageless and what we gather in our brain as memories is a pool of data intergraded with images we perceived during our experiences. (Ibid) The imageless memory can create pictures as close as what we perceived in the past, but and in all cases, it will not be an exact recreation of the image, yet, it can be very close. As a result, Bergson believes that some of the data we collect for the visualisation are interrupted or displaced. In this situation, we remember depending on the demand of the situation we are currently at. Bergson believes this process can be used for creating stories and new experiences. (Bergson, 2004) The author can manipulate the audience in such way that their brain only recollects the data those are required for the environment the author provided for the audience. In this case, the audience can place their own experiences in the new situation and feel familiar as they have a vague memory of the concepts but the visual representation they experience is entirely new.  This process [fabulation] is where we use our objective knowledge [analytic-a priori] to produce new components and values as subjective learning outcome [synthetic-posteriori]. The new refined values are the result of individual’s experiences and possible to expand or deny in the future.

This argument shows the contrast and similarity between the Henry and Bergson ideas. The similarity refers to understanding the values provide by encountering a different situation and using those values to improve the quality of life. However, the contrast originates through individual’s experiences. In Henry debate, the experience is the result of the direct information and both social and individual analysis of the data regarding the new concept we face. (Henry, 2009) It potentially creates a problem that individual values might not overlap the values we learnt through the social encounters. Hence, we learn about the values, but they do not become part of our practice. Though the Bergson theory refers to producing information to recollect data from the recorded audience experiences in which they can create their values. It might sound that the difference is not a significant one. However, it is the problematic matter between the understanding of the values [Henry argument] and re-establishing the values [Bergson theory].

The provided counterargument by referring to the three pillars model formed the basis of the workshop for sustainability. For this essay, it becomes critical to abandoned market-related methods in teaching arts and especially in film and video production. A philosophical approach might be more suitable in which allows parallel approaches and considerations to discuss in the next part of this essay.

Hopefully the Solution!!

The storytelling becomes a significant factor in Arts and Design; especially in film production that stories can reach a vast number of audience and a conventional approach creates a significant source of information for new experiences. Learning for sustainability is a crucial factor in cultural development that arts should aim as a moral value. Though and as it was discussed, providing direct information to the audience to create awareness might be forgettable, contradictory and the outcome might not be open to future changes. In contrast, providing indirect information as part of the audience ‘new’ experiences can create a positive outcome in which is more relative to the audience lives, open to expansion or contradiction and more likely to be remembered. A student-centred practice aligns with experiential learning are the likely positions for the designed workshop. As the provided philosophical discussion points out, our individual experiences can develop our understanding of how we assume the world works. Hence, for understanding the sustainability issues, providing opportunities for the cohort to get involved in developing the new ideas as a platform for new experiences can be referred to learning for sustainability. Teaching for sustainability, either as part of the curriculum or a method to teach other concepts such as creativity or character development, opens the opportunity for direct engagement of the audience with such concepts.  Additionally, it can create satisfaction for students as the result of reaching a conclusion rather than accepting the facts provided by the tutor. It is also essential to address different concepts parallel to the main topic as it might create the opportunity for the students to familiarised the learning points concerning their personal perspectives. For example, discussing the Global Warming should not be excluded from the issues such as Equality and Equity. The cultural development of the students is depending on analysing different concepts simultaneously (Stevenson, 2011); especially in film production storytelling. The presented workshop uses these methods to develop the awareness among the audience by creating relative debates and generate new experiences.

The aim of the workshop is to develop the required skills in storytelling and character development. But it also can create the opportunity for the cohort to face the sustainability issues and generate new ideas in relation to the topic. The primary point of the designed workshop refers to developing ideas by using an image as the inspiration which is related to a sustainable issue. Using references, such as an image, allows the cohort to analyse the reference by referring to their personal experiences in a concept that they have not considered as a subject matter in storytelling. This already creates a platform in which sustainability can be approached as the new matter of discussion even though it is not the primary point of learning. But the discussion on sustainability becomes necessary when they are required to do research and develop the story by considering different aspect of the sustainable issue. This notion provides an internal debate by creating the comparison between new experience and what they already know. While the students are developing their skills in storytelling and character development, the workshop produces indirect information in relation to sustainability in which students themselves creating the experiences and engaging with the topics. By referring back the outcome of the workshop to the philosophical debate, it is possible to consider that the designed workshop is aiming to, firstly, allow the audience to generate new primary experiences in relation to sustainability issues while developing their skills as storytellers. These first-hand experiences, as Immanuel Kant discusses, are our primary source of knowledge. This can provide the students with information closer to their peculiar understanding of the concepts. The tutor as the facilitator should only allow students to debate the concept, yet, can facilitate the debate where appropriate by providing some information about the under-discussion issues. The second aim, refers to the process of ‘fabulation’ provided by Henri Bergson. The image as the reference provides the opportunity to recollect the data the students have collected as memories and developed new concept as ‘the story’ in which their audience will have the opportunity to go through a similar experience. As a result, the story becomes the reference image and audience should go through the similar experience as the students have gone through. This can be referred back to the primary point of teaching as the tools for developing a story that is relatable to the audience as the primary skill required for storytelling and character development. The tutor concludes the session by explaining how the process worked whilst the audiences gain the new knowledge as the result of their new experience in discussing sustainability.

By designing this workshop, I hoped to come with a technique that can be used in my teaching to develop more understanding of the sustainable issues within the cohort while they are directly engaged with the topic to develop the relation between their personal experiences and the topic of discussion. The seminar on three pillars model grabbed my attention as I had a personal problem with the structure, yet, I could not disagree with it. Considering that we do not need to have pre-defined pillars for our analysis evoked my brain to consider personal involvement with the topic when designing the workshop. On the other hand, the second seminar in which applying different methods to discuss the sustainability created a great motivation in designing this workshop. Playfulness, as the primary skill for creative development of ideas, became essential to analyse the complicated topics. Hence, it becomes a priority to design a workshop which allows the cohort playfully discuss the ideas when producing something new [story]. After presenting the workshop, the feedback received was overwhelming. Both AUB students and UAL cohort expressed that the workshop allowed them to develop debates in which they would not consider happening at the beginning, and they have acknowledged the point of the workshop and the method of the delivery. I was aware that it required a better introduction as the cohort are not necessarily familiar with story structure, but, they have managed to develop some exciting stories, and the debate took off quickly between the students. I’m going to facilitate similar workshops in the future by knowing that it requires some more thoughts on engaging new sustainability discussions. It grows crucial for the students to be aware of such issues even if they want to develop the stories that are not necessarily related. This can be a solution to ‘the problem’ introduced at the beginning as it gives the opportunity to the cohort to have first-hand experiences in relation to the Sustainability Issues while developing their skills in storytelling. This approach is personal and as discussed, it allows the individual audience to get involved directly and based on their personal experiences.

 

Bibliography

Adorno, T. W. (2018). Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. London, UK: John Wiley & Sons.

Bergson, H. (2004). Matter and Memory. Chelmsford, USA: Courier Corporation.

Bergson, H. (2012). Creative Evolution. Chelmsford, USA: Courier Corporation.

Funfgelt, J., & Baumgartner, S. (2014). A utilitarian notion of responsibility for sustainability. Leuphana University Lüneburg, Department of Sustainability Science and Department of Economics. Lüneburg: Leuphana University Lüneburg.

Gabitov, T., & Kurmanalieva, A. (2014). Sustainable development as a priority of contemporary cultural policy. ScienceDirect, 4.

Gardner, S. (2011). Kant’s Practical Postulates and the Limits of the Critical System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Henry, A. D. (2009). In Henry debate, the experience is the result of the direct information and both social and individual analysis of the data regarding the new concept we face. Human Ecology Review, 16(2), 131-140.

Huffington, A. (2013, 08 02). Arianna Huffington: ‘My mother said failure was a stepping stone to success’. (D. Aitkenhead, Interviewer) The Guardian.

Johnston, L. F. (2013). Higher Education for Sustainability: Cases, Challenges, and Opportunities from Across the Curriculum. London, UK: Routledge.

Kant, I. (1998). Critique of Pure Reason. (J. Meiklejohn, Trans.) London, UK: Henry G. Bohn.

Stephenson, A. (2015, October). Kant, the Paradox of Knowability, and the Meaning of ‘Experience’. Philosophers Imprint, 15(27), 19.

Stevenson, B. (2011). Reflecting on culture in the classroom: complexities of navigating third spaces in teacher education. Oulu, Finland: University in Oulu Press.

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