Big Brother - superb non-narrative learning
I recently met Nick Hewer, Sugar’s sidekick in The Apprentice, who made a good case for the programme being a learning experience for future managers and entrepreneurs. I agree but think Big Brother is better. I've said this before but I do think this is one of the most educational shows on TV because it doesn’t have a fixed narrative. It’s not entirely real, but there’s enough rope for people to hang themselves. It teaches us about how groups form, how conflict emerges and more importantly it teaches valuable lessons about acceptable social behaviour. The viewers are quick to condemn any aggressive, bullying, sneaky or scheming contestants. Young people are pretty sound in their judgments. They consistently vote for people who are helpful, socially adept, non-judgmental and generally all round good-eggs. Even more important has been the exposure given to people who generally have difficulties in life.
Look at the winners:
Craig Phillips (Ordinary bloke)
Brian Dowling (Gay)
Kate Lawler (Ordinary gal)
Cameron Stout (Scottish Churchgoer)
Nadia Almada (Transexual)
Anthony Hutton (Ordinary bloke)
Pete Bennett (Tourettes Syndrome)
Brian Beno (Black guy)
My bet this year is Mikey the blind Scotsman.
This show had done more for diversity than all the diversity courses put together, and it's fun!
It's interesting asking Boomers and Gen X/Y people about the show. To be fair, it isn't made for Boomers, they don't understand it, and they generally don't like it. Boomers like their TV polished and pre-packaged and if they're not being officially 'taught' it ain't real learning. Oh how they love those management training courses. They really can't take the chaos of real people. Bit of a cheek from a generation that seems to lap up antique, property, cooking and make-over programmes, reflecting avarice, greed, gluttony and narcissism. They’re always on about ‘celebrity culture’ yet fawn away at book festivals getting their narratives ‘signed’. On that note, literally millions used to turn out for 30s film stars (celebrities) when they arrived in
With GenX/Y, it's different. They're more attuned to social observation and participation. They don't mind 'user-generated' content. It triggers endless conversation about who they like and don't like. More importantly, they discuss 'why'. Race, gender, sexual orientation, class differences, regional differences, bullying, cooperation, narcissism, styles of communication, friendship, leadership. This is genuinely informative and instructive. That’s why Big Brother works.
Sports- non-narrative learning
I love sport because of its unpredictability. The story is ever fixed and from this one can learn a lot through being a spectator or participation. My children have spent years learning Ta Kwon Do and it’s done wonders for their application, attention, sense of achievement and self-confidence, and that’s before we get to the more obvious mental and physical skills.
Games do, sometimes, have a narrative arc, but it’s gameplay and participation that really matters. This is what makes them such powerful learning experiences. The unpredictability is what makes them challenging. When the narrative is too strong, or the challenges too narrow, the game suffers.
Wikis – non-narrative learning
Baby Boomers feel uncomfortable with Wikipedia, not because of the content but because it doesn’t fit their expected fixed-narrative expectations. They can’t abide the idea that ‘experts’ need to ‘author’ content into ‘fixed’ packages. This open, fluid and on-going debate around knowledge is epistemologically sophisticated, but they can’t live with the uncertainty. They crave certainty.
Blogs – non-narrative learning
There is a clear gradient now in ‘journalism, from comments to posts to blogs to online and print articles. Bloggers are, of course, despised as amateurs by so called professional journalists. Yet who are these journalists? I’d say the bloggers, as a group, are often a stronger in terms of their experience and knowledge. They can often be more objective, as journalists can be constrained by fear of upsetting advertisers. They also present a less fixed narrative, open to comment and debate.
Social networks - on-narrative learning
Every person’s a portal, every person’s a publisher. Online identities evolve and change within rich networks. There is no fixed biographical story here, only millions of people creating their autobiographies as they live their lives. Baby Boomers carp on about privacy but what they really don’t like is the erosion of identity as a fixed narrative. They need control. Young people are relaxed about identity. They don’t see it as fixed and immutable. It's also a great soccial lering space, where people learn about how to commuicate with each other.