Creativity and networks

How great would it be if more of our formal education incorporated some of the strategies of informal learning. I’m thinking about the Research and Do-It-Yourself approach.

Have a look at this example posed by Britta Riley of Windowfarms fame. These Do-It-Yourself researchers are apartment dwellers, learning how to make home window gardening  a viable option. If they can figure it out, this means  we can grow a little bit of our food at home, even if we don’t have a backyard in which to cultivate vegetables and fruit. Using the light from  lounge and bedroom windows, we could be growing strawberries and tomatoes enough to feed a family.

To problem solve this complex horticultural and engineering feat, they’re using the power of the internet to make connections and share information. They’re connecting and combining ideas drawn from hydroponic research and space station research, and they’re just ordinary folk like you and me with an interest in gardening. Their research potential is tremendous because they are building on the knowledge of others, not reinventing the wheel at every point.

I think this is an example of what Steven Johnson calls emergent behaviour. No one is in charge but things keep on happening and a self-organising system is growing and thriving. Or so it seemed.

There is a dark side to this unfortunately.

The economic model seems to have failed as Riley’s self-styled ‘open source community of developers of hydrophoic edible gardens for urban windows’ is unable to meet demand for their home DIY gardening kits, and their website is covered in messages requesting that orders be met and delivered. The last message on their website was 16 December 2013, and ‘Lori” said she won’t stop posting there till she gets her kit. She’s been shouting for a while. It seems like no one is listening I’m afraid Lori.

Sad. But it doesn’t mean the idea of networking is not a good one. It’s the economic model that need some renovation.

Anyway, here’s  Britta Riley with her idea: A garden in my apartment.

And, as you know, as Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody say, “From little things big things grow.” You just need patience and perseverance.

Johnson, S. (2001). Emergence: The connected lives of ants, brains, cities and software. London: Penguin.