Review: Making Is Connecting by David Gauntlett

 

I have recently finished reading “Making is Connecting” by David Gauntlett as part of my reading scheme for the year. Making is connecting is a book that studies Web 2.0 and asks what we can learn from it in general about creativity. This makes the book in many ways more about creativity and society in general as the book wanders off to consider C19th thinkers about creativity, the role of creativity from an individual and a wider sociological position as well as touching on wider debates about the ethics and social value of web 2.0. As a side remark the book is thorough and wide ranging without being difficult to handle, having read a couple of Gauntlett’s books now I can say that I really value his ability to make big ideas accessible and his work is a genuine joy to read in and of itself.

Gauntlett starts by examining the links between creativity and community (making is connecting), he outlines three major links. 1) Creativity involves connecting materials and ideas together 2) Creativity involves social dimensions 3) By being creative and making something we create the opportunity to connect with others. Gauntlett then continues these themes by analysing the works of Ruskin and Morris and especially how they saw creativity not as an elite activity of the few but that creativity is a celebration of the free life of individuals. Ruskin points out how damaging it can be to stifle creativity while Morris describes how people aim to make their mark on the world and give shape to their environment through creativity. Both Ruskin And Morris saw creativity as offering us a sense of fulfilment and joy.

Gauntlet continues by describing how various everyday creative practices such as knitting, DIY culture and gardening among other things allow individuals to embody these ideas of creativity.
Gauntlett then continues by showing how Web 2.0 combines making and connecting practices. Mainly through focussing on platforms such as Youtube and blogging Gauntlett looks how increasingly the internet allows people to be creative and through this connect with others.

At the end of this discussion Gauntlett offers a new definition of creativity which is,

“Everyday creativity refers to a process which bring together at least one active human mind, and the material or digital world, in the activity of making something which is novel in that context, and is a process which evokes a feeling of joy. “ (Making is Connecting, p. 76).

There are some interesting qualifiers to Gauntlett’s definition, that creativity can involve more than one person and that it can involve the material or digital world, but the core thrust of this definition is that creativity is making something novel and feeling joy while doing this. Creativity has a central emotional content. This is different from Ken Robinson from example who makes no reference to emotions in his definition and instead focuses in on the value of the new creation.

Gauntlett’s focus on joy leads to him focussing on the benefits, both personally and socially, of creativity in the rest of his book. He draws five key conclusions that form the remaining chapters.

1) Creativity is about process and emotions not the product

2) Humans have a drive to make and share, people want to participate and be part of a community not passive.

3) Happiness is arrived at through creativity and community.

4) Creativity is a social glue between individuals and social institutions.

5) People desire to make a mark and make the world their own.

So what did I make of Gauntlett’s book? Generally I was very positive about it. I found his view of ideal social engagement as not sitting back and consuming but sitting forward and engaging as persuasive. His call to people participating in communities, creating something that is their own and building community through doing this as exciting and I was persuaded by seeing how this can be enabled through both craft culture and Web 2.0.

So how could these ideas be implemented in the field of careers guidance?

Career Choice

How would Gauntlett’s ideas about creativity affect the paradigm people used to choose careers? Gauntlett puts forward the idea that well being and happiness is to do with making a mark on the world, creating something that is genuinely yours and having this as a point to connect with others. This raises the question of how often this happens in the work place? As Marx was keen to point out often Capitalism encourages people to specialise and make us part of a process rather than the individual who makes something. Gauntlett particularly challenges the idea that money makes us happy, instead the research he refers to shows that it is creativity, a sense of agency and community that brings satisfaction.

Career Construction

Gauntlett makes a contrast throughout the book through a consumer mentality based on being passive and individualistic and creative mindset which is actively engaged, focussed on making your mark on the world and reaching out to others. Gauntlett argues that the later is ultimately more engaging and in some way more human. I feel I want to help students develop their careers in a way that adopts this form of humanity. I want to have a model of career based around students crafting, developing expertise, building communities and understanding. Particularly the issues around pier support and building with others does not get much coverage in careers literature. Gauntlett is a helpful and powerful reminder of a vision of careers development that equips people to embrace their humanity by building and developing with others.

Careers Education

Finally I feel Gauntlett can create a model for how careers development is delivered. I fear that increasingly with the marketisation of Higher Education and with students general perceptions about what education is (experts dictating information to passive recipients) HE careers work can become about the passive consumer that Gauntlett describes. I really fear for this and have been helped and challenged by Gauntlett to think about different ways of delivering careers education. I want my model of delivery to fit the theory that I am trying to teach. I feel if I want to teach students that careers development is about creativity, ownership, authenticity, craft and community than my means of delivery should embody those same things. I should not mainly be about giving information but scaffolding and supporting students in becoming crafters in an environment that challenges students to become crafter and uses the community in the classroom to develop this.

In conclusion I found Gauntlett’s book one of the best written and most exciting things I have read this year and would thoroughly recommend to anyone who would listen.

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