I doubt you’ll find the phrase “grip, fix, turn” anywhere except in my recent writing and the transcript of the speech I deliverd at the 2006 Drama Australia conference in Sydney.

The turn of phrase was intended to invoke the spirit of the Mac campaign a few years ago – “Rip, Mix, Burn” that seemed to capture everyone’s imagination. To Rip, Mix and Burn suggested that we all had the capacity to engage in “vernacular creativity” (Jean Burgess) and to take charge of the creative potential of technology. We could rip from existing sources, mix the material with our vision and creative work and burn the result to a semi-permanent state on optical media.

The phrase related directly (at the time) to the practices used in dealing with music. Entirely suitable for Apple’s iTunes advertising campaign.

Of course it raised the eyebrows of everyone with an interest in copyright and IP and probably played a role in launching the concept of Creative Commons.

Steve Jobs talked about the new technologies as being “…so easy to learn and use, even your parents can use them without getting confused.”

This fitted perfectly with the fledgling ideas about the emergence of a population of “digital natives” (Mark Prensky).

What I was trying to suggest, as others have done in different ways, is that a proficiency with ubiquitous forms of technology use and a comparative comfort with technology engagement does not necessarily confer any expertise or control or any deep understanding of the technology, the culture producing or surrounding it, and more especially the capacity to engage with critical awareness and assessment of technology use.

The idea of Rip, Mix, Burn seemed to fire the imaginations of many academics (myself among them) and the metaphor was adopted by many disciplines. The viral transmission of the meme was amazing. It also served to generate some blinding enthusiasm. In our drive to engage with ideas about digital natives and digital immigrants many of us forgot to account for the huge population of analogues or the digital refuseniks.

Grip, fix and turn was intended to co-opt the ideas of rip, mix, burn and add a criticial dimension. Digital natives are born to a culture in a world where technology is already embedded and taken for granted. However, familiarity does not endow control. It is one thing to use technology according to the supplied instructions, but it is a very different thing to question why the technology exists in the form it does, to challenge the ideology of its creation, to find alternative uses, to hack the technology and make it serve your purposes. To grip the technology when it fails to serve and to fix it without deference to the expertise of a third party and to turn your mind to think radically about new ways of engaging with the technology.

While there are ever expanding communities of open-source developers and others resistant to the thrust of monopolising corporations, we cannot assume that students are likely to be a part of that movement. I have applied some ideas from Brad Dilger’s writing on “The Ideology of Ease” and suggest that we need to accept an increasing expectation of complexity if we are not to relinquish our engagement with technology totally to corporate developers.

Just because we have the first generation of so-called “digital natives” doesn’t mean they are more in control of the technology. They may be less concerned about using the technology but far from all of them are capable of managing the technology. The “prosumer” or “produser” may be able to rip, mix and burn but we can’t assume they can grip, fix and turn. This notion of GRIP, FIX and TURN – the capacity for control (grip), the capacity to remedy, revise, repair (fix) , the capacity to reposition, reconsider, re-evaluate (turn) – needs to be fostered more effectively within all educational contexts. Drama has a role to play in allowing students to become reflective about their own technology-mediated practices. (Flintoff, 2007)

… because ease is structured as an end in itself, not as a means to an end, those who embrace ease may not be able to move past it – ensuring underachievement. (Dilger, 2000)

The ideology of ease may be powerful and culturally universal, but we can act against it… We can alter our computing (and cultural practices) to consider difficulty and inconvenience carefully without leaping for costly prefabricated solutions. (Dilger, 2000)

I often hear teachers talking about the difficulty of learning new applications or of taking charge of the technology needs in schools and institutions.

“It’s too hard” doesn’t cut it!!

We have to embrace difficulty, complexity and challenge – just as we need to embrace risk, uncertainty and ambiguity

As Dilger suggests, once we accept a culture of ease it can become self perpetuating – and ultimately self defeating as we reach out to external expertise and relinquish control.

Without a shift away from the familiar we’ll never discover new aesthetics, new poetics, new polemics, new forms, and new ways of being.

It’s about time we demand the tools appropriate to the types of teaching and learning we want to engage with – our pedagogical choices shouldn’t be limited by policies that relate more to the comfort of systems administrators and policy makers than to the best opportunities for teachers and students.

Just as we have had to demystify drama in education – we need to demystify the technology.

Ubiquitous and vernacular technology use is excised from most learning environments when most sensibly it should be established as the launch pad. This weekend I wanted to engage in real time in virtual spaces – to create a living example of the type of experience I’m talking about. However, I encountered a typical situation – blanket policies that lock out the risky, unpredictable, and user controlled environments. Schools adopt policies that simply block out everything – deny students the right in school to learn about life online.

To adapt The Red Paintings song “The revolution will never come” –

For your protection – access to the internet is limited
For your protection – we look over your shoulder
For your protection – we limit your capacity to learn in ways appropriate to the 21st century
For your protection – we will stir up the fear of the nation – for your protection…

We are facing a shift of mindset and those of us over 25 may soon discover we are well behind.

Henry Jenkins, an M.I.T. professor who studies games and learning, said the medium has matured along with the young people who were raised on it. “The generation that grew up with Super Mario is entering the workplace, entering politics, so they see games as just another good tool to use to communicate” (Thompson, 2006)

While there are also some suspicions amongst educators about the value of games in learning, Gen-X, Gen-Y and the I-generation do not suffer from such cultural taboos – serious games will be a part of future. The future began several years ago and we are now charged with making up lost ground.

2 thoughts on “More on Grip, Fix, Turn

  1. Thanks Kim, for such a comprehensive reply. Plenty in there to get me thinking. Please tell me you didnt type that out and fire it of on a Sunday as a quick response to a comment on your blog. Theres alot of thought provoking material in there.

    Thanks to you I now have a succinct phrase to use when confronted with the self assured arrogance of an over confident native. “Familiarity does not endow control”. Can you grip fix and turn? (I can see a set of posters for the wall coming on)

    Thanks Again

  2. Hi Mark,

    Glad it was useful.

    I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a while and your last comment was simply the prompt to actually commit it to written form.

    In one sense I did just dash it off but it is drawing on material I’ve had bouncing around for 6 months.

    I’m hoping this blog will be a little less active than some of my others and a site where I can take my time to pore over things a little and articulate them as succinctly as circumstances allow.



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