CreativeSpace* at Present: From the Founder’s Perspective

CreativeSpace* is founded on a belief that learning has the potential to improve lives.

Throughout history we find that those who strive to continue learning throughout their lives are the ones who make a difference in the world in ways that matter most.

CreativeSpace* exists as a resource for people who consider themselves life-long learners.

It is a tool for people who realize that all life is interconnected and thus our fates are inescapably intertwined. With this realization comes an opportunity to improve our lives through experience across time and space and in shared human experience. CreativeSpace* aims to be a resource for those who seek lives of meaning, care, and adaptation with other people on a shared journey…

…especially during times of great change and uncertainty.

{[DNT Compatible] version available (in two parts) via CreativeSpace* Medium Profile or here → Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 ←}: )

In my life learning has been a source of tremendous joy.

In short: I love learning.

{[DNT Compatible] version available (in two parts) via CreativeSpace* Medium Profile or here → Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 ←}: )

Yet learning has also been challenging, demoralizing and even scary at times.

“Learning” is notoriously difficult to define or describe in full. And I will not here endeavor to do so (though I have attempted to elsewhere, and hope to spend a lifetime writing on this and related fields of inquiry). Many of us have an idea of what learning means for us in our own unique life circumstances. And we may also maintain ideas as to what learning is not.

Like any human achievement learning is not necessarily neutral: it can help or harm people or even evade such clear cut distinctions. In his famous speech at Rice University, President John F. Kennedy gives one of the best orations pertaining to the risks and possibilities of technological advancement.

“We set sail on this new sea because there is new knowledge to be gained, and new rights to be won, and they must be won and used for the progress of all people. For space science, like nuclear science and all technology, has no conscience of its own. Whether it will become a force for good or ill depends on man…”
— President John Fitzgerald Kennedy
{[DNT Compatible] version available (in two parts) via CreativeSpace* Medium Profile or here → Pt. 1 & Pt. 2 ←}: )

We live in the world of the 21st century.

An unprecedented pace of technological advance and global challenges of incredible scope, scale and difficulty are hallmarks of the age.

But as in any age history is written by people. More often than not our human story is written by seemingly ordinary individuals working in groups to create better lives for themselves and those about whom they care. And we now find that we must all care about one another, about each other. We all must confront individual challenges of an ordinary sort, as well as those of an extraordinary sort, along with genuine threats to the survival and quality of life of the species.

From the Founder of CreativeSpace*

My name is Cameron Sow.

I am the founder of CreativeSpace*.

: )

…I’ve spent my life going through an education system designed a long time ago by people who did not necessarily have my interests or needs in mind.

Even some of the more contemporary updates to our education system suggest significant room for improvement.

One of the reasons I did not put a typical “About” page on the CreativeSpace* site is because after a third of a lifetime spent within our present educational framework being judged by my appearance I was indeed worried that people would make assumptions about the site’s credibility.

Teachers, professors and administrators have often made assumptions about what I am, or am not capable, about who I am or am not, based on the way I look, communicate, or think.

I confess to being concerned an online audience may do the same and overlook the value of CreativeSpace* as such.

>This issue is relevant to everyone in our education system.<

Another reason why I did not put a typical “About” section on the site is because it seemed a nice way to challenge visitors to contend critically with their thoughts on trustworthiness, expertise and credibility.

(After all, the site is intended to serve as a tool for learning; the site is designed with the aim of creating learning experiences for those involved. Towards this aim CreativeSpace* has performed exceptionally well …albeit perhaps not having done so along traditionally employed criteria of success.)

Throughout my educational experience I was encouraged to trust my teachers and administrators; to rely on their expertise and their credibility.

I was let down a lot.

And then no one ever seemed to clearly indicate that maybe their expertise was in fact limited to particular areas of study, knowledge or skill. Even when I trusted my teachers they would often work counter to my interests, sometimes without even realizing they were so doing.

Teachers are fallible; they make mistakes. Just like me.

Administrators, teachers, professors do the best with what they’ve got.

Just like me.

But a result of this characteristic of humanity is that we sometimes pass along information aimed to be helpful but that instead turns out to be less than that, or worse, emphatically wrong.

This summer I taught the Citizen Science Ambassador summer program at Adler Planetarium. My students — or just, students — or better yet Citizen Science Ambassadors — were curious, capable, and intelligent in ways that gave me a renewed sense of optimism about the future of humanity.

My students also helped me to discover my own limitations as an educator and as a person.

For instance, I presented Wikipedia as a an example of crowdsourcing, which is not quite a correct characterization. There is some debate on the matter but a more accurate description would have been to describe it as an example of commons-based-peer production. This term may seem jargony, but there is a compelling case as to why it does not make sense to lump Wikipedia into the often catch-all category of crowdsourcing. This is one example whereby despite my best intentions students were in effect misinformed by my oversight.

This is one of the reasons why the Citizen Science Ambassadors spend most of their time learning in ways to stimulate critical thinking individually, and in groups, in a manner that challenges these students to think for themselves, to use their own powers of thought, discernment, reasoning and sensibility to interpret the world. Students did this in an environment where they had the opportunity to benefit from methods of peer-review, looking towards multiple independent observations. They also benefited from the guidance of astronomers and other educators at Adler Planetarium.

People have a tremendous capacity to work in groups to solve shared challenges. Some of our most fruitful learning experiences happen as part of teams, at work or at school. Or they occur as part of organizations such as those represented by our favorite clubs, leisure activities, or social groups. But of course too there is a lovely world of solitude where through reflection, writing or contemplation we may wander upon profound personal insights or discoveries about the world which would have otherwise passed us by as we are often caught up in the tumult and demands of everyday living.

What I want visitors of CreativeSpace* to know is that I care deeply about this project and that it moves well beyond the digital expression represented by the site itself.

CreativeSpace* as a project represents an opportunity to contribute to a purpose beyond myself.

It began as mostly a passion project (often a way of imagination when I did not want to do schoolwork).

CreativeSpace* was sometimes a way to experiment and/or to explore some of the ideas being developed with regard to how people and organizations learn. As such I purposely did not optimize the site for search engines and aimed to manage the diffusion rate of the site.

I’m sure you can tell I am not a computer engineer by training.

..nor a graphic designer for that matter…

…though I do indeed aim to improve while in honor of design integrity.

But the site and broader CreativeSpace* project is beginning to grow into something more brilliant.

Aims have changed along with context.

Through activities surrounding and connected to the site I have had the opportunity to meet many people who have profoundly impacted my life.

> I have met amazing educators who care so much about their students that they sometimes forget to take care of themselves.

> I have had profound conversations with friendly and exceedingly helpful museum attendants (who sometimes, in some ways, have a more intimate understanding about the collections they attend than vaunted and far removed curators).

> I have had the opportunity to learn from awe-inspiring scientists who help me refine and reflect upon my understanding of the universe.

I have met people all over the city of Chicago who inspire and challenge me to grow.

And yes: there have been many encounters with administrators, professors, or any number of gate keepers or “experts” keen on closing doors in my face or not picking up the phone. There are indeed people who would rather exaggerate or otherwise rely upon the significance, utility, or relevance of their experience than they would explore an opportunity to learn with another who has a different perspective but yet maintains with them perhaps more in common than they may realize or care to know.

Or maybe they are merely trying to “help” in the best ways they know how.

Maybe it is just me…

…or my approach…

…or none of the above.

>But I am not discouraged.<

Chicago is indeed the City of Broad Shoulders.

I would not have made it as far as I have in this endeavor in any other place on Earth. This is a city of learning in ways not quite found in other American cities.

> John Dewey’s Laboratory school began here.

> Jean Baptiste Point du Sable, Francis Wayland Parker, Jane Addams, Daniel Burnham, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, László Moholy-Nagy, Frank Lloyd Wright, Enrico Fermi, Ray Bradbury, Harold Washington, Wesley Clark, Oprah Winfrey, Kanye West and Barack Obama are just a few of the people who have left an indelible mark upon the city.

It has been a combination of my skills, capacities and interests catalyzed with those of the people I daily encounter which have made it possible to continually improve upon the site along with the ideas represented therein.

Every day citizens of Chicago — whether museum staff, patrons, visitors of museums and libraries, students or leaders at some of the most prominent institutions in the city — continue to remind me of the significance of what we are working on as life-long learners: a System of Learning for the 21st century.

Over the coming weeks I will begin to communicate with visitors of CreativeSpace* in increasing detail and clarity as to the why, what, and how of the site. I will also begin to shed light on some of the activities suggested by (but not visible on) the site which are part of the broader CreativeSpace* project. In some significant sense these human-centered activities in learning environments across the city (which are not yet revealed on the site) may yet exceed in significance the site itself.

For now I will point out that at every step of the way the development of CreativeSpace* has relied upon multiple forms and iterations of feedback, peer-review and critique from people across fields of study and formal disciplines, in diverse areas of work, and with differing perspectives.

But I do not always heed suggestions.

And I am a person who may make mistakes at times.

>Admittedly there is more work to be done as far as laying out the principled editorial and curatorial basis of site activities.<

A group of curious and caring people have made it possible for the site, and for me personally, to make it this far…

…But we are just getting started in the hard work of creating a system of learning for the 21st century. What precisely this means will be detailed over the coming weeks. And I hope you share your thoughtful feedback, questions, concerns and suggestions as new opportunities will arise to do so — especially those of you who have been with CreativeSpace* from the beginning in 2015.

>I cannot express how meaningful it has been that you have taken time to consider, move through, and continue following the CreativeSpace* story as it unfolds. Your responses and encouragement in particular continue to advance the project. This support has been invaluable especially at times when the project was at risk of falling by the wayside.<

People use CreativeSpace* for a variety of purposes in a range of contexts and environments.

It is time to bring these stories to bear upon the development of a more formal organization which at once remains true to the spirit of CreativeSpace* while furthering its potential.

It is time to move from a cursory contextualization of CreativeSpace* to one of advanced depth and detail. It is indeed time to explore with awareness, intelligence and creativity what it means to create systems of learning for the 21st century.

This will not happen all at once.

But the process has begun.

I am thankful for your support.

I appreciate your time and consideration.

And I look forward to new opportunities to learn with other people about matters which most affect our lives.

  • Cameron Sow

Person in the 21st century

Founder of CreativeSpace*

Love of Learning