This short film records various actions and thoughts of people participating in DMAC 2007. It should thus be understood, in large part, as a picture of an historical moment: the particular attitudes, knowledge, beliefs and understanding held by participants and staff in 2007. Additionally, it includes my own response to DMAC built over time: from 2006 when I was a DMAC participant, 2007 when I was a DMAC Visiting Scholar, and several years after when I was a DMAC consultant. (For a description of my experiences as a DMAC student or participant, see Journet, 2007a.) My argument in this video is that DMAC presents a best-practices model for what is a more general phenomenon: when people learn new technologies they often become intensely engaged and highly motivated. I further argue that the nature of this engaged and motivated learning can be usefully understood in narrative terms. I thus propose that learning can be a performative action, in which the learner as agent is motivated towards the end. To make this argument, I draw on Donald Polkinghorne's (1988) concept of human action as narratively shaped, and Robert Brook's (1984) concept of "narrative desire," or a relationship to narrative that carries us "forward, onward through the text" (p. 371). It is this idea of movement onward or toward a satisfactory ending, I claim, that transforms the action of learning a new technology—like the action of reading a novel (Brooks, 1984) or playing a video game (Journet, 2007b)—into an embodied act of narrative desire.
In making this argument, the film divides into three (non-continuous) parts. In one part, I voice and represent in alphabetic text my own understanding of learning as a narrative. This text itself divides into three parts, each of which identifies an important component of narrative learning observed at DMAC: I) the "sense of an ending" or the understanding that the actions in which the learner is engaged are moving towards resolution or completion; II) the importance and pleasure of "making," or the embodied and symbolic actions by which learners actually move towards the offered ending; and III) "narrative desire," or the sense of immersion and pleasure involved in the acts of making that move the learner towards the promised end.
In the second (non-continuous) part, each of these components of narrative learning ("the sense of an ending," the pleasure of "making," and "narrative desire") is illustrated by interviews with DMAC participants or scenes from the DMAC classrooms.
The third (non-continuous) part offers an example of narrative learning: an extended episode in which a DMAC participant and a DMAC instructor worked together to solve a problem with the web--development software Dreamweaver.
These three parts—articulated argument, participant response, and extended example—together offer a (mimetic) narrative of some of what happened at DMAC 2007 and suggest an (experiential) narrative of some of the actions of learning that DMAC invoked.
Brooks, Robert. (1984). Reading for the plot. New York: Knopf.
Journet, Debra. (2007a). Inventing myself in multimodality: Encouraging senior faculty to use digital media. Computers and Composition, 24, 107–120.Journet, Debra. (2007b). Narrative, action, and learning: The stories of Myst. In Cynthia L. Selfe & Gail Hawisher (Eds.), Gaming lives in the twenty-first century (pp. 93–120). New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.
Polkinghorne, Donald. (1988). Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany: State University of New York Press.