It’s been a while since I’ve updated this group on the progress of the project. Been busy here in Matera :). Being here in Matera has strongly influenced how I see the Viral Academy project proceeding, and this update is about how the experience here has helped inform the changes we are making. In the coming days two new team members will be joining us and we will announce an exciting collaboration with organisations here in Matera. We will be making regular posts from now on regarding the progress of the project - so please drop us a line with any comments or criticisms. It all helps.
There are essentially two main ways in which the project has changed due to this experience: the first is the need and relevance of working without internet, and the second is the importance of broadening the scope of the teaching away from pure coding and app making to a much wider range of projects.
With regard to the lack of internet this was perhaps forced on us by having such intermittent connectivity at the unMonastery (the internet was frequently out for 2 days at a time), but also by the realisation that it would be wrong to restrict the project to an internet only audience. This is not only because this would restrict the audience (the online only audience is enough of a target), nor because of some old-fashioned conception of the “digital divide” - but rather because it makes the project less exciting to a younger audience, and because the Viral Academy mechanism applies equally strongly to physical and non-technical training situations. Simply put the project suffers by limiting it’s scope to online technology.
The focus on project based work remains, and is also strengthened by this experience. I’ve seen the lack of traction gained by trying to attract people to pure coding courses despite the best efforts of the all of us involved helping the Open Tech School, and I’ve seen how we generate far more attention by working with real world projects - whatever there nature - aquaponics, zero waste, martial arts - because nowadays the realisation of any innovation involves in some way or other an element of technology.
This brings me to the idea - always present in the Viral Academy project plan of working with music, radio, video and public events or festivals. My background or a good part of it is as an artist, director and community event organiser, in interactive theatre, club installations, and well parties of one form or another, and it has always been second nature to incorporate technology into these events. Now with the Viral Academy project we’ve found a great way to make “technology more relevant and exciting” by linking it to festivals, events, and public presentations, and we really look forward to working with events here in Matera.