Frightened Rabbit, Multimodality, and the Complexity of Choice
First, out of scientific honesty, I should point out that I am just a fan of the band Frightened Rabbit so my approach to this video as an educational analysis is secondary to my merely enjoying their music. While that caveat needed to be mentioned, hopefully it does not deter from what I intend to suggest about the complexity of its presentation. Please, do watch it first before you listen to me ramble on about it.
My comments fall into a few general categories, which I outline a bit below:
Multimodality– this video is working on several levels in terms of interaction. Indeed, the narrative itself is the protagonist’s journey through his own life, with a myriad of situations being presented aesthetically, audibly (the music itself), symbolically (he moves effortlessly through something that resembles a subway tube, while possible scenarios of his life are displayed out of reach), visually (images/animations), and chronologically (many of the choices are given time elements to indicate alternate paths). The viewer navigates through these various layers of meaning (audio/visual/symbolic/chronological) towards some form of acceptance, a contentedness of resignation to these choices, to merely focus on distilling his life into the singularity of a brush stroke. Is this representative of the self-efficacy of a learner? His ability to transmit the myriad of input into an artistic representation?
Digital Artifacts– I view all of the events unfolding before the man as his massive Lifestream. Events are marked and presented in various mediums, reflection occurs, yet all the while the man is moving, moving, moving. He is reminded of his choices through these artifacts, becomes aware of the choices he didn’t make, the directions he didn’t go, all the while beign shuffled along. I liken this to digital culture as all our digital interactions within this culture are footprints that can be (to some degree) revisited and relearned. I suppose this is the ultimate goal of the Lifestream. Both a record of learning and a construct of further learning opportunities. This video illustrates that these learning opportunities do not happen in static environments. Both the learner and the artifact are in flux.
Lifelong Learning– I really enjoy the various decision points the man encounters when traveling through his path, decision points that would have led to some alternate future. These are marked chronologically, with a variety of alternatives presented. Different futures await. The man cannot choose these alternatives, though, as he is moving forward himself. He is merely reflecting on the choices that existed at that stage of development. I liken online self-regulated learning to this. There are an infinite number of decision points at every stage of learning, beginning with the decision to merely participate. A self-aware learner views these decision points as markers, a Lifestream artifact on some level. They mark stages of learning and exist in perpetuity to revisit and reflect. However, we as learners are no longer of that time.
I am reminded of Pablo Neruda’s poem “Tonight I can write the saddest lines” where he, in the midst of mourning the loss of a lover, exclaims:
The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.
As learners, and especially within a digital culture, we can revisit decisions, reflect on them, and learn from them. However, we must recognize that we are no longer the same as we were when we made that decision. This marker exists in digital permanence, an errant tweet that was retweeted, a sloppy blog post from years ago, bad poetry (mine). We can revisit these, cringe at their clumsiness, and learn anew from them. A digital artifact, an errant tweet as I mentioned, is like a keepsake from a love lost. A postcard, an heirloom, a song. All are steeped in learning and reflection and all represent a marker in the various stages of learner development. The video ends with him putting paint to canvas, an attempt at sensemaking.
I would be amiss if I did not include what I believe to be the precedent to this video, one of the earlier artistic multimodal expressions of goofiness (and perhaps a precursor to social media-lonely in her real life, she is summoned into a comic book? Virtual world!).