Thursday, January 9, 2014

Big Ideas Fest's Improbable Beautiful

In December I was lucky enough to attend the Big Ideas Fest (BiF) in Half Moon Bay ( BiF is a conference like none other combining design thinking and improv in the service of innovation for education. This was my fourth time at the conference and one of the most interesting and productive experiences yet.

The thing about Big idea Fest is there's a lot. I mean a LOT! Rapid fire speakers, key notes, action collabs, Road Trip Nation, and 'smores. This means there's quite a bit to digest and for me it takes a while to distill it all down. In fact I'm going to talk about the key note speaker from last year, George Lakoff, because I am still processing all of the information garnered from his talk. Lakoff according to Wikipedia is an American cognitive linguist, best known for his thesis that lives of individuals are significantly influenced by the central metaphors they use to explain complex phenomena. He currently teaches at UC Berkeley.

George Lakoff tells us metaphors are at the heart of language and communication. Metaphors are a way of being more precise. At the Big Ideas Fest last year he used love as an example. How do we speak about love? We use metaphors (these usually contain image schema of motion). I'm falling in love, this relationship is a dead end, I'm so over him, things are going smoothly, etc.. Since hearing his talk I've been thinking a lot about metaphors and how important they are. We basically can't communicate our true feelings without metaphors. Metaphors help us be precise with language. The issues that are central to our heart , love, loss, joy, pain they need metaphor to be talked about with precision. 

As teaching artists we are well versed in metaphors. What I am interested in is how we show teachers, parents and administrators that Art is about communicating through metaphor and is therefor about communicating with precision? We teach students to express what they feel, think, believe, dream and hope. They are able to express often complex ideas and emotions through a symbol system. This is important work. Art (and I am including poetry, music, dance and drama) is at the core of clear and precise human communication. How do you use metaphor in your work and your classes?

I've been pondering the meaning of metaphors for a year now. George Lakoff was only one of the amazing speakers I've heard at ISKME's Big Ideas Fest. The presenters from the 2013 conference were equally amazing. For 2014 I plan to ponder the meaning of social objects and new ways of interacting in museums and beyond. To find out more check out their website and follow them on Twitter.

Happy New Year!

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