Affordances of Equality

Rancière, Emerging Media and the New Amateur

Learning through Critical Making

Kurt Thumlert, York University

This article extends a recent educational engagement with the work of Jacques Rancière by linking his meditations on 19th-century worker emancipation to present cultural contexts and media forms. Taking Nick Prior’s (2010) notion of the ‘new amateur’ as point of departure, I argue that new media and attendant production contexts offer an unprecedented occasion for rethinking the educational experiments of Joseph Jacotot (the subject of Rancière’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 1991). By bringing Jacotot’s “method of equality” into relation with present forms of cultural production, I elaborate a notion of affordances of equality that updates Jacotot’s practice of “experimenting with the gap between accreditation and act’ — a method that invited learners to improvise in the gap between an expert role and a talent imitable by anyone at all. In conclusion, I ask what educational theory might learn from the new amateur, from the emerging media these amateurs are engaging, and from the production literacies they enact.

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