Casting Collaborative Engagement into a Knowledge Economy
My name is Seb FoxAllen. I am a public servant with a communications background who has been involved in the Academy of the Impossible since its grand opening last January. Ahead of a new thrust of programming coming this fall, I was asked to share a few of my experiences.
I first heard of the Academy on Twitter and, having met Jesse sporadically at various events across the city, thought it worth checking out. I strolled into my first session unsure what to expect, perhaps hoping to learn a bit about the bowels of the internet or talk a little politics. Since then, I have laughed and sparred with MPs and city councilors, mercilessly critiqued upstart products and technologies, taken an active role in shaping Campaign School programming, begun producing and co-hosting a weekly political podcast, and made friends of vibrant academics, comedians, journalists, writers, broadcasters, activists, and artists.
So what is the Academy of the Impossible? For those of us who pass though the space on a regular basis, the question can be somewhat challenging. "Is it a school?" people ask. Err, kind of. "An event space?" Often. "A community centre?" Somewhat. “A think-tank?” Maybe.
At its core, the Academy of the Impossible is an incubator for literacy. Technological literacy. Media literacy. Physical literacy. Critical literacy. Structural literacy. Persuasive literacy.
It is a workshop filled with technological, human, and conceptual tools that allow for the construction or deconstruction of ideas. If you choose to leverage these resources for a specific goal or product, you can work as fast or as slow as you wish, start as big or as small as you like, and share your outcomes with others or celebrate them privately. If you prefer to occupy a less ambitious role, you become a useful tool for others, informing the genesis of their own pets and passions.
The concept is obvious but unique: casting the fluidity of open-source development and collaborative engagement into the constraints of a knowledge economy. Writers work with programmers. Rappers coach pundits. Photographers talk politics while they learn self-defence.
It is this emphasis on filling the spaces between people and skills that drives my continued engagement with the Academy of the Impossible. It is a place that fosters the confidence to create alongside the humility to critique: somewhere more interested in the things people learn from each other than the things it can teach them.