[iDC] IT & Apprenticeship

Daniela Rosner daniela.rosner at gmail.com
Wed Aug 17 14:05:18 UTC 2011

Dear ICD list,

I was asked to facilitate a discussion this week, and thought this was a
wonderful opportunity to bring up the subject of apprenticeship. First, some
background: I am pursuing a dissertation at UC Berkeley's School of
Information where I'm studying creative tools. My research sits at the
intersection of material culture studies and computer interaction design. As
part of this research, I spent some time as an apprentice bookbinder in the
UK where I was taught how to take apart older books, restore them, and put
them back together. This experience contrasted greatly with my experience as
an undergraduate graphic design major at RISD, where I learned how to
arrange type and graphics through iterative design critiques. In the
bookbinding workshop there were no formal critiques; there was learning
through doing.

So my first question to this group is how the contemporary DIY ethic, and
its accompanying how-to, step-by-step tutorials, work in comparison to a
formal apprenticeship? Many researchers, including Jean Lave and Richard
Sennett, have described the socially situated nature of craft apprenticeship
and the importance of participating in a community of practice. But the ways
in which digital instructional tools might play a role in this traditional
skill development seems underdeveloped.

A recent example of interest is the Tortellini-making computer
game<http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1921148>developed by
University of Bologna researchers (Roccetti et al, 2010). The
game enables a novice pasta-maker to hone his or her pasta-making skills by
watching video of an expert, replicating her workmanship, and responding to
a system which tracks and evaluates the player's imitated actions. The tool
thus combines video and gesture recognition techniques to simulate in-person
instruction. Instead of studying alongside a master craftsman for seven
years, a similar system might provide a scaffolded environment for learning
a range of hand skills.

Yet what skills are learned through such a game? And how do those skills
compare to in-person instruction or apprenticeship? As experts in
educational technology, I am curious how you respond to the concept of
apprenticeship and technology's role in facilitating such work, more

All the best,


Daniela Rosner
Ph.D. Candidate
School of Information, UC Berkeley
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