Catalysts and Disconnects: mapping progression into creative careers

This project will map the interest-lededucational, training and vocational routes and trajectories taken by young people as they navigate pathway choices into specialisation, career choice and employment in digital creativity. It is funded for 10 months beginning September 2013.

It is funded by Nominet Trust.

We know that many young people engage in forms of digital creativity (defined broadly both as working with computers and as a dimension of other creative disciplines), such engagement is frequently episodic and intense. We also know that many young people exhibit seemingly haphazard erratic interests and engage with digital creativity at various stages of their early academic life and, often irrespective of age, they go through different levels of participation from informal out-of-school play to serious hobbies, to GCSE, ‘A‘ levels/BTEC and into undergraduate and postgraduate courses and even professional certification. However, we have very little knowledge about how capabilities (including skills and knowledge), interest and knowledge of possible vocational goals might intersect to determine pathways for further study and how decisions to progress in certain directions are made or rejected. We do not know specifically whether external circumstances or key demographics have any particular influence on pathway decisions in the digital creativity field. We do not know how learning progression are developed with in- and out-of-school/college knowledge and experiences.

The project will identify the key determining influences on study/interest –led choices and how young people mediate these push factors with the pull of market and career opportunities. It will pay particular attention to unpicking the mix of interest-led informal activities and opportunities for formal training/education.

This pathways analysis is necessary to underpin social, educational and vocational progressions in digital creativity and has implications for the recruitment and development of the creative labour force, as well as for curriculum debate.

There are two key areas of enquiry:

  1. To map the progressions in skill and interest in all forms of digital creativity,
    1. focusing in particular on the interconnections (or lack of) between informal, peer sustained and directed activities and the opportunities and developments provided by formal courses of study and accreditation;
    2. and leading to understanding of the role of the particular ‘social routes’ in individual learning.
    3. To understand better how capability in digital creativity relates to domain specific expertise (i.e. Art or Music) and cross-disciplinary generic competence and imagination through tracing the growth of individual creative mastery over time.

The project will track individual’s learning and creative episodes over relatively short and intense periods of time. Through interview and detailed biographical study we will capture key episodes and situate them within the individual’s longer-term career or interest trajectory as the individual reflects on the experience and its interrelationship (or not) with formal and other kinds of educational experience. We are interested in how digital creativity either conforms to or transgresses traditional disciplinary boundaries.

As the project gets going we will be blogging out thoughts and findings here.


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