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Jon Kennard


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Day seven, week four.


And so the MOOC is over. 22,000 people took part, but did only 1400 or so complete it? I doubt I'll find out. And again, does it matter? I submitted my project ahead of time as next week is a bit hectic, and after confirming they'd received, Coursera informed me I would be sent links to three other projects next week for the peer review part of the course. Scary stuff - what will other people think of mine? Even though the stakes are low, I'd still like to pass. I wonder how mine will compare? 

For my end of course project I wanted to test my beliefs about the presentation of ideas and contexts in digital media. Did I believe there was still truth in media theorist Marshall McLuhan’s assertion in the 60s that ‘the medium is the message’? Is there ever a statement so pure that its meaning is never differentiated? This is what I’m trying to think about with the way the media here are presented.

A truism for me in today’s world is that the digital experience is fragmented, ‘on-demand’, asynchronous. One of the stipulations of the end of course project, the creation of this ‘digital artefact’, was that more than one type of media was used. I figured, why not explore that? Is the presentation of this idea as important as the idea itself?

As the subject matter of the course became more introspective as the weeks went on (wk 1 looking to the past – Utopias and dystopias, wk 2 looking to the future – metaphors, wk 3 reasserting the human, wk 4 redefining the human), it became clear to me that we are changing our perception of ourselves as much as we are the technology we use and the environment around us, so I chose to look at humanism. Can we ascribe ‘life’ to inanimate objects, statues? And if so, what would they think of our world that was once theirs?



‘Death is but crossing the world as friends do the seas, they live in one another still.’ – William Penn

William Penn, Quaker, egalitarian, essayist and founder of the US city of Philadelphia is one of several statues that silently watches over the Millennium Square area of Bristol, UK. Other statues include the actor Cary Grant and bible translator William Tyndale.

What relevance is a bronze statue? A statue may not be ‘made of meat‘ but nevertheless it has a human quality, the spiritual component to the organic matter, even if that quality is only an echo of the past, triggered by memory.

William Penn still studies his scroll, Cary Grant still nurses his cigarette, as life changes around them. Like the recent ‘Hello Lamppost‘ project theorised, the ‘internet of things’ allows inorganic beings/objects a chance of agency, animating them and giving them an active, communicating role in their environment. No longer might they just be spectators, as the the film director John Landis often likes to remind us.

Millennium Square was developed 13 years ago, and just to the left of Penn’s view of the square is AtBristol, previously one of the most technologically forward thinking parts of Bristol, with an aquarium, planetarium and now-defunct IMAX. An ice rink is currently encroached on the square, smooth granite flagstones and fountains where people usually sit in the summer to watch sport via a flat screen or just to simply ruminate as William Penn does.

Only just over a decade old and already the science-focused architecture that once was cutting edge is now outmoded, the area now more of an urban retail park, less techno-hub. But still our statues stare.


We filter our experiences. Do these filters add or take away the realism of the images?


You conjure up your own images. Are they preferable to reality?


The statue can’t hear anything, so neither can you.


Just to completely contradict what I said about fragmentation, I also compiled this project as a Scrollkit, if it seems a more coherent way of expressing it, visually at least. Check it out here

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Author Profile Picture
Jon Kennard

Freelance writer

Read more from Jon Kennard

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