It’s no surprise that we are increasingly dependent on modern technology for almost everything in our lives; from keeping in touch with family and friends, banking, purchases including our groceries, almost every aspect of how we do business, to an entire array of technology devoted only to our health care. A time when we weren’t plugged into the Internet is becoming harder to imagine or remember. But have we become too dependent on the Internet for all that we do? And is this a good thing?
There have certainly been many studies conducted scrutinizing the subject and I’m not here to support one study over another. However, I am interested in the value of the online experience versus face-to-face interactions in areas of creative art and participating in classes or workshops, and being actively engaged in group settings. My focus here is strictly on dollmaking and other creative endeavors associated with dollmaking that can be done online or in person. There are cases to be made for the healing arts and virtual training of employees. But this is not that.
Many of us dollmakers have had the luxury of being able to take classes and workshops from our favorite artists in person, so when they offer a class online, we may find it advantageous to sign up because this, at some level, brings back some of that energy felt in the class or workshop with the teacher/artist and the sharing with the other participants. It may be in part that we are comfortable with the teaching style of a particular teacher/artist or have learned how to interpret the patterns and instructions from this dollmaker/artist and this is an opportunity to try our hand at a new project they have created. Sometimes, as I’ve discovered, taking the online and the in-person class from the same teacher/artist actually deepens the experience of not just making a doll, but experiencing the process from a different perspective. Same teacher, same project, yet a much fuller experience overall because I had the benefit of both.
However, if you’ve never taken a workshop from a doll maker you admire, an online class might be very appealing. It’s an opportunity to engage with someone you’ve admired from afar and this is as close as you’re likely to get to experiencing their process and art at an affordable price. I don’t know about you, but I’ve enjoyed the work of some very fine artists at a fraction of the price of taking their classes/workshops in person. Most have been extremely generous about answering questions, sharing shortcuts they’ve learned along the way, and with today’s technology, creating quick little videos to demonstrate a process or technique that may not have been clear in the initial online class or workshop. And unlike the in-person workshop experience, these little gems of insight can be saved and reviewed over and over. I have many techniques bookmarked on the Internet that I refer to when I’ve forgotten something I haven’t done in a while, such as how to make a magic ring. And best of all, everything you need is right there at home, including your favorite coffee mug filled with your favorite beverage. What more could you ask for?
Hands down, given the opportunity, I would much prefer an in-person experience over an online experience, even though I’ve just pointed out some great benefits to the online learning experience. For one thing, you’re hooked into the energy of the artist/teacher and the other participants right away. Not to ignore the energy generated in a group setting online, but the in-person experience is the connecting with others that re-enforces our need to be with other people. Your own excitement and expectations adds to the group experience enriching it, hopefully, for everyone.
You are bound to learn stuff not included in any of the written material shared by the teacher/artist. This has happened at every workshop/class I’ve ever taken. Even when I was a teacher it happened. Participants ask questions, others in the group share their own experiences and insight and the next thing you know you just got some great bonus stuff you hadn’t planned on. Some of the best learning moments I’ve had came from side conversations with other participants, demonstrations with alternative materials and live demonstrations of processes that may not have been so clear in the pattern instructions and would more than likely have been missed completely in an online workshop or class.
If you’re a little, or even a lot, introverted, like me, you might find more comfort in the online class/workshop experience. There’s no pressure to really participate and “keep up” with everyone else in the class. For the most part, it’s not required that you engage at all. Just download the materials and go about your business. You might be able to convince yourself that you’ll eventually get around to making that doll, but will you really? Sometimes. If what you want to do is learn how to make a doll and not connection with anyone else in the group, you are free to do so. There are no expectations. You rarely, if ever, have to show your work and whether you finish the project is of little consequence. More than likely someone in the group will ask that one question you’ve been asking in your head and it all works out just fine.
But sometimes, the comfort of isolation isn’t always a good thing. If more and more of your contacts and “friends” are only on the Internet then maybe it’s time to consider some real face-to-face connecting with people who share a common interest, like dollmaking. Set a goal for yourself to save the funds you might need to take that class and connect with people again in real time. It’s a worthwhile goal and helps us disengage from the Internet for a while and reconnect with people we’ve only been communicating with online.
I’ve met some really terrific people through dollmaking and we stay in touch through the Internet. But if I had only taken an online workshop with these same individuals I might never have known what great people they are and would have missed out on some very good times.