The power of audience as student art project goes viral

Just listening to an interview on CBC’s Q with Jian Ghomeshi. Jian interviewed visual artist & Capilano U student Rosea Lake (aka rosea posey). Rosea’s story is a testament to the positive things that can occur when students work on the open web.

Last year, Rosea created this wonderful work as a high school project. (aside: I only wish I could embed the image here for you to see directly, but Rosea has copyrighted the image instead of releasing it under a Creative Commons license, a decision I fully understand after reading what happened below). The work sat for a year before Rosea made a decision that is likely going to change her life.

On January 5th, Rosea posted her high school art project on Tumblr. On the open web.

3 weeks later, it has gone viral.

This high school project posted on the open web has been seen by hundreds of thousands of people, sparked debates and discourse (as all good art does), and has garnered Rosea much mainsteam media coverage. There has even been a controversy around intellectual property and copyright when the lingerie company Curvy Kate created an ad that was eerily similar to Rosea’s work. Rosea credits the internet to helping her find out about this unauthorized commercial use of her work.

Now, I acknowledge that “post your final project to the web” probably wasn’t an explicitly stated learning outcome in her high school art course, but why couldn’t it be? I mean, asking students to work for an audience – a potential worldwide audience – changes the nature of the work learners do. It is real. Authentic. It creates possibilities. It matters in a way that doing work just for the eyes of their teacher does not. As Alan November (via David Truss) notes:

“Students will work harder for an authentic audience than for a grade”…”Students will do more if they leave a legacy beyond a grade.”

Which is a point that Stephen Downes (speaking specifically about blogging)  also makes:

blogging gives students a genuine and potentially worldwide audience for their work. Having such an audience can result in feedback and and greatly increase student motivation to do their best work.

Or this take on having students working on the open web as part of their learning. This quote is from UBC’s Jon Beasley-Murray who, in 2008, assigned his UBC students the mammoth task of collaborating on a Wikipedia article to get it to featured article status. Reflecting on the project (which has put his students work in front of thousands of people) Jon says:

And their final product is to be a professional piece of work that will be viewed by many thousands of people, a resource that is in most cases the first port of call for future researchers, whether students like themselves or any of the many millions from all over the world who visit Wikipedia. Most of these articles are, after all, the top hit (or very close to it) in any internet search of the topic.

By comparison, the usual essays and exams that we assign our students really are rather pointless busywork.

Pointless busywork. How many of you who have attended university or college have stacks of pointless busywork sitting in drawers and desks (or have gone to recycling & garbage bins years ago) unread by anyone except the person who passed judgement on them?

Remind me again why we set up barriers (both real and perceived) that prevent our students from succeeding like this? Why are we not encouraging our learners each and every day to participate in the open web? To engage with the world in the most real and authentic learning space available to us? Why do we ask our learners to hide their work away in places where the only person who may ever see that work is their instructor?

It takes courage to post your work onto the open web for the world to see. To comment on. Critique. Discuss. Judge. Rosea took that chance, and I suspect she will be reaping the rewards of that decision for many years to come.  We all will because Judgments is a brilliant, thought-provoking piece that is making us talk about uncomfortable things.

A high school art project has the world talking right now because Rosea Lake took the simple step of posting her work out in the open, on the web, for all of us to see and talk about.



Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out


5 thoughts on “The power of audience as student art project goes viral

  1. Great post. I wrote about similar issues a few weeks ago when Live Action Toy Story went viral on YouTube. You can read about it at…. That was my most viewed post of all time, and had me thinking about my online art education students and their work which I wrote about a few days later at

    Theses are potentially exciting times in education. These students and their stories have so much to teach us.

  2. I love this example Clint as it demonstrates the complexity of sharing, that its not as simple as a binary of open/closed.

    I don;t know if you have any influence with Rosea, but I am working on a new call for a round of True Stories of Openness (reprise of my etug 2011 talk) and will be seeking some video stories like these.

    1. As I heard the story, I was thinking that it might be a good candidate for Amazing Stories. I don't have any connection to Rosea, other than this post. But seems that this story would fit nicely.

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