Thoughts while reading Bady (2012) #edcmooc

For now, for me, a Mooc is an add-on, an interest, an opportunity, not a replacement for HE – if I could afford to do a doctorate I would, but I can’t so I’m moocing, because I enjoy study. For some of my students, moocs are a preparation, slightly above what they can understand or cope with, but equivalent in some ways to doing some background reading before going up to University. One student wants to study medicine, so she has enrolled in Mooc courses in physiology and diagnosis.

Moocs are experimental at present, and Moocers are guinea-pigs – one feels this especially on the EDCMOOC, as the TAs from the MA course in EDC join to observe and contribute to what’s going on. And one imagines that the tutorial staff are gleaning plenty of data from this experience for future research papers ….


The Internet as a place of Metaphors #edcmooc


Johnston (2009) explores the metaphors of the Internet. It occurred to me that one reason it seems to abound in metaphor could be the fact that it is perceived as unreal or as a reflection of reality and not a true reality. Observing this disjunction from reality causes us to find ways of making sense of what the Internet is, and so we turn to metaphorical language. The language of the Internet is still evolving, and neologisms are spawned with remarkable speed. My recent favourite is blogject.

The metaphorical nature of the Internet has started me thinking about how producing the artefact at the end of the course could be approached. I had been thinking in very concrete, traditional terms, but I think it needs to be a metaphor in some way. I’m not sure how yet …

I’m convinced that a Powerpoint or any kind of Office-style document is not what elearning or digital cultures is all about.


Watching the two commercial visions of the digital future: Day Made of Glass and Productivity Future

  • Education is presented as seamlessly integrated with ecology and environmental issues, especially in the Corning film. Socialisation seems to occur effortlessly, as though magically inspired by the technologically advantaged environment – no jockeying for places around the worktable. One wonders where the disaffected kids have gone, or is disaffection cured by technological advantage?

There are no questions in the classroom, nor at the park – factual representations of science and the past are presented as artefacts – is there any room for personal interpretations or responses? Students are seen as consumers of images and manipulators of educational products but not necessarily creators who can express themselves. Technology is often shown as telling humans what to do or where to go. Even the translator specs make learning a foreign language redundant.

In these versions of the future (especially the Corning view) reality is always behind glass.

  • Communication is instantaneous, unproblematic and efficient. There is no room for incomprehension – everything is tagged and accurate – arriving in Joburg is no challenge for the woman – even the location of tomorrow’s meeting is tagged. All this, of course, presupposes a flawless and totally integrated dataset.

Everything in this future is mediated through technology.

  • I guess the challenge posed by these utopian visions is to maintain a connection with the natural and the human, allowing the flaws of reality to persist. The imagery is enticingly utopian, but one has to ask where are the impoverished and disenfranchised? Who is caring for them? Who is paying? 

Digital Natives?


The hangout discussion at the end of last week had a number of points to make about the oppositions at work in the discourse surrounding the digital world. Prensky’s metaphor of natives v. immigrants came in for some criticism, and I think it has become clear that the metaphor does not work as well as it first appeared to. We all know of supposed ‘natives’ who have grown up in the digital world being all at sea when asked to use the technology. Equally, there are ‘immigrants’ who are very much at home and whose ‘accent’ is native!

I recently came across another, related and perhaps more helpful opposition: the digital resident and the digital visitor. Obviously, someone born into the digital age could only be a dabbler in facebook and mobile phone use etc, while someone who was born in a pre-digital era could have learned to use digital media and have become proficient.

An Example of a Dystopian Techno Future


We have been asked to think of an example of a film in which technology is presented, either with a utopian or dystopian slant.

The Star Trek (STNG) franchise would seem to cover the whole spectrum of utopia to dystopia. Heavily techie in its focus, set on the utopian, highly democratic, accessible Enterprise against the backdrop of the Federation, the series (and the films) presents the possibility also of a technological horror: the Borg. Their message: you will be assimilated, and of course resistance is futile because the Borg do not care how much damage they sustain in pursuing their goals. There is always more tech and more resources to call on. The only thing the Enterprise crew have to fall back on is their humanity and courage in the end. (Though they do get a lot of help from Data, who is an android, craving humanity).

Poetry of Dystopia


I came across this poem during a class I was teaching this morning. My A level students are researching dystopias as part of their coursework assignment, which is in the form of a 3000 word essay, based on 3 texts. One of the girls had found this poem, and it seemed absolutely appropriate to a reading of Bendito Machine and New Media.

I’m including the text as well as the link:

 Tanya Ward · Nov 26, 2012
Dystopian children

We are the people that you created.
A generation going nowhere.
We are the kids that you hate.
Brought up by fear and paranoia.
The technology era,
distinguished by guns and violence.
Raised and spoiled;
aggression and hate the new emotions.
Alienated from each other.
Passion and empathy completely diminished.
A dystopian world,
ruled by liars and thieves.
Pain is coupled with pleasure.
Angst and depression consuming the minds.
Break away from the hate.
Become a better generation.
We are not the nowhere kids.

InBox: some thoughts

The film signals its interest in human communication and relationships early on (hand-holding etc) and the desire for benign communication (cuddly toys). The imagery is quite simplistic, but its a simple film, and sweet.

Elements of fairy tale and magic realism, but most important is the sense of instant gratification being paramount to the correspondents – that produces an enormous amount of data to cope with (bed strewn with post its) – and the attendant danger of meaninglessness – throw away comments / smileys etc – is this real communication? Ultimately there is a reliance on the bag, which  is where the dystopian/utopian opposition is really felt.

ImageThe bag itself is benign – its shiny surface, happy colour scheme – but the correspondents’ dependence makes it passively dangerous – they bestow power on it so that when it breaks, unhappiness and disjunction ensue. The ending signals the importance of human communication, breaking out of the box that they have allowed the bag to create for themselves. They were ‘in box’ ie boxed in by their dependence on the magic form of communication. To maintain their humanity they have to meet in person. E.M. Forster has a similar theme going in his short story “The Machine Stops”.

What sort of educational debate does this provoke? I guess the importance of human interaction in the learning process – lots of subtlety is missed through online/telephone communication – also a lot of spontaneity. In the film, it is only when they meet face to face that one suspects they are really going to know each other, and learn from and with each other.