Week 12 – Final Lifestream Summary

It’s been quite a journey, these past twelve weeks. I’ve been exposed to new ideas, concepts and applications.  I entered into Sian’s ‘uncanny’ space.

When applying for this course and reading the blurb, my first question was, “What is lifestreaming?” I hadn’t encountered it before so I came to it with no preconceived ideas, only with the information offered in the course guide. Likening it to ‘commonplacing‘ was very appealing.  Basically I’d be keeping an online scrapbook, a  record of places I’d visited, text and images I found interesting, giving a taste of my online activity at that moment. A snapshot of my life as an #ededc student.

I was ambivalent when I first began setting up feeds, it was both exciting and daunting. I felt unsure exactly what was required of me and apprehensive that anything I wrote was open to public viewing. Visiting the sites of my colleagues‘ unnerved me.  Theirs looked fantastic, showing creativity and experience, in comparison mine looked dull.  The practical side of organising feeds was problematic and much time was spent tweaking the feeds; or waiting while images were uploaded; or until Twitter became available; or indeed if Internet access became available. However, the content in my lifestream shows progress has been made. I admit to only feeling comfortable with lifestreaming towards the end of the course.

I did ponder on the purpose of the Lifestream. Would keeping a record of my online activities enable me to become a better learner? And if so, in what way?  Edwards (2010) says, “to learn, humans have to gather and experiment.”  An initial glance of my Lifestream shows an eclectic collection. Like a Magpie, I would gather and store anything interesting.  It may have been related to earlier, present, even future course content so it wasn’t always done in a linear way.  The RSS feed set up for the Female Science Professor feed led me to do my ethnography on science bloggers although this wasn‘t part of my thinking at the time. How the collection was used has been a surprising feature of lifestream.

Feedback has been an important part of my learning. Comments from tutors and colleagues have been regular and invaluable in helping my understanding, as have the blogs.  The different interpretations given to our visual artefact task was amazing. The lifestream has been helpful in engaging in, and understanding, the course but I agree with Carol’s view that our lifestreams are only to be made sense of in retrospect.

On reflection, if I had to do this over again how would I do it?  I would make notes about why I selected each piece and my feelings at the time. An injection of  humour to my ‘online presence’. is needed, I don’t recognise much of the ‘real’ me. My entries don’t show how much fun this course has been.    Creating ‘presence’ as a distance learner is difficult.  Ania mentioned that she’d like to see some pics of my location, and Jeremy commented on “how our ‘virtual’ experiences are always permeated by, and enmeshed with, the ‘real’ world around us.” With this in mind I tried to upload pics of my journey to work. The road I take cuts through the desert, with sand dunes as as high as hills.

Other vehicles are few so it feels like it’s just me, sand dunes, date farms and camels. Remote. Solitary.  Isolated. Not unlike my experience of online learning. Access problems just add to my ghostly presence, “the ontological blurring of being and not-being, presence and absence online.” (Bayne)

Whilst writing this I am exhibiting signs of being posthuman.  I’m listening to iTunes and uploading images; there’s a couple of tabs open on my browser so I can quickly check things out; I am constantly flicking between this document, my Lifestream, and pdf files; and I’m downloading a video. My Mac has become an appendage, it is part of me. Technology is a big part of my life.

Edwards states the need for learning to challenge us and this experience is definitely challenging;  #ededc staff and students have taken the ‘road less travelled’.

References

Bayne, S. (forthcoming, March 2010). Academetron, automaton, phantom: uncanny digital pedagogies. London Review of Education.

Edwards, R. (2010). The end of lifelong learning: A post-human condition? Studies in the Education of Adults, vol 42, no 1, 5-17.

The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost

 

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Week 12: Where is my Lifestream going…..?

Thinking back over the weeks of the course and the way my Lifestream has developed, I was suddenly struck by the word ‘lifestream’. As with many terms now used within digital media, titles for applications and so on wash over us and yet the idea of a Lifestream is quite a profound one. It suggests a representation of something more than just an activity for a course, with implications of representing some kind of onward digital journey. Not only that, but it suggests that this digital journey somehow represents our real life or that our digital and real lives have been blurred, again on top of the Lifestream’s ‘gathering’ implications, revealing the creation of a Lifestream as a posthuman pedagogy.

Daniel interestingly referred to the implications for education of the Lifestream as an everlasting memory. Using the Lifestream to record our online activity has revealed patterns where there might have seemed to be none, but it also functions as a kind of record to refer back to or even an uncanny memory of our activity. It has also been interesting to see how two distinct elements have made up my lifestream; those sites I have bookmarked, meaning that I have controlled when they enter my lifestream; and those which have come from RSS feeds and turn up without my knowledge but often provide timely pieces of information that keep bringing me back to themes of the course. One such this week has been some updates from Inanimate Alice. Called ‘School Reports’, one talked about this digital resource’s growing profile in teaching literacy, digital and otherwise, and in its use as a cross-curricular tool. Given my own role advising Primary Education students, this has kept me up to date with developments and provided a resource that I can pass onto students.

As far as sites that I have bookmarked this week, I have tended to concentrate on anything of relevance to my assignment. I found an interesting article on ‘The Politics of Pedagogy’ (2003) by Beverly M. John. She contends that ‘classroom dynamics, as well as the dynamics in higher education at-large, are a microcosm of the same conditions and factors present in the wider American society’. Although talking about the US, John’s statement reflects my own thinking in looking at politics, education and e-learning. Aside from worries over cuts in HE and rising fees, there is also a continuing worry about the commodification of education, where learning has become something that provides what the state wants rather than the individual.

Today I will be finishing up editing my Lifestream and writing my overall summary; all in all it will reflect how much I’ve enjoyed the process and how valuable it has been in getting me to think about how I access digital information. My Lifestream will keep going, although its course may be redirected, carrying with it new studies and work interests…

 

 

 

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Block 3 Summary – Posthumanism

I’ve been returning to the introduction to this block of the course and keep reading the line “…digital culture is to an extent a culture of the posthuman.”  What does that mean in relation to my thoughts on the readings and my recent blog postings?  I decided to have my wife read my blog and then have a discussion with her on what it meant to her to be post-human.

The thing that she said struck her was the description of the cyborg, and the thought that it was a new concept to add enhancements to the human body.  She mentioned how it seemed that we are focused on the idea that recent technological advances were allowing us to replace lost or damaged limbs, but that people had in fact been doing that for years (the first recorded use of a prosthesis has been traced back to ancient Egypt).  It seemed to her that the trend recently is not simply to replace functionality, but to hide the disability completely (artificial limbs can now be made to resemble real limbs,with freckles, hair, etc – Cosmesis).

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She did not understand therefore the ties between the biological enhancements and the concepts of post-humanism.  Where was the line drawn as to when we became a cyborg?  Was it when we could replace a limb with a functional substitute, or was it when we could do so without anyone else knowing?  But then she asked what was the point of hiding the enhancement / replacement if not for our own vanity, or to fit in to the community standards of what is “normal.” If we are trying to fit in, then can we be considered enlightened, and truly have evolved?

We then began to discuss further my posting on transhuman and the idea of transplanting a head to a new body.  “What would be the point… to extend life,” she asked?  She could understand the idea of replacing parts, but not to replace an entire body.  “At what point would you stop being you?”  She mentioned how she had a scar on her shin from an accident she had as a teen.  If she replaced that limb, the scar would be gone, but the memories associated with it would remain (there is also the phantom limb pain, or proprioceptive memory, in which the body remembers the lost limb).  But in telling the story to others, she wouldn’t have a reference to show them, but might say, on my old leg, I had this…  At what point then does the physical reference stop being important and stop being necessary as a reference to who you are?

When we discussed transferring consciousness outside of your body she did not believe that it would truly be you.  Her belief is that you are the sum or your parts; your body, your mind; whatever you consider makes up your consciousness and your self are intrinsically linked.  If it were possible to transfer your “data” to a machine, it would not be you, as it was only raw data… it would be missing too much of the physical aspects that make you unique.

So what then of the post-human and digital culture? As Pickering (2005) suggests, the posthuman perspective is “seeing the human and the nonhuman at once, without trying to strip either away.”  So then can digital culture be examined without human interaction?  Can a modern day human be examined without reference to technology? “Through use of our minds, we change technology, and in return, technology changes our minds.” (wikipedia, nd)  The idea of digital culture then is one in which the technology pervades our lives, is part of it, part of us.  To understand what it means to be post-human then is to be able to see this connection…

When I think of digital culture, I think of it as a part of ourselves, and an extension of society. What it means to me is a step in mental evolution, and social responsibility. The phrase that explains the idea that technology connects us as humans which I coined is “Human Circuitry” (Pirillo, nd)

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Final Summary: Week 12

I began this course on ELearning and Digital Culture under the illusion that I was somewhat of an expert on the subject.  My professional background is in elearning, multimedia and web application development and much of my personal time is spent online; either at play or connecting with geographically distant friends.  But how wrong I was.  I have discovered that online digital culture is something fluid and changeable, moving, reacting and adapting to current conditions as quickly and effortlessly as a flocking algorithm.  To claim expert knowledge of everything digital is shortsighted, and given the unprecedented and constant growth of the online community combined with relentless innovation, technical expertise is becoming ever more narrowly defined.  If this course has taught me one thing, it is that adaptation is essential for survival in the digital realm.  But this course has taught me many things, most of which can be seen in the various feeds which populate my lifestream.  Initially I found producing a lifestream to be an awkward and overly contrived exercise, and in truth I did not see the benefit until after some time into the course.  Often I will have looked in depth at a topic only to backtrack out towards another concept, however the record of this journey remains and I subsequently found this to be extremely useful when refining any later thoughts or research ideas.  In fact, this detailed record has often provided the pointer to a new direction or insight later on.  Over the last twelve weeks I have seen my lifestream develop from a seemingly random collection of disparate, unrelated links, into a focused record of my research progress.  Such detailed logging has obvious benefits, but it is also an indicator of the ever increasing volume of data that we produce and navigate on a daily basis.  Even if we are actively creating this record rather than mindlessly life logging, the result is still a massive data glut, something renowned computer scientist Jim Gray has humorously referred to as WORN (write once, read never).  Worse still, it produces an echo of our lives which may tell others more about us than we know ourselves.

The ramifications for education in this ocean of data are complex and potentially paradigm changing.  Our current educational models frequently reward students for feats of memory and recall rather than actual knowledge or information processing.  In a world of constant, ubiquitous recording and massive online data sets, memory is becoming less of a concern.  The skills most prized by industry (if not yet by the academy), are those of assimilating and digesting data in order to extract salient information and knowledge.  Perhaps tools like the lifestream can help to raise awareness of this issue.

Given the informal nature of blogging, I have employed the simple notation “(lifestream dd/mm/yyyy)” followed by an index number where there are more than one lifestream entries on a given day.   Where possible I have also hyperlinked the reference to an individual post on the corresponding remote site.  My thanks to the staff and students of #ededc for what has been a fascinating and rewarding experience!

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Lifestream Reflections Week 8

droughtDrought has hit my life stream! For a number of reasons including wanting to take time out to read and hitting a really busy patch at work my life stream activity has dwindled. In a sense the source hopping, skim reading modes of thought associated with collecting for my life stream conflict with the frame of mind needed for digesting readings. I have felt the need to move away form the computer to reduce distractions and help me focus. After a period of individual investigation in the form of the virtual ethnographies I also felt more distant from the course and my energy and enthusiasm took a dip. What can the virtual environment offer to ameliorate these arguably inevitable troughs? Perhaps future learning environments might assign all participants an ‘bot’ that would calculate/sense a reduced participation and offer words of personalised encouragement! A simple but timely ‘keep going’ may be all that is needed to boost motivation. Having carried out a brief search it seems the technical term for this type of ‘bot’ is ‘pedagogical agent’. It transpires that this is an area of artificial intelligence research for example see Baylor & Kim (2005) who identify three roles of pedagogic agent; expert, motivator and mentor.

In week 8 I was clearly in need of agent Motivator! However I wonder to what extent I would be able to suspend my disbelief and accept my pedagogic agent as part of my cyborg self?

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Baylor, A. & Kim, Y. (2005) Simulating instructional roles through pedagogical agents. International journal of artificial intelligence in education. 15 (2)

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Posthuman week 11

While trying to crack posthuman pedagogy, the ideas put forward by Gough (2004) struck me as potentially good guidelines. Toward the end of his paper, he criticises the Cyborg Manifesto, which, in his opinion, although firmly grounded in situated knowledge, cyborg ontology and border pedagogy lacks the art, the humour and the paradox of Deleuze’s rhizome. Could this be a yardstick helpful in distinguishing between various types of posthuman, posthumanesque and cryptoposthuman pedagogic tasks? Certainly the incorporation of the technological does not make a learning event a posthuman one (Neil’s post). Even the dedication to blurring and liquidising might not suffice.

Gough asks an important question about posthuman pedagogy and  gives an example of Mayakovsky’s Cyberantics as narrative and textual strategy which might help us in the rhizomantically becoming-cyborg configuration. The chosen audience for the story were kids because of their ‘sense of wonder and curiosity’ which transcends limitations posed by too often dichotomous academic structures.

At the same time, I came across Dave Cormier’s blog with a series of posts tagged ‘Rhizome’. Dave has been pondering on rhizomatic learning for some time now. In one of his posts, he writes a compelling letter to his 5-year-old son, explaining what rhizomatic learning is. Through a moving story involving a bunch of theropods and other ancient creatures, Dave points out how the learning can be stifled if the lines of flights are cut off before they form. If there is no black and white (Angus et al, 2001), why ask questions about ‘right’ and ‘false’ dinosaurs? Instead, following Dave’s advice, it would be better to ask ‘How would I feel if a piece of silicon was naturally part of me? What if my best friend was a robot? How would my life differ?’ Such questions propel the conversation and as Dave says ‘the stories will never end’.

 

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Visual week 10

The term visual turn stuck to me the moment I heard it, mostly because of its interpretive openness and democracy of relations with  no embedded subordination. The visual syntax resembles a rhizome more than a Chomskyan tree. Visually, the day is ‘a day of encountering significant objects rather than action-events’ (Kress, 2005). A day …

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Weeks later, reading about cyborgs and posthumans, I was reminded of Dziga Vertov, an innovative Russian cinematographer who already in the 20’s pronounced himself ‘a mechanical eye, a machine’, who ‘freed from the boundaries of time and space, coordinate[s] any and all points of the universe, wherever [he] want[s] them to be. [His] way leads towards the creation of a fresh perception of the world. Thus [he] explain[s] in a new way the world unknown to you’.

His Man with a Movie Camera, which shows a day in the life, is innovative for various reasons one of them being the idea of a film within the film; the film itself becomes the subject (the relevant sequences showing Vertov in most impossible positions from the point of view of human anatomy and physical accessibility!).

Reading around Vertov, I found two contemporary projects echoing his ideas:

Man With a Movie Camera: The Global Remakeone of the most creative uses of the Internet according to Google. Users contribute their own interpretations of Vertov’s sequences which are then streamed alongside, thus adding a twist to the original version. A day of encountering significant objects back in the 20 together with their equivalents in the contemporary times, filtered and processed by the contributor’s and final viewer’s imaginations. A dialogue reaching beyond temporal and spatial boundaries. Could that be another example of posthuman pedagogy?

dearphotograph.com, explored in detail by Ian Bogost, allows us to see what a photograph looks like in a photograph. It’s not only about sentimentalised human experiences but the object itself as the photograph becomes a salient entity encountered by the viewer. Bogost refers to it as object-oriented ontology which basically asks us to see the world of things as things in a world, rather than our world, with things in it. Another boundary blurred, another domination democraticised. Through visual turn

 

 

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Posthuman Pedagogy

How do you educate the post-human?  First we must agree on what the definition of a post-human should be.  Is it as Hayles (1999) states, that the “defining characteristics (of a posthuman) involve the construction of subjectivity, not the presence of nonbiological components.”  Or should we equate the post-human with what some might view as the next step in our evolution, an integration of man and machine, or a type of cyborg?

If we take our cue from popular movies, there is a desire to assimilate knowledge quickly, and on demand.  How beneficial would it be to simply request knowledge on a subject and have it instantly uploaded to your brain?

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But  is this the easy way out?  Is packing your head with data the same as learning?  Or as Edwards (2010) says “to learn, humans have to gather and experiment.”  If we can simply upload data to our brain, have we really learned it, or is it just data we can access?  Just because we can recite / remember information does not mean we can understand and think critically about it.

And what of all that data… can our brains handle it?  Or might the increased strain cause the brain to begin to malfunction?  Or as is a recurring theme, that with knowledge comes power, and the power corrupts…

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Are we searching for the easy way out.  If there was a way for you to have the ability to see the world in a new way, to open your mind to new interactions, new connections, would you take it?  Would the consequences matter?

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Is being post-human the ability to become something beyond a regular human?  Is it the development of the brain to its full potential… the opening of new abilities, knowledge and powers previously untapped?  Is it becoming the perfect version of ourselves?

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If being post-human is all of these, then how do we develop a pedagogy to challenge them?  As Edwards (2010) says “a post-human condition could position learning as a gathering of the human and non-human in responsible experimentation to establish matters of concern.”  Therefore providing the raw data is simply not enough…

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There must be discussion, experimentation, and interaction before there can be understanding…  In order to truly understand something we must experience it…

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We may believe these to be Hollywood’s vision of the future, but instant access to data is already at your fingertips…

The challenge then is to combine the instant access to the data and unlimited breadth of knowledge, with the possibility of experiencing the concepts to develop understanding.  Despite the increasing ability to find the answer to everything through the internet, human or post-human, there is still no substitute for gaining insight and understanding through interactions with a mentor and your peers.

 

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Its Nearly Christmas

Its chilly in Sony PlayStation Home – the central plaza has ice scupltures…

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Week 11 Render ghosts and the ‘new aesthetic’.

At the risk of sounding like a 1970s kids TV show, this notion of render ghosts caught my eye in a direct feed on my Lifestream from booktwo.org. There, James Bridle is talking about the bleeding into the physical world of digital imagery – The New Aesthetic: Waving at the Machines. Bridle starts out by showing pictures of Render Ghosts; that is the created figures who appear in the imagined futures of envisioned new buildings, on hoardings or perhaps digital architectural representations. As Bridle points out these ghosts inhabit  a ‘notional space in which we imagine a possible future’.

Further to this he shows examples of how digital imagery has come into the real world, though such examples as ‘pixelated’ art or architecture.

Beyond this he starts to look at how digital technology can record or watch the world, through, for instance, online satellite pictures that distort or make alien our perception of the world, or to look at how we re-enact reality through the virtual, such as digital re-enactment where footage is not available.

Bridle’s main point is the bleeding into reality of the digital and seems to me to encapsulate elements of the posthuman, also linking back to my posthuman pedagogy of the monstrous or uncanny in exopedagogy. Buildings represented as pixels change our aesthetics to something which embodies the not real. The Render Ghosts are uncanny in that they represent possible people from a possible future but they also represent ideal visions of our world where the ghosts are families, young people, professionals, socialising and living out possible lives in public or private spaces. As such they represent a ‘world coming into being’ (Bridle) and this made me think about exopedagogy as  an ‘education out of bounds’, Sian’s ideas on digital spaces and learning as uncanny, and Edwards’ suggestion that posthuman pedagogy might conceivably be, rather than a relationship between subject and object, a ‘gathering’ (to my mind a term which has it’s own uncanny connotations).

At the beginning of creating our Lifestreams, Anna and I discussed the process as writing or as aggregation and, last week, Grace agreed with the view in my blog that our Lifestreams were perhaps only to be made sense of in retrospect. As such our Lifestreams would then be a posthuman pedagogy, a gathering or coming into being, and perhaps a notional representation of ourselves as render ghosts.

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