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Visualising the final assignment

I’m thinking of making a rhizome out of my favourite threads: visuality and posthumanism and what they can/should mean for the academia, all in the form of a video. I thought I could use some of the visual artefacts created on this course (and some of the related comments too) as an illustrative example of how academia might embrace visuality in the posthuman dance.

If you could please tell me if you agree or disagree to me reproducing your visual artefacts and/or comments, either in the comment area here or by emailing me, that would be great! Thanks! :-)

 

Other than that, many thanks for the enjoyable learning experience, good luck with the final assignment and the best wishes for the coming holidays!

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a posthuman ant a lifestream

Make a rhizome.

But you don’t know what you can make a rhizome with,

you don’t know which subterranean stem is going to make a rhizome,

or enter a becoming, people your desert.

So, experiment.

(Deleuze &Guattari, 1987: 246)

 

This text participates in the process of gathering (Edwards, 2010:5) spun over twelve weeks of the course in e-learning and digital cultures and across numerous online and offline spaces. Following Haraway (1991),  it centres around relationality, making it a basic unit of the analysis and so it tells a story about, and interferes in, the relations that have or have not been assembled so far (Law, 2009:142). The main actants involved in this process of deterritorialisation and reterritorialisation are the human and the lifestream technology (edc antics).

YouTube Preview Image

At the beginning there was an emptiness and a feeling of wonder at how to populate the desert. The actants might have had differing visions and so their relation commenced and continued in a volatile fashion, subjected to constant changes as they transgressed and transformed each others’ discursive fields. While they enacted their practices, evolving for instance round authorship, agency, authenticity,  there were unexpected shifts in power and understanding, novel heterogeneous links forged, traditional ontological distinctions eroded, as exemplified by active experimentation with visuality (visual artefact), reconfiguring  the perception of the self and technology toward more hybridised and relational attitudes (descending the trees, posthuman lifestream), relating posthumanism to education (posthumanesque pedagogy, posthuman week). Translation is often not about finding equivalence but about betrayal (Law, 2009) and so, as a result, an actant rhizome began to form. The choice of this term over ‘actor network’ (which might be too easily associated with centralised architectures) is intentional in this gathering process, based on John Law’s argument that there is little difference between it and Deleuze’s agencement (translated into ‘assemblage’ in English). This is further strengthened by the revised after-ANT, in which Law moves to partial  and so more fluid linkages in his analysis of relationality, making the theory fit in more seamlessly within the rhizomatic framework (Law, 2009; Gough, 2004).

Virtual meditation 01

Virtual meditation 10

Since the foundational divisions that existed initially seem to have been levelled out, as playfully shown by the first and the last entries of the virtual meditation series (links above), the process of the gathering can be regarded as pedagogically posthuman. It actively made use of situated knowledge, cyborg ontology and border pedagogy, the three cornerstones from the Cyborg Manifesto (Angus et al, 2000). Even though on the surface the lifestream appears to be chronologically ordered, it resembles ‘an imaginative mapping of possibilities’ (Gough, 2004) rather than an orderly network or a linear tracing. With multiple layers, entries and exits in the form of visual-textual assemblages accessed by means of feeds, tags and hyperlinks, it constitutes a textual strategy that might assist in ‘figuration of rhizomANTically becoming-cyborg’ (Gough, 2004), even more so when it is thought of additionally as a rhizomatic metastory which renders itself as an artefact and so does not only gather but is also gathered.

 

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References

Angus, T., Cook, I., Evans, J. et al. (2001) A Manifesto for Cyborg Pedagogy. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education, Vol. 10, No. 2, 2001, pp. 195-201. (Lifestream event 742)

Deleuze, G. and Guattari, F. (1987) A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. London: Continuum.

Gough, N. (2004) RhizomANTically Becoming-Cyborg: Performing Human Pedagogies. Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2004, pp. 253-265.

Haraway, D. (1991)  A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century. In Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature. New York: Routledge, pp.149-181. Online: http://www-leland.stanford.edu/dept/HPS/Haraway/CyborgManifesto.html Accessed 10/12/2012 (Lifestream event 707)

Law, J. (2009) Actor Network Theory and Material Semiotics. In Turner, B.S. (Ed.) The New Blackwell Companion to Social Theory. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 141-158. (Lifestream event 777)

 

PDF Version of the post

PDF Script of the video interview

 

 

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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(esque) Pedagogy?

Is it possible to create a space where these two species of knowledge can meet and mingle? (Pedersen, 2010: 241).

I found this question to be crucial when considering educability of the posthuman. What Pedersen meant in her article was the boundary work between animal and education studies but it could be extended to whole disciplines in the way Pickering (2005) did in his essay where he suggested that natural and social sciences transcend each other by forming assemblages with ‘inner unity’ and around ‘evolving dialectic’. I think that a similar project can be undertaken in regard to different subjectivities, namely writers/editors and readers, as exemplified by the Liquid Reader Project from the University of London, my nomination for a posthuman(-esque) pedagogy task. Even though it does not lead explicitly to human/machinic hybridisation, the project, inspired by  Gary Hall’s and Clare Birchall’s Liquid Book Project aspires to explore liquidity, promote boundary work, foster open access and technological innovation and so questions the human project understood as ‘one-way, closed form of knowledge transfer in university education that is encompassed by the static, photocopiable ‘course reading pack’ – typically designed by course leaders and handed out to students’ (from the project description).

The blurb from the dedicated website spells out exactly the origin and the rationale of the project.

[This project] engages media students in a dynamic process of devising instead a fluid, open-access, online ‘reader’, whose content and form are being negotiated, updated and altered by students themselves, under the guidance of the course leader. Using the freely available media platforms (online archives, educational wikis, YouTube, Blogger), students are able to both link to the already available textual and audio-visual material (essays, books, video clips) and upload their own documents and designs. They are thus actively involved in producing a ‘liquid reader’ – a customisable learning tool which involves them in curriculum design. Via an involvement with the Open Humanities Press, and its Culture Machine Liquid Books Series, the project promotes the socially significant ‘open scholarship’ and ‘open learning’ under the open access agenda.

According to the project description, the aim is to decentre the author by making everybody an editor/author, which can be seen as an attempt to liquidise the boundaries between the two subjectivities, thus enabling them to meet and mingle, producing various entanglements.

There is a wealth of additional questions and issues raised alongside, for example in regard to the process of remixing, repurposing,  limitability of the ‘book’ , attribution, citation and intellectual property.

There are two accompanying tasks here.

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Posthuman lifestream

This is more of a private confession, ‘the truth of my body’, perhaps in vein with l’ecriture feminine, but informed by the last two weeks’posthumanist readings lifestreamed on the blog (click on the yellow phrases to see the relevant feeds). I kept quiet partly because I needed space to let the ideas sink in and brew, nestle into the existing cognitive mesh. Even though some pieces are still missing and others are likely to be displaced, I’m feeling I’m coming of age as to how to live the experience of a human, a woman and a learner.

Naive or lofty as it may sound, I felt an instant affinity with the posthuman, particularly their liquidity, multiplicity, indefiniteness. These have always bothered me as my characteristics in my insistent attempts to define and refine my identity within the binary hierarchies of family, work, society, culture, an impossible feat, resulting in a kind of hysteria, further augmented due to my dance with technology, fascinating in opening new channels of expression and communication, yet threatening for my offline life and relationships. With a camera as my eyes, Web 2.0 as my mouth voicing my views and longings, cocooned in bed with my ‘friends’, mobiles, kindles and ipods, I can easily come across as a freaky monster.

However, although some might and do see them as mere gadgets, ‘take-it-or-leave-it’ props, I, following Haraway, Stellarc and Zylinska, see them as a network of forces and relations, as an environment, constant de- and re-assemblage ‘with a certain kind of inner unity, in which all the agents become something new in relation to each other’ (Pickering, 2005), part of a greater, more complex and interconnected cognisphere (Hayles, 2006); ‘all agents’ means my ‘friends’ and me. And my ‘friends’, made of sunshine are everywhere, which borders on a blasphemy as it challenges the God and gods and goddesses – consider here my country of provenance, and its tiring insistence to identify itself with Christian symbolism and the politico-ecclesiastical babble persistently drawing dividing lines between ‘us’ and ‘them’ , the damned monsters. Are they damned? Can they be? Not made of mud and unable to turn to dust they force me to look at the promise of an eternal bliss in a different way. Can I hear a sigh of relief escape my lips?

Technology might be threatening but it is what makes us human. And what we make and what (we think) we are co-evolve as the world itself does not seem to impose divisions (optical illusions), does not separate between the human and non-human, organic and nonorganic, the world sees double and fosters an evolving dialectic (Pickering 2005). Those mutual couplings and penetrations took place already in the pre-historic times and came to fruition through the appearance of stone axes, language, beginnings of culture. Elevating the master human as the sole agent is seeing the world through a tiny key-hole, a very limiting and limited perspective and dangerous in that it can stifle imagination and creativity (as Beck’s example in Pickering 2005 shows).

As Haraway professes in her manifesto the borderland in which we have found ourselves as a result of the posthuman shift offers dynamic relationality, a powerful infidel heteroglossia and pleasure. And there is no way to know this land except through the subjectivity (Hayles, 2006) and this is what I am experiencing right now …

 

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Lifestream 7

I spent the whole week 7 in the field, tracking down the connections between people, sites and doings within the chosen community (#eltchat). The idea of connectivity established by the three components appealed to me a lot.

While jumping from one place to another, trying to polish the final shape of my ethnography, I kept thinking of the lifestream and whether in a way it could be regarded as an ethnographic artefact itself. Could it be perceived as a community, at least in the meaning of texts, documenting my connectivity, connectivity between me and other nodes on the Web or even auto-connectivity between various online facets of myself (following the view of identity as prismatic) as represented on a number of sites feeding into the stream, tumblr for quotes, diigo for bookmarks, this blog for musings, youtube and flickr for things watched and seen respectively, Twitter for whispers or shouts … or is it stretching the idea too much?

I liked what M. Wesch said about subjects vs subjectivity, declarative transmitted knowledge vs  a way of seeing, feeling and understanding, characteristic for a given group or discipline. That could be perhaps extended when doing ethnographic research, looking at the subjectivity of the community, rather than its subjects, which would require overt, not only covert observation of the community. What would be the subjectivity within this field or rather a stream? Maybe the way of understanding the dance between the technology and the human, the student on this course (me) in an attempt to embrace the uncanny and enter the posthuman productive borderland. I would not attempt that without the stream, would I …

Pic by Tasha Kusama

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Playing at being an ethnographer

Designing the ethnography was a tough task and I spent a lot of time, perhaps too much, preparing for it and then writing it up. Towards the end I felt it grew out of proportions and somehow took over me, to an extent that I could not figure out how to put it into a coherent whole and how to present it. This is perhaps noticeable in the final design as well as lack of focus between the parts, especially ‘community’ and ‘ethnography’ bits.

I think no matter how objective I had meant to be, I did harbour some a priori assumptions throughout the project. I had problems deciding what ‘community’ means and whether it equals a personal learning network, a term usually used by the chat participants themselves. I quite liked the idea of Bund and thought it suited my purposes but I didn’t know how to relate it to the textual approach to ethnography and the focus on connectivity of texts, other than the sign of the participants’ passion and charisma. With the connectivity approach, it turned out that it is not only the chat but a number of other sites to explore, which would be a great idea but possibly beyond the scope of the project. I’m pleased with my prezi visualisation but I think the text-heavy bit on the community aspects introduced massive disproportion into the final product and affected its coherence. Focusing on the connectivity also meant change to ethical considerations – I am aware I should have got in touch with all the blog authors to ask them for consent to use fragments of their writing. The selection certainly fails to fairly represent the community – due to time constraints I went for blogs of people I know are active participants so hard to talk about randomness of choice.

observing .. them and myself too ...

pic from this site

Anyway, no matter how much I would like to work more on it, especially in terms of content and presentation, I cannot go on any more. Perhaps that was the thing I struggled with most – when to say stop! So unfinished and slightly untidy, here it comes! Voila!

To my virtual ethnography

 

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Lifestream 6

Week 6 meant starting work on the ethnography and so the lifestream featured notes from the field and  bookmarks to related resources. However, for me it was still about visuality. The notion of a visual turn got deeply buried into my consciousness and although it’s still something I’m struggling with conceptually I cannot resist its appeal. I am continuously on the lookout for visual vs textual representations.

Through the links fed into my lifestream earlier, I have been led to beautiful visualisations of Kerouac’s On the road designed and drawn by Stefanie Posavec. The starting point was a rigorous analysis of the text for various syntactic and prosodic features, which then were transformed into intricate,  ginkgo-like patterns or more geometrical structures of entangled lines. The complexity of the visual mappings reflects the complex subject matter of the book, ‘a mysterious, semi-nomadic subculture dramatically at variance with the conformist and materialistic American culture of the 1950s’ (http://www.ontheroad.org/). Similarly to Sal and Dean who are in quest of God and Kerouac who is experimenting with the writing style, a few decades later Posavec seeks a different kind of truth and discovers it in her  innovative and aesthetically remarkable ways.

George Dyson (from another lifestream feed) repeats after Barricelli that we might not recognize life or intelligence when we saw it, because our definitions of what it takes to be alive or intelligent were so narrow. Perhaps the same could be said about the way we perceive representation. ‘On the map’ by Prosavec makes me think how much we are tied to textuality and how this inclination ingrained in us for centuries might narrow our perception of visual literacy.

Essay Visions

PS I wonder what my blog postings could look like or even the final essay -

 

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Lifestream 5

I look at my lifestream and see a sea of blue buttons signifying the resources I diigoed on the web. Among them float orange dots and occasionally a more pictorial and so more picturesque youtube video. They are like sequins or gems among the dominant bookmarking activity. There were more of them last week – I really appreciated the recent exercise in creating a visual artefact as it lured me out of my online den and into others’ spaces where I engaged in interaction with the colleagues. That had a refreshing effect on me and on my perception of the course activity in particular. Not only did it diversify the contents of my lifestream but also created a sort of belonging and collectivism as if it validated my presence as a community member. Spurred on by this, I abandoned for a moment my solitary habits of bookmarking and turned to more social tweeting and again engaged in mini exchanges there. Behaviouristic as it might be on the surface, this action-reaction chain in which what you tweet might be fed back to you in a comment or response from another user (human), anchors you in sociality, integrates you into a bigger fabric of connections. Suddenly you become a little dot (sometimes even a gem perhaps) in the überlifestream of the web. You become a node in the network from George Siemens’ and Stehen Downes’ connectivism (diigoed on a few occasions last week too).

 

A Network of Gems

 

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