Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Techship Down: Utopian Promises, Silences, and Communities of Resistance

I'm writing today from Ardglass, a small fishing village on the east coast of Northern Ireland.  I've been thinking a great deal about my experience during ETMOOC, and am grateful that I was introduced to so many wonderful people, ideas, and resources.  I wanted to post some reflections, and to practice a few of these new digital resources at the same time.   The title promises more than I had time to deliver in creating this ETMOOC artefact and within the YouTube time limit, but I'll be writing more about these ideas over the next weeks and months.  I look forward to continuing  the conversation.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

“…Magic can’t happen unless you’re in the mix. . . ”

This post’s title comes from a Wall Street Journal article by Eric Hellweg of the Harvard Business Review, who urged those attending the recent SXSW conferences and festivals to load up on networking magic and expect to stay up until 2-3 am (saying “you can sleep when you’re dead”). Being “in the mix” might be an extrovert’s paradise, but I was exhausted just reading Hellweg’s breathless commentary.

This made me reflect on how Etmooc’s stated and implied support for connectedness, sharing, collaboration, project-based learning, and even openness, might be related to a western cultural preference for extroversion—to “being in the mix” as the expected norm. I thought even more about this after browsing a link posted by Alec Couros on Twitter that explicitly challenged the assumed effectiveness of collaboration for creative practice.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Cooking, Digital Confidence, and Play

In the Etmooc session last week Doug Belshaw proposed eight different elements as essential for digital literacies (arrayed like a periodic table).

I’ve been thinking since about the element of “confidence” (Cf on his chart). In this context, confidence represents a willingness to approach new digital technologies without knowing how (or if) they will work (the first time, or perhaps at all). Confidence is being OK with making mistakes on the way to learning a new tool or approach, and navigating the unknown undeterred. Can we learn this? At one level, it makes sense that repeated exposure, practice, and “learning” from things that didn’t work so well initially would build confidence. This made me think of my experience with cooking.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Digital Storytelling and Resisting the Scriptural Economy

"What is a digital story?" Alan Levine began this week's Etmooc session asking that question and repeated the question at the end, after having presented many possible answers from his 50+ Web.20 Ways to Tell a Story.

His question kept niggling at me after the session--or rather my curiosity at his reason for repeating it, even as I tried out some of the tools I hadn't encountered before. Why was he so insistent about this definitional uncertainty? Was this a rhetorical strategy? Resisting the authorial mantle? A hope that we in Etmooc would just try doing something different rather than seek to define what we were doing? Or was he attempting, by embracing the uncertainty, to pull one small thread out of the tightly-woven "scriptural economy" that legitimates modern Western knowledge claims? I'll assume this last one--at least so I can think about it out loud.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The door makes no promises

I treasure the poetry of Adrienne Rich, and her truth-telling challenges me deeply. After Friday's delightful Etmooc adventure on Blackboard Collaborate with Darren Kuropatwa, I couldn't help but think of Rich's poem titled: Prospective Immigrants Please Note which she reads here:

I've often shared this poem with students as a way to acknowledge that considering new ideas together does not mean they have to make them their own. As Rich says so clearly in ending the poem, ". . .The door itself makes no promises. It is only a door."

Monday, February 4, 2013

toe in water six word poem

Right now I'm reading Frank Delaney's 2005 novel Ireland, featuring one of the last of the wandering Irish storytellers. This man shows up at a young boy's home and changes his life.

That evening, in that white house among the fields, a boy's most passionate dream came true. His father had long talked of the traveling storytellers. He said they possessed brilliant powers; they brought the long-gone past to life vividly, without what he called 'the interference of scholars. Those professors,' he said. 'They dry out history in order to put it down on paper.' In his father's view, a tale with the feeling taken out of it had 'no blood and was worth very little.' But the old stories, told by travelling storytellers round the fireside on winter evenings - they came hurtling straight down the long, shiny pipeline of the centuries and the characters, all love and hate and fire, 'tumbled out on our own stone floor'(p.4).

Being a professor, but hoping to avoid dry and bloodless tales, I'm looking forward to learning new ways to tell stories using digital tools, especially the video options. Here's where I am tonight:

Friday, February 1, 2013

Machines, revolutions and uncertainty

I can still remember my anxiety at taking a required typing class in high school (back before the electric IBM self-correcting Selectric II). I was confident about "regular" school subjects and human interactions, but not at all sure about interacting with a machine where I would be "timed" and my competency judged by accuracy and speed. I worked very hard, and became an OK typist--not because I valued the machine, or even the potential careers it might make accessible, but because performing poorly was just not an option. Of course this has been an important tool for me, and even a way to help pay the rent. (I charged $2 a page to type papers and theses for graduate students when I needed flexible hours organizing against nuclear weapons in the 70s and 80s).

I start with this bit of history because the past two-plus weeks in Etmooc have reminded me that I still do not have confidence in my ability to interact successfully with machines (and the often baffling software programs and applications) that have revolutionized our ways to communicate and share/construct knowledge. Douglas Rushkoff's assertion that we can choose to "program or be programmed" makes me nervous. Unlike my resistance to learning to type, I DO want to take up Rushkoff's challenge (at least a middle path of becoming at ease with the tools and aware of their limitations). Still, the issue for me is not that I'd better get good at using new digital technologies or be left in the dust. It's deeper than that, and I've needed this throat-clearing introduction to get to the more challenging part.