Monthly Archives: March 2012

Making Connections

I thought I would have a hard time appreciating Lucasfilm’s Habitat as I have not participated in any video games on a large scale, even Sims.  I was pleasantly surprised when the reading emphasized the importance of realistic environments.  This idea of reality is so inherent in the construction of video games that Morningstar and Farmer assert:

“cyberspace architects will benefit from study of the principles of sociology and economics as much as from the principles of computer science” (676).

That simply amazed me and has honestly reinvigorated my minor interest in video games.  To know that these complex and highly technical games are catered to humans, to the idea that all people are unique and therefore all people will hope to get something different out of a video game, is pretty interesting.  This idea means that there is a place for everyone in virtual reality which I suppose is the appeal, which leads me to my concern…having all these mini-worlds at our fingertips.  Couldn’t this pose a problem?  Couldn’t one get completely lost and cut off from the real world in games like this?  The fact that morals come into question with video games emphasizes my concern but I will touch more on that in my seminar presentation on Sherry Turkle’s essay.

As we get further in our readings, I have noticed many reoccurring themes.  Not to be repetitive but simply for compilation purposes, the idea and importance of individual participation and decentralization (branching, sharing).  I was able to make a theme connection to other readings when the authors talked about the design process and how it should not be restricted to simply designing and implementing but should also include facilitating (this can be applied to teaching).

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Interest and Pleasure: Beside the Point or THE Point?

Since I didn’t say much in class today (I think I was kind of using the discussion to reflect more on Illich’s ideas) there are a few ideas I found relevant to the topic of curriculum learning.  When I say curriculum learning, I do not mean education.  I mean the formal learning process, that is centralized and tackled in a “one size fits all” manner.

At first I thought Illich’s Learning Webs was kind radical and somewhat absurd but it’s not necessarily the ideas that were so out there, just the solution.  Or maybe it was just his urgent tone…which made me feel like the world was ending or something.  I think his term “deschooling” is a little hard to swallow upon first read.  I think a better term would be “decentralizing.”  I think this term epitomizes everything Illich is trying to put into words but it doesn’t have such an aggressive feel about it.  It does however sound kind of generic so maybe it would just be best to think of his proposal in a decentralized instead of deschooled way.  A way that doesn’t halt development through the forming of little black boxes of knowledge.  A way that encourages questions and doesn’t instill the learner with a fear of sounding “stupid.”  Similar to what Jake said, I fear if we cannot establish a more interactive means to learning in schools, it is truly questionable what the future holds for us.  I can’t help but think back to when I was very young, pre- and early-elementary years, I never stopped asking questions.  It didn’t matter if they were naive or silly because I was truly interested in the answer and I once I got it, I could go along my merry way, continuing my quest for knowledge in a way that made sense to me.  Before I was conditioned to curriculum learning, I made connections all by myself, without the teacher’s help and I felt genuinely satisfied (again, Nelson).

So is interest and pleasure beside the point?  Absolutely not.  Interest and pleasure is the point.  We need to stop striving for “productive members of society” and start thinking about ourselves a little more.  As cliche as it may sound, it is strikingly similar to the idea of being happy with yourself instead of worrying what others think about you.  If your education is not stimulating to you then the “benchmark,” the “A” doesn’t really matter or mean anything.  Now if only there were a more sensible way to achieve this idealistic goal…

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Deschooling: Liberating the Mind

The first thought that came to my mind while reading “Learning Webs,” from Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society was anger.  I had not been aware of how weak my past education was until coming to college and this realization is highlighted a good bit in this class, especially in Nelson’s “Computer Lib / Dream Machines” but even more so in this reading.  Why am I angry?  I feel betrayed by what I thought was a good thing, by an education system that never taught me to delve deeper into how I was learning, not necessarily what I was learning.  I believe more interest in topics would have been generated if the way in which I learned them was more appealing, more stimulating, and more diverse.   After all, the medium is the message right?

It’s not that I am calling myself stupid or uneducated by any means but I do feel somewhat irritated at the inadequacies our current education system has produced in me.  This idea of monopolizing knowledge, only those who have the appropriate title or classification are permitted access to particular tools and opportunities in education and in the working world.  I know that I am not the only one who feels this way.  Even with this class, I at first felt inadequate.  It’s kind of a paradox because even though it caused me to feel inferior to others’ ideas, at the same time it made me be appreciative and proud of my own ideas.

Furthermore, this class is a form of deschooling itself if you ask me.  Granted, it’s not nearly as radical as Illich’s proposed system but it does away with the concrete curriculum and skills testing.  It is not “a demagoguery calling for more of the same” like so many other classes.  I have said it before and I will say it again, student/reader participation takes precedence over predetermined right and wrong answers.

If Dr. C’s class provides a mere glimpse into the prospect of deschooling, than I will resound a major theme in Illich’s work: liberation.  The idea of letting your own mind do the work is liberating.  It provides a sense of self-worth that no A+ on a final can ever do.

When we start seeing more classes like this one, classes that encourage one’s own imagination instead of the easy alternative of yielding to a predetermined curriculum, then I think deschooling will be taking place on a larger scale.  When people start experiencing what it feels like to actually learn, it will be positively impossible to stop deschooling.  Illich agrees:

“The disestablishment of schools will inevitably happenand it will happen surprisingly fast. It cannot be retarded very much longer, and it is hardly necessary to promote it vigorously, for this is being done now. What is worthwhile is to try to orient it in a hopeful direction…”

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Are We the Condominiums in Data Space?

What exactly is Viola referring to when he asks the reader “Will There Be Condominiums in Data Space?”  By that question I mean, what does a condominium have to do with data space?  After over-analyzing numerous definitions of the term, I discovered a few reoccurring words that must relate to what Viola is asking.  A condominium is “a large property complex” that is “divided into individual units.”  Now I’m wondering if the large property complex part refers to this idea of “Data space” – “a conceptual geometry, theoretically infinite, within which various forms may be created, manipulated, extended and destroyed.”  Are we going to divide up the data space like a condominium or are we going to navigate around this data space as a whole?

If you can follow me here, then Viola’s three structures to describe patterns of information will make sense.  You can take the most popular structure called “branching” wherein the navigator takes the top to bottom approach.  This makes most sense to me because it is linear and the exact path to follow is quite obvious.  Viola also highlights the fact that this system is utilized in our education system; it’s very predetermined and definitely easier than the alternatives…but easier is almost never better if you ask me.  A new diagram called the “matrix” structure is an alternative way of viewing information, wherein the viewer can enter at any point, move in any direction, at any speed.  Unlike branching, this structure is not linear because the navigator can take any path through the information however it maintains the idea of parameters.  This idea is not sustained in the last structure called the “schizo” or “spaghetti” model which gives way to the concept that “all directions are equal but all are not equal.  Everything is irrelevant and significant at the same time.”  It’s easy to get lost in the randomness of this structure, it’s actually impossible not to.  I can relate this structure to a lot of the readings we had, especially “medium is the message” and the big question in McCloud’s Time Frames, is linear progression really necessary?

I don’t think Viola is emphasizing holistic over parts or vice versa, I think he is focusing on this idea that you can’t understand what you’re looking at unless you know what you’re NOT looking at.  In other words, when analyzing a piece of information, keep in mind what you are NOT analyzing because often times, what is missing could play a big part in understanding.

So many of the readings we have done emphasize viewer participation.  The uniqueness of each individuals’ thought process is essential to holistic and thorough learning, to the greater good of society.  Does that make each and everyone of us the “condominiums of data space”?  I think so. and I don’t think that is a bad thing at all.  Viewing information in a linear, parts-focused, condominium-like manner is not helpful but viewing information in our unique way, without a set of predetermined steps IS helpful.  I think that is what a lot of these writers are trying to get at with their essays and I think that is what Dr. C is attempting here with this class.

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Reflecting on McCloud

If anyone’s interest was particularly sparked my McLuhan’s comic book style essay, I would suggest exploring the Museum of Modern Art’s website.  They have over 1000 comics in their online collection.  I visited the MoMA over spring break and am now feeling disappointed that I did not take advantage of their extensive collection.  I never really had an appreciation for comics until this week.

Anyways, since class was pretty in-depth today, I kind of wanted to reflect.  I think it’s interesting how comics, a casual and playful media/medium (I can’t find a clear distinction anymore), can portray a serious topic.  Examples can include social problems but I especially like how McCloud opened my eyes to the idea of time and space, and how sequential pictures on a piece of paper can be four dimensional.  It’s hard to wrap your head around so many dimensions which is why I am particularly interested in the idea of inception.  Just like “the medium is the message” somehow I feel like time is all the same if you can return to it, or look ahead to it, because when you do that, then you are in the present, right?  Or are you? I think this relates to Dr. C’s statement that the brain cannot distinguish between perception and memory.

In trying to articulate exactly how I felt about these seemingly crazy ideas, I started looking around on Delicious and to my surprise I found an extremely insightful write up by Mark Bernard and James Bucky Carter.

This quote is taken right from the article and I think pretty much coins what we were talking about today.  “When the viewer interacts with the work, time, space, and real-time experience meld. Hence, quite literally, dimensions cross: there is a concrete positioning of the viewer in his or her own space and time added into the already interdimensionality of the work itself.”

Pretty cool if you ask me.  I am not anywhere near a complete reflection of today’s lecture but I am hoping for some clarification from you guys.  Let me know if anyone has anymore input!


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Comics as an Educational Tool?

I was not surprised by my fondness of this essay, if you could even call it that.  The speedy understanding McCloud provided through his alternative media (or medium?) was such a relief but also quite surprising because the ideas he presented were very complex.  I mean think about it, any time someone is trying to describe the relationship between motion, sound, space, and/or time, things normally get pretty sticky.  These ideas are so complicated because they are so intangible.  For example, I would have had to read and reread this quote “as our eyes are moving through space, they’re also moving through time” had it not been accompanied by appropriate images and accurately bolded/italicized words, which made me remember the reading techniques Dr. C had us go through in class and also made this comic pretty relevant, aside from the fact that it is one of McCloud’s.

As this comic strip explains, pictures are a much more effective and time-efficient alternative to writing, which involves the decoding of symbols.  The quickness with which I picked up on McCloud’s points was alarming, in a good way of course and made me wonder if and how this media style could be applied to education.  Reading comics seems like such a natural process and I am interested as to why it hasn’t been more thoroughly researched as a means for education!  That sounds absurd but then again, the idea that tweeting and blogging could be educational seemed pretty out there to me a few short months ago.

I especially enjoyed reading the comic which went off in all different directions, with a unique and varying twist on the story.  This form could be quite useful in conveying multiple approaches to a complex problem in the classroom.  I’m sure my interest with comics as an educational tool has been long-discussed, but it never dawned on me so as we talked about in class before, although I’m not the first to have this epiphany, I still value it as I had an eye-opening realization which I will continue to research!


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