visually learning, collectively yearning

#edcmooc

what a blast the past week has been with all these lovely pictures to look at and ponder on!

and the google hangout by the course teaching team this week was just wonderful, from my point of view. As I’ve been saying in various comments online (such as), I’m finding the ‘openness’ of this online learning we’re doing within and beyond this mooc quite extraordinary and fabulous… I am acutely aware of the storyline that says moocs are a disaster for higher ed, and fully expected this one to be pretty crap, as I said to Angela when we first met before this course began – we happened to attend the same small group meeting at the uni where I work about moocs and eLearning and in introducing ourselves around the table as you do we found we were both enrolled in the same upcoming mooc.. Angela had a bit of experience already, and was clearly quite enamoured of the potential riches they offer (girl in candy store was the feeling she described having), while I was the sceptic, enrolling just to see if it was or wasn’t possible for students not yet particularly proficient in English (the sorts of students my work at uni focuses on helping), and fully expecting this kind of environment would evidence a hundred reasons why it’s not a great place for them to be… and after this past month I have come away with quite the opposite than expected experience.

Obviously I’m not in the linguistically vulnerable position here (I’ll experience that when I try to do a mooc in one of my ‘other’ languages), and I don’t pretend to speak on behalf of others, but what I am finding amazing is the amount I’ve learned and been freely able to consider in this environment about my own teaching practice and what else I could be doing with available technologies and task ideas and subject design…. I mean I’m pretty happy with what I do generally (or I was til I came here), but I have learned far more than I anticipated I would, and I am coming away with a very different conception of what ‘open’ education means…. which I’ll probably elaborate on in the final artyfact thingy I guess…

but meanwhile, I’m just enjoying thinking about what a great opportunity this is, not just to learn a few new technological tricks of the digital trade, but to learn by doing what effect networking on this scale and at this speed can do for a renewed sense of joy and value and potential in an eLearning environment. and best of all is the ability to see so much of what goes on not just in this course context, but also in others, so that we can compare, and we can also immediately see and hear what others with every possible level of experience and perspective think about it all… I mean, here we are, hearing the team who have designed and are managing the delivery of this course, talk openly and honestly about what they are thinking as it happens! How often have you experienced that as a student? How often do you, if you’re a teacher (which most of us here are) how often have you been that transparent with your students?

This is a kind of openness and connectedness to ‘the literature’ (which now includes various modes of representation and delivery) that I have NEVER experienced before – not this fast. I mean it normally takes literally years to get this level of juxtaposed information and opinion based on extensive observation and experience happening in this way… that’s the big impression I’m getting at present anyway, and I’m really impressed! I think because of the ease of sharing digitised material in these social networking spaces, we’re currently able to make comparisons and develop collective understanding of what does and does not work well in eLearning not only faster, but with far greater fun and joy than is the usual dragging of self through the academic treadmill of ethics approvals to ask your own students a few bloody questions and publishing and peer review and yawn yawn – here it’s all happening live and now and it’s fun. what? no this isn’t higher education as we know it, it’s a damn site better! And what is more, and better still, the community of learners is more diverse and is growing and diversifying all the time. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see the facebook and G+ pages being posted up with messages in languages other than English – this is how it should be. It’s real. and it’s human.

None of which is to say I am oblivious to the problems and limitations, and I’ve been tracking the growing great debate for some time, and reading with interest various other and no doubt better trackers of this debate (such as Ronald’s blog and scoopit pages)… but somehow the more diversity that appears in this debate about moocdom, the more interesting it becomes, and that’s of course the other great take home message – opening up discussion like this is what higher ed is all about, not limiting and pretending there is only one ‘correct’ way of looking at anything

Anyway, that’s enough for today, got to look at some more visuals and read more blogs by others, and get to the beach!

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playing with pictures, managing metaphor, thinking visually

#edcmooc

This week we are encouraged to imagine things visually and come up with an image to share at the fair… I couldn’t quite contain myself to a single image, so I have a 3-part story happening here…. hope you enjoy this little bit of fluff in the air, and do favourite the image in flickr, if you care 🙂

vis art comp wk 3 EP

I enjoy thinking visually, and messing about in words…. I guess what prompted this little photo story is my musings this past week on ‘open’ education, and on the nature of representation, and human ‘identity’….

I’m just playing with the metaphor of the ‘digital cloud’, and the potential dystopia of the web’s presence and intervention in everything we do as we cloud gaze… and then with the idea that our humanity, our identity, is just the representations we make, mainly in language, that are reflected in the cloud where we make so much of our meaning these days… does the increasing visibility of language (because it’s online and written and everywhere to be noticed) actually help us see where ‘we’ are, as we stand on earth and spend our conscious lives in discourse? how grounded is our sense of self?

… these are all thoughts I was having in the past week or so, especially as I read the triffic text by Badmington… what I’m reading into it, and what we’ve been watching in the film festivals, is that the ‘post-humanist’ way of looking at things is an all-but-lost-cause… however hard we might try to understand ourselves in terms beyond the established but questionable and perhaps intellectually bankrupt and dead metaphor of human ‘essence’…. corporate sponsored popular culture just keeps bringing it back and dominating the discourse…. epitomised by the sorts of ads we’ve been watching in the mooc… the battle for the popular imagination of the self, the ‘real’ human, is always being re-won by the image of the fixed, unchanging essence…  and nobody pays much attention to the role of representation…. of storytelling… we just get seduced over and over again

I should note here the image sources…  the first is a photo I took last year, just outside my home, on a lovely summer’s day. The other two I found, as you do, in a cloud…. one via flickr (CC license of course) and the other via um i forget now, one of the other photo search places you see when you go to CC…. anyway, the second photos is called, brilliantly, “broken sky” and it’s by Lee Haywood, and the third is called “glass” and it’s by Jjb@nalog.

and, for those who take art criticism too seriously, here’s a spookily accurate assessment of my creative work, generated in next to no time with the wonderful bs text generating software 500 letters

E P (°1962, Sydney, Australia) is an artist who works in a variety of media. By applying a poetic and often metaphorical language, P seduces the viewer into a world of ongoing equilibrium and the interval that articulates the stream of daily events. Moments are depicted that only exist to punctuate the human drama in order to clarify our existence and to find poetic meaning in everyday life.

Her artworks sometimes radiate a cold and latent violence. At times, disconcerting beauty emerges. The inherent visual seductiveness, along with the conciseness of the exhibitions, further complicates the reception of their manifold layers of meaning. By manipulating the viewer to create confusion, she tries to create works in which the actual event still has to take place or just has ended: moments evocative of atmosphere and suspense that are not part of a narrative thread. The drama unfolds elsewhere while the build-up of tension is frozen to become the memory of an event that will never take place.

Her works are given improper functions: significations are inversed and form and content merge. Shapes are dissociated from their original meaning, by which the system in which they normally function is exposed. Initially unambiguous meanings are shattered and disseminate endlessly. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, she presents everyday objects as well as references to texts, painting and architecture. Pompous writings and Utopian constructivist designs are juxtaposed with trivial objects. Categories are subtly reversed.

Her works appear as dreamlike images in which fiction and reality meet, well-known tropes merge, meanings shift, past and present fuse. Time and memory always play a key role. By putting the viewer on the wrong track, she tries to approach a wide scale of subjects in a multi-layered way, likes to involve the viewer in a way that is sometimes physical and believes in the idea of function following form in a work.

Her works are on the one hand touchingly beautiful, on the other hand painfully attractive. Again and again, the artist leaves us orphaned with a mix of conflicting feelings and thoughts. With a conceptual approach, she tries to grasp language. Transformed into art, language becomes an ornament. At that moment, lots of ambiguities and indistinctnesses, which are inherent to the phenomenon, come to the surface.

Her works directly respond to the surrounding environment and uses everyday experiences from the artist as a starting point. Often these are framed instances that would go unnoticed in their original context. By examining the ambiguity and origination via retakes and variations, she makes work that generates diverse meanings. Associations and meanings collide. Space becomes time and language becomes image.

Her works focus on the inability of communication which is used to visualise reality, the attempt of dialogue, the dissonance between form and content and the dysfunctions of language. In short, the lack of clear references are key elements in the work. By emphasising aesthetics, she creates intense personal moments masterfully created by means of rules and omissions, acceptance and refusal, luring the viewer round and round in circles.

She creates situations in which everyday objects are altered or detached from their natural function. By applying specific combinations and certain manipulations, different functions and/or contexts are created. By investigating language on a meta-level, she creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.

Her works doesn’t reference recognisable form. The results are deconstructed to the extent that meaning is shifted and possible interpretation becomes multifaceted. With the use of appropriated materials which are borrowed from a day-to-day context, she often creates several practically identical works, upon which thoughts that have apparently just been developed are manifested: notes are made and then crossed out again, ‘mistakes’ are repeated.

Her works never shows the complete structure. This results in the fact that the artist can easily imagine an own interpretation without being hindered by the historical reality. By applying abstraction, she wants to amplify the astonishment of the spectator by creating compositions or settings that generate tranquil poetic images that leave traces and balances on the edge of recognition and alienation.

Her works question the conditions of appearance of an image in the context of contemporary visual culture in which images, representations and ideas normally function. By studying sign processes, signification and communication, she tries to increase the dynamic between audience and author by objectifying emotions and investigating the duality that develops through different interpretations.

Her work urges us to renegotiate art as being part of a reactive or – at times – autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. E P currently lives and works in Wollongong.

quite – couldn’t have said it better myself!

what’s a ‘meta’ for, miss?

#edcmooc
a line from an Australian kids poet I used to listen to with my daughter in the car… just re-lived an old roadtrip to my aunt’s in the country as I typed that!

anyway, the ‘ancient text’ reading this week by Rebecca Johnston prompts us to ponder on metaphor.. I like pondering metaphor… ‘on the other hand’, I exhaust myself in everything I read, going off on too long tangents of related thoughts with equal measures of interest, amusement and irritation… (seeing too many sides at once is something my daughter absolutely hates about me – I never simply love or hate… every simple question she asks me gets answered with ‘well it depends’ and the beginnings of an extended discourse about the contingencies of history, perception, subjectivity and dynamic language – until she cuts me off with a roll of the eyes!)

anyway, what was that thought that prompted me to start writing a post, that point that I’ve now all but forgotten as I digress…? ah yes, metaphor. I’m interested in metaphor and read this text with care. I remember Lakoff and Johnson from my student days… actually come to think of it, I remember sitting in on a class of Lakoff’s in Berkley once, many years ago, on a very long way of getting home back from China via Germany, and visiting a friend who was studying there… anyway, I’ve always been interested in everything to do with language, so this approach was part of the picture….stop digressing for god’s sake and say what’s on your mind!

Well, given that my whole blog is a metaphor of travels through space, yes I clearly love thinking about the metaphors we think by… but I do get a tad bemused by the suggestion lurking here that it’s somehow optional – that we might do language without it… hmmm. Isn’t the whole language system one big fat metaphor? Perhaps the trick is to enjoy the dance for what it is, on its own terms.

Lakoff and Johnson describe the effect of metaphors as giving us “ways of viewing events, activities, emotions, ideas etc as entities and substances”…. and make the point that “viewing ideas as objects allows us to quantify them, point to a particular aspect, see in terms of a single cause…”, etc and to “deal rationally with our experiences”…. yes…. and isn’t this the same definition we might make of reification, reductionism, and nominalisation? Is this not just how language works? What it does? (note irony of imagining language as an ‘it’ – a single, comprehensible, locatable, containable entity).Can anyone point me to a discourse that isn’t metaphoric? And what’s the difference between a metaphor, a concept, an idea and a keyword or ‘idiom’? I don’t think everyone just ‘agrees’ on what a metaphor is or isn’t…

but ok, the so-called world wide web is not ‘actually’ a spider web (even if we imagine a giant evil googley-eyed aracnid lurking in its middle, trapping all our data, ready to devour us alive), and sure, it’s a fair and interesting point being made here, that there seems to be a pattern in the culture, of representing the Internet as a space, a place, where everything happens very ‘fast’, and where what’s going on is either dystopian destruction or utopian liberation….

I enjoyed reading Johnston’s story – even if it’s just a bit of fluffy comment with no new knowledge or lasting significance, it relates to ground control’s choice of the utopia/dystopia theme, and it’s clear that metaphors of ‘space’ and speed are widespread in our imaginings of the Internet – and apart from influencing my choice of blog theme for this course on digital cultures, I no doubt imagine too sometimes that I’m in a ‘fast’ environment here (when in fact I, like everyone else, am evidently wasting a hell of a lot of time in this ‘space’! because I have so much choice, and opportunity to browse, consider, compare…. and be reduced to indecision and incapacity to say anything!)

Anyway, Johnston’s paper has stimulated my thinking and got me asking lots of questions, such as:

  • How influential are metaphors, and how ‘deterministic’ is this reading of them?
  • What does it really matter whether we refer to the WWW as a web, or an info superhighway, or an invading alien monster from outer space – or managerial rhetoric?
  • How much choice do we have, or need, in naming (and ‘norming’) phenomena?
  • What do I think of the claim repeated here that it’s difficult or impossible to understand something as dynamic and abstract as the WWW without the aid of a metaphor?
  • Do I think it’s the metaphors we live by that free up or get in the way of our using the Internet well in educational and political arenas…. or mainly other factors?

And I’ve enjoyed thinking about these questions…. and being reminded of what was for me one of the most influential papers I read as an undergraduate – Michael Reddy (1979) on the ‘conduit’ metaphor (published again in 1993 in the 2nd ed of Metaphor and Thought, CUP).

On the less than impressed side, I don’t find that the categorisation of metaphors here is helpful… I mean, if I refer to discourse as ‘dance’, who cares if that’s a structural, orientational or ontological metaphor? Maybe I’m using  physical experience to refer to linguistic experience… or maybe I’m using the idea of dance as a way of viewing writing events as ‘things’? Do these categories ‘hold any water’?

More importantly though, I just wouldn’t call this paper ‘analysis’ at all, because the ‘method’ is pretty dodgy. It’s really interesting commentary… but ‘analysis’? Getting down to brass tacks’…. how does this constitute analysis, if:

– the identification of a metaphor is a matter of ‘making free associations’
– the ‘general’ analysis of a metaphor is a matter of IT ‘suggesting’ it role, dimensions and ‘related concepts and idioms’
– ‘uncovering the conceptual metaphors for each expression’ is a matter of deduction and ‘informed intuition’
– conducting a ‘text immanent analysis’ is a matter of documenting recurrent patterns across discourse in different contexts and categorising metaphors by ‘drawing on surrounding text, narrative, context’ to find ‘evidence of deep-rooted cultural beliefs and values’….

I mean, how can ‘associations and interpretations’ be ‘suggested by the text’, rather than by an interpreter? (according to a theoretical framework they may just be unaware of)…

but what does it matter? I only care about this because the topic of metaphor, keywords, and clashes of discourse in the academy around teaching practice are the stuff of my own thesis.. so if I’m going to latch onto anything in this course, it’s likely to be this one!

On the whole, I thought it was worth spending a bit of my time reading and pondering upon.