Here is my final assignment for the E-learning and Digital Cultures mooc. Initial inspiration came from one of the twitter-chat questions: “Do you consider your digital identity a separate self or is it identical to your real-world self?” This inspired me to make my artefact in Second Life using Machinima techniques.
My artefact is about some of the questions I now have floating around in my head. The #edcmooc has given me much to think about – and many, many questions that will take time to sort through completely.
- If you have problems starting the video on my blog, please watch it on Vimeo here.
- There is a transcript of the video after the credits below.
The video is also about having a genuine identity, and creating honest human connections and experiences, online.
There is a real person behind that avatar.
- Lake District Photograph 1: http://www.flickr.com/photos/swaymedia/56861231/
- Lake District Photograph 2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/9306986@N07/3544291514/
- Tardis image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamaleaver/8104468430/
- Doctor Who image:http://www.flickr.com/photos/danielvoyager/4508104520/
- Second Life Environment: Machinima Open Studio Project
- Wild West Environment: Edtech Island
- …and Second Life
Thank you to @AndyDMMitchellfor making the twitter chat video
June: “#edcmooc! Wow! I now have so many questions floating around in my head. Don’t you?
First, Dystopia. Science Fiction writers like to explore the idea that our use of technology will lead us into a dystopian future. I ask myself whether I have any control in humanities future – I don’t – so who does have this control?
Here is a Utopian version of the future brought to you by Star Trek. However, for some people, the word Utopia can evoke a vision of walking and relaxing in beautiful gardens, and wonderful natural landscapes.
So, why am I on the computer and not outside enjoying this amazing countryside.
We talked about the idea of digital natives and digital immigrants. I’m too old to be a digital native. I liked Amy’s idea of digital vikings, fearless explorers of new worlds.
Another question was why the classroom of the future looks like the classroom of today… with the teacher at the front, and the children sitting in rows… It reminded me of when universities built lecture theatres in second life, when second life can do, and be, so much more.
Yet there is still a need for a gathering place. Yes, lecture theatres seem boring and conventional… Even when the designers add their own creative twist, a lecture theatre without people has very little appeal, but add the people and it comes alive with the sympathetic resonance of human beings.
#edcmooc was built around these human connections. For me… It was the asymmetrical conversations happening on the blogs… on twitter and Google+ that created the unique online learning experience.
Yet, through the Google Hangout, and the twitter chat, we were still able to experience the buzz that is created when a large group of people gather together in one place.
Being Human. Wow! Is it possible to be a person, and yet not be human? Could a robot become human? What about animals? Big, big questions, I needed to do some research.”
June: “Are you human?”
Cat: “miaoww”- “They must never know just how evolved we are.”
June: “Are you human?”
June: “What was I thinking, of course you’re only meat!”
June: “Excuse me? Are you human” – “not again!”
June: “Are you human?”
Robot: “I am 47% stainless steel, 32% silicon and have some rare earth alloys. I have been fitted with the sentient pathway upgrade and have the latest emotion chip with the go-faster stripes.” – “yippee”.
June: “Here’s a question for you.” – “Are you human?”
Woman in red dress: “Oh jolly good! I do like a good philosophical debate with my cup of tea.” – “Sugar?”
June: “As for the future of human-kind. I’m leaving the last word to someone who has much more faith in humans than we have in ourselves.”
Doctor Who? (just in case you don’t know who he is)
First, a picture for everyone on the #edcmooc course. The outside world – do you remember what it looks like?
What does it mean to be human? I was fascinated by the Steve Fuller talk - so much to think about.
Humanity may not be an easy thing to define but I feel that it is something that one human being is able to recognise in another human being. For example, we may recognise something of ourselves in animals (probably different things with different animals) and see that we have some things in common with robots (human copies, or not), but none of those are human, and we recognise their difference from ourselves. Some scientists might tell us we are just made out of meat, and that there is no scientific evidence of ‘a self’ , and they can’t find ‘the mind’, within the human body – but this doesn’t make the experience of having both a self and a mind any less real.
Accepting the concept of “being human”, even though it can’t be explained:
Thirty minutes or so later, Gentleman has finished the dissection. Brain tissue is spread out over the table in neat 10 millimetre slices, like some kind of macabre deli counter. “The convolutions of the brain are like fingerprints – no two are the same,” he says. “These were individuals. I still see it as a privilege to dissect them. But I have to have a practical disconnect, and I still have no idea how a pile of fat – a lot of lipid membranes – can represent a person”.
Rowan Hooper, Your brain in their hands, New Scientist, 09/02/2013
In the recent Channel 4 episode of Black Mirror, Be Right Back, we are given the message that being human is more than looking human, more than acting human, more than the sum of our memories, and when that human-ness is missing then something is obviously just not right.
I came across the work of Kristine Schomaker on Second Life last week. Kristine’s art work relates to identity and self image. On her website there is a video where she explores the idea of transforming into her Second Life avatar. This interested me because it is somehow back-to-front. Kristine also projects a relationship with her avatar (Gracie), where Gracie appears to have become both real and separate from Kristine.
This made me question how other people relate to their online avatars, or to their online persona, and to take a look at how I identify with my own presence online. I rarely use a photograph – I think Facebook is the only place where I’ve used a photograph to identify myself online. I usually use an avatar instead. To me, my avatar represents me, and doesn’t have any life of its own. Even my Second Life avatar is representing me, and represents my presence in that online world. I don’t spend a lot of time in Second Life and the image of my avatar changes often, yet somehow it is still me.
The avatar I use for websites and forums is more consistent. Originally I had a little pixelated picture of myself , but now I tend to use this lego version of me…
Wherever you see this avatar, you see a Human -> Me.
I’m sitting at my computer ready to move on to week three of the #edcmooc, but am I really ready? Before I move forward with #edcmooc, I should write something about my mooc experience so far.
I started a mooc once before and didn’t even survive the first week, so I had an idea about what to expect, and a plan about how to make this #edcmooc experience work for me. So far so good!
With the previous course (which was a basic level course, and not about elearning) it was clear that some people were just there as sightseers. Oh, they took part and everything, but were very open about their ‘otherness’. One seemingly very large group could be identified by their constant comments along the lines of “when I took my masters/PhD etc…”. It was clear that these people could have been teaching the course, rather than taking it. Another group could be identified by their constant (overwhelming) meta-discussion about the whole mooc concept, these people were clearly not there for the course content, but were there to learn how to run a mooc. I just didn’t want to be there.
I knew that there would be meta-discussion on the #edcmooc course, it isn’t off-topic here, and obviously there are people here who want to know more about elearning etc… and I think that, in the time that has passed between the two courses, some of the hype about ‘the mooc’ has settled down. I want to be part of #edcmooc. So far so good!
Yes!: My biggest aim for the course was to get involved, not just to sit and read, and I think I have achieved this. I have enjoyed the course content, and have been learning something.
Ho hum: However, I’m not finding conversations easy. The activity on twitter is great, but maybe too transient (by it’s very nature). I think Google+ is great, but somehow it falls short – maybe it just seems too quiet? In fact everywhere does – where are those 42,000 people?
Not so good: The Coursera forums are interesting to read, but don’t work for conversations, and are not a place where I want to participate.
Observations: I’ve found that I want to write about the ‘easy stuff’, and don’t want to spend the time involved in serious writing, partly because I want to keep my blog voice, and not shift into a more academic mode. (Maybe I should have started a new blog for this course?). I am reading the more advanced material – and learning a great deal – I’m just not blogging about it.
So what do I think about moocs? I think that both the moocs I have been on so far have been a skewed example of the mooc concept. I don’t think it will be possible to truly assess the mooc concept until the sightseers have left, and the novelty has worn off. I think moocs work – at least they work for someone like myself who is used to independent learning – and the potential is there for them to grow into a successful format for the delivery of a high quality of online education. I have questions about funding, and whether these courses will be provided for free in the future – I have questions about the business plan.
I am signed up for another mooc, after this one has finished, which I still intend to take (or maybe just follow along). After that, I don’t expect I will take another mooc, partly because I am looking into taking a masters degree, but mainly because this has been a lot of work (at this level) for something that doesn’t count towards a qualification.
My response to the video “Sight” - a future that I found to be more believable than the Corning and Microsoft videos. I’ve made two image maps (hover over them with your mouse to find the clickable areas).
If you only follow one link from the Gamify image, follow this one.
I’ve been reading, listening, and watching… my head is crammed full of information and ideas about the future, about education, metaphors, moocs etc. This week of the edcmooc has been fascinating, I just don’t have the time to write about it in any depth. However, one quote has stuck in my head (by Simon Ings and from a Guardian podcast about Utopia/Dystopia): “The future isn’t technological, the future is made by people…”.
This is my initial response to the first two videos of week two of #edcmooc – the links are in the graphic above. If you take away the futuristic element, we already live aspects of this life. We have our computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, webcams… the technology for instant, creative and enriched communication over distance is already ours – if we want to use it.
Much of this technology already exists eg: large digital wall displays (see fridge link); computer displays as a table; video conferencing; face to face mobile phone calls. Yet we can still live in a victorian terrace house, with junk-shop-found furniture and drive a tatty old car …and that’s OK.
For some reason I got distracted by the question of why the woman went on a business trip at all (why was it even necessary in that particular future scenario?), but mainly with the interactive wall in the kitchen - and the fridge.
Why? Why would anyone think these were necessary, and why would anyone choose to spend their money on these things? If you were given the house, along with all its technology, (unlikely), then that is one thing, but when you have to budget, prioritise, and decide where to spend your money… would you really spend a small fortune on an interactive wall for your kitchen, to be a calendar, when a £30 smart phone that fits in your pocket can do the job just as well?
That’s enough for now. I’ll come back to the education question later.
Dystopia vs Utopia
We were asked to consider whether the four videos (‘Bendito Machine III‘, ‘Thursday‘, ‘Inbox‘ and ‘New Media‘) are examples of Dystopia, or examples of Utopia. Also, to think about examples of dystopia and utopia in popular films.
I had a problem with the question because I don’t think of Utopia and Dystopia as being necessarily separate nor exclusive.
As far as the videos are concerned I saw ‘BM III’ and ‘New Media’ as Dystopian, ‘Inbox’ as Utopian (sort of), and ‘Thursday’ as neutral (and therefore neither).
There has been some discussion about why it is so difficult to find Utopian examples. I suggest that stories need to have an element of believability in order to be successful. On the whole, we don’t believe in Utopia – as something attainable – and therefore it will always appear false. Utopia exists in the same way The Garden of Eden exists, as something we can never get (back) to, something beyond the reach of humans. Where a Utopian future appears to exist in a movie, it is usually revealed to be a mask that hides the Dystopia beneath – we find this believable.
One or two people mentioned ‘The Jetsons’ as an example of Utopia. However, it is a very blinkered version of the future, and makes me ask what your life is like if you’re not White and American.
Star Trek: I gave this as my Utopia example. This future Earth is a place where sickness, poverty and war no longer exist. However, so little of the story actually happens on Earth that this is a purely idealistic viewpoint that is never fully explored. We are also told that between now and this mythical future, Earth was nearly destroyed by advances in technology (Eugenics Wars and a nuclear World War III), so we are still being presented with a Dystopian future first.
A Star Trek future is clean and shiny, which is more appealing that the grungy future portrayed by some other films – at least we already know that we can make our technology look pretty.
The last blog post took me too long to write, and only covered the one video, so I set myself the challenge of tweeting my response to the other three videos. What could I say in 140 characters?
Yes… I cheated with ‘Inbox’. Angela’s blog post is here.
The first task of #edcmooc is to watch four short films whilst considering the concepts of Utopia and Dystopia.
Bendito Machine III
The people worship one technology – until another comes along – and the first technology is dumped on the scrapheap.
The leader comes down from the mountain to see the people worshipping the golden calf of radio – the people are looking bored. The TV god is introduced to them and the old technology is abandoned and thrown away. The TV god is portrayed as compelling, distracting, always present – its influence saturates society. It is unkind to its followers, and is destructive, and causes harm. It becomes frightening and oppressive – gains independent power – so the leader goes back up the mountain looking for a solution.
He comes back down with the PC/internet god, this god blows away the TV god, freeing the people from its power. However, the internet god proves to be unpredictable and impossible to control. Finally, the mobile phone satellite god falls out of the sky onto most of the remaining people. We see one person walk away – has he seen his mistake now that there is no crowd to follow? It’s already too late, the rest of the people have disappeared. Throughout the video we have seen the people gradually eliminated by the machine gods until there is no one left – technology will be the death of us all.
This story is told from a dystopian viewpoint, which is quite frightening since it’s our own story. The ecological implications are clear, we are polluting our earth with the discarded rubbish caused by our obsessive craving for new technology. The social implications are more complex. Society has no control over the technology – and no choice. As far as the people are concerned the new technology just appears. Society is changed by the technology, however the response of the masses to new technology is for the most part out of their control. Although people like to think that they have the choice, and the early adopters probably do, eventually the technology becomes more affordable, and reaches a point of saturation, until it becomes perceived as being essential, eg: For the children’s education (Internet); to keep informed (radio and TV); to keep safe (the mobile phone).
So who holds the control? In most cases, neither the designer of the technology, nor the people who come to use it (and rely upon it), control it. The real control lies with the person, government, or corporation that discovers how to exploit the technology – whether they are working with the best intentions, and for the benefit of society, or not. This is represented in Bendito Machine III by the leader who goes up the mountain looking for the next new technology god to present to the people. We see him unable to hold on to his control, and see him destroyed along with everyone else.
The internet is “unpredictable and difficult to control” because of its unfathomable global reach, and because the connections created between the people who use the internet are essentially independent of any controlling force. These people have created their own educational environment, without the help of an educational institution, and are using the internet to educate themselves. Maybe they need to learn how to fix their washing machine, or want to learn how to use a new camera, take good photographs, make a website, run a business, program a computer, learn how to knit…
Students are going looking for education, at the point when they want it, and/or need it. You can learn anything you want to know on the internet. A whole informal network has been built, consisting of people with knowledge helping and educating other people who want to have that knowledge too. Lifelong learning for anyone who wants it, when they want it, and they don’t even have to walk out of their own front door.
Where does a more formal learning concept fit into that already well established online learning environment? How do more formal learning institutions compete with the quick learning ‘turnover’ of the internet? “I want knowledge, and I want it now!”
There does remain a need for formal qualifications, and it is clear to see how the internet, with all its resources and social networking, can be an essential asset to a traditional (building based) university education. It’s also clear that these established course structures can be delivered at distance, and online. However, it is less clear how successful the universities are (and will be) at providing courses that are 100% built from the online up.
You could argue that MOOCs are an attempt to add structure (and control) to the pre-existing online learning culture, and you have to ask whether this Mooc (#edcmooc) actually needs the involvement of the University of Edinburgh, or Coursera, in order to be successful?