Archive for February, 2012


Technogenesis vs distributed cognition

February 28, 2012

Katherine Hayles’s talk at UConn was inspiring and a fascinating part of the ongoing debate on attention spans; how, precisely, media determine our situation (an established Kittlerian position); and whether our biological system can, will, is determined to keep up. While I saw my future self – on occasion – hovering above the audience as Eduardo Kac’s slightly discombobulated bioart bunny, “Alba”,

transgenically infused with all kinds of post-human “software”, I also kept wondering how technogenesis and distributed cognition (loosely defined as “cognitive phenomena generally are best understood as distributed processes” and the “theoretical focus is on how cognition is distributed across people and artifacts”) are connected. Is this Phaedrus meets Simonides? Or psychophysics meets environmental aesthetics? I was flummoxed, intrigued, and generally exhausted just thinking of how these two processes could be worked together. Hence, for now, the vs. Because we may have to engage a “new phenomenology” to approach our body under different terms… Because I don’t want to be Alba… Because I like being scatterbrained…


Online learning: an issue of design

February 24, 2012

My favorite bits of this manifesto, from online instructors at the University of Edinburgh, are the ones about design.

Every course design is philosophy and belief in action.

Note that that doesn’t say “Every online course design.” For me, it’s a very small step from there to recognizing that instructional design and game design can and should be isomorphic.


Thoughts after Hayles

February 23, 2012

Katherine Hayles‘ talk here at UConn, “The Technogenetic Spiral” was wonderful. I asked my usual Phaedrus question–that is, “How can you say that we’re undergoing some new change to the dynamics of our consciousness when Plato has Socrates identify the very same change in a dialogue written two millennia ago?” I thought she answered it as well as anyone coming from where she’s coming from ever has. She said, more or less, that she thinks it’s accelerating, but it’s been with us a long time.

What I adore about her approach is the way she handles intervention, and above all the way she sees the power of games to effect such intervention. Speculation is the ARG she and her colleagues are making, to intervene in the technogenetic spiral and, above all, to make us more conscious, at every congitive level, of what’s going on.


Teaching the Pedagogues

February 22, 2012

So if I want to get into games – let’s just assume that the idea of the stuffy academic whose work is wedded to an analog universe is over – what games would I get into? And I don’t mean Tetris or Pac-man… Where to start? How to get fired up? How to enter that other universe your students know inside and out? And – preferably – how to avoid buying a whole lot of equipment your students have accumulated over years (thanks to generous parents and all)? Perhaps it’s not an issue of computer illiteracy that many academics (in the humanities?) are not the ludic bunch. Perhaps it’s generational (some of those I ask DO play Tetris), perhaps it’s lack of time (what? MORE time on the computer???), perhaps it’s sheer ignorance of the cornucopia of games out there that are actually FUN! And relaxing! And intellectually challenging! And FUN! So, suggestions anyone? What do you play when you KNOW you have more IMPORTANT things to do?


The Chronicle’s tech-happy rebooter

February 15, 2012

This one is getting shared a lot. The Chronicle titles it “A tech happy professor reboots,” but my favorite part of this lamentable Chroniclism is that if you actually read the article, you can see that Wesch is actually saying that it’s the design that matters, whether you’re talking about f2f or online.

It was not an isolated incident. As other professors he met described their plans to follow his example, he suspected their classes would also flop. “They would just be inspired to use blogs and Twitter and technology, but the No. 1 thing that was missing from it was a sense of purpose.”


The ‘Pickle Guys’ route

February 15, 2012

Daniel de Vise writes at the Washington Post: 

…education will go the ‘Amazon route’ or the ‘eBay route.’ Under the Amazon model of education, the focus will be on service delivery. One or two large providers will emerge from the rubble and provide courses much as Amazon does. Courses will be in the millions, with different providers, some celebrities (the Stephen King of lecturers) and some not. Pricing will thus be equally complex. Professors and courses will be rated, and you will be able to see the top 100 courses that help you learn to program, for instance…

How about the ‘Pickle Guys route’? (Specialty merchandise priced accordingly.) The only way to scale “courses” this way is direct instruction. Higher-order learning requires faculty/student contact. Online courses that work involve MORE faculty/student contact than traditional face-to-face ones.


The McLuhan Galaxy by way of Tom Wolfe and thanks to Brain Pickings

February 10, 2012

Tom Wolfe, “What if he’s right?”, 1965:

“McLuhan has developed a theory that goes like this: The new technologies of the electronic age, notably television, radio, the telephone, and computers, make up a new environment. A new environment; they are not merely added to some basic human environment. The idea that these things, TV and the rest, are just tools that men can use for better or worse depending on their talents and moral strength-that idea is idiotic to McLuhan. The new technologies, such as television, have become a new environment. They radically alter the entire way people use their five senses, the way they react to things, and therefore, their entire lives and the entire society. It doesn’t matter what the content of a medium like TV is. It doesn’t matter if the networks show twenty hours a day of sadistic cowboys caving in people’s teeth or twenty hours of Pablo Casals droning away on his cello in a pure-culture white Spanish drawing room. It doesn’t matter about the content. The most profound effect of television – its real ‘message,’ in McLuhan’s terms – is the way it alters men’s sensory patterns. The medium is the message – that is the best-known McLuhanism. Television steps up the auditory sense and the sense of touch and depresses the visual sense. That seems like a paradox, but McLuhan is full of paradoxes. A whole generation in America has grown up in the TV environment, and already these millions of people, twenty-five and under, have the same kind of sensory reactions as African tribesmen. The same thing is happening all over the world. The world is growing into a huge tribe, a . . . global village, in a seamless web of electronics.”

Check it out: Brain Pickings