Carpenter and Boundary (and Knowledge) Negotiations
After reading Carpenter’s article on “Boundary Negotiations: Electronic Environments as Interface”, I felt myself revisiting a conversation I had throughout the semester spent in IDEL about hypertext, form, and structure and how that offers great power to the designer. Carpenter seems to be revisiting this notion in this article, but there were some particular sections that I wanted to discuss in a little more depth.
“Students read and construe meaning from cultural products in complex, nuanced ways, employing a wealth of strategies gained from years of immersion in media-rich environments. What is more, today’s “convergence culture” (Jenkins, 2006) encourages students to become active participants in their culture. They are circulating, transforming, and creating products as new technologies continue to diminish conventional distinctions between producer and consumer”.
“Objects, as well as ideas, are no longer ﬁxed, no longer tangible. . .. In this space, stories are written that change with each new reader; new material can be added, and old material deleted. Nothing is permanent” (p.76). Kleinman’s observations about texts written in electronic environments point to the general nature of these texts as dialogic, interactive, ﬂuid, non-linear, context-speciﬁc, intertextual, and dynamic—in other words, as social. But then, all literacies are social (Lemke, 1998).” (140)
All literacies are indeed social and that is the moral authority bestowed to collaborative learning. Literacy is a collaborative enterprise, a mediation between information and mutual understanding. What I do generally applaud Carpenter on (yet would like to stress to him that this is not novel, just augmented in digital spaces) is his focus on the ephemeral nature of digital content and understanding. In essence, he introduces time as a variable. By introducing time into the equation of validity (this understanding is valid here and now), he acknowledges that knowledge construction is not a fixed goal, but rather an endless negotiation, one that digital culture actually promotes.
Objects are not fixed, pages are deleted, links don’t always resolve. Narratives evolve with each successive viewpoint, and nothing is important. Philosophically, nothing is permanent, it never has been; digital culture just brings that to the fore by demonstrating that location is relative to time and place. Does this promote a certain agility in the learner? A more nuanced understanding of knowledge? Perhaps. Nothing is indeed permanent, except the endless negotiation.
I am reminded of a book that Sian recommended to me last year, The Economics of Attention, a rather brilliant look at how form transforms meaning. What interested me most was the analysis of the work of Christo, the artist famous for wrapping buildings in different materials. His art is installed temporarily, offering a glimpse of a representation of time and space. For one moment, we are afforded a completely different take on understanding and then that glimpse is removed and knowledge is reconstructed. Not only does Christo acknowledge that nothing is permanent, he embraces it, makes it a central variable in his work. I see great application to learning here, that our true purpose is to stimulate lifelong negotiation of knowledge, of inquiry.