Project

Geography and sentimentality for place I have never seen

University of Edinburgh Graduation

I am working on a research project at the University of Edinburgh, specifically the MSc in Elearning program, which is out to investigate what space and geography means to online learners. It was my experience that geography was indeed very important and that learning online is not a negation of space, but rather a reapplication of it towards a broader (?) canvas serving as a vehicle for communication. 

I spent two years on a program and was curious each and every day about the physical space itself. The University of Edinburgh. The city. The train station. The walk to the Moray House. All of it fascinated me. How I felt a part of the university. How I felt a part of my course and my community. It all just felt right. 

And now, working on this research project after having graduated, after listening to stories of people and their arrivals ‘at’ the University of Edinburgh (despite for many never having physically seen the city or the school), I feel wistful for the learning and camaraderie I experienced there. I miss it. I am nostalgic for a ‘place’ I constructed, we constructed, entirely online. In feverish blog posts, discussion boards, Twitter threads, Skype tutorials, and more. I am (intellectually and communally) homesick. 

The first and only time I saw the city and University of Edinburgh was for my graduation. It was a pilgrimage to a seat in my intellectual journey. It was closure. I miss it, like I miss the comfort of my home at a young age, or the flush of fall in Princeton. Inviting. 

I am sentimental for a place I have seen once, well after the substance of the sentiment had been established. So, tell me where that emotive substance comes from online? Tell me a place doesn’t exist, and tell me these are what learning spaces will look like online? If you are in them and participating, you will know you are ‘at’ a place. It is real. 

McEwan Hall, University of Edinburgh Graduation

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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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