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Time and Space and the Buzz of Audio and Movement

This week I have intrigued by audio, that often missing representative piece of online interaction. A lot of this focus was triggered by James’ Music Playlist on last.fm, Audioboo (sound is social), as well as the Tumblr phone option for audio posts. I have been thinking a lot about the authority of audio in this context, how audio holds great power for those who wield it. How it can enlighten and distract, sharpen a gaze or cast it aside. It is a very powerful facet of representation.

All that being said, I am also intrigued by this notion of our research being on objects not only in situ, but in motion as well. Our knowledge and interactions are constantly shifting, forming and reforming, like the big organic blob that it is. So, when we describe knowledge as constructed, a truth as formed, we are discussing it in context, of that particular combination at that particular time. However, we need to careful about discussing it as a moving target, a train whizzing past the station. It is a moving target, but we are as well. The research, the content being described, the buzz of communication around the object all are moving in tangent orbits. There seems to me no understanding of learning that takes place online that doesn’t include this notion of movement, of the lack of fixed states. Perpetual mediation between time and space.

So, I remembered the films Koyaanisqatsi and the companion piece, Baraka, two visually stunning films without dialog, just music, sound, images from around the world.  I thought of this particular scene below (it starts around 2:24) of a Buddhist monk deliberately walking slowly down a crowded Tokyo street, fully at odds with the surrounding environment. Deliberately out of time and step, providing a stark contrast at the hustle and bustle of modern life (and Tokyo is as modern as it gets).

So, this Buddhist monk is mediating knowledge sheerly through contrast in terms of visuals (garments) and pace (deliberate). Offering an alternative explanation to the pace of modern life and what it means to be human. This is what digital culture is to me; a constant mediation, an opportunity to be exposed to a myriad of alternatives. A deliberate pursuit of understanding. Deliberate. The audio is as deliberate, ranging from the wheezing of the city (cars, horns) to the pulse of the Buddhist beat. I am reminded of Thoreau here, no stranger in his responses to modernity, :

“I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life, and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived.”

I suspect Thoreau, although recoiling from the technology that rides us, not the other way around, would have appreciated the deliberateness of our digital connections, that sharp wind of constant engagement, constant mediation, constant learning. Sucking the digital marrow out of life leading to routing all that was not life, digital or otherwise.

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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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