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Posted by on Nov 25, 2010

Engaged purposefully: a pedagogy emerges

Just like Shields, I am not quite ready to let go of (Sian!) Bayne’s work on digital pedagogy. I could whirl in the abstract for post after endless post, but I do think approaching posthuman pedagogy from the aspect of institution and affect and association has merit as an entry point for learning.

If the learner association, posthuman or otherwise, has very little or no association with the institution of higher education, then the impetus for reinvigorating the mission and scope of the university falls back to the university itself, not necessarily the learner. If the learner can break through or ignore boundaries of space, role, and association, then the university itself will need to adjust to that “new” learner. However, there is a lot of potential that some universities are starting to explore, Edinburgh included. It is a chance to not merely expand scope of impact, but rather to permeate the very fabric of learning. To be a viral, fluid institution embedded in a fluid, viral learning landscape. But first, to the article!

What would a digital pedagogy look like which engaged purposefully with this fluid, haunted space? It would be one defined, perhaps, by remoteness and spectrality – one in which the material ‘distancing’ of teacher from student and student from student was not seen as a question of compromise (distance learning as ‘second best’) but as a positive embrace of a different kind of presence, one which opens up new ways of defining and re-thinking ‘contact’. As Ascott (2003) has written:

It’s not simply that many colleges are haunted by the ghosts of culture past, but that apparitions of the future are emerging on every screen, in every network. These apparitions are the constructions of distributed mind, the coming-into-being of new forms of human presence, half-real, half-virtual, new forms of social relationships, realized in telepresence, set in cyberspace. (18; quoted in Kocchar-Lindgren 2009, 8) (8)

Remoteness and spectrality-distancing as a means to extended presence and perhaps even as a focus of learning itself. This is most certainly part of it, this pursuit of remoteness. Or perhaps even a cyborg appropriation of what it means to be present itself. As a cyborg might say, “these are all my realms, all simultaneously. I do not see dualism in their division, their categorization. I accept their contradictions as a possible fuel for learning.”

Perhaps the university, itself haunted by the “ghosts of the culture past”, can embrace remoteness and spectrality as verdant environments, one which will both mediate institutional presence and be mediated by it. A branch campus. An overseas office. New “local” realities mediated by the university and the learning community, all nodes of remoteness and spectrality. If this were a corporation, it might be metaphorically seen as the embrace of the Hong Kong office running 14 hours ahead of New York City time, working as we sleep, sleeping as we work, different lunches, coffee breaks, office cultures. All driving towards common purpose. The same to be said with the university. A thousand flavors on a larger unified entity. Remoteness and spectrality are certainly parts of that.

I am also quite interested in the “new forms of social relationships” that can emerge out of these forms of human presence as in my own experience I found this to be quite true. I feel as though I know you all on some level, but that knowledge isn’t mediated by physical or material realities (maybe WebCT or this WordPress instance could be seen as a surrogate material reality), but rathe psychical ones. These are bonds of shared purpose and culture, shared expectations, and strong communal loyalty. It pushes me further and faster than I would have been able to travel independently as I fear and embrace my classmates expectations of me as both participant (provider of perception and stimulus) and learner (I get the sense we all care about each other’s development). I do believe this represents a familiar, yet relatively novel social relationship and hierarchy. Exploration of these relationships as agents of affect, emotional or intellectual, would be a good component of any posthuman pedagogy.

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