Up until only recently, I had never thought of Skype as being social media. Now that I think about it, that seems absurd. It is perhaps the most social of social media in that it allows for fluid and easy exchanges between individuals, perhaps with a less widely construed net than Twitter (shouting into the ether), Facebook (more like a frat party at times), or even Google+ (which reminds me of a conference, erudite, but a lot of chatter going on). Skype, it comicly dawned on me, is a social beast par example. One that maps the face to face human processes to a digital sphere and then makes it way back again to the physical. More like Google Maps or Earth that way as it has a geography, a landscape of situatedness. Skype activity, in my mind, takes place in space. But it does pose a few interesting wrinkles in how it does that.

Case in point (and these types of posts will be common until I actually get to see my wife again). My wife has moved to Seoul ahead of me to secure an apartment. I will ship everything and follow close behind in about three weeks, but not before visiting a good friend in Seattle. My wife and I confer as often as possible on Skype via her laptop and the iPad. I get to see our old neighborhoods, our new haunt, and her general acclimation to Korea after the last five years in Princeton. It prepares me for what is coming, visualizes a bit of the difficulties I might encounter, comforts me. I lived in Seoul for a long time before, but it changes quickly so I was excited to have the opportunity for a sneek peek into Korea ahead of time (through the trusted gaze of my wife). I acclimate a bit before even getting there.

I also have a chance to miss her a bit less. She left a week ago and our daily video chats on Skype are reassuring, occasionally pragmatic (wire me money), but mostly a chance to think of all the wonderful things I am heading towards. Wherever I find my wife, that is where home is. Skype just gives me preview of the home to come. Gives our reunion a mixed homecoming/departure narrative. Forever coming and going and mobile and all of that. If all of this isn’t a mobile learning scenario, I don’t what is.

I know Google Voice integrates all of this into Gmail and I was tempted to use it. But Skype has my loyalty (from the last time around in Korea), my wife, my family, and a nice soft blue/green interface (seriously, don’t underestimate aethetics or overemphasize making everything look the same-integration isn’t always the best route when one is conversing in real-time. Big, different looking buttons help people. And make them red, green, blue). It will have me a customer as it is my social, preferred window onto my new home. Often through the gaze of other loved ones.

By Michael Gallagher

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.

4 thoughts on “My wife, Skype, love, and acclimating ahead of time (and just a bit of #mlearning)”
  1. I totally agree with you here: thank goodness for Skype! I’ve been in a long-distance relationship for over a year now – one that would be impossible without Skype. Your post reminded me that, even though I get irritable and grumpy when they change the layout and I have to work out again where everything is, Skype is the one ‘social network’ (I suppose it is – never thought of it that way!) I simply could not do without. Thanks for a great post and a different perspective!

  2. Hello there, Megan,

    Glad to hear you feel the same about Skype. Long-distance relationships are difficult, for sure, but I do hope it works out. I checked out your blog and what a small world. I am from Ohio (Youngstown) and just graduated from University of Edinburgh. You are mixing the best of both worlds! Hope you enjoy the travels. Take care!

    1. That’s so crazy!!! What an incredibly small world indeed. I just told him (no, not over Skype 😛 ) and he thought it was cool too. He’s from Zanesville, btw, in case you know it.

      Haha! Things like this really do brighten my day. This is why I like to comment on people’s blogs. : )

      Have a great time in Korea and well done to you and your wife for being apart for so long: any distance and any amount of time really does take its toll.

      1. I certainly do know Zanesville. Nice place. My hometown, Youngstown, isn’t so nice, which might be why I am currently living on the East Coast (Princeton, New Jersey). I love blogs for this sort of thing as well. I generally just love writing, but it is nice to connect a bit over something like Skype, Edinburgh, or even Ohio. Although this is the first time I have ever connected on all of those at one time. Enjoy your time, Megan! All my best!

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