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Orientation Seoul: mobile augments and disaggregates space; doesn’t negate it

Being a bit of a nomad, I have always ascribed to the belief that location matters less and less with each passing technologicial development, with each communication technology, with each apartment I find myself in. However, while certainly disaggregating the locus of activity (removing the physical location of activity in a group setting via technology) does not remove orientation from an individual perspective. We will always find ourselves in a place, heading towards a place, coming from a place. This is the nature of motion itself. I love mobile learning precisely because it embeds technology into that motion and augments our sense of self within place (even if it is in motion). I can be here and there simultaneously (for the most part). 

But orientation is a different matter altogether. We orient ourselves towards some place or from somewhere. When I lived in Korea the first time, my orientation was towards home (for family and for the locus of my academic activity at the time, a MLIS degree from a US institution). When I moved to Princeton in the US, my orientation was towards New York (everything is) and Edinburgh (second Masters) and Korea (nostalgia). This was where my outward facing self was facing. Despite being location independent (in terms of where I was able to go), I was still bounded by place. 

So, here I am in Seoul a second time around and I orient myself towards New York and Michigan for work; for London, Edinburgh, and Africa for my #m and #elearning community; to Ohio for family; to New Jersey and Tokyo and Seattle and on and on for friends; to Paris for the imagination. Orientation is multifaceted and waxes and wanes with affinity, but it exists and it is location driven. The only metaphor I can think of is the Muslim facing towards Mecca for prayer; an orientation towards a cultural truth doubling as a direction.

And yet I often speak in the abstract about location, almost as if my love of mobile learning is a contradiction of place itself. Ridiculous; it is an amplification of place. And this, patient reader, is my place, my right now. The place where all my orientation begins. Hence all the pictures. My apartment building, my subway station, my market, my view at dusk, my bus. Point A on my line(s) of orientation. 

 

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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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