I’ve just read an article by Nathan Heller at the New Yorker on MOOCs, and it’s worth a discussion. It follows the standard story line of balancing the discussion and then finishing with a hopeful attempt to merge all lines of the discussion, but what struck me most was the way this storyline plays out in the sage-on-the-stage discussion that has dominated my thinking about learning and teaching in the last few years.
Several of the faculty members who are interested in creating MOOCs (always creating, never taking) talked about how important it was that their knowledge be passed on. There is something to be said for having enough ego to get to Harvard or Yale or wherever, and I’m guessing that that amount of ego means that you think that what you have to say is really, really important.
‘Tis all a bit easy to mock, as well…
Prayer at my meeting…
Bodhisattva Prayer for Humanity
May I be a guard for those who need protection
A guide for those on the path
A boat, a raft, a bridge for those who wish to cross the flood
May I be a lamp in the darkness
A resting place for the weary
A healing medicine for all who are sick
A vase of plenty, a tree of miracles
And for the boundless multitudes of living beings
May I bring sustenance and awakening
Enduring like the earth and sky
Until all beings are freed from sorrow
And all are awakened.
— Shantideva, Indian Buddhist sage 700 A.D. Prayer performed each morning by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Chuck Klosterman always writes smart stuff (he writes for Grantland, which is a must-read for me despite my love-hate relationship with Bill Simmons), and this take on Bowie is pretty interesting…
To go back to that Dylan comparison, because Dylan’s maybe the only other solo-artist peer of Bowie’s who “matters” on this level: Dylan’s the more conventional-wisdom “important” artist, but he’s been absorbed into the fabric of pop as a collection of gestures and tics — people influenced by Bob Dylan tend to sound like Bob Dylan — whereas Bowie’s legacy is this much bigger and more far-reaching idea about the role of gesture in pop music, which has emboldened and enabled a ton of people who may not even consider themselves Bowie disciples.
Why, then, if I love sci-fi so much (supposedly), did I enjoy the GoT series so much, and fantasy in general? Sure, Gene Wolfe and Robert Silverberg stretch that genre in beautiful, compelling ways, but Martin’s only stretch isn’t necessarily forward but backward, invoking the brutality of life in the Middle Ages in ways that were not pleasant at all.
- The cyberpunk/goth brand of sci-fi was fascinated with cybernetic extensions to the body (I know, another border) in ways that made no sense in a fantasy context…until magic enters the story.
- There’s been a lot of connections between magic and technology in scholarly lit on games – after all, how many of you can tell me how these words have appeared on the screen, exactly? – but I struggle to make the connection between magic and cybernetic enhancement. Most cybernetics come from science, and from the intersections of mind and body in ways that don’t speak to the soul. Fantasy adds a moral component – and then extends to the weirdness that is that moral component by going to a more primal f0rm of enhancement, werewolves and vampires and all that shtuff…
- I hesitate to make these connections because I don’t want to buy the connections between science and magic, perhaps, although I’m trying to work out those connections in my own mind. As we proceed farther from what we understand about tech, we almost invariably invoke magic, and this theme fits sci-fi in some ways – the Cylons go from fighting us to working with us to understand their own origins, putting moles among us in ways that morph and tweak the whole humans vs. machines narrative that we’re so in love with.
- I know magic occurs in the natural world – give me a scientific explanation of the female orgasm and I’ll make sure that you get a Nobel Prize – but I resist that easy explanation in tech, because I want to believe that the human origins are still locatable. As we keep going, though…
After watching this video, I had a couple of questions…
- So, the colonies of humans were separated from both Earth and other colonies for a thousand of years. They have evolved, according to the origin story, in four distinct ways. Funny how those ways mimic standard ideologies/patterns…the rebels, the autocrats, the Spartanesque military cult, the cybermind. I guess we’re doomed by our biology to follow only specific patterns, specific behaviors, that will inevitably form into specific social organizations. Could say they’re natural, almost…
- I’m starting to think that perhaps Bruce Sterling was the most visionary of the science fiction writers, as his visions were definitely different than nearly every other sci-fi writer of the time, even Gibson. Gibson’s vision fell into what felt to be a natural genre, the detective novel with those specifically suburban reactions to navigating city spaces that had become the Other. Sterling’s shapers vs. mechanists universe, while staying with the theme of mayhem and competing visions/ideologies, got truly strange when it disappeared into the reshaping of humans as hive creatures, able to journey between stars by feeding on minerals and mutating quickly enough to meet the needs created by whatever new environment the hive encountered.
- In that sense, Sterling lived with the confines of the natural world – the laws of science as we understand them – but didn’t make himself bound by anything but those same laws, and he stretched the biological in his world to wild extremes.
- Of course, there are a million sci-fi writers who have done them all one better – Marusek, McCormick, McLeod, Russell, and a million others – and that’s the joy of sci-fi, and why I read it – its exploration of borders, boundaries, places where what we think is real isn’t. That joy has been tempered by my own life events, but as the situation in general has made me wiser and sadder at the same time, I think I’ve become more aware of the lure of that dark side and how some folks simply cannot resist it.
- There was a time, though, when the postpunk, Goth-stuff was overwhelming in its desirability, and the prowling of city streets at times way past when good citizens should have been abed was a saving grace, topped only by moonlight runs of the Lower New at a foot and a half, dropping into Lower Keeney’s as the moon pops from behind a cloud and shows the line like a path of the sacred.
I’m reading through this book, trying to remind myself why the hell I got so interested in e-portfolios in the first place, and the first two chapters felt a bit like an Eco novel to me (maybe Calvino, maybe Coetzee, but definitely surreal). I felt excited but adrift, trying to look behind me at the desert island that I’m stranded on, feeling cut off from other human relationships but for the moment thinking that that might not be such a bad thing…
Kathleen Yancey’s chapter in particular made me feel the potential of being able to rewrite spaces digitally. On a very practical level, this means that folks can simply re-position themselves as need be, targeting whatever specific opportunity they seek. At a different level, though, perhaps this is one means of helping folks become truly digitally literate, seeing the potential for understanding technology beyond the mundane, shallow, corporate-directed level.
That’s the concern, I think, as we blather on about twenty-first century skills without having any clue how contested that phrase actually is, how many people it leaves behind, how many narrative threads it enables us to tie together without thinking about the possibilities, or the consequences. How do we encourage young folks (in particular) to reclaim these spaces, remake them in ways that are authentic? And what do we do when they do all of this in ways of which we don’t approve?
See Chat, Snap.