Category Archives: Robots

Lifestream Blog Final Summary


In EDC, we practiced a ‘pedagogy of networked learning’ in which knowledge was “located in the connections and interactions between learners, teachers and resources” (J. Knox). This was my first blogging experience. I approached the blogging requirement with much hesitation and trepidation, as my personal preferred learning style is much more introspective. Now that I am more ‘educated’ about digital cultures, I expect to be more circumspect henceforth about my digital presence and interactions.

Block One was an exploration of the ‘uncanny’ themes and ‘blurring boundaries’ of the human-technology binary. We pondered the quintessential question: “What does it mean to be human” in the digital age? This ‘unorthodox’ initiation – juxtaposing robots, cyborgs, androids and theoretical discourse on post- and trans-humanism immediately imbued me with sense of ‘belonging’ to an eclectic online academic community. The ‘comfort level’ was enhanced by the course design that had a seminar-like ambiance with less than a dozen students. The interaction with new EDC peers and instructors struck an appropriate balance between friendly, supportive online exchanges and serious academic inquiry.

The creation of our Block One digital artefact was a major accomplishment for me, as it was my first publicly posted YouTube video. I was initially overwhelmed by learning new digital tools, ‘wasted time’ and made many production mistakes. However, a confluence of serendipitous events coalesced to enable me to pull together the digital artefact. Learning should be a trial and error, constructive and creative process. Also, I learned that technology is symbiotic with being human, and that technology can indeed enhance or even transform learning. We just need a more nuanced understanding. (S. Bayne; TEL)

The MOOC micro-ethnography project during Block Two was another confidence-building assignment. Kozinets affirmed that technology and culture are co-determinant and co-constructive. A “thorough understanding of these contexts requires ethnography.” Assuming the role of a digital ethnographer afforded insights into the MOOC learning environment that I would not have achieved otherwise, purely as a MOOC student. I experienced the ‘tension’ of being both an insider and outsider simultaneously; the empathy and the distance.

Block Three was punctuated by our intensive Tweetorial which I approached in an atypically extroverted mode. My ‘performance’ revealed a latent obsessive-compulsive learning tendency that demands deeper self-reflection. My online reputation (‘klout’), based 100% on Twitter activity, doubled during this course from an initial measure of about 18% in January to 36% at the end of the course. From an ‘analytics’ perspective, this metric indicated some level of transitory increased engagement activity on my part as a digital learner.

With each Week’s blog posts, I tried to include at least one substantive blog summary of the academic readings to demonstrate my understanding of key concepts. Later in the course, I also tried to synthesize and share some of key concepts from readings within the constraints of the 140-character Tweet limit. Martin Hand enjoined us to consider the “parameters of access, interactivity and authenticity of an emerging digital culture.” Ben Williamson warned us that “algorithms are out of control,” while Jeremy Knox appealed to us to interrogate how learning analytics can “make the invisible visible.” In light of the paradigmatic shift from teacher-directed classrooms towards learner empowered, technology-enhanced education, perhaps the role of educators is to teach the critical thinking skills required to regain control of our humanity, as technology becomes more powerful and pervasive.

Making mistakes is a critical aspect of learning. I only hope that my EDC online interactions caused ‘no harm.’

“The presence of others who see what we see and hear what we hear assures us of the reality of the world and ourselves.”(Hannah Arendt)

Thank you for the ‘assurances,’ distant yet close EDC friends. See you again, soon, online.

EDC Final Summary Cloud
(Word cloud of my Weekly EDC Summaries)

WEEK THREE: I, ‘Virtual Body’?

Week Three was an interesting segue out the ‘uncanny valley’ starting off with some posts on programming, then I was engaged in the robotics realm producing my visual artefact project below, while also exploring ‘virtuality. My mind was mostly absorbed with ROBOTS this week. I thought that I had made a clean break from previous weeks’ obsessions with cyborgs, androids and humanoids, but coincidentally the Danny Bazo post and video which I originally assumed was a ‘virtuality’ resurrected some residual references to the ‘uncanny valley.’

Hayles (1999) defines “virtuality” (pp. 13-14) as “the cultural perception that material objects are interpenetrated information pattern.” This mode of thinking raises questions, such as: Have I been programmed? (by parents, teachers, peers, media); Can I re-programme myself? Do I have ‘free will’ or is that concept just a delusion? Another Hayles’ insight that continues to resonate with me for further elucidation is: “human life is embedded in a material world of great complexity”(p. 5). I know that I personally feel encumbered by some of my material possessions. Perhaps I need to jettison all but my basic survival material reality, and accept that defining my (post-human)’essential self’ is more about ‘information patterns’ than materiality. N.K. Hayles. (1999). “Toward embodied virtuality.” from Hayles, N.K. How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics, pp.1-25, 293-197. Chicago: Ill: University of Chicago Press.

In terms of Lifestream blogging, I realize the need for more ‘self-regulation’ when constructing and maintaining a Lifestream blog site. I have began to take more care with tags and categories on this Lifestream blog and I realize the need to do more ‘housekeeping’ in terms of site administration. I am still considering what topics to ‘page’ vs. ‘blog.’ I really want to spend more time reviewing peer’s blog sites, but I continue to find myself meandering down various paths, some of which are productive, but it all consumes time. One must parse out time for writing, researching, producing, reviewing others’ work, site administration, etc.

Having gotten robots ‘out of my system'(how “post-human”) this past week, I hope to transition to more ‘trans-humanist’ explorations in the coming weeks.

Robots, Embodiment and Mediated Virtuality

This is a long (50:16) video, that may be too esoteric for some visitors, but I recommend digesting it by segments for some interesting insights(esp. for museum curators/educators). Danny Bazo provides a low key articulation of some of our recurring themes of embodiment, virtuality, robots, human/technology binary, anthropomorphism, etc.. from perspective of a robotic scientist with a genuine appreciation of the arts’ contribution to science. It is a testament to role of engineers in exploring and pushing the boundaries of understanding the human – technology interface. Consider his commentaries on: embedded/embodiment systems (starting from 3:30 mark); designing facial expressions of humanoid robots (8:50); ‘PolarM’ project (10:00), an assemblage of devices that makes the imperceptible perceptible such as ‘background noise’, the invisible visible with a ‘bubble chamber’, and (16:00) how we attribute intelligence to robots through human-like gestures such as ‘head-cocking’ (“oh, the robot is thinking”); swarm cameras that produce art (17:30); collective interrogation of the environment (18:00) by a handful of different actual and virtual robots with different computer algorithms produces a generative visualization (an ‘artwork;”painting of memories’) within a room that demonstrates ‘level jumping’ of virtuality (22:00) to open door between art and science. The most intriguing segment is “The New Dunites” project (23:00) which was a ‘media archeology’ to explore the buried site of Cecil B. DeMille’s silent spectacle “The Ten Commandments” movie set (1922-23) using ground-penetrating radar to create 3D visualizations. The later segments focus on the engineering challenges of navigating 3D worlds. Robots may be conceived as ‘mediators’ between humans and the digital/virtual world(s). Presentation ends at about 38:40 mark. During Q & A session, the notion of “uncanny valley” is questioned (40:25-42:50). Bazo thinks more research is required, as he views “uncanny valley” as a theory; maybe it is not really a “valley”, perhaps multidimensional. Tough question and response (46:30) about human-robot interface – biology and technology are “isomorphic”; consider the robot as a ‘teacher’ to enhance understanding ourselves.

Technology Will Blow Your Mind

There are several “Technology Will Blow Your Mind” documentaries available on YouTube. Most are long, one hour plus. I think it is informative just to sample them to extract some of the major themes of human – technology interface. Some are utopian (e.g.medical applications), others dystopian (e.g., scary advanced military technologies). One of the questions that I have considered this week is who regulates, controls and/or determines which technologies are “appropriate?” What are educators’ roles in influencing the positive, constructive use of emerging technologies? What are the implications for learning?