Category Archives: Virtuality

Week Seven Summary: Much Ado about MOOCs, Mind Wanderings and Meta-Intelligence

Mind Wandering

Where does one begin to tell the story of a intense week of metacognitive skills development, mind wanderings, and explorations of the ‘hidden mysteries’ of these new online communities called “MOOCs”; searching for meaning, trying to make sense of ‘education’ in the ‘digital age?’ Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun had previously declared “education is broken” (Adams, C. et al, 2014. p. 202). Are MOOCs really the answer to the “broken” educational system? Are they floating in a “hype cycle” somewhere between “peak of inflated expectations” and the “trough of disillusionment.” Are they just “a different animal” (Breslow et al, 2013)? MOOCs are a still relatively new (since 2012) phenomenon, yet “the landscape of MOOCs is changing swiftly” (C. Adams, 2014, p. 212).

For me personally, a tentative assessment is that the majority of MOOCs may not necessarily constitute “education” ‘as usual’, but they do offer significant ‘learning’ opportunities that can be educative and potentially transformative. Therefore, I do not think they should be discounted. They may may threaten traditional educational norms, standards or institutions, but it seems that the “shake up” can only improve the deficiencies in the current educational systems at various levels on a global scale. They should be embraced for the learning value they provide for those learners that are inspired to ‘dip,”browse,”lurk,’ or complete the course. There is no ‘failure,’ there is only learning, depending on the learning needs of the learner. The movement towards SPOCs and other variants seem to also portend another positive trend towards the further democratization’ of education.

Exploration and immersion as a ‘virtual ethnographer’ in the Scandinavian Film and TV Culture MOOC gave me a new perspective on what it means to be a ‘digital learner.’ One the one hand, I was a MOOC student, on the other an ethnographer observing the MOOC. I was absorbing the content and visual style of ‘new wave,’ ‘avant garde’ Scandinavian directors, while learning through trial and error how to manipulate digital technologies to construct my representations of the MOOC learning environment. MOOCs offer tremendously exciting fresh research opportunities. Where is MOOC Research Headed

Alternatively, throughout the week, there was a “metacognitive facilitation of spontaneous thought processes” centered around the ScanFilmTV MOOC ‘under observation.’ I had to manage limited time available: doing the academic readings, viewing MOOC video lectures, taking quizzes, blogging, tweeting, commenting on peers’ and instructors ‘comments, constructing slides, finding a music score, troubleshooting various digital technologies, downloading, uploading, editing, pondering, questioning, re-examining, considering ethics, and so on…( and that was just Tuesday night).

“Perhaps it is only with the assistance of metacognition that we can make the best use of our mental meanderings and help our wandering mind find its way during those highly valuable, and possibly uniquely human, intellectual explorations” (Fox, K.C.R. & Christoff, K. 2014, p. 312).
Mind Wandering

Thus, MOOCs can also be viewed not only as a platform for providing particular disciplinary content, but they can also be instrumental in developing metacognitive skills, such as time management. Please see relevant paper below on “Building Engagement for MOOC Students” (Nawrot, I. Doucet, A. 2014). I think the challenges of managing and balancing work, life, leisure, and academic was a common, underlying theme that I picked up on in our own EDC online community this past week. Building Engagement of MOOC Students

EDC peer Jin’s exploration of the ‘meta-literacy’ MOOC prompted a tangential persistent ‘path of inquiry’ and interest on the keyword “meta” as a possible sequel to “post”- or “trans”- human.
Meta, as a prefix for – beyond, transcending, changed or involving change. Perhaps “human” even needs to be re-considered in terms of an emerging collective “meta-intelligence.” Dr. Peter Diamandis proclaims in blog post YouTube video down below that “humans are becoming themselves information technology.” (4:48 minute mark).

Adams, C. et al., 2014. A phenomenology of learning large: the tutorial sphere of xMOOC video lectures. Distance Education, 35(2), pp.1–15.

Baggaley, J., 2014. MOOCS: digesting the facts. Distance Education, 35(2), pp.159–163.

(Other References embedded with hyperlinks in blog post above).

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.