Reflecting on the lifestream at the end of week 12, this flexible and highly engaging tool seems to reflect many of the course themes. The early readings articulated ‘narratives’ or ’stories’ about digital culture, and the parallels with the lifestream did not escape many course participants, including myself. My very first summary responded to storytelling as an analogy for digital culture,and I see the lifestream as usefully understood in terms of an individual ‘narrative’ of digital culture, or the way-points of a journey, from beginning to end. Furthermore, the notions of multi-modality and Transliteracy are present in the multiple modes of video, text and sound that constitute the lifestream. The act of lifestreaming is an exercise in multi-modality: forming understanding with the use of many mediums and numerous modes, beyond the domination of text. The collecting and documenting of culture studied in the virtual ethnography stage is apparent in the way the lifestream has documented, recorded and archived the web. In a sense the lifestream is a experiential study of the crossovers between academic and wider society in the digital domain, a transcript of my immersion in digital culture. Finally, the posthuman issues of disembodied information and distributed cognition are manifest in the fragmented and dispersed documentation of study that is the lifestream. If the lifestream represents my understanding, it is thoroughly enmeshed in the work of others, and distributed through networks of human and non-human.

Lifestream activity has stimulated much exploration of web services and environments, and this has greatly enhanced my professional practice, supplying a plethora of potential educational tools and techniques. However, the lifestream itself has perhaps been the most interesting tool, demonstrating sound pedagogical value. I found the lifestream to be a highly motivational tool for continued participation in this course. Recording, not only visited websites but ‘real world’ books and films, allowed those areas of research not traditionally acknowledged or documented to be registered as legitimate engagement with the course. Regardless of the assessed nature of the lifestream, such a transcript provided direct feedback concerning my course activity, and this was highly motivating. Moreover, the lifestream demonstrates active and learner-centred study, as opposed to the passive reception of knowledge. Although guided by the weekly course themes, the lifestream represents my own exploration and reflection, my individual response to the topics of study.

Ultimately, the theory of ‘gathering’ put forward by Edwards (2010) best reflects my understanding of the performative activity of lifestreaming. Rather than accepting any one definition of ‘digital cultures’, the lifestream records my personal gathering of knowledge related to this theme. In this sense, I see it as fragile and temporal. If I were to study such a course again, my lifestream would be very different, and so I think would be my understanding of the term ‘digital cultures’. The practical activity of lifestreaming is inseparable from my knowledge. The lifestream has been both my knowing and my doing of digital cultures; the theory and the practice as one.

Edwards, R. (2010). The end of lifelong learning: A post-human condition? Studies in the Education of Adults, 42/1, 5-17.

Comments Comments Off

This final week of the lifestream demonstrates my continued exploration into knowledge and epistemology. To this end I included a very useful You Tube video entitled ‘Epistemic Breaks’ which outlined a history of epistemology, highlighting the seminal shifts in our relationships with knowledge. Finding reference to Haraways ‘Situated knowledge’ was also useful in understanding contemporary notions of knowledge.

Many of this weeks entries are written papers or articles, and I feel this reflects my need for more in-depth theoretical knowledge for the final assignment. Much of this exploration has been into posthuman understandings of learning and knowledge acquisition. This has helped me in continuing to understand the posthuman concept, specifically as it relates to education.

An excellent talk from Andy Clark got me thinking about knowledge as it relates to concepts of the brain function.

I finally managed to blog some thoughts about the Edwards (2010) paper, which I suspect will form the foundational concepts for my EDC assignment.

Finally, I have been watching a fascinating virtual world lecture on ‘Neuroselves’ and ‘Exoselves’, by Anders Sandberg, which questions the centrality of our cognition, reflecting Hayles’s notion of the ‘cognisphere’. There are certainly some fascinating computational analogies going on in this lecture, including most notably the idea that the brain is a network. This may be a fruitful avenue with which to conclude a discussion of knowledge and epistemology: proposing new ways of understanding our relationship to knowledge in a connective world. Is distributed cognition the next ‘epistemic break’?

Comments Comments Off

I have been meaning to blog a summary of thoughts from the Edwards paper ‘The End of Lifelong Learning. A posthuman condition’ (2010) for some time, however other pressing matters have prevented me from doing so. I think it is important to include these musings here, as the notions that I think Edwards puts forward are crucial to my current thinking regarding the Digital Cultures final assignment.

To summarise the ideas that think are exciting, I understand Edwards position as one which suggests that the posthuman condition challenges the idea that learning happens about objects by subjects. The model of learning which we all come to know and love, one that Lyotard insists has its origins in the enlightenment period, assumes the separation of object and subject, matter and meaning, substance and significance. This is a fairly broad statement, so I’ll try to cover a number of facets to this ‘traditional’ idea of learning before I move on to subject and object dichotomies.

The ideas that flourished in the enlightenment seemed to suppose that education was a way of bettering oneself, but more to the point, of consuming knowledge in an effort to achieve a status of ultimate knowing. This of course assumes that knowledge is some kin of ’stuff’ out there which we can access, and furthermore, that has a total, a maximum volume which we can seek to attain. I see the posthuman condition as challenging both of these assumptions: Firstly, that knowledge is empirical – that knowledge is objective and exists in a form which we can all access in a similar way, allowing us to achieve an identical understanding. Secondly, that knowledge has limits, that we can strive to achieve ‘all’ knowledge, and that that is a useful pursuit. I think these are a pretty important assumptions to challenge, as much of our notions of education are based on just such notions of knowledge. The way Edwards, and others, attempt to critique this kind of epistemology appears to be by challenging the dualisms of subject/object, theory/practice, and I think technology presents fascinating territory in which to conduct such a discourse.

Distinctions between matter and meaning, and further categorisations of economic, cultural, natural etc, are taken to be a priori, rather than the ‘effects of enactments’ (Edwards 2010, p9). I am reminded here of the cyborg notions of recategorisation, and the attempt to make conscious the that way we classify as theoretical in itself, rather than existing as ‘truth’.

With a representationalist viewpoint, learning is viewed as the internalisation of external objects. The boundaries of subject and object are clear in such a model, where an object is given properties and meaning by the subject, represented in the mind. This immediately separates meaning from matter, and so theory from practice. The external world is transmitted into the internal world, and this assumes that the external world is definite and fixed. Rather than assuming an external unitary object, one should consider rather the contested ‘thing’ (Edwards p10). For Edwards, the thing is a discussion, a deliberation, a mixing, an entanglement. ‘They gather the human and the non-human in their enactments’ (p10).

Thus ‘entanglement is materially and practically fundamental to a hybridised post-human condition’ (Edwards 2010, p9).Posthuman is experimenting and gathering, rather than forming understanding through representation.

Posthuman – ‘performative’ ‘enacting’ construction of the world – ‘framings of worldliness’ ‘gathering together and experimenting’ (Edwards 2010).

With this view, meaning is not separate from matter. The key to this is the object. The construction of any object is as much conceptual as it is practical. This is because objects are conceptual as much as they are actual. A shoe is only considered a shoe because we conceptually classified and categorised it accord to material, current state in time, proximity – we have made a choice about how we define the change in molecules. Therefore the ’shoe’ is a concept, as much as it is a ‘thing’. Objects are of course legitimate and actual (as are shoes), but we should be considerate and mindful of the fact that it is conceptual and categorised by us.

A move away from ‘explaining’ to ‘the thinking that responds and recalls’ (Heidegger 2009 p122 in Edwards 2010 p10). So, so respond appears to be a much more truthful, honest and humble way to respond (responsibly) to the world.

Comments Comments Off

After the submission of my posthuman pedagogy in week 10, I have continued the vein of inquiry into the shaman as a possible metaphor for pedagogy in the digital domain.

Some initial research found a couple of papers, one of which is a thesis, which may support this metaphor. Furthermore, some great comments on my posthuman pedagogy task stimulated a fruitful conversation.

In particular, the concept of radical constructivism has helped to formulate some promising ideas for the final assignment. Investigation into this pedagogical theory located a number of texts and some useful video interviews with Ernst von Glasersfeld. Radical constructivism seems to have parallels with some postmodern theory, and may be useful in providing an educational backing to some of the more philosophical concepts.

This has been a relatively quiet week in terms of the lifestream, however I have been consolidating my understanding of the posthuman concept with some rather old fashioned paper based reading.

At the end of week 11, I am almost convinced of my assignment question: ‘How is digital technology changing our relationship to knowledge?’ To address this question I intend to explore technologies which challenge the notions of knowledge transfer, the distinction of theory and practice and the dualism of subject and object. The specific angle I might take on this is to explore the notion of responsibility (Edwards 2010), and what that might mean in a cyborg world of rhizomatic instantiations, and infinite connection.

Comments 5 Comments »

This has been a week of revelation, perhaps even heightened awareness, regarding the cyborg and posthuman themes. I see the posthuman as providing an underlying concept for the previous course themes of multi-modality and ethnography. I understood multi-modality as a consideration of the diverse, complementary and overlapping ways in which knowledge can be expressed, something I see reflected in the shifting configurations and categorisations of reality that are implied by the cyborg and postuman. Furthermore, the exploratory and performative methods of enacting the posthuman world, as expressed by Edwards (2010), parallel the ethnographic approach of experiencing cyberculture, rather than attempting to ‘know’ it.

My lifestream demonstrates reading, and watching, related to the postmodern theories of Lyotard, which have complemented and informed my understanding of the posthuman.

I also came across a fascinating lecture by Professor Andy Miah, who, in a discussion of the history of web and cyborg technologies, particularly those relating to sport, seemed to reflect that notion of cultural and scientific symbiosis that Hayles (2006) describes. Miah carefully tracks the media coverage of technology and ethics, articulating a story of technological innovation intertwined with commonplace understandings. This lecture spawned further investigations, including the fascinating position that Amiee Mullins proposes regarding prosthetics.

My final edition this week was the posthuman pedagogy task, for which I created a Prezi entitled Shamanistic Teaching: informing a posthuman pedagogy. This did not feel like a finished work, but perhaps an initial foray into the idea of a shamanistic consideration of learning theory.

Comments 3 Comments »

Comments 8 Comments »

The reconstitution of humans, objects and organisms as secondary, patterns of molecular relations seems to have been an overarching theme in the previous weeks readings.

For Shields the flaneur experiences the city as a constituent, a smaller unit of analysis than is usual for such spaces, which are typically divided into regions, or considered a unitary urban mass. One says, ‘I live in Hackney’, rather than ‘I live up the metal staircase, just round the corner from that old building with the stone portico, near that strange book shop that is never open, and on the same street as I often see a man carrying a banjo case who wares a pencil thin moustache.’ The flaneur constructs the city through experiencing, tracing the micro-encounters, mapping the minutia of senses. The infinite complexity of the city requires such immersion, such consideration of the smallest relations. It is here that I see a correlation between that observant urban stroller and the concept of the cyborg. The cyborg encounters existence primarily in the molecular dimension, and allows us to explore, through its shifting loci, digitally mediated experience. Shields and Hayles seem to call forth considerations of the molecular, which I have made some notes about below.

Shields (p211)
1st the encoding of the world into information (even genes into the language of genomics)
2nd the connection (perhaps supposition) of connection between data sets, eg data mining.
3rd recombination of traits at the genetic level.

Shields refers to these in terms of the domination of informatics. However, he suggests the current, actual manifestation of the cyborg is ‘nano, genomic, molecular’ p212. I am enjoying thinking about the connection between molecules and informatics.

Birth is a myth! At the genomic level it is a regeneration. Shields p217. This was a wonderfully insightful image for me, and really situates the human as transitory instantiation of the molecular. I was also reminded of Hayles’s claim that the human is a ‘moving target’ – from the You Tube interview in a previous blog post.

Shields, via the work of Doyle, goes on to describe the cyborg as ‘neither software nor hardware but sub-molecular ‘wetware’ (Doyle 2003 in Shields p217). Is this an example of the ‘computational universe’ permeating theoretical understanding?

Shields describes ‘layering a cyborg space of nano- and biotechnology beneath the scales at which domination has been understood to operate socially and politically’, and this seems to reflect Haraways position, and helps to solidify my understanding of the cyborg. Here we see a description of the fundamental components of existence, from which social categorisations are formed. It is within this molecular dimension that the cyborg operates, regardless of the bodies, humans, animals and machines that exist in the molar dimensions above.

Comments Comments Off

Further explorations into cyborg and posthuman theory this week produced some fertile avenues of exploration.

The first blog post of the week concerned a particular section in Van Deventer’s (2008) chapter which dealt with the notion of the uncanny in relation to the cyborg. This produced some interesting relations to education.

Reading Gough’s paper ‘RhizomANTically Becoming Cyborg’ spawned a number of further explorations including ‘ANT’, or actor network theory, which provided a sociological perspective on cyborg-type networks. This also led to a consideration of swarm theory.

I enjoyed the Hayles paper, which directed me towards some articles on the computational universe, from Ray Kurzweil no less. I am very interested in the notion of a co-evolutionary spiral between humans and tools, and maybe even in relation to theory and technology. It seems that technology is implicated in our understanding of existence, and perhaps learning, and this interpretation also influences how we use the technology.

The Katherine Hayles interview on You Tube was very useful for thinking about her position, and this influenced a further blog post. I am very interested in the notion of distributed cognition that concludes this post, as there seem to be implications for learning theory. Distributed cognition is perhaps a way to define a particular instantiation within the network, yet educational theory would need to address the way in which it considers the unity of its learners.

Comments 1 Comment »

YouTube Preview Image

In comparing traditional print to contemporary ‘electronic’ forms, Hayles suggests more ‘functionality’ in the later. This would have been an interesting addition to the section of the course that involved ‘Transliteracy’, as Hayles proclaims that the digital utilises the broader perspectives of multi-modality. Later on in the interview, Hayles questions whether a literary work needs to be comprised of words, and this seems to suggest the potential acceptance of new forms of societal communication, interpretation and understanding, created through digital media. Hayles proposes that a new term is required to encompass these new forms. Later still, Hayles objects to the notion that the author has been vanquished by digital technology, rather suggesting that authorship is dispersed. Collaboration is framed as a participative exercise with technology itself, those humans behind the design of the technology, and not forgetting those other participants involved in any cooperative endeavours.

Although the more conceptual idea of distributed cognition is not pursued, the discussion of Wikipedia reveals Halyes’s interest in the vibrancy of collaboration. Interestingly, she asserts that the legitimacy of Wikipedia pages is found in its citations and references to print text, and we still seem to have a hierarchy here. The validity of print media is not really opened up for discussion.

The subject of web publication reflects many of the early EDEDC discussions of horizontalisation, and the shift from consumerism to participation as brought about by digital technology. I really like the assertion that ‘book technology’ is ‘highly developed’. The notion that the book is indeed technology seems to reflect the careful (re)thinking involved in the cyborg and posthuman, by not setting up a dualism between digital and print based media. Of course the book is technology, and it should rightly be considered as such. ‘Simple, robust, accessible and portable’ could easily be descriptors used for the latest digital gadgetry. Hayles mentions the development of the book over time, and it is interesting to think about this in relation to the co-evolution suggested in the ‘Unfinished work’ paper (2006). Humans and books are indeed intertwined in an evolutionary spiral, each influencing and effecting the other.

I found the description of disparate fields of learning (chemistry and literature in her case) being considered as connective and complimentary interesting, and this seems to reflect another dimension of co-evolvement, that of cultural and scientific dependency. Commonplace understanding, perhaps visible in the cultural formats of literature and film, feed accepted scientific goals, as much as science changes our everyday perception.

Hayles also reiterates her position on embodied consciousness in this interview. She hints that the data that constitutes consciousness in the brain could perhaps be transferred, however consciousness itself is proposed as being different if it existed in another substrate. I thought the discussion of ‘mixed reality’, relating to our notions of self as experienced through networked technology, was interesting. Hayles asserts that such technology changes the feeling and understanding of embodiment, and this certainly reflected my feelings that such ‘virtual’ technology is a fruitful, and easy, way to conceptualise new ideas about body boundaries, rather than being a prerequisite for the cyborg. Technology ‘complicates and extends our sense of embodiment’ in a very literal and actual way, although I still conform to the idea that organisms can be reclassified without digital machines.

‘The human is a moving target’. Fantastic quote, which I will endeavour to remember. This really helps to situate the human, regardless of any digital or prosthetic technology, as a shifting concept of categorisation; it is conceptual rather than concrete. In the last section Hayles does mention ‘distributed cognition’ as the contemporary state of being, and in a very humbling suggestion, de-centres the human from universal importance. Such removal destabilises seems to destabilise all traditional forms of classification, which seem to be based on the premise of our own superiority in the universe.

Comments Comments Off

Van Deventer’s discussion of cyborgs remarks on the uncanny, suggesting that in viewing the machinic in human form, one is ‘forced to face existential dilemmas’ (2008, p170). Thus Deventer suggests identity formation in relation to the cyborg as a conflict of biology against technology. Deventer enfolds into this struggle ‘good and evil, logic and emotion’ (2008, p170), which reminded of the reference to the character of the devil in the week 9 introduction, as well as that seemingly distant argument of uptopia and dystopia. Deventer makes this link tangible by reminding the reader of the war machine origins of much of the ‘utopic’ technology we use today. The friendly GPS system is born of that most deadly weapon, the nuclear missile. The devil is indeed a very apt precursor to the cyborg.

Deventer proposes an fascinating double repression of the cyborg, ‘a human being dressed up as a machine that has been dressed up as a human being’ (2008, p170). This is reflected in much of Hayles’s descriptions of analogy as the basis for cybernetic theory, but frames it in psychoanalytic terms. For Deventer this repression seems to be born of human fear at the prospect of supremacy in the machine, and implies a power relation between nature and technology, humans and machines. Furthermore, Professor Warwick’s surgical exploitations, which I blogged about last week, are described as ultimately justifying the supremacy and control of the human in cybernetic relationships. Deventer suggests that Warwick’s controversial work could only be accepted in terms of ‘therapist, but not as collaborator’ (2008, p171). I intend to finish reading this paper shortly, however I can already sense the critical debate for education in this cyborg discussion. The academy has always preserved the idea that learning and the retention of knowledge remain firmly within the biological boundaries of the human. Accepted technology, such as calculators, are tools rather than equal constituents in the system. Surely the more theoretical positions of Hayles and Haraway challenge the centrality of cognition? How is education to judge such learning if it is distributed amongst the machinic and the organic? Is digital storage external to the body a legitimate method of knowledge retention?

Van Deventer (2008). Cyborg Theory and Learning in Connected Minds, emerging cultures: cybercultures in online learning. (Information Age).

Here on Google Books

Comments Comments Off