Mark's E-learning and Digital Cultures Blog

part of the MSc in E-learning at the University of Edinburgh

Mark’s posthuman pedagogy task

I have chosen this “snapshot” image from the Second Life (SL) welcome island as an example of posthuman pedagogy.” Welcome island” is a location that orientates ”newbies” to the SL multi-user virtual environment (MUVE) –  facilitating navigation, avatar movement and user interraction. It represents just one example of a virtual world tutorial that seeks to bridge the “dualistic” gap between real life (RL) and a virtual existence. As users become more familiar with SL, they may also alter their appearance from the “factory default setting”, recreating themselves as an alternate gender, or indeed species (anilmalistic or fictional) – perhaps offering a literal realisation of Haraway’s cyborg myth.

Other examples within the gaming world are also commonplace, and most seek to orientate the player to the virtual environment in such a way as to make various tasks part of the game-play itself. The game Fallout 3 is one such example, the initial stages from which invite the player to navigate the virtual environment as a child, learning how to move, and interract with simple objects within their bedroom. James Paul Gee also uses the example of the player learning to navigate and interract with the virtual world within Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation as a young Lara Croft “disobeying” her mentor (Gee: 2007).

For me, these are examples of posthuman pedagogy in that as with Angus’ et al. (2001)  ”coffee cup” observations within “A Manifesto for Cyborg Pedagogy”, various factors – both visible and invisible – have to come to fruition for the real and virtual to become in some way blended. It is this blending that also facilitates a negotiation between the identity of the RL user and also the social parameters of the virtual world that they are entering. This reflects what Gee describes as a “projective identity” with which the user imbibes some of their values and personality (mixed with what they would like to portray in terms of appearance and demeanor) upon the virtual environment. As part of this negotiation however, users are also likely to behave “in character” in relation to the virtual social and physical circumstances that they find themselves in (Gee: 2007).

The orientation tutorials within MUVEs facilitate this  negotiation and blending between RL and online existance, allowing the user to occupy a place between the duality described by Hayles between materiality and information (Hayles 1999:14).

If you would like to add a comment please go to the link below.

Angus, T., Cook, I., Evans, J. (2001) “A Manifesto for Cyborg Pedagogy”. International Research in Geographical and Environmental Education. 10 (2) 195-200

Gee, J.,P. (2007) What Video Games have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan

Haraway, D. (2007) “A cyborg manifesto” from Bell, D., Barbara, M. (eds), The cybercultures reader. London: Routledge 34-65

Hayles, B, K. (1999) “Towards embodied virtuality” from Hayles, N. we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature and informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1-12, 293-297

13 Responses to “Mark’s posthuman pedagogy task”

  1.   Linda Matthews Says:

    Thanks for this Mark. I liked the way you have shown how the term ‘blended learning’ has layers of meaning, beyond a mixture of face to face and online activities. Blending also connects to the merging of a learners RL and VL identities.

  2.   Mark Garratt Says:

    Thanks Linda, as you can probably tell I studied “Introduction to Digital Game Based Learning” last semester, and this really struck me as an example of integration between notions of cyberspace and RL. This would probably become all the more complex with potential community formation within SL or indeed online gaming platforms, and I think that the distribution of knowledge that we seem to be witnessing in RL thanks to digital culture is likely to be carried over to an interface with the virtual.

  3.   Noreen Dunnett Says:

    Just seen your task – great minds think alike! I cheated a little bit and used some Second Life tasks I put together for a tender at work which were never used – thought they were too good to waste. I suppose some of the tasks are a bit similar to the Orientation Island ones

    I thought the tasks were post-human for similar reasons to the ones you gave (only not so well put in my justification to Jen – my blog comments section).

  4.   Charmaine McKenzie Says:

    Mark, in addition to Linda’s observation on your elaboration of the term ‘blended learning’, I want to highlight the use of the term ‘negotiation’, which aptly describes how there has to be capitulation and adjustments between what goes on in RL and the virtual world, and this negotiation is ongoing, I find.

  5.   Mark Garratt Says:

    @Charmaine, thank you for this, I think you are right in terms of the negotiation being ongoing – especially as a user will probably (?) become more proficient in navigating the virtual world, and are perhaps also likely to enter into increasingly more complex interractions with others.
    @Noreen, I think that we are on to something in that the use of SL or other MUVEs almost seems to be a literal translation of aspects of posthumanism. I don’t blame you for using your SL plan – it looks like a really good means of orientating someone to the virtual environment – I know how I struggled !

  6.   Charmaine Says:

    Mark, I forgot to say that I really liked your example!:-)

  7.   Jen Ross Says:

    Good example of boundary blurring practices here, Mark – the idea that SL orientation activities constitute a posthuman pedagogy is really interesting. To get players/users to commit to an environment like SL (and maybe gaming environments also, though in that case perhaps there are clearer draws in the form of ongoing tasks and quests) requires getting them to invest something of themselves, and what better way than by that delicate kind of negotiation between ‘materiality and information’ that you describe.

  8.   Sharon Boyd Says:

    “As users become more familiar with SL, they may also alter their appearance from the “factory default setting”, recreating themselves as an alternate gender, or indeed species (anilmalistic or fictional) – perhaps offering a literal realisation of Haraway’s cyborg myth”

    That is something that I have been reflecting on too Mark – that understanding of “self” that comes from exploring the avatar form that we feel most comfortable with. It interests me how there is a strong drive towards animalistic forms – touching on a shamanistic shape-shifting power/ animal experience perhaps?

    I have a number of avatars for different purposes – like putting on a different set of clothes (business suit vs “sofa comfies”, if you will :) ).

    Great example – a way for users of SL to bridge the concepts of RL reality and the more malleable SL reality?

  9.   Noreen Dunnett Says:

    @sharon – Can’t wait to see which avatar you use for the SL Xmas Party on Mon 13th Dec then!

  10.   Mark Garratt Says:

    Thank you Sharon. In some of our readings for IDEL, I remember various comments about how users had to experiment with their appearance until it “felt right”. I know that I did something similar with my avatar, and I was reminded of it by reading Haraway – and that exploration of form and representation that is made possible by SL. I seem to also remember an exploration of a more basic 2D platform where the entire “community” adopted animal heads for a period of time.

    I definitely follow your interest in the choices of representation that people make in MUVEs – there must be a paper out there – or perhaps we should write one ?

    Thanks again,


  11.   Mark Garratt Says:

    @ Noreen, I plan to cross the gender “boundary” and come as the inkeeper’s wife :)

  12.   Noreen Dunnett Says:

    Thanks for the heads up Mark – I’d have hated to be confused!

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