Friday, July 25, 2008

Balance, on all fours

Photo by Andrey Sukhanov (2008), Creative Commons License BY-NC 2.0Balance, on all fours, seems to be what keeps tails from wagging dogs. For educational technologists, these days, the balance and interplay of humanity and technology seem to keep coming to the fore. The technological end of things has been twisting my noodle since I chewed over Achieving Sleep/Network Balance (Ceraso, ELT Blog, 2007.10.21) in pab's potpourri (2008.01.28).

Call it a rush, or addictive, vacuous pressure to adopt more and more diversified web tools, join more and more diversified professional and social networks, hold further discussions - with more people, explore existing topics more deeply, share and try new ideas, compare findings, pool and package resources, ..., and what do we get?

Loud whooshing sounds as our lives evacuate online, or something graphically represented as an exploding head, for which Alan Levine suggests he is "lacking an easy answer beyond shrugging it off, unplugging, letting stuff slide, or just floating along til the groove returns." Nonetheless, he keeps contemplating "how much 'power' we acquiesce to technology tools" (CogDogBlog, Exploding Heads, 2008.07.22).

Without ever having tried twittering, I'm inclined to agree that doing it needn't make everyone who does micro-thinkers. Yet humans are creatures of habits, and Levine wonders, "If some of the most sharp and clever people I know and respect find themselves overly immersed in something like twitter, what does that portend for the many more people who look to them for guides?"

If collection and recollection of both data and thoughts becomes largely and ubiquitously mechanical and piece-meal, it may lead to flattening of the web, and bode ill for discursive thought patterns, coherent conversations, cogent analyses, and deliberative syntheses. When push comes to pull, which way will online educators be leaning - towards the flat, quick, and transient, or the deep, rich, and stable?

It comes as some relief to hear of folks abandoning twitter accounts before I ever got one. However, I felt a twitch of dismay yesterday discovering So Many Nodes, Not Enough Reciprocity (Yet) (Marielle, Authorship 2.0, 2008.07.03), about which I growled on the LTD Project Blog (2008.07.24). Marielle reminds us "not to get lost in a plethora of solipsistic silos, speaking without listening, [and] reinventing rather than building upon each other’s ideas and deepening the collective dialogue." I wonder how long it may take twitter-free digital immigrants to groove deep enough into the web for the rest of the world to hear the music.

Photo by Andrey Sukhanov (2008)
Creative Commons License BY-NC 2.0


  1. Paul, can you say more about what you mean by your last line?


  2. Sure, Marielle!

    The bit about "twitter-free digital immigrants" was a round-about, idiosyncratic reference to folks like me who grew up with sticks and balls rather than joysticks and trackballs with which to play, and who have never twittered. The "groove deep enough" part was an ill-developed attempt to harmonize with both one of Levine's metaphors and the photo I'd chosen too accompany my post in mind (Balance, on all fours).

    Mix in unstated mindsets relating a day and age when groove had a tangible connection to music, music had power, and we may get a clearer sense of what I meant. To round off quickly before dashing off to envigilate exams, let me twist an old saw: If a dog digs a burrow in the forest, and there's no camera to record it, does it make a sound?

  3. Thanks, Paul, for this elaboration on your references, which I think I understood, but I'm afraid I'm still not fully clear on your point. Might you paraphrase it?

  4. Yes, I might paraphrase a point I was getting at as burrows are like silos, bound to enclose something of perceived value in the paws of the beholder: verbal humus, "rich, deep and stable" (original post, ¶5), or feed grain suitable for domestic meat or gasohol production; source material for major industries, or fertilizer for human minds. Why do you ask?


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