Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Tuesday, June 04, 2013
On a more current note and related to the above I speculate that indeterminacy is related to determinacy much as synchronous communication is related to asynchronous communication. As we write and record (and otherwise represent) our speech and thought it becomes real in a way that our discursive jabbering does not - or maybe I should say "real" as much as I should say substantial or manifest. This manifest speech is then frozen in time - indexed to a particular time and place but serving to "message" interlocutors at any other time and place. So we are now asynchronous.
If I were to think more about the existential and phenomenological nature of dialogue I would have to say that asynchronous dialogue is a nonsensical phrase. But I still don't really know what I am talking about.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Sunday, March 23, 2008
As I reflect on the past few years and the growth of synchronous technologies involving social networks.... I am struck by how lame interfaces like Blackboard really are. There is very little that I can see happening in the development of meaningful asynchronous technologies. Text and graphics, video & audio are all obviously necessary and good things. But the subjective and unarticulated feeling of being connected is also important. I have been working on an idea that will extend both reputation and awareness into the asynchronous realm. I am particularly interested in 'online' learning applications and situations.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Communication is a plastic word (Poerksen, 1988). This means, roughly, that the word promises a lot but delivers little. The word means many things to many people in many contexts. Spending time making provisional definitions can take whole books, degree programs, and/or study. Relationship is also a plastic word. Unfortunately both of these general ideas are necessary precursors to my talking about or thinking about asynchronous dialogue.
I am interested in asynchronous dialogue because I think it represents one of the primary opportunities that distributed information systems offer. Asynchronous internet based communications is an architecture that can afford the collaboration and coordination necessary to maintain local and global coherence. I understand synchronous and asynchronous as extremes of a continuum. The extremes are concepts that have no ‘real’ referent. The in-between-ness of these extremes do have reference to experience.
Time is relative. Certainly this must mean that proximity (distance) is a fundamental parameter of synchronous/asynchronous time. (t=d/r). Consequently there is little reason to believe that distance somehow determines an absolute distinction between now and not now. This claim is what fuels my interest in understanding how to afford meaningful asynchronous dialogue. How far can we remove ourselves in time from a conversation or dialogue and still have a conversation or dialogue?
But I am straying from the primary intent of this post. Before I explore the time structure of asynchronous dialogue I want to look more closely at the idea of communication and relationship.
I will pretend that communication implies a coherent perturbation. What is that, one might ask? Imagine an entity with a boundary. On one side of the boundary is everything that is ‘not’ the entity and on the other side is everything that ‘is’ the entity. Further imagine that we live in world with entities of various types that all share this property of inside/outside boundedness. Even though this perspective is but a perspective (not a definitive or complete explanation of phenomena) it nonetheless can serve us well in coming to understand the ideas of communication and relationship. (note: it is only our ‘consciousness’ or ability to see ourselves as objects that gives us the opportunity to see that a boundary is ‘two-sided’. This is the essence of the self/other distinction.)
Energy and movement are related. I would like to say that energy is movement but I am not sure what that really means. At the level of organisms movement and energy are related through time and the relationship between time and experience.
From really slow movement (matter) to really fast movement (energy) we participate as movement in movement. This reflexive conundrum is what I understand the ‘observer problem’ to be. We are that which we perceive. The architecture of this conundrum can be seen as the body/mind of human being. That is, looking carefully at how we describe our own form can help us understand its relationship to form in general and the possible origins of our human form. It seems to me that understanding this (the form issue) will help us understand the interaction of forms (a communication like activity).
Movement is the essence of communication. Mead’s social gesture (Mead, 1934) posits the creation of mind and self out of the coordinated gestures of social groups. The conversation of gestures is, from Mead’s perspective, a fundamental property of organisms. This conversation is a way to understand the evolutionary movement of individual organisms in their (our) living. We seek or effort after both value and meaning (Reed, 1996). The seeking after value consolidates gains in the service of survival. The seeking after meaning opens up horizons and the possibility of survival and new learning. Our movement through the environment is a necessity.
The conversation of significant gestures (language) that we experience is an innovation or development coming out of our biological and embodied state. One of the complicating factors in communication theory is the mixture or blending of gestures and significant gestures in the experience of individuals. The physical and embodied nature of our experience is often not available to linguistic consciousness. Further, our linguistic consciousness may occlude the physical experience of being by ignoring or otherwise occluding physical experience (e.g., feeling).
The relationship between our physical experience, our linguistic consciousness, and proximity and time are all constituents of communication on the synchronous/asynchronous continuum.
Language has created for us multiple worlds grounded in the physical world. Our relationship to others in the non-physical (non-proximate) world and the possibilities of making meaning are fundamental questions to me. How can we facilitate meaning making asynchronously? Which of the parameters (embodied feelings, language, time, proximity) required of communication is most malleable?
Computer mediated communication (CMC) design strategies are efforts to optimize these parameters for the purpose of better ‘communication’.
It occurs to me that relationship is a key factor here and one that is not (at least for my purposes) adequately understood. What I am exploring is the design of website affordances that can fulfill our ‘relationship’ needs in the process of ongoing dialogue.
Mead, G. H. (1934). Mind, Self, and Society: From the Standpoint of a Social Behaviorist.
Poerksen, U. (1988). Plastic Words: The tyranny of a modular language (J. Mason & D. Cayley, Trans.).
Reed, E. S. (1996). Encountering the world: Toward an ecological psychology.
Thursday, April 07, 2005
Closer is better?
There is a lot of activity these days about trying to make distance education (and distance technologies in general) as much like face to face as possible (as if we have a great record of communication, transformation, and harmony in our face to face lives!). Underlying these efforts is the (I think) unconscious and unreflective assumption that what we do in our face to face encounters is unproblematic, knowable, and preferable. I think that a fundamental issue that isn't much talked about is the basic definition of what learning is - or even more broadly communication.
I recently came across an article that used the term 'bandwidth' to describe the relationship between 'student' and 'teacher' in relation to issues in distance education. To me this characterization assumes the adoption of the 'conduit' metaphor in coming to understand communication - that is, the transmission of content from one brain to the other. I believe that our relationships are more strange than that. Much of my thinking is informed by Maturana, autopoiesis, and a biological/systems interpretation of our phenomenological experience.If, as I believe, we are not so much 'informed' by a communication message as we are 'perturbed' then the notion of distance becomes less Euclidian and more Einsteinian (so to speak).
By this I mean that the 'length' issue isn't as important as the 'like' issue. How much are we 'like' or 'familiar' with our interlocutors? Do we have a basis, need, or motivation to be in this relationship? Obviously this is part of the basic set up of standard educational contexts - many students would probably not be in school if they weren't somehow incented to be there through either force (K-12) or fear (post secondary).
My point is that the question of motivation to stay in relationship is more important than the physics of communication in either proximal or distal settings. I think we conflate these two issues in many discussion of distance in education. There is no question that being face to face with someone - in each other's presence, is our natural and adapted state - however, simple letter writing has historically extended & deepened relationships in a way that has satisfied and motivated people for a long time.I think that what is happening to education with the advent of the web and all its bells and whistles is that it is exposing core inconsistencies in our rhetoric about teaching and learning.
In my opinion the 'factory model' of education doesn't work to educate - it works to instruct and train. For much of instruction and training (say learning to be a physician) it is critical that we be proximal to our patients, mentors, and other necessary personnel. For other types of instruction where simulations will do as well (for example Air Traffic Control school) we can work and learn virtually. As anyone that has taught pre-school or elementary school (or their own children) knows - we don’t so much ‘instruct’ kids into learning how to read as we ‘love’ them into it.
Good elementary education is based on relationships of trust, respect, and love. Education, in my view, remains apart from these discussions. Education is about relationships that result in transformation. Mutual transformation. I think that too many of our professional educators believe that it is only a one way street. Distance education is possible and powerful if people are open to being in dialogue. In fact, the technology may well afford a greater and greater incidence of this type of transformative relationship.
However, I don't think it will be pioneered by our current professional cadre of 'educators'. They (we) think we know the answers. It appears that we are really just learning how to ask the right questions.
Sunday, January 02, 2005
It occurs to me that another key factor in successful ongoing AD is a commitment to both the process and to one another. In some ways this begs the question of dialogue and may be AD's undoing in any but select environments (e.g., organizations or virtual teams that somehow have a vested interest in transcending the standard 'information only' discourse of traditional communications.