21 November 2010

Got Capacity?

At the moment, I'm favoring the word capacity (a. the ability to receive, hold, or absorb) to think about human beings learning with new media. Capacity connotes a learner's psychology without making the mistakes of drawing on psuedo-learning theories or over-relying on current trends in that field. It also allows for a learner's psychology to be part and parcel of his/her social surroundings.

Capacity also decenters the human being and the idea that the brain and mind are isolated from the socio-technical systems surrounding it. The idea isn't new;  here, here and here are recent examples that. Vygotsky, Wenger and Lave formulated similar notions too. I prefer to understand the idea with a feminist lens (e.g. Haraway, boyd, Balsamo) whereby embodied lived experiences are theorized in terms of augmentations and re-configurations. I coined the idea cyborg learners to connote this shift and its relevance to learning with new media. The perspective allocates discursive space for the material differences that accompany one's virtual experience. The lived experience of one's wealth/poverty, race, gender, etc. are thematized without being essentializing. Capacity then can be discussed in terms expansion and contraction. For example, an individual whose material circumstances are oppressive may develop virtual capacities in ways unheard of in his/her material context.

Finally, when I think of the people I admire, they all have developed, over time, a range and depth of capacity that's intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical in nature. They draw their learnedness from indigenous and conventional epistemologies.

Capacity feels fluid, and fluidity is a nice way to describe the habits needed to adopt new media.