20 November 2011

Online nobody knows you're a body

I stumbled on this article by a former human-interface inventor, Brett Victor at Apple: A Brief Rant On The Future Of Interaction Design. It was linked to an article on why we might not want children spending too much time with screens. Each author makes a point about the human experience of technology. I made similar observations when studying informal learning in a virtual world.  

In our rush to relocate education online, there's little discussion, and even less scholarship in educational circles about embodiment. By embodiment I mean the physicality of learning, the sensory in- and outputs that go along with it, such as the tactile and olfactory information that complement visual information. I also mean the lived experienced of learning, as humanists would perceive it. 

The perspectives of humanist educators such Jerome Bruner, bell hooks and Parker Palmer, and of critical educators such as Henry Giroux are by and large absent from educational technology discourses. Implicit in their perspectives is the centrality of the lived experience of learning, while implicit in most ed tech perspectives seems to be the centrality of the technology in learning. To say as we do "it's not about the technology, but the learning" is not the same thing as saying "it's about the individual's experience of learning." 

Bodies are factual and symbolic here. They're factual in that the embodiment of a text-chatted discussion is an entirely other form of interaction and lived experience than one face to face. They're symbolic in their lack of physicality in the online learning environment. Online, my body is something I construct through images and words in order to represent my physical self to others.