18 May 2013

The Net decontextualizes experience and it doesn't work for me

One of the ways we humans understand the world is through contextualizing. The brain connects the new with the already known. It's a physiological process with psychological and emotional dimensions.

Just imagine if every time you went to a grocery store, you had to "start from scratch" figuring out the context. What's a grocery, what can I buy here, how does the process work, how am I supposed to behave? Is it safe?

Anyone who's traveled in foreign culture knows what I'm talking about. It's engaging beyond many of life's experiences. It's also challenging and scary and exhausting.

Once I was in Istanbul briefly, on my own, taking a ferry across the harbor to catch a train. I'd never been anywhere where the language was completely indecipherable. But the context was decipherable and what I needed to do was clear--find someone who spoke English to tell what to do next. And maybe more importantly, all the relevant dimensions of the context were transparent because as an agent within the context, even with all the things that could have happened, I was fairly at ease with what I could read from and do with the context.

The Net is made up of decontextualized experiences.

This doesn't happen quite so fluently on the web. First off because human cognition is embodied.  It's all about the senses and the materiality of existence. Mind is material. A conversation is bodily endeavor. A philosopher's thoughts manifest in writing. So immediately I notice that Net experiences dehydrate my experience, and does so by giving me meaning only in the form of the written word, digitized 2-dimensional imagery and compressed audio input. All of which is fairly sterile. And the sterility doesn't dissipate with human interaction because the interactions themselves are dehydrated and sterilized. Moreover they're potentially uninviting and dangerous. Recently, one of the few critics of edu-tech mania has turned off comments on her blog because of aggressive misogynists and man-splainers.

So not only do my senses atrophy online, but my soul does. My humanity is profoundly compromised. And I'm noticing this more and more, the longer I've been here.

But ok, soooo...I don't care for the human and social experience on the Net, but here I am, a fairly intelligent, digitally literate person trying to make sense of something meaningful to me like a blog post. Because I do like ideas and knowing, and their power.

How I do figure things out?....pretty much I read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read and read. It's exhausting and a time-suck. And I'm not ill, don't have kids and a dog to feed, or a lawn to mow.

Just imagine being in a grocery story, and all the red labels on packages weren't the color red but on the label was printed:  "this is a red label." And then imagine that anyone could create these red labels. Some would read "this is a read label," "this is a label of the complimentary color to green."

The Net isn't bad, gawd no, it's just profoundly dehumanizing, and alienates the human condition. And this matters when we're talking about the human endeavors of learning and education.