Sunday, 13 December 2009
Digital Cultures Course Lifestream Summary
This entry is cross-posted from the University of Edinburgh's 'Digital Cultures' course, a part of the MsC in e-learning.
Where to start? I've just spent the last 40 minutes or so editing the lifestream and have been amazed at the amount of stuff that got lumped in there. There was stuff in there that I'd forgotten I'd added, which brings up perhaps my first point; that although the lifestream may be a viable way of evaluating a learner's engagement with course content, it may have some way to go to improving as an aide to a learner - a semantic, tag-based arrangement of all lifestream entries might sort that. But that doesn't solve the problem of how you'd tag them at the source.
Truth be told though, my main aid in gathering up resources was not the lifestream itself, but the Tumblr feed which I set up to post into it. Tumblr is a fantastic tool for a course like this - especially when utitlised on an iPhone. Half of the stuff in my lifestream was added via my iPhone Tumblr app - a fantastic on-the-go learning tool for someone like me who has to do a fair bit of study 'on the run' from one place to another.
But what of the experience of using the lifestream? For me, this lifestreaming was both reassuringly familiar yet novel enough to surprise me. Familiar in that I am an avid Delicious user and have been accustomed a while now to 'storing' large parts of myself online - this through my own blog. Through here I have a twitter feed, a Delicious tag cloud, university and work posts, Last.fm playlists and at one point my Flickr feed. In a sense I've kind of been wanting a 'lifestream' for a while and used Blogger as the conduit.
As to being novel, I enjoyed seeing the connections crop up as I posted, 'liked' and favourited my way around Google Reader (the other crucially useful tool for me), Youtube, Twitter and the university blogs. I enjoyed the sense of 'the pieces falling together' when you viewed the lifestream page: conversations, blogs, feeds, pictures and videos all sloshing around in a great big soup of links. In a very simple and powerful way, my Tumblr feed became more than my 'online scrapbook'; instead it was the central artery of my lifestream and course learning.
As to content - well, it's a weird bag. This is a reflection of the stranger junctures of the web which I've been choosing to hang about in these last 12 weeks. There's 9/11 conspiracy theories material, analyses of UFO abductee accounts, summaries of anthropological process and theory, studies of semingly feral discussion forum teenagers, videos of rock-star cyborgs and web-star ethnographers, quotes from university professors and random twitterers, pictures of books I've tried to dip in to, clips from sci-fi movies which the readings made me think of, examples of game-based learning that sprang to mind when the literature turned to 'cyborg pedagogies' and probably a few ill-tempered remarks about my struggles to play the PC version of Modern Warfare 2.
Cyborgs and Ghosts
Looking back at it all now, I find myself giggling a bit - amused at the twists and turns of web-mediated learning, how a quote from one writer can lead to a video from another, to a podcast about conspiracy theories, to an angry conversation about online movies resulting in giving a talk at the Dublin Paranormal Conference and the excruciating experience of seeing yourself on Youtube. I can honestly say that when I started this semseter I didn't see that coming.
How wonderfully odd that a course which makes such explicit references to 'hauntology' and 'ghost-like' online presences should see me wind up speaking in a Dublin hotel full of UFO-hunting, ghost-busting, poltergeist-whispering, Yeti-chasing, paranormal activity fans, in a scene akin to something from a recession-busted Hunter S.Thompson novel.
As to 'cyborg pedagogies', looking back over the lifestream now it seems a suitable example of the re-aggregation, re-assembling and re-modelling of information and meaning-making suggested by the cyborg pedagogy literature. What initially looks like a car-crash of data, upon slightlly closer examination shows patterns of thoughts and concern, avenues of investigations, fruitless rummages down dead-ends of online madness and overall the seemingly random, manic linking between one subject area and another - the connections between disparate writers, disciplines and mediums all merging back in to one big story.
It's a great big mess, but I love it and will be continuing to use my Tumblr as I work my way to the final assignment. Put simply I can't work without it now.
I've immensely, immensely enjoyed this 12 weeks and find myself sad to start winding it all up. And wondering how I can ever go back to a 'mainstream' learning model again.
'What has been seen cannot be unseen'.