All posts by E. John Love

Reporting Life: Creating blog musings, scribbles and other artifacts…

This is like an inventory of things I do to express myself. I don’t know why I nee to do a catalogue, but it feels right – like emptying a closet before you reorganize it.

Writing

  • I post musingsand observations to my blog. Theseoften are like a journal of reflections, or

    some passing whim or temporary interest.

    • I tend to returnto the same themes in the course of 12months:

      comic book and graphicartists, like Will Eisner, E.C. Segar, Jack

      Kirby, or Alan Moore, and iconic characters

      like Popeye and Superman.

    • I recall emotional patternsfrom my youth, particularly regardingmy Mother and Father, or themes of loss,

      responsibility, persistence or hope.

    • I try to connect cool ideasor inspirational movements across eras, oracross media or disciplines.

      Sometimesthe expressionist films like Metropolis will

      lead me to the Bauhaus, which will lead me to

      the new wave band DEVO, which leads me to

      underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, or the

      Cult of the Subgenius and concepts of

      devolution, or to the movie “Idiocracy”. I find

      it interesting that some of the same ideas seem

      to “infect” both high art and low art in

      similar ways.

Visual Art

  • Occasionally, I’ll do adrawing, sketch, of collage,to document a state of mind.
    • Sometimes, it’s a sketchyportraitof the back of a stranger’shead, just to see if I still have enough eye-

      hand to render someone representationally, or

      to see if my Playbook tablet can be used as a

      sketching tool with as much effectiveness as a

      brush-pen.

    • Sometimes, it will be alittle diagram or design scribble, tohelp me sort out a design idea.
    • Sometimes, it’s a crazy,colourful collage, using a plastic binfull of scraps of images culled from hundreds

      of magazines over the past dozen years. This is

      the most fun of all – like putting together a

      strange Freudian puzzle out of irregular

      pieces, and with no box cover to show you the

      final product.

It’s all about some kind of creative output.

Thought Precedes Action

But inspiration for a creative act or artifact most often comes after I’ve internalized some cool information, or someone else’s cool

art. More often than not, some kind of

stimulating input will have inspired me to

synthesize something for myself: It’s important

to listen to music or to look at art by artists

whom you admire, or whose vision or message resonates with you.

It comes and goes. I need to hear or see something that makes me laugh or makes me go

“wow”.

It will trigger something inside me – a

response, a dredged-up memory, or a forgotten

sense of self. I will ask myself who I am now,

or how I want to feel. I will create an

artifact. I will need to make a mark.

Everything in that last paragraph can happen

very rapidly, like a sensory-response, or at
the level of muscle memory – subconscious, and
not even clearly or consciously articulated.

Garbage in, garbage out. Garbage in, Gold out. Sometimes copper. Most often, pixels or paper.

It is what is is: a response-loop that simply has to happen. Without it, I think I’d get ill or be too nervous.

DEVOlving: musings on art, music, and creative synthesis…

Mutant_daisy_311pxYeah – I’m going through a DEVO phase again. I listen to their music all the time. Their voices and sounds are familiar, like visiting an old neighbourhood.

I get emails from Club Devo,and see snippets of mutated art from Mark M., photos from their irreverent, young new wave days, and so many artifacts of their gleeful, tongue-in-cheek self-promotion. Echoes of the back-of-the-comic ad, junk culture that they enjoy.

Every 6 – 12 months, something bigger than my playlist brings the Devoids to my mind in a more significant way. Something new bubbles up in the media. This time, perhaps it was the unfortunate death of their friend and long-time drummer, Alan. A very sad loss, indeed. Their own “human metronome”, the driver of their complicated, syncopated rhythms, was no more.

Gerry Casale started following my Twitter feed the other day, and it made me feel a little closer to the source. The more DEVO  videos or interviews I watch, the more I read, the more they’re like citizens of some weird hometown – the guys who struck out a few years before my generation, and who did all the cool art that I wish I’d done.

I love this passage from the book “We are DEVO!” by Jade Dellinger and David Giffels):

In his book Fargo Rock City, rock critic Chuck Klosterman wrote that “Listening to (Eric) Clapton was like getting a sensual massage from a woman you’ve loved for the past ten years; listening to Van Halen was like having the best sex of your life with three foxy nursing students you met at a Tastee Freeze.” To extend that metaphor, Devo would be the equivalent of auto-erotic asphixiation, the sexual technique of partly hanging oneself during masturbation to achieve a more intense orgasm.”

(Having been to one uninspiring Clapton concert, I think that Klosterman likes Clapton a bit too much.)

Yeah, so DEVO is an acquired taste – not the flavour (or party favour) of the week.

But, yeah spuds, challenge me please. Make me think, or make me argue. If you can get me to write or think about what you’re saying, well, you’ve found that devolved nerve ending and twanged it nicely. And I thank you.

Clapton and all the 2nd-wave Brit rock gods, as incredibly talented as they were musically, never made me think about a damned thing. But the DEVO experiment got my attention, and they’re still doing it.

I can definitely salute that.

Duty Now for the Future.

Why Openness in Education: Activity 1

This post is the first in a new series of assignments for a free online course. This open course is called Why Openness in Education.

The first assignment given in this course proposed:

“Think back to a time when you learned something you really value from someone. Write a blog post in which you tell the story of that learning experience using the language of sharing instead of the language of education. What did the other person share with you? What did you share back with them? How many times did you iterate through this cycle of sharing? How was your relationship with the other person transformed (if at all) as you shared with them?”

The first experiences that came to me were from 1987, when I was in my second year of art college.

I was just beginning to see a world of computers, image-making, ideas, and visual communications opening up before me, and I wanted to learn about it. The Dean of Education at Emily Carr College of Art, Tom Hudson, asked me if I wanted to take part in special research project that would use computers to explore drawing systems for an education television series he was writing. I was eager to take an opportunity to learn something new, and to work with the head instructor on a one-to-one basis, so I said yes immediately. For an hour or so once per week, we sat at a Commodore 64 in one of the school’s small computer labs, using a small drawing tablet called a KoalaPad, and Tom tutored me.

VisLit_1987

Click to view a sample of my Visual Literacy image research.

We explored the basic  elements of point, line and shape, using the relatively crude consumer tools. Tom guided me in a process of making basic marks and lines in a sequential series of developments. He prompted me to place marks on the screen and be aware of their proximity, uniformity or spatial tension. With each little square point of line placed at a particular angle, I felt like I was learning something elemental and essential.

In that exercise, he shared his intention to guide me to see and feel elements of visual language. I shared my growing proficiency with the computer and my eagerness to learn. In Tom’s earlier career as an art educator in the UK, he had been one of a few progressive art educators who had been introducing aspects  of the Bauhaus basic course into British art education. Now, twenty years after those developments, Tom was exploring how computers could be used to explore the same principles. I realized that I was in new experimental territory, and I gave myself to the process of discovery, exploration and personal preference. I trusted that our sessions would lead me to some revelations.

As I became more familiar with this way of working and thinking, Tom encouraged me to experiment, explore and personalize more. We moved to the college’s Amiga computers and I used a mouse instead of a tablet. As I continued to complete hundreds of drawings under Tom’s encouragement and guidance, or on my own between classes, the digital drawings became valued research artifacts, evidence of the concepts and working process that he’d instilled in me, and also expressions of my learning and my personal explorations into digital marks and images.


Why am I taking this online course?

Partly because the theme, “Openness in Education”, is in my mind at the moment. I’m a user of Moodle, the most popular open-source LMS in the market today (as far as I know), and at Moodle Moot 2013 in Vancouver, I learned more about the Open Ed movement. I like the idea of free education, lifelong learning, and self-study, and I’ve been trying to stay abreast of the intersection between open learning and the increasingly commercial online learning market.

E-learning and Digital Cultures, Week 4: Is Google making us stupid? #edcmooc

Go_SlowIn Week 4 of the MOOC E-Learning + Digital Cultures, one of the “Perspectives on Education” articles  asks the question “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”.

I must admit that I’ve sometimes asked myself a question very similar to this. I’ve asked myself “Am I losing my short-term memory?” or “Am I losing my ability to concentrate for long periods of time, or to read long passages of text in one sitting?

I do believe that over the years of web surfing (which I’ve been doing since 1994 or 1995, when the first browsers became widely available), my ability to concentrate or my pattern of reading – the way in which I consume words – has been modified by the activity of surfing online. I do feel as if the hypertext, hunt ‘n click web has modified my behaviour. I can feel that I’ve become more of a browser than a reader.

Has Using the Web Trained me to Click Instead of Read?

It’s a fair question,  as if the online world of information is like an endless, all-you-can-eat buffet. I may be in line to put together a meal from beginning to end, but the act of gathering what I need comes in little chunks, with possibilities for distraction at each new connection point. I’ll take a little bit of one site, a little bit of the next, etc. etc. Skip, skip, skip. Click, click, click. It’s more like an endless stream of consciousness, and it’s easy for me to get drawn off-course from an original train of thought onto something completely different. I think it must be the combination of my own curiosity and the seemingly endless array of links to other destinations.

But There’s a Physical Difference to Reading Online too…

I have always read, and I still love to read – novels, magazines, comics and graphic novels, and now more than ever, news and current events. But, I find reading from an LCD display to be much more difficult than reading from paper. Consistently more difficult.

I read a lot of text online, but it doesn’t mean that I’m no longer capable of reading a novel 0n paper. I love reading paper books and magazines (and even the occasional newspaper) – I’m just not quite to used to it as I was before.

So, I think the physicality of reading off a back-lit display of pixels (i.e. teeny little Light Emitting Diodes), combined with the click ‘n browser nature of hypertext brings me to a McLuhan-esque “Medium is the Message” realization:

I’m not getting dumber because of the Web, but I do think that the Web itself makes me read in a shallow way.

You know. The web made me do it.

#edcmooc

E-learning and Digital Cultures, Week 4: Redefining the Human #edcmooc

Week 4 of the MOOC E-Learning + Digital Cultures explores the theme of “Redefining the Human”.

I think the over-arching message this week is that our concept of humanity has become a relative and subjective thing. These videos explore that idea in different ways and different genres.

Robbie – A Short Film By Neil Harvey from Neil Harvey on Vimeo.

Robbie tells the story of a space-faring android who is the last occupant of a space station orbiting the earth. I could easily tell that this film was composed entirely of stock footage, but then again, how easy would it be to shoot your movie on the space station (or a realistic, earth-bound mockup). Nonetheless, the repetitive, stock footage appearance of it put me off a bit.  Aside from that, Robbie is an engaging tale about  survival, loneliness and angst from the perspective of an artificial intelligence.

I don’t know if 4000 or 6000 years of feeding its neural net with information would result in an android that would have dreams – literally flights of fantasy – and not for one moment did I buy the premise that Robbie wanted to be Catholic.

I’ll say that again: Catholic. I’m not anti-Catholic or anything, but such a specific choice of religion seems out-of-place. Is the author of this piece likening Robbie the Robot to Jesus, by virtue of his symbolic impending death (and do we presume, rebirth?)

My expectation of an autonomous, artificial intelligence would be that it would be somehow more neutral, probably atheist or maybe humanist. It either wouldn’t believe a religion or perhaps it would believe in the species which created it. Okay – so, I’m an atheist and I have a hard time with that aspect. I’ll leave that point alone, and get on with it.

No – I just cannot leave the religion aspect alone on this one…

The idea that a robot with what we consider to be A.I. would care about one religion over another probably says more about the film maker’s attempt to imbue his protagonist with some kind of “soul”, so that the viewer will empathize with him. “If the robot wants to believe in God, then he must be more like me than I thought. If he could consider accepting God as his creator, then he must have a higher level of enlightenment, just like a human.”

If, however, Robbie were to possess the actual mental engrams of a former human being – if a human being’s actual thoughts and personality could be transferred into Robbie’s memory and mechanical frame – then THAT would convince me to feel sympathy for Robbie’s plight (his curse of immortality).

But so long as I believe that Robbie possesses a 21st century version of artificial rationale, I can never consider him conscious, and so I will never accept him for much more than a glorified electric screwdriver left behind by a space workman. How cold-hearted am I? I just didn’t buy into this movie’s attempt to tug my heart strings.

Gumdrop was a sweet little comedy, and a gentle visual sleight-of-hand. By substituting a young human actor with an android auditioning for an acting job, we end up starting to think about the values and hopes of the young actress, mechanical or not. Gumdrop was a light-hearted examination of the casting call too: do we treat each other like commodities or machines? Does the audition process demean the female actor? Should human actors be worried, now that we live in a world where lots of supporting and lead characters only exist in an animation database, but never in the physical sense?

Gumdrop’s vacuum cleaner gag was very funny. But, does that mean she’s really just a glorified Rosy the Robot? What happens when the acting career is finished, or when she outlives her warranty? Will she get literally dumped on the scrap heap?

For some reason, I care about Gumdrop more than Robbie. Maybe it’s the human motion and voice. She’s much more likeable than Robbie. Like they said in Pulp Fiction, personality goes a long way.

Maybe one day soon, Honda’s Asimo walking robot will be able to audition for Survivor or something.

Hm. Robot Survivor – I’d probably watch that…

TRUE SKIN from H1 on Vimeo.

True Skin is an extremely well-made, and convincing film. Very Blade Runner-esque. Great Raymond-Chandler-inspired dialogue. “Their eyes burned holes in my pockets” was a brilliant line.

So, the one thing all these films have in common is that they live or die by the quality of the plot and the dialogue. Yay, human writers!

In terms of the humanity proposition of this week, I think this film does the best job of articulating some major issues:

  • If there comes a time when we can no longer define or recognize humanity by its fleshiness, will it still be considered human? Is a cyborg who is less than 50% flesh and bone still a human being? Maybe the more metallic and less meaty we become, the less human we will be perceived to be. Ben Kenobi said of Darth Vader: “He’s more machine than man now, twisted and evil.”
  • On a personal level, if a friend of mine had their thoughts transferred into a little computer, and I could interact with them (either text, or maybe Max Headroon style on a display screen), would I still consider them human? Probably not, if I could put them into Standby Mode, or turn them off, like any other device. So, maybe autonomy and self-preservation are other key aspects of being a sentient being?

I loved Avatar Days. The simple concept of transplanting a fantasy persona into the owner’s real-world life and society is an extremely powerful thing. It’s done so matter-of-factly and carefully that it becomes a real artistic social statement. Coolest of all, it’s contemporary. You can get immersed in World of Warcraft or Second Life and become a sword-swing, spell-packing nerd of Azaroth today.

I’ve played around in Second Life a bit in the past (reporting as “Earnest Oh”), so I can appreciate the appeal of being able to put on that second skin and walk around (or remove it and assume the position, in a lot of people’s cases… yeesh, people). It makes you wonder about the boundary between fantasy and reality for one thing. I read somewhere, that internally, your brain does not distinguish the difference between a memory of a real event, and a memory of a dream. They’re both equally valid as memories, even if one of them didn’t occur in the physical world. So, if our brains are already wired to accept dream-memories as valid, why wouldn’t we send coma victims to Azaroth to kick some goblin ass as part of some cognitive stimulation therapy? At least they’d have something interesting to do.

What about The Matrix as Long Term Care Facility? Let me extend that interesting idea into my personal life experience…

My Mother was a long-term care resident at our provincial mental health hospital for many years. I’m willing to bet that if my poor Mum were able to choose between (A) stay in a semi-vegetative state with little physical activity and not much on TV, or (B) Be Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz (her favourite movie), she’d have gone for Option B and never looked back. And if I could have visited her on the yellow brick road instead of in the awkward, cold silence of a hospital visiting room, I know which choice I’d have made too.

Dorothy and her friends had much more fun…

E-learning and Digital Cultures, Digital Artifact. #edcmooc

Here is my “Digital Artifact” for the MOOC E-Learning + Digital Cultures.

This blog post and the embedded video, form my Digital Artifact , my personal response, to the MOOC “eLearning and Digital Cultures”. In this post, I’ll try to respond to the propositions it has put before me, and to the methods and patterns I’ve observed in it and in myself.

About the Video…

I didn’t set out to emulate “The Machine is Us” or any of those first-person, typing-on-your-screen responses to modern tech, but in retrospect, my video kind of looks like one of them.

But, the way it looks came about purely practically:

  • I wanted to use my voice. Maybe this was because the vastness of the MOOC classroom made me feel like it was difficult to be heard.
  • The MOOC is a heavily visual experience (all those videos, and scrolling of screens to read things), so my response had to be full of images and motion.
  • I  knew it would be made up of some kind of collage of images, but I didn’t know I’d be sampling my own web surfing so directly. This was like a riff on the act of doing web-based research.
  • I wanted the video piece to look and feel a bit obscure, rough or hand-rolled, not perfectly trim and clean. Plus, time would be an issue, so I had to figure ways to do things live, and to move things around on the screen in real-time. Time was my enemy. I’d probably need to work fast.
  • I had a rough script, but was ready to improvise if need be.

How the video was produced:

The video came into being through a combination of digital and online resources, and coincidental, guerrilla production methods.

I’d originally thought about doing a Prezi or a slideshow as the format for my final piece, but after thinking about it for a while, I decided that those formats would either be too restrictive, or too over-used. I would definitely record something off my computer screen though – maybe using Jing…

My next concept was to create many little graphical clips – little cutouts – in Photoshop, and move them around on Photoshop’s artboard, like little 2D puppets on a digital “stage”. (Maybe the “Bendito Machine” video had influenced me subconsciously?)

As the deadline approached, the prospect of capturing and clipping dozens of graphics – maybe even one hundred – seemed hugely impractical. I needed a more immediate, more rapid way to get my idea across. I decided to try to stay with the “stage” idea, but move bigger and fewer pieces of art around.

I built a simple Photoshop project that used a soft-edged rectangle, like a soft viewport or blurry camera iris. I decided that the first few moments of my story could represent a frame of my expectations – the fuzzy edges might stand as a visual metaphor for the uncertain boundaries of my expectations, or the blurry boundaries that I perceived to be the student parameters of the MOOC itself.

Beyond that, I had a number of concepts that I’d thumbed into my smartphone during a coffee break. I knew the story would trace a line through the content that I’d experienced thus far, and through my reactions to being a MOOCer, in general.

I set up a small 640 x 480 rectangular area on my screen to record, and I abandoned Jing in favour of its “big brother” app, Camtasia Studio.

This became as much of a temporal collage as it was a spatial collage.

As soon as I got to record the first web page in the video (in this case the front of edcmooc), I decided to abandon the Photoshop artboard “stage” altogether, and just grab whatever I could online to tell the narrative I had sketched out in Notepad. I would just capture whatever I could in my browser (making elements bigger so they better filled the screen and the user’s field of view), and use whatever images I could find on the fly from the web.

I began recording, and would pause from shot to shot, to change what content would appear in the little 640 x 480 capture area. This allowed me to create the whole sequence in chunks of one minute or so, or sometimes as brief as a few seconds. This gave me the freedom to work rapidly and change things on the fly, spending 10 or 15 minutes between “takes” to select and compose what would go in the next little sequence, or consult my little script (which you see me doing in the video), and practice or re-do my audio narration.

The music track was from a creative commons source, and any coincidences of images and sounds (like when an image appears right in time with a strong drum cue or something) is purely and wonderfully coincidental.

So, there was some predetermined design, and there was some random chance, and some on-the-spot improv, which felt very liberating. There was a logistical framework in some of the preparation, and most especially there was a definite mental framework in all the concepts which had been interconnecting in my mind over the past few weeks.

But it was truly recorded as a sequence of brief  little live performances. Recording and editing the initial 12 minute “draft” version of the video probably took me five or six hours. The next day, I emailed and tweeted the YouTube URL around to get some feedback, and then spent another hour later that night tightening up the editing, adding graphics, and refining the music volume.

Then, I spent another few hours working on this blog post, in order to try to explain (and rationalize) it all…

What my Digital Artifact probably says about my experience…

…is that after the first few weeks, I think I responded more to the process of MOOCing, of being a student in a MOOC, than I did to the actual propositions put to me by the course facilitators and the course content. I always have been a bit more interested in process rather than product. I think that working in relative isolation, with only a vague feeling of online “connectedness” to instructors or colleagues, tended to make me turn inward more and more. Instead of reaching outward to collaborate with my online classmates or facilitators, I turned inward and did a more personal analysis of the internal learning and thought processes which had been triggered – some of which from twenty five years earlier! I think that’s what my artifact communicates: my reactions to the process in which I was immersed.

I enjoyed creating something that moved and contained more than one mode of apprehension (i.e. voice + video + music). I think that I ended up responding to those same qualities in the MOOC content…

  • The little animated chunks of video, which delivered little windows into someone else’s world.
  • The relentless reading and scrolling and clicking to get from idea to idea (an animated experience in itself).

What does my experience reflect? Is it useful to the MOOC itself?

A friend and fellow classmate in this MOOC told me that being in it felt a bit like being in art college all over again. I must totally agree with that statement: that is very much how it felt for me as well. And for me, that’s a good thing.

But, is it useful information to the facilitators of this MOOC or to the developers of the versions of it that will come after it? Just what kind of teaching and learning have we been undertaking here in MOOCland, and what are those Masters students in the U. of Edinburgh getting from studying this massive online learning experiment? And what does Coursera get out of it?

What is a MOOC, after all?

Is it just Edutainment, as some people fear?

Is it a new excuse for more web surfing and social media?

Is it actually some yet-to-be-validated form of social learning?

Those questions will take me much longer to answer.

Beyond the Buzz: MOOCs at UBC, plus a marketing perspective…

MOOC_SMMOOCs and UBC: Top 12 things you need to know now…

In September 2012, UBC entered into an agreement with Coursera to deliver online web-based free courses as part of MOOCs. UBC has four non-credit and free online courses planned for 2013. They include: “Useful Genetics”, “Introduction to Systematic Program Design”, “Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Conversations” and “Game Theory”.

Read all 12 things in this BC Campus article:
http://www.bccampus.ca/moocs-and-ubc-top-12-things-you-need-to-know-now/


A Marketing Perspective on MOOCs…

My stream-of-consciousness explorations of MOOCs and MOOC-related online chatter brought me to the following article, from wired.com. I never really thought of a MOOC as being “edutainment” before, but I think it just might represent a social merger between mass education and mass entertainment, between social learning and social media.

More than that, the idea (below) that the author sees lifelong learning as a “continuous, on-the-job process” (e.g. vocational) seems to me extremely practical, possible, and a little too skewed towards commerce. IMHO, MOOC-based education has, at some level, been fueled by a business model, like it or not. It’s free – but not without some cost.

This article was written by a Marketer or a Market Analyst (read: business person) – not by an Educator.

Beyond the Buzz, Where Are MOOCs Really Going?

(Originally posted at http://www.wired.com/opinion/2013/02/beyond-the-mooc-buzz-where-are-they-going-really/)

MOOCs can be much more than marketing and edutainment. We believe they are likely to evolve into a “scale business”: one that relies on the technology and data backbone of the medium to optimize and individualize learning opportunities for millions of students.

This is very different than simply putting a video of a professor lecturing online.

The initial MOOCs came from a “process business model” where companies bring inputs together at one end and transform them into a higher-value output for customers at the other end — as with the retail and manufacturing industries.

But over time, an approach where users exchange information from each other similar to Facebook or telecommunications (a “facilitated network model”) will come to dominate online learning. This evolution is especially likely to happen if the traditional degree becomes irrelevant and, as many predict, learning becomes a continuous, on-the-job learning process. Then the need for customization will drive us toward just-in-time mini-courses.”

A Summary of Student Experiences from #edcmooc (Prezi style)

Some students are now completing the MOOC E-Learning and Digital Cultures.

This Prezi gives an interesting overview of some student experiences and observations from this massive MOOC:

http://prezi.com/fsfqdiusthcc/sentimental-campus-dublin-february-19/?auth_key=eb36ed77d88e4c2a191d5a7df9d0eba58f701a8c

Also, yes, I’m tooting my own horn on this post: one of my illustrations was actually used in this Prezi. It had been my entry into the MOOC’s “make an interesting image for Week 2” competition. I never won enough “likes” or whatever on Flikr to win the prize, but seeing my illustration used as a slide in this Prezi is prize enough for me.

Ah, sweet recognition…

#edcmooc

E-learning & Digital Cultures: How big is #edcmooc? Some Stats…

EDCMOOC statistics

These usage statistics were provided by faculty from Edinburgh University, who are running the E-Learning + Digital Cultures MOOC on Coursera:

  • Total Registered Participants: 42874
  • Active Participants Over the Last 7 Days (“Active” is define as any contact with the EDCMOOC Coursera course site): ~ 17%
  • EDC MOOC News (Blog Aggregator) Unique Visitors: ~10%
  • Visitors to the EDCMOOC News page come ~65% from the USA and ~ 8% from the UK.

Other stats about this MOOC:

  • For about 70% of the group, this is their first MOOC.  About half are currently enrolled on only one MOOC.
  • About 24% of respondents from the USA, ~ 9% from the UK, ~ 6% come from Spain, and ~ 3% from both India and Greece.
  • About 60% of respondents come either from “teaching and education” or report themselves to be “students”.  Just over 60% of the entire respondent group have postgraduate level qualifications, and a further ~35% have a university or college degree.

E-learning and Digital Cultures, Week 3: Reasserting the Human #edcmooc

Week 3 of the MOOC E-Learning + Digital Cultures explores the theme of “Reasserting the Human”.

In the videos I’ve seen so far in Week 3, the idea of humanity is brought to the foreground primarily by the absurd or hyper-extended context in which each story is framed.

As a metaphor for what I mean,  imagine you place a small area of light grey colour on top of a large black background. On black, the light grey will look much lighter than it actually is. In fact, people might interpreted it to be white.

That’s what these videos appear to be doing: creating a non-human, artificial or alien (spoiler alert!) tone or context, which brings out our internal concept of humanity in sharp relief. Unfortunately, they also bring out my cynicism in even sharper relief.

This somewhat shallow Toyota ad riffs on the idea of what today’s viewer would consider “CG” – a 3D representation that approaches the level of an interactive 3D video game, such as “L.A. Noire”. The message is insultingly simplistic: “Toyota is the real deal” [*snore*]

What I find more interesting is the fact that most younger viewers will totally be able to agree as to the “unrealistic” 3D graphics in this commercial. They’ve grown up in the era of HD and awesome frame rates.

I was born in 1966, and I suspect that my generation will be less likely to find as much fault with the quality of the “unrealistic” renderings. Maybe my generation would pass on the real deal Toyota, and drive our chunky, pixely KIAs or Yugos around in 3D land and still have a great time. I guess Toyota is pandering to the 25 year-old driver in this case, and I’m somewhat irrelevant.

This British Telecom ad makes the point about human contact by showing a family that interacts exclusively via text and social media. They don’t even seem to know how disconnected they truly are from each other, until BT points it out of course. Poor buggers.

This ad is basically “reach out and touch someone” all over again. (Does anyone remember that ad campaign from the 1970s?) Poor consumers. At least this commercial has a message promoting some kind of “more human” connection to it. The idea is that real-time voice comunication – the good ol’ phone system – is more human than texting or social media. I tend to agree with this sentiment, although ironically, I’d be using my social media as much as anyone, for the sheer convenience.

Most of the telecom commercials I’ve seen portray families that seem to need infinite minutes, massive data plans and constant texting. It always shows family members enjoying their digital lives, away from each other in separate rooms, not conversing or connecting or even acknowledging each other.

World Builder is a bittersweet fantasy. My initial response during the first few minutes was “Self satisfied 3D modeler plays God creating his perfect little 3D world = adolescent male power fantasy = So what?”

But as the story unfolded to it’s final conclusion, it revealed a sweet moral of self-sacrifice, a dream-wish of happiness and freedom given from someone who has freedom to someone who hasn’t any.

The idea here is that technology can be a tool to humanize and liberate, and in this video, liberation and freedom are placed in the service of love and compassion, instead of in the selfish pursuit of pleasure or power.