09 November 2011

Merging This and That and the Subsequent Disappearance of Binaries and Awakening of True Educational Potential

The drama of computing? Really? Yes. Surprizingly, Aristotle's "Poetics" shares quite a bit
with human-computer activities. Image courtesy of "Design History Mashup"

While discussing the essential causes of human-computer activity (which, given some changes in the drama of computing since the early 1990s, I would like to rephrase [if I may be so bold] as human-computer interactivity) it becomes apparent that dissolving binaries (be it performance/audience, computer/user, creator/consumer, etc.) and increasing sensory experience and involvement are critical ideas for dramas of stage and screen (computer screen here, which interestingly enough has also become the stage for other dramatic spectacles; both actively created and passively consumed).

A simple line, but significant nonetheless, Laurel explains theatre directors and video game designers were hoping to "dissolve the boundaries between actors and audience by placing both in the same space" (565). This blew my mind for a number of reasons. The drama of everyday life.

The internet is everywhere (physical space, hyperspace, meta-digital-everywhereness).

Right?

Yet, the binaries persist.

We strive for an educational paradigm that emphasizes creativity and engagement, but persist in an infinitely furcated (sort of the precise antithesis of the interdisciplinary project promoted by forward-thinking educators) and purposefully rigid context. Games ≠ education. Teacher ≠ student. Learner ≠ learned. Actor ≠ audience. Viewer ≠ creator.

It's all quite simple.

Right?

Well, in a word, no.

In two words, HELL NO!

While physical boundaries blur and (in many cases) dissolve altogether, conceptual boundaries remain. The comfort and familiarity of binary distinction is powerfully entrenched in many sociocultural spheres. You must be either this or that. 'Tis impossible to simultaneously be this and that. But why? Theories abound...restrictive semantics, power dynamics, conceptual indoctrination, among other ideological conspiracies. In effort to preserve some semblance of coherence and prevent complete unravelling of this intellectual thread, the point is this: educators must find better solvents to dissolve binaries in order to form a more comprehensive educational solution.

To realize the fullness of education (and life for that matter) we all must embrace the connectivity rather than emphasize outmoded, rigid, unevolving distinctions. Games can be educational (some times, maybe not all of the time, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't try). The viewer can simultaneously create; we're no longer passive sponges, absorbing content (which causes one to wonder if we ever really were. after all, haven't viewers/readers/listeners always processed, deconstructed, and reconstructed content in order to create meaning?), but are interactive viewerators -- intimately involved in the creation and dissemination of ideas, knowledge, etc. This is most visible in the digital realm, but I argue for its full realization in the (here's where my idealistic adjectives kick in) dynamic world of education. Why can't students be teachers and teachers students? Involve everyone in the cycle of learning-teaching-learning. We all (re)create everywhere, all the time. Embrace it.


"Bundled, Buried and Behind Closed Doors: The Physical Underbelly of the Internet" a recent addition to the fantastic content at Brain Pickings (which, if you're not already familiar, check it out -- absolutely fantastic stuff that covers a wide array of interests [e.g. literature, science, technology, food, culture, music, art, health -- really a dream site for those with multidisciplinary inclinations]. be sure to read their witty and insightful "About" page)

Not entirely sure how all this connects? Flip to page 407 of The New Media Reader for some semblance of an explanation. Ramblings courtesy of my caffeinated mind.

note: originally composed on thursday, 9 november 2011 @ 3:51pm. final and successful clicking of looming blue "Publish" button @ 6:32pm, sunday, 13 november 2011. sincere apologies from an absentminded author. here's another brain pickings gem as a prize for your patience (sneak preview: "The great thing about machines is they do what they’re told.")