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Mess as the new paradigm for communications
Plastination of a Ballet Dancer
The skin removed from a human body reveals a mess.
The walls removed from a business does the same. It has happened whether or not we like it, even without Wikileaks we are revealing more of ourselves than ever before.
Glass Skull by Rudat
Our minds are a mess if our sculls are made of glass: mine is, I expose and disclose and share my thoughts.
Posting notes isn’t laziness, it is mess: it is ‘messy stuff’.
It is the beginning of something, or the end, it is both unstarted and unfinished. Notes go down well in our ‘wiki- world’ as it makes space for others to interject, to correct and fix in a way that feels less like criticism and more like collaboration.
Once was a time I’d pick out every misplaced apostrophe, especially concerning ‘its’, now I care less, ditto spelling. Would I have heard the incorrect apostrophe on the possessive of its? Would I have known that I’d hit the ‘w’ key instead of the ‘a’ typing as I am with my left hand only propped up in bed. And what about the missing ‘h’ I’ve left out of ‘thoughts’?
Too late, I’ve said it now and my next idea is coming through.
Reinvention’s the word!
Isn’t ‘re-invention’ the word? (Rogers, 2005. P. 114 -115)
Not wholesale repurposing, but as Rogers puts it ‘It should be acknowledged that rejection, discontinuance and re-invention frequently occur during the diffusion of an innovation and that such behaviour may be rational and appropriate from the individual’s point of view.’ (Rogers, p114 2002)
I wonder how my experience might have been with a group of colleagues or friends, signing up together … but might this too ‘spoil the party.’ And how over a longer period fellow students would be emailing and messaging and getting on the phone … let alone meeting up.
This fascinates me primarily because I am convinced that collaboration, sharing, discussion and so on is crucial to a deeper learning outcome.
But does this not have to be down to the drive of the individual and permitted by the institution they belong to?
How much motivation can others really offer or be expected to offer?
If neither a carrot or stick will work with adult learners, especially in a online environment, then what do you do?
‘You can take a horse to the trough, but you can’t make it drink.’
As I’m about to take a course on the Psychology of Sport as a Senior Swimming Coach I may gain some further insights into waht motivates people to do something and how outsiders can influence this in a positive way.
And just because we’re invited to drink from this trough once, dos not mean we will do it again, or often or with enthusiasm. Our moods will wax and wane, or commitments beyond the course will impinge.
Deep learning, as I’ve learnt, benefits from, even requires a rapport with one or several others at various levels of understanding – a Subject Matter Expert (SME) or experts, a tutor, a couple of fellow students on the course, and perhaps someone more junior who can be in turn mentored or tutored by us (first years being buddied by a second year, a post-grad student supervising a fresher).
How much this mix can be set by what little the OU or other Distance Learning Provider knows about an individual is quite another matter.
Do you run a call-centre like team of facilitators/moderators … or aspire to the one-to-one relationship of tutor or governess to student mimicking some land-owning/aristocratic model of the distant past?
Or is this something for a DPhil?
A free-for-all would create imbalances, inevitably … for the institution. But whose experience are we prioritising here?
Whilst a balance must be found, if the best outcomes are to give tutors and SMEs much more time online to forge relationships then this should be – a good coach attracts the best athletes and attracts the interest of other coaches. How does she do that? (Expertise, training and personality … enthusiasm, putting the athlete at the centre of things)
Perhaps by pursuing ‘educational social networking’ institutions are shooting themselves in the financial foot?
The time put in to make a freer networking between students, tutors and SMEs, with students in different time zones and different priorities would be prohibitive. Undergraduates studying on campus, in a homophilous cohort, with fewer worries (other than debt) don’t know how fortunate they are to have this opportunity to study, probably for the only time, before the life of the wider world impinges.
Rogers, E,M. Diffusion of Innovations. (2005) 5th Ed.
E-words, e-terms and e-lexemes
Inspired by The Secret life of words. How English became English. Henry Hitchings (2008)
24 August 2010 (First posted in my Diayland blog which I stared in September 1999)
‘Communications is essential to our lives, but how often do we stop to think about where the words we use have come from?’ Hitchings (2008)
Whilst ‘where words came from’ is the premise for ‘The Secret Life of Words’ it is much more: it is a history of the people who spoke English. It is a refreshing take on a chronology of events. We learn history through words for warrior, through the Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing … and through the words the English language has so easily accommodated from across the globe.
E-words. E-terms. E-lexemes.
* Word – Anglo-Saxon
* Term – French
* Lexeme – Latin
It is a fascinating journey, one made pertinent to someone studying on the cascading wave-edge of the digital ocean that is ‘e-learning’ with the frequent coining of new terms.
For a description of the way the English language functions (or mis-functions) I love this:
- English is ‘Deficient in regularity.’
- From James Harris (c1720) in Hitchings (2008:1)
- It is exactly the kind of thing a teacher might write in red pen at the bottom of a school-boy’s essay.
- This is another way of putting it. English, ‘this hybrid tongue’, as Hitchings calls it. Hitchings (2008:2)
- A tongue that re-invents itself, twists and transmogrifies at every turn.
A couple of decades ago I recall there being suggestions that the English language would splinter into so many dialects, creoles and forms that a speaker of one would not understand the user of another. The opposite appears to be the case, that ‘core English’ has been stabilised by its myriad of versions. Users can choose to understand each other or not, to tolerate even celebrate their differences or to use difference to create a barrier: think of the class divide, the posh voice versus the plebeian, one regional accent set against another, or an accent from one former British Dominion compared to another.
‘Words bind us together, and can drive us apart.’ Hitchings (2008:3)
How is the Internet changing the English Language?
What impact has Instant Messaging, blogging and asynchronous communication had? Can we be confident that others take from our words the meanings we intend? As we are so inclined to use sarcasm, irony, flippancy and wit when we speak, how does this transcribe when turned into words? How can you know a person’s meaning or intentions without seeing their face or interpreting their body language? Must we be bland to compensate for this?
I love mistakes, such as this one from Hitchings:
Crayfish … ‘its fishy quality is the result of a creative mishearing.’ Hitchings (2008:4)
Age ten or eleven I started to keep a book of my ‘creative mishearings’ which included words such as ‘ragabond,’ instead of ‘vagabond.’ I love the idea of the ‘creative mishearing,’ isn’t this the same as ‘butterfly’, shouldn’t it be ‘flutterby’? And recalling a BBC Radio 4 Broadcast on Creativity with Grayson Perry, ‘creativity is mistakes.’
Mistakes and misunderstandings put barbs on the wire strings of words we hook from point to point, between arguments and chapters.
We are fortunate that the English language is so flawed; it affords scratches and debate, conflict and the taking of sides.
An American travelled 19,000 miles back and forth across the US with a buddy correcting spellings, grammar and punctuation on billboards, notices and road signs. His engaging story split the reviewers into diametrically opposed camps of ‘love him’ or ‘hate him.’ (Courtesy of the Today Programme, the day before yesterday c20th August 2010)
‘Our language creates communities and solidarities, as well as division and disagreements.’ Hitchings (2008:4)
My test for the longevity and acceptability of a new word coined to cover a term in e-learning will be twofold:
Can, what is invariably a noun, be turned with ease into a verb or adjective?
Might we have an Anglo-Saxon, French and Latin word for the same thing. We like to have many words for the same thing … variations on a theme.
And a final thought
Do technical words lend themselves to such reverse engineering? Or, like a number, are they immutable?
If they are made of stone I will find myself a mason’s chisel.
- Horses sweat, men sweat, and ladies sweat just the same (meganabigailwhite.wordpress.com)
- A Figurative Battleground: ‘The Language Wars: A History of Proper English’ (Review) (popmatters.com)
- #Ban zeez hashtags: French bid to outlaw English phrases (mirror.co.uk)
- The Pope’s Big News Came in…Latin (patrickcox.wordpress.com)
- Don’t need another canterbury tale! (coceyea.wordpress.com)
- Are You Making These 5 Grammar Errors? (contentbydawn.com)
- How English became English. E-words (mymindbursts.com)
Access is not generational
Access is not generational, there are clearly people from across the demographic and from every geographical niche on the planet that are engaging with IT with the ‘virtual revolution’ of the Internet & fulfilling so many dreams.
It is apt that we think of it as a net, as in the ‘Internet’ or we think of it as a web, as in ‘the world wide web’ – as we do, because nets and webs are full of holes. These holes occur everywhere, the retired Canadian civil servant who has no typing skills, so no computer and no internet; the teenager single-mother in a war torn village whose only priority is life itself; lack of money, lack of assistance, lack of broadband Internet access, let alone dial-up, a ‘shadow’ that means you have no mobile access, you’re at sea, in prison, in a prison of your own making: the list is as long as the number of holes you can imagine in a net or web wrapped around a globe.
The language of the web a decade ago was English, while fifteen years ago it was HTML; just as ten years before that the language of computers was DOS (or to my mind dross) – impenetrable geek-speak written for mathematicians who forget that they had to communicate to the outside world in English. And once these challenges to uptake were overcome, for a long time since the language of the Internet was in the English language.
The bias and the historical influences of hundreds of years of conquest & colonialism echo across this i.e.o.Universe.
- Net use survey underscores stereotype (thehindu.com)
- Free Course on Semantic Web Technologies Starting February 4 (semanticweb.com)
- Misused English terminology (termcoord.wordpress.com)