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How great is the impact of anything on the brain?

Fig.1. From Prof. Susan Greenfield’s 2012 presentation on consciousness

My belligerent stance on the impact of computers to the brain – not much in my view, we’re too complex, our brains too massive (94 billion neurons) has been tipped on its head courtesy of a short interview on good old BBC’s Woman’s Hour last Thursday. The interviewee was Susan Greenfield (Professor & Baroness).

She invited listeners to get in touch if they wanted the facts on ‘mind change’ – as big as ‘climate change’ in her view, that as the brain is affected by everything that hours spent in front of a 2 dimensional world (sound and vision) our minds, especially younger, plastic brains, will form connections that make these people different.

I particularly liked the thought that all the time a child spends in front of a screen is time NOT spent ‘climbing trees, interacting face to face and having hugs’. I may be adrift at the moment but have a reading list for the summer.

Shell-shock – there’s evidence of the impact of circumstances on the brain. But playing on your computer for too long? Too much free will to cause ‘damage’?

Scrambulation

I think I did the equivalent of throwing the files out of the window yesterday afternoon and no doubt the TMA grade will reflect this.

I reached a stage of total scrambulation.

Currently doing a 24 hour spring clean, pack the car, find wetsuits that no one can get into, fix the box on car roof, get keys that work for the car … listen to Pepys dramatised on the radio (see the blog) … while feeding teenagers and accommodating my wife whose computer died when it was purloined for World of Warcraft duties 😦

(P.S. I am advised that my avatar remains wondering this world in her underwear. Meanwhile, after three weeks of doing a paper round my son has purchased a virtual motorbike for his World of Warcraft avatar – think Harley Davidson – he also has an upgrade on his pet –  an Elephant.

Both impress I am told.

Educators enter here at their own peril.

My advice would be to so so with an experienced 13 year old to assist and you may end up like me, female, in your underwear, doing dances for your living. Seriously, this is my experimental taste of virtual worlds.

I learned that my son has several characters online, somehow, and each has a distinct personality and I suspect gender. I am ‘Val Desire’ her twin – is creation – is ‘Not Val Desire’.)

And the dog is on heat 😦

And my 15 year old daughter has decided the contents of her attic room are childish and is currently bagging it (while my wife is going through said bag convinced that everything has a value and ought to be put in our lock up garage for the next decade or two. A garage that is 11 miles away and we took possession of temporarily when we moved house … four years ago.)

Otherwise a normal day.

Pencils and pastels I have, but I need cartridge paper and a new drawing board.

I’m disinclined to over use the digital camera as it will require immediate downloading to a laptop then editing, then uploading and all that eJazz. Do I go with the flow, indulge this? Maybe I should, passing on some basic craft skills along the way in relation to shot size, editing, action cuts and so on.

I realise too that this desire to go off and draw is akin to being behind a computer screen.

A sort of hunkering down escape into my own head. Though drawing is likely to be less distracting than being online.

Basically, what I crave, and did for decades with my Dad is a boat, to sea with all those challenges and absolutely NO contact with the outside world.

On these trips I took books, paper, guitar. I am inclined therefore to need the iPad that now is the books, the paper and all the sheet music my heart could desire.

Impossible of course because he is long dead and the boat sold.

 

Virtual worlds cross dressing and role-play

I have an avatar.

In World of Warcraft.

My son took me through the set-up, vital for any software, have an informed and experienced teacher.

I wasn’t allowed to make one quick choice, I had to look at the options. He had views as well as information concerning all the characters. My wife joins in and we plum for a female as the way she poses and sticks out hefty butt when she shuffles about made us laugh. I think I am a night elf. Unable to give her a real name (all taken) I got for Val d’Isere … Which gets transmuted into Valdesire. This is a lady with attitude; I guess I see myself as a Lara Croft type 🙂

Aided by my son he insists we skip the intros.

Intermittently he reaches over and gives me a belt, boots and a sword. And were off. I know I am painfully slow for him but after while I can position myself in front of a hovering, dragon slug thing which seems about as easy to kill as standing on a snail. I gain pouts, collect stuff and go up a few levels.

I assume my son is off to the bathroom when he goes of, actually he has signed on a second computer and with delight says the person I am standing next to, my twin but wearing clothes is him and his (her) name is ‘Notvaldesire’.

‘Let’s have a dual,’ he says and knowing what he is like I get my sword out and put in a strike only to have some god-like voice/ figure berate us.

On returning from the shops I ask if anything had happened as my wife had taken over ‘Our Val.’

We had to sell all you clothes, he said, to buy a spell that didn’t work.’

Having no clothes has me think of the only campus Second Life I’m aware of at Sussex University where I understand that repeated calls go out for everyone in Second Life to take their clothes off 😦

Thinking about role play as I wondered through Lewes I saw groups of language students in the same blue-tops and football fans gathering before going off to a match.

This is the town where a substantial part of the town dress up for November 5th, indeed I am in Commercial Square and dress up as a Confederate Soldier each year. We joined as newcomers to the town 11 years ago; as a social network it is extraordinarily effective.

 

Role-play and learning in virtual and made-up worlds

We role-play as children to make sense of the world, we take on multiple personas to some degree in real-life as well.

I am particularly taken by the way people with a disability can walk in a virtual world (Peachey 2010) or indeed how any of us can fly and do much more in these environments (die and repeatedly come back to life of course.)

At no cost my dentist, or rather our family dentist, made a set of dentures for me out of dentine that fitted over my teeth. This allowed me to sing. I foolishly sharpened the fangs and promptly punctured my lower lip. I learnt by the way that unless I could have dislocated my jaw biting someone’s neck is impossible. Vampires should bite the wrist or leg, but then all, or at least the obvious sexual innuendos are lost.

Was I living out a fantasy when I played Dracula in my teens?

I kept acting into my twenties until I decided that my mental state couldn’t handle the selection process (rejection) and my experience in front of camera and on stage left me bored senseless (I had minor roles).

Do actors, as in role-play, have to overcome or compensate for who they are?

Peachy raises all the points in a commonsense and everyday way. I can imagine or should research where stepping into the role of an avatar has life-saving qualities, for example is not learning to fly a commercial jet-airliner in a simulator not a form of virtual role-play? I believe firemen are trained in virtual set-ups too and believe the nuclear power industry do so too.

The trouble with doing this in a learning context is the huge development costs. i.e. It has to be better to use a ready made platform. I then ask though, what is wrong with using our imaginations, that improvising and role-play doesn’t require the disguises?

REFERENCE

Peachey, A. (2010) ‘Living in immaterial worlds: who are we when we learn and teach in virtual worlds?’ in Sheehy, K., Ferguson, R. and Clough, G. (eds) Virtual Worlds: Controversies at the Frontier of Education (Education in a Competitive and Globalizing World), New York, NY, Nova Science.

 

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