IN-BOX – how interwebs will tear us apart in #edcmooc


I decided to be lazy today and use my EDC MOOC brain to process the homework. At least some of it. OK – just one tiny little movie. Inbox.

It seems to have made the most impression on the collective – trending today on discussion forums at least. It is perhaps not surprising, as it focuses on an ever popular theme – a love story – as mediated by a ‘magical’ communication device – a red paper bag. Superficially, it has an uplifting tone – at least compared to the other course offerings in this week’s mini-film fest (Thursday, Bendito Machine III, New Media).

The course materials intimated that its message about the technology can be read as utopian or distopian. This ambivalence is what attracted my attention – I tend to think that it is all rather complicated and we should not commit to a single position in our view of technology’s impact/interplay with society or with learning. It all depends on our own, always changing, personal context.

Here are some awesome insights from my #etmooc pals…(mostly via discussion forum – there are vast amounts there so just a few threads collected).

Angela Towndrow’s blogpost sees the communication technology embodied by the red bag, as an enabler of initiation of social interaction when faced with barriers in f2f communication. She sees the nature of the interaction itself as not changed by the technology though – it is analogous to rituals of the past when pen-and-paper notes were passed between the potential lovers in the courtship period. And the serendipity/fate in human interactions is not entirely technology-dependent (the couple meets in the end despite the tech malfunction).

Others on discussion forums see the technology as instrumental in making interactions easier once we choose to move our relationships offline:

At the end the two parties met and seemed to have not problem interacting because they had experienced each other via the medium that allowed them to communicate. (Mark Ashford)

I heard a very convincing story about facilitative aspect of web2.0 interaction on collaborative relationships in K12 context when George Couros spoke about the connected principals movement last night for ETMOOC. The talk is archived here. So although I see Angela’s point, I also think that medium such as twitter or facebook, through putting restrictions on the length of message and their inherent dynamics, allow for development of a light touch and prevalent presence and signal our openness to interactions with others. This enhances the chances of serendipitous encounters, and allows for relationships to develop and be maintained at a distance to an extent not possible via emails or letter writing of the olden days (as a particularly poor epistolarian myself I do appreciate the brevity of these new forms of communication).

But ultimately the technology may not be enough to sustain human relationships/take them to another level:

that the bags allowed them to start to get to know each other but there is still a need for direct human contact. (Celia Popovic)

What really intrigued me is that quite a few people noted that the communication medium did impact how the couple ‘talked’ to each other f2f – and how this mirrored the impact that mobile technology seems to have on human interaction at present:

What I found interesting is they were still communicating with some sort of technology (post-it notes) when they were right in front of each other instead of speaking. It reminds me of what I see around me…two people sitting in a restaurant and texting instead of connecting with each other. An interesting type of progress… (Michael D Lawrence)

Angela, optimistically, sees the nature of human interactions unchanged in the film and in the learning context, even though the format may be different:

technology itself will be neutral in the social interactions required for social constructivist or connectivist pedagogy. The film suggests that the tool is immaterial.

But she can also see the dystopia – as the film presents the communication technology in prominently displayed consumerist/capitalist context (it is an incidental purchase at a shop). She goes on to say:

[…] when the technology “fails” and the lines of communication are cut, we are presented with another powerful image of the man returning to the closed apparel store. I interpret this as meaning that technology will only be available when there is money to be made from it. No shop, no technology and dystopically, no relationship.

This resonates with how fast the technology is changing, and the fact that ultimately the boom in new social communication tools relies on the enterprise making a profit to ‘stay open’. Ultimately, technology will be a driver for the most economically beneficial model in education (something here aligns with “if you are not a customer you are a product” motto). I would take it further and say that perhaps the tech impermanence and susceptibility to breakdowns should make us even more cautious about the committing ourselves to ‘tech solutions’ instead of pedagogical ones.

But will we be able to resist the seduction of the ‘magic’ of new communication technologies, or are we slaves to our own susceptibility to seek novelty, just like the female protagonist in the film:

She closes Facebook,bored of the same interaction. She wanted something different and the trick of the bag was what called their attention (Valia Andrea Carrasco Parra)

Especially if they are pushed at us incessantly, sneakily disguised as seemingly inconsequential accompaniment to our daily consumption.

Thank you EDCMOOC brain – I could not have done it without you!


3 thoughts on “IN-BOX – how interwebs will tear us apart in #edcmooc”

  1. Apologies to the blog subscribers – I have had to republish this one several times as the draft kept disappearing…oh the ‘enabling’ technology!;)

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