Blurring boundaries


I have been thinking a lot recently about digital identity and presence online (see earlier posts). Mark Childs has also been writing about presence, in particular, with respect to virtual worlds. I like his definition of presence:

Presence is a combination of mediated presence (“being there” aka immersion) + social presence (projection of ourselves, perception of others) + copresence (being somewhere with others) + self presence (or embodiment).

David Hopkins has blogged today about ‘The Technology of Touch’.  I think this takes the immersive experience of technology a stage further. David argues that:

By introducing touch in this way you can bring any substance or texture to the classroom where it would not be possible (or safe) to do so. What does moon rock feel like? What does hard enamel tell you about the integrity of a tooth? What does the surface of a scarf feel like when it’s frozen in liquid nitrogen? How do you spot a possible failure in an engine block when it’s running at 9000 rpm. To experience these things can bring the subject, the science, the learning alive where you would not always be able to?

So haptic technologies enable you to experience the textuality of things you may not be able to access in the physical world; either because it is not available or because it is unsafe to do so. It allows Medical and Dental students to practice and develop their skills in an authentic and textual environment, before unleashing them on the real world.

So, through technologies, we now have a full spectrum of experiences; from the social and connected interaction with others through social media and the power of ‘text-plus’ (i.e. text plus emoticons, hashtags, brackets, etc.), through the ‘virtual physicality’ of Virtual Worlds, and through the touch-based experience of haptic technologies. As a result the boundaries between real and virtual are truly blurred. What do these various digital spaces mean in terms of presence, experience, immersion and identity? And how can they be harnessed to promote different pedagogical approaches?

5 Responses to “Blurring boundaries”

  1. Cristina Costa Says:

    This is a very pertinent discussion, one that also taps into the conversations Graham Attwell and I have been having on skype.

    As technology gets embedded in our practice/habits/ways of leading our lives (each one of us will name it differently) it becomes part of what we are and as a result it does change the way we do things because our perspectives and expectations of the world change. I think some people experience it in different ways, with different levels of intensity… and so I think that for some people the blur is absolutely there, but for some of us the boundaries are not really there anymore or at least they are not felt at such… it’s what we have become and the way we communicate, work, do things…. I feel naked without a *smart* phone kind of a thing.
    We are starting to extend ourselves through the mediums that are made available to us, and the only way to convey presence online is to participate. Thus, I think it inevitably enables us to provide a more thorough picture of ourselves which in return transforms itself in our identity: what we “present” as being us and what people make of it (how we are represented and interpreted by others).

    What’s intriguing to me too is the power of the screen in making me “give more of me” than I would in a face to face context. I also must say that communicating online made me more confident to talk to other people face to face…

    Oh so much to reflect on… just adding my 2 cents but no longer know if they are related to the post!! #ramblings! :-)

  2. Gráinne Says:

    Excellent points Cristina totally agree! I find communicating through social media utterly transformative and agree I also feel I give more than in a face-to-face context. See my latest post about connectedness, which relates very much to the points you make!

  3. Sue Beckingham Says:

    I have long been impressed with the work of Sarah Baillie and the ‘Haptic Cow’. The Haptic Cow was developed to help train veterinary students to palpate a cow’s reproductive tract, to perform fertility examinations and to diagnose pregnancy. The simulator uses haptic (touch feedback) technology and has a PHANToM haptic device (from SensAble Technologies) positioned inside a fibreglass model of the rear-half of a cow.
    From a student’s perspective risk taking in medicine (with live patients human or animal) has dangerous consequences. Being able to explore the right and wrong way to perform a task though this technology has to be a positive way to learn.

  4. Gráinne Says:

    Thanks for this Sue looks interesting will take a look!

  5. Learning to Teach online Says:

    […] video also resonates to some of the discussions Professor Gráinne Conole has started around presence and deeper sense of connection online environments are able to convey. This obviously only makes […]

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