In-world presentation @ “Internet – New Media – Culture 2.0” conference

Friday November 5th, I was invited to speak at a Polish organized in-world conference about “Internet – New Media – Culture 2.0“.


Conference site at the Second UMCS island

The conference was organized by colleagues from different departments of Uniwersytet Marii Curie-Skłodowskie – some of whom I’ve previously worked with in the EU funded research project COMBLE. I was very pleased to get the opportunity to talk about some of my findings, and there were some great questions and comments on especially immersion and media convergence.


Talk about the new assessment method I implemented in my 3rd research cycle.

As promised to the participants, I’m hereby uploading my presentation.

Special thanks to Raf Moczadlo for inviting me :-)

/Mariis

Toward a strategy for remediation of pedagogical practice in SL

I’ve recently reviewed findings from three completed research cycles based on the primary case (MIL) and SL in my PhD-project. The case study was conducted at the Danish online Masters program on ICT and Learning (MIL) at Aalborg University and consisted of remediating a course in three consecutive research cycles spanning from 2007-2009. Based on the findings I’ve started to outline a strategy for remediation of pedagogical practice in SL. In a newly published article Hunsinger & Krotoski (2010:94) state that “trying to reproduce experiences that exist in our physical world is often not the best strategy for designing learning and research experiences in virtual environments”, and they call for strategies that go beyond replicating and reconstructing physical environments. Combining my own findings with ideas from Vygotsky (1978), Wenger (1998) and especially Bolter & Grusin’s “Remediation. Understanding New Media” (1999), I’ve found that it is possible to identify two different strategies;

  • Respectful remediation. Main objective is to reproduce prior practice with no apparent critique – often focusing on a quantitative outcome. Other media are represented without manipulation in the mediation. In general, this type of remediation enhances the authenticity and enforces the authority of the original media and practice. Tradition, familiarity, and certainty are keywords in this strategy. Changes are experienced as minor, evolutionary modifications and typically only involve change in modality, not specific activities.
  • Radical remediation. Main objective is to reinvent prior practice based on critical review – often focusing on a qualitative outcome. Other media are represented manipulatively in the mediation. In general, this type of remediation challenges both authenticity and authority of the original media and practice. Innovation, alienation, and uncertainty are keywords in this strategy. Changes are experienced as major, revolutionary transformations, and typically involve change in both modality and activities.

Given the technologic, pedagogic, and not least ontological complexity of a rich medium like SL, I’ve found that an overall respectful remediation strategy isn’t a viable choice, but it is also possible to distinguish between respectful and radical remediation at the tactic level, and here I’ve found that a combination is fruitful. Furthermore, since SL not a an abstract space for interaction, but a remediated world, also the participants (remediated as avatars) and the teaching and learning environment (remediated as places) can be remediated either respectfully or radically.

In “Learning in 3D – adding a new dimension to enterprise learning and collaboration” Kapp & O’Driscoll claim that the first step to escape Flatland and avoid routinization is to “distance oneself from existing processes and practices and examine a newly emerging technology on its own merits“, and they speak of right and wrong ways of dealing with teaching and learning in 3D:

Done right, 3DLEs provide the opportunity for instructional designers to overcome their captivation with the classroom and move in a direction that is more congruent with the needs of the increasingly digitized and virtualized enterprise. Done wrong, 3DLEs will remain the domain of digital avatars in digital classrooms discussing content on digitally rendered PowerPoint slides. (Kapp & O’Driscoll. 2010:56).

While I do agree that any technology/medium should be examined in its own right, I do find it a bit hasty to dismiss prior experience and practice, and I find the dichotomy of right/wrong inappropriate. Naturally, it is possible to talk about more or less suitable ways of designing and using media, but it’s a very complex issue and should involve consideration of all elements of the practice. In my case study, I experimented with the use of slideshows in the two last research cycles, and found that this kind of respectfully remediated practice could have the same benefits and pitfalls as in the world outside SL. However, I also found that the build-in backchannel made it possible to draw use of the mediums more unique affordances by combining simultaneous use of text-chat and voice. By encouraging the students to comment and post questions during a presentation, an otherwise inactive one-way presentation can turn into quite an engaging teaching and learning activity. Nonetheless, by adding this component to the activity, the “rules of engagement” changed, as far as both the teachers and students needed to learn new roles and communication skills. Learning to deal with this kind of multi-voiced communication takes time, but it has the potential to open up and democratize the dialogue. My point here is that a seemingly respectful remediation in SL actually can result in radical changes, and another important aspect is that I don’t see respectful and radical remediation as a dichotomy, but as a dualism. Further, whether or not something is perceived as being respectful or radical will differ between individuals, communities, and cultures.

I’m not arguing that we should cease from experimenting with completely new ways of doing things, but my findings clearly show that an element of respectful remediation is important – at least until the participants have reached a certain level of experience and mastery of the medium. As an educator, I find that one of the advantages of respectful remediation is that it’s based on recognition and familiarity enabling the user to build on prior experience, and changes are experienced as minor, evolutionary modifications, which potentially leaves more energy for the participants to focus on the task at hand, rather than on the medium and the mediation. I’m currently working on designing a model to illustrate the complexity of different remediation strategies, so more on this will follow …

/Mariis

References

Hunsinger, J. & Krotoski, A. (2010): Learning and researching in virtual worlds. In: Learning, Media and Technology, 35:2, p. 93-97

Vygotsky, L.S. (1978): Mind in society. The development of higher psychological processes. (trans. M. Cole). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Wenger, E. (1998): Communities of Practice. Learning, Meaning and Identity. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bolter, J. & Grusin, R. (1999): Remediation. Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kapp, K. & O’Driscoll, T. (2010): Learning in 3D. Adding a new dimension to enterprise learning and collaboration. Pfeiffer.

Conference on IT and Innovative Learning Environments

Thursday/Friday his week I’ll be attending a conference/workshop on “It and innovative learning environments” at university level organized by the Danish Ministry of Science in Copenhagen.

I’m especially looking forward to hearing the two keynote speakers:

  • Phillip D. Long, Ph.D. Professor of Innovation and Educational Technology and Founding Director, Centre for Educational Innovation and Technology, University of Queensland, Australia.
  • Renate Fruchter, Ph.D. Founding Director of Project Based Learning Laboratory and Senior Research Engineer, Department of Civil Engineering, Stanford University, USA

I’ve never met Professor Long, but I’ve read a some of his publications concerning design of learning spaces (i.e. Trends in Learning Space Design), and I think he has some pretty interesting takes on educational design. He is scheduled to talk about Open Scholarship and Learning, which should be interesting too!

I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Professor Fruchter a couple of times during my recent research stay in the Bay Area. She’s a very energetic and positive woman, and I think it’ll be fun to reconnect with her. During this research stay a bunch of my colleagues from 5 different Danish universities and I attended a 2-day workshop at Stanford exploring the future of e-learning, and since this conference is kind of a follow-up event I’m also looking forward to reconnecting with them and the organizers from Innovation Center Denmark in Silicon Valley.

I’m also interested in hearing the Danish Minister of Science, Charlotte Sahl-Madsen’s thoughts on innovative learning and the future of our universities … On Friday I’ll be attending different workshops, and here I’m especially looking forward to hearing what colleagues from the Danish School of Education, Tina Bering Keiding & Morten Misfeldt have to say on the alignment between learning and physical space – not least since this is a topic I normally don’t pay much attention to due to my explicit focus on virtual space/place in my PhD-project.

Dan Gilbert, Learner Designer Technologist, Learning Innovations Inc. will facilitate a workshop entitled Innovative Tools and Techniques to Enhance Creativity in Your Classes: Connecting Design Thinking with Teaching and Learning”, and this should be interesting too. I’ve previously attended a workshop by Dan and it was inspirational and great fun!

Finally, I’m really looking forward to seeing how conference participants will be using Twitter #itlearning. This will be my first Danish conference organized with the explicit goal of using Twitter and I have no idea how this will be received – but I am expecting a lot of fun :-)

/Mariis

3D VW remediation – square peg in a round hole?

As part of my research on remediation and especially the Place concept I will be visiting Professor of Architecture, Yehuda Kalay of UCB. I’ve been invited to participate in a course wrap-up where his students will display how they have designed, implemented and tested their ideas in regard to building a museum in SL.  In preparation for this event I’ve just finished reading a fascinating article by Professor Kalay (2006) on “The impact of information technology on design methods, products and practices”, where Kalay describes two different ways of appropriating new tools in architecture, namely the “square peg in a round hole” and the “horseless carriage” paradigms.

The first is that of forcing a square peg into a round hole implying that the use of the new tool is misdirected, or at least poorly fits the processes that have traditionally been part of architectural design. (…) The ‘square peg in a round hole’ paradigm describes tool making as a problem of adapting a new technology to current practices. As a new technology is introduced into practice, a dysfunctional relationship can develop between the tools and a task, either because the task is poorly understood or because the process of displacing a traditional technology is largely one of the substitution of habitual tools with new ones that have the wrong affordances. Such inappropriate use of the technology results in a poorer practice. (Kalay. 2006:377)

The second paradigm describes a state of transformation, where the new technology is viewed through the lens of the practice in obsolete and ‘backward’ terms, much like the automobile that was viewed as a horseless carriage in the early days of the 20th century. It implies a lack of appreciation for the emerging potentials of technology to change the task to which it is applied. (…) The ‘horseless carriage’ paradigm views technology as a means to alter the perception of a practice about itself, as it is transformed by a new technology. In using the term a ‘horseless carriage’ at the turn of the 20th century, the task of transportation has been described through the lens of a previous technology, not realizing that the practice of travel had dramatically changed. (Kalay. 2006: 377-378)

Even though Professor Kalay and colleagues* use these “paradigms” to describe the use of new tools/media in architecture in particular, I do believe that they resonate with a more general use in many other research fields. As a researcher on educational use of new media I do see parallels to both practice I’ve experienced and especially to Bolter & Grusin’s ideas of different ways of remediation, so this is for sure something I’ll return to …

/Mariis

Uh, and BIG thx to Terry Beaubois for introducing me to Professor Kalay :-)

*) Chastain, T, Kalay, Y E and Peri, C (2002) Square peg in a round hole or horseless carriage? Reflections on the use of computing in architecture Automation in Construction Vol 11 No 2 pp 237e248

The Double Logic of Remediation via Alberti windows

Based on the above quote the “Alberti window” is frequently used as a metaphor to describe the sense of immediacy, and for some immersion, that users experience in especially virtual reality and virtual worlds as it points to the idea that it is possible – at least in a psychological sense – to “step through” the window and enter the space depicted.  Here I’ve taken the quote from Bolter & Grusin’s book “Remediation – Understanding New Media” p. 24-25. As part of my research on remediation I’ve spent the last couple of days studying their book in detail and this post will be the first in a series of trying to make sense of my notes combined with my experience in and examples from SL. But before getting to the point I wanted to make about Alberti’s window and the new shared media function in SL, let me just make some quick remarks on some of the key concepts in the book.

In the glossary Bolter & Grusin explain remediation this way:

Defined by Paul Levenson as the “anthropotropic” process by which new media technologies improve upon or remedy prior technologies. We define the term differently, using it to mean the formal logic by which new media refashion prior media forms.
Bolter & Grusin. 1999:273

Throughout the book Bolter & Grusin continue to elaborate on the concept, and an apparent distinction from Levenson’s definition is that they see remediation as a process that also can go the reverse way, meaning that older media also can remediate new media – i.e. Television incorporating social media like Twitter streams or text-message polls via cellular phones in live shows to enhance interactivity. Another important point for Bolter & Grusin is that there are a number of ways in which especially digital media remediate their predecessor – a spectrum that goes from respectful to radical remediation (ibid. p. 200). These ways can be divided into two main strategies depending on their foundational logic, something Bolter & Grusin call the Double logic of Remediation, which can be based primarily on

  • either immediacy (aimed at diminishing the users awareness the medium/mediation)
  • or hypermediacy (aimed at enhancing the users awareness of the medium/mediation)

It is, however, important to notice that the authors do not see these two forms of logic as contradicting, but rather as mutually dependent. According to Bolter & Grusin the underlying premise of all remediation is our “insatiable desire for immediacy” (ibid. p.5), which leads to the following paradox of the double logic:

Our culture wants both to multiply its media and to erase all traces of mediation: ideally it wants to erase its media in the very act of multiplying them. (ibid.p. 5)

Even though the book was conceived and published long before 3D virtual (and interactive!) media became mainstream (they do cover early “computer games”), I do find the concepts rather useful in explaining some of the phenomena I’ve experienced in SL. I agree that we strive for authenticity understood as quality in our interaction with new, digital media, and with the present changes in the SL viewer and most notably the shared media function, I think it is possible to give a contemporary example of the double logic paradox …

In short the SL Shared Media (SLSM) allows a wide range of web pages, including Flash and YouTube videos to be displayed on any surface of any prim (building block), among which  some also allow for real time collaboration such as my student PerSecond and I previously demonstrated with Google docs and Etherpad. Now, in my context of Distance Education this new function offers many interesting possibilities. A major argument for me as a distance educator to research SL stems from this particular media’s ability to provide the user with a sense of being embodied in a palpable place – mainly in opposition to conventional teaching and learning platforms, where the user typically finds himself disembodied in impalpable space. In the pictures below I’m represented as my avatar standing on my holodeck looking at a shared media prim displaying Facebook.


Looking at Facebook via a window in SL


Interacting with Facebook via a window in SL

These pictures were deliberately taken from within SL, and they illustrate how I – literally by opening a window and “stepping through” it – am able to not only look at, but also interact with “the space depicted”, which in this case is the world outside SL.  In doing so, it is my argument that I’ve been able to enhance the sense of immediacy through hypermediacy or to put it in other words: by multiplying the media I’ve been able to “erase” the sense of mediation in so far as interaction with the outside world can be regarded as a means to enhance the authenticity of my experience. But that’s not all. I’m able to add yet another dimension to my experience by changing my perspective as shown below:

By zooming out and taking a screen shot I’m able to show another reality of the experience; by watching myself as avatar looking and interacting in SL, I’m able to “step back or out of the window” and reflect on the experience from a meta perspective. This actually doesn’t depend on the SLSM function, but is one of the great affordances of SL as medium in general. There is, however, no doubt in my mind that the SLSM function via windows to the other worlds/parts of reality can contribute to the authenticity and quality of user experience in especially education and business, where our need for immediacy apparently is insatiable …

/Mariis