Tuesday, April 1, 2008

human factors II

I’m preparing for another WP mini-seminar; this one regarding social networking and how it can be incorporated into the writing classroom. In re-reading the seminar description, I was feeling a little inadequate. I’ve never used Flickr, tried LinkedIn and thought it was a little goofy, don’t have a MySpace, and never have the time to see what Friendster is all about.

But then I got to thinking about what it is I am doing in regard to these technologies. I’ve spent a fair amount of time considering how to leverage these spaces for distance or online learning. In fact, the AcademHack does a great job of exploring the relationships of these ever-morphing spaces to learning and teaching in general. And in most cases, reading about what others are doing successfully is enough for me to make a decision about a particular type of technology or virtual space in an online course or program we are designing. Can I justify the move by saying it’s the nature of the business and there’s only so much time I can commit?

Here’s the other thing that sort of gets in the way for me: I read all of these experts proclaiming that 12-25 year-olds are the plugged-in generation. People in this age group need these virtual social spaces just like people my age needed the pizzeria or the mall. And while virtual worlds, such as SecondLife and There, are attempting to create some sense of physicality online, the human element is glaringly absent. Maybe I’m limiting myself and my definition of human element. How is online social networking any different from the intertextuality of a novel? For all of my soap-boxing about the importance of textual elements in online spaces, why do I have such a hang-up with social network? And why am I exploring this on a blog - arguably the most prolific, if not the most ubiquitous, of current social networking space?

Regardless of my hang up, I’m certain I’ll learn something useful in the mini-seminar. I always do.

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