Rip.mix.feed connections: Or coming late to the party

This semester has been a bit of a personal struggle, but I wanted to try and participate in the rip.mix.feed activity. While I thought I would create a digital story about the life I have in SecondLife using JayCut or Animoto, I felt like I wanted to create a repository of the information I have learned not just from Ong and Bolter, but from you. So this project became more of a making connections post.

Ong was an interesting read. Although it was (as many others have mentioned) a tough go of it. For me part of that was realizing how immersed in print my life has been. I always escaped into print, reading or writing, and still do. I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like not to have some kind of print at hand. I just finished reading my first book on my iPhone. Which, I suppose, is a new space for text along with other eBook readers.

Bolter was a bit of a revelation for me. The idea of the remediation of one media by another made a great deal of sense to me, and the idea that we are becoming more dominated by graphics and visuals, as opposed to text, seemed at first glance to be right. I still agree with most of that, but while looking at Chinese websites for the major project I came to the conclusion that the take-over of text by the visual may be a completely Western idea. Check out some of the pages from baidu.com, a Chinese-language search engine. Over a billion people can’t be wrong…

I think what I take away most from this course is a reinforcement of the idea of losses and gains. O’Donnell spoke of this, with regards to technology, in the podcast we listened to and also in the article we read. Plato wrote (or should I say spoke) about the destruction of memory that was going to come from writing, and there may have been a loss of a certain kind of thought (as described in Ong), but we have also gained from each new version of communication.

There was a great discussion on the forum about the degeneration of spelling and the loss of cursive writing. As a lousy speller and a rotten, left-handed writer and compulsive text-er, I can only see this as a good thing. But, I can understand that for many, who enjoyed learning the magic of spelling and have beautiful handwriting, these are precious arts that should not be lost, and should be taught to young children at all costs. This may be why I was not the most successful of kindergarten teachers… So perhaps the losses and gains of the new spaces of reading and writing are very subjective?

I read/watched/heard/viewed as many of the rip.mix.feed projects as I could, and I was constantly amazed. Brian Farrell’s “All thing Braille” struck me especially since it was still images, collected from flickr. I use flickr, and had sort of forgotten that it was a way to access and incorporate the art of the crowd into your work. I also enjoyed Barrie’s “The Life of Salmon” for very different reasons. In fact, I enjoyed/appreciated/wondered so much about all the different projects and tools that I decided that my rip.mix.feed would be to aggregate the applications and web tools that we all used for the project.

I used Symbaloo.EDU (the free version of Symbaloo for educators) which visually, as tiles, displays a set of websites or blogs. It is sort of a social bookmarking application. Each user creates ‘webmixes’ with tiles acting as links to their own collection of web resources and sites. These can be shared with other users and visitors, like visual bookmarking. This seemed particularly apt to me since this course is about the changing spaces of information and communication, and Symbaloo is all about making text-based links visual. I suppose this is a a sort of visual hypertext, or hypermedia to be more exact (although there are text labels…)

I created two mixes: One for the rip.mix.feed tools, and one for my exploration and fascination with virtual worlds. I think you will be able to view and use them without creating an account.

My Symbaloo.EDU ETEC 540 webmix

My Symbaloo.EDU Virtual Worlds webmix

I truly wish I had been able to participate more in the discussions and comment on more of the excellent blog posts, but illness has hijacked me the past few months. I did try to read all the posts, and I was struck by two things: First, I have been reminded how creative and exploratory a community I joined in the MET program. There are so many talented and dedicated educators here, from many different sectors. Second, many of us are also dedicated to print and text. There were a few who were not so heart-broken that visual communication is becoming more important, but for the most part I felt that the group saw text (print or digital) as a mode of communication that should be preserved and taught as the primary way to use information. Not surprising, given that we are graduate students, in a system that is based on reading and writing.

I am not sure that, even as an avid reader, text is the naturally dominant mode of communication for our species, and I wish I had been able to debate this more with you. While I have many fond memories of libraries, and the smell of musty books, I feel that coming generations of humans will have other, equally salient and valuable memories of other technologies. As a bipedal ape, with good stereoscopic vision, it may be that visual communication is the most accessible to us. Either way, though reading and writing have come late to the party of human communication, they seem to have become the centre of attention for most modern, Western societies. As many have pointed out, while they may be under threat, they will not be going away in the near future.

Thank-you very much to Brian and Jeff for a though-provoking and enjoyable course. Best of wishes for everyone for a safe and happy break. I am taking a course at Athabasca next semester, but I hope to see some of you again after that. Be well.

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