Click here –> [View the story "Skin Disorders: An Epiphany" on Storify]
Conversation 01 with Liminal Itch.
N. Katherine Hayles (1999) How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics, esp. Chapter 4 “Liberal Subjectivity Imperiled: Norbert Wiener and Cybernetic Anxiety”
Donna Haraway (1991) Simians, Cyborgs and Women, esp. “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century”
Elizabeth Grosz (1994) Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism.
I don’t really know why these stories about supposed telepathic temporary tattoos have surfaced, but they are hilarious:
“Temporary electronic tattoos could soon help people fly drones with only thought and talk seemingly telepathically without speech over smartphones, researchers say.”
However, my second thought is – maybe this is meant to be a strangely literal interpretation of Elizabeth Grosz? It almost seems to perfect – a cyborg vision of the future where literally inscribing the flesh really does mean that we create a connection, via the skin, from interiority to exteriority – where the “mind” can extend into the “world” through technological dermatographia…
This metaphorics of body writing posits the body, and particularly its epidermic surface, muscular-skeletal frame, ligaments, joints, blood vessels, and internal organs as corporeal surfaces, the blank page on which engraving, graffiti, tattooing, or inscription can take place. This metaphor of the textualized body asserts that the body is a page or material surface, possibly even a book of interfolded leaves (one of Merleau-Ponty’s favorite metaphors), ready to receive, bear, and transmit meanings, messages, or signs, much like a system of writing.
(p. 117, Elizabeth Grosz (1994), Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism)
I wonder what other examples of fantastical telekinetic cyborg body inscriptions I can find ヽ(^o^)ノ
I first tweeted my concerns about the EDCMOOC school a while ago.
It’s a simple and clever idea – taking the sea of links, conversations and webpages, and using the familiar map of a school to help us MOOCers, adrift on uncharted MOOC territory, to navigate.
I had this idea to visualise the EDCMOOC group as a real school, with the aim of making us more smart about working as a group. The 2 slides you can see below are ground plans of how our school might look. They contain different rooms. Each room contains links to the different online groups that have been springing up. So, for example, some of us have been bookmarking useful articles on Diigo, so that goes in the library. And the busy conversations on Facebook & Twitter are in our “Common Room” area.
This is then followed by maps of rooms – classroom, teacher’s room, common room, library – upon which various digital locations – Facebook group, Twitter hashtag, TED talk – are inscribed.
I cannot fault the intentions of the document (the desire to help guide those in need), nor the method of working (collaboratively editing a coherant and meaningful document is hard!). I also enjoy the playful representation of geographical space on a Google document – what I read as a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way to provoke discussion. And to reiterate, it is a succinct and intuitive map for a complex field of information.
However, I am still concerned about what this particular visual and structural metaphor means about online learning, and how this plays out within the day-to-day activities of a MOOC.
One of the main reasons that I am so fascinated by online learning is its potential to disrupt hierarchies and oppression. But, enough has been written recently about open knowledge, open publishing, open education that I will not reiterate or discuss it here.
However I do want to emphasise that, to me, this isn’t just about bursting the hidden well of knowledge out from its capitalist bindings, or letting loose the ‘objective facts’ from their prison so that everyone can benefit. I fully advocate the open distribution of knowledge – but also because there are deeper epistemological ramifications.
To develop the school metaphor further: it is not just that knowledge is hidden within the school, and not everyone has the keycode for the gate. Instead, it’s that the very structure of the school walls represent and determine our notion of fact and knowledge.
To illustrate, take the EDCMOOC school – why is there a teacher’s room? What separates teacher from pupil? Do they know more? Why? What are the conditions of the production of a library? Who owns, chooses, sorts the ‘books’? Why are the social and study rooms separate? Who inhabits which? What is study? What is permissable in these corridors?
Who graduates? Who speaks?
Our notions of ‘fact’ – who owns facts, creates facts, understands facts, disseminates facts, teaches facts, speaks about facts – are part of this pixellated representational bricks and mortar. We have written power dynamics into the diagram. We are reifying a certain form of knowledge by reproducing this school in a supposedly Open Online Course.
It is an epistemological statement – what knowledge is and isn’t, how it is communicated, and who can contribute.This school is descriptive, but also prescriptive by virtue of the fact that we are mapping out a new terrain: this is what our MOOC-world shall be.
And this epistemology is based upon a model where knowledge is created and taught by the few, to the masses – and unidirectional and unequal communications where we model teacher –> pupil and teacher =/= pupil.
Whilst those outside of the school gates are not even on the map, the subaltern, are again invisible.
What does this mean for knowledge and for learning? That we just underline the structures that are already there? That we carry on reproducing these corridors of knowledge/power?
Moving from these broader themes of oppression and social architecture, I want to move into the personal as political.
These pictures are from the high school that I attended between 1996 and 2003. This building has now been left to rot, and waves of urban explorers and other strangers have obviously replaced the teachers and pupils that I saw everyday.
These pictures leave a strange but euphoric feeling. I remember the walls in a different way – but the slime on the walls, the graffiti and broken glass are not abhorrent. They are beguiling, fascinating, suggestive. They speak to me of the slow dissolution of these epistemological halls.
School is not a easy time for many. The freaks, geeks, nerds, weirdos may have just about enough positive cultural representation to be persuaded that being “different” can/is a positive thing, a thing to be celebrated. But that is to ignore the real peril of being queer, or disabled – to ignore the systematic injustices that coil around gender or race.
Furthermore, when these injustices are echoed in further corridors of the academy, it only makes the origins so much worse.
So, to return to the EDCMOOC map – its strange and suggestive anthropology fascinates me, and it is obviously a resonant metaphor. But why just this image, why the dominant architecture? Why replicate a clean outline and unbroken lines?
I want to know about the possibilities of the the spaces inbetween, the liminal, the spaces outside, the way we can move between them. I want to let the metaphor crumble and be disrupted so we can pick it apart, brick by brick. I want the euphoria of dystopian visions. I want to play in the ruins until we make a new place – and I am also concerned that this dissonant voice gets lost amongst the ranks of the ‘massive’.
(Anyway, until then, I shall be hiding in the music room avoiding netball.)