Whooshup Reorganization

To reflect what this blog has become, the format has changed to emphasize the enormous number of useful links to resources we provide. To go to the whooshup blog and conversations about these resources, just scroll to the bottom of the lists of resources!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Second Life Discussions

Coming up soon will be a first attempt to convene a Virtual Reality Discussion Group on Dreyfus' upcoming Spring 2008 course. It will be held in the Second Life world, and I want to encourage everyone who checks this blog to attend. Basically, it's free to get started, and if you have a good internet connection and a little technological patience, that's all you would need to attend the meeting. If you would like some suggestions on how to get on and around in Second Life, I'd be glad to help, just email me.

Professor Dreyfus will attend at least some of these meetings so he can answer questions from the webcast listeners, as he does from students who are bodily present in his classroom.

It could turn into a profound experiment on self-organizing online learning, or it could just be a fun online gathering of interested and interesting folks. Either way, please plan to participate if you can!

...(C)an the bodily presence required for acquiring skills
in various domains and for acquiring mastery of one's
culture be delivered by means of the Internet?

The promise of telepresence holds out hope for
a positive answer to this question. If
telepresence could enable human beings
to be present at a distance in a way that captures
all that is essential about bodily presence, then
the dream of distance learning at all levels could,
in principle, be achieved.
But if telepresence cannot
deliver the classroom coaching and the lecture-hall
presence through which involvement is fostered by committed
teachers, as well as the presence to apprentices of
masters whose style is manifest on a day-to-day basis
so that it can be imitated, distance learning
will produce only competence, while expertise
and practical wisdom will remain completely out of reach.
Hyper-learning would then turn out to be mere hype. So
our question becomes: how much presence can
telepresence deliver?

-Hubert Dreyfus, On the Internet (italics mine)


Wayne R. Hudson said...

I'm excited by the potential of an online discussion of Heidegger's ideas. Maybe the first subject for discussion should be the frame work of the dialog. As you have suggested following the lecture structure of 185 is one option. The discussions also need some expert oversight to keep them on track. Maybe Dreyfus can suggest key points or terms for each lecture. Maybe some of his GSI's might enjoy Shepparding the discourse.

Karl Tyson said...

Wayne - good point. I am exploring the possibility that Dreyfus could recruit one of his TA's to shepherd the "outer circle" of students who want a well-guided discussion.

The problem will come down to resource allocation and personal commitment on the part of any such expert guide. If there is a significant group of learners out in cyberspace, I think someone with deep knowledge will eventually appear (this relates to the self-organizing aspect of the effort).

Dreyfus is surprisingly willing to extend beyond the university, but I suspect his time is limited. His best role would be to "vouchsafe" someone who could engage with us, and that has not happened yet.

Please keep throwing ideas out. I would be more than happy to pick a topic (or term) and start an "unguided" discussion - there are just too many to know where to begin!

And, as you point out, there's no clear way to know whose take on it should win - although I note that that happens sometimes in the classroom too, when Dreyfus is ongoingly trying to confirm his own ideas.

kingraam said...

Hi there.

I have little to say at the moment other than well done for starting this up. I am extremely interested in the whole area and would like to participate in whatever manner you think appropriate.

I am a 45 year former business type guy now writing and studying. I completed a masters last year and am now "doing" a PhD on the potential overlap between Islamic philosophy and the type of thinking exemplified by Heidegger for the purpose of looking at potential areas of positive dialogue between Islamic countries and the West. Inthat regard the internet and developments such as this is fascinating to me I am a Scot from Glasgow but my wife works in the US and I spend time also in Raleigh and in Tucson where I am right now.

I would very much like to contribute blog entries if you were interested

Karl Tyson said...

Kingraam - I will try to just set you up, since it looks like you have a blogspot or google account already. If I have any trouble I'll let you know, but if it works you will be on the Contributors list and will be able to post new entries.

James Roome said...

Karl - I don't think holding a discussion in SL would be worth the effort. I work with distributed teams every day, and we use Skype, and it works great :)

A meeting using avatars is only as good as the mimicry the avatar can achieve, and well given technology today, I wouldn't bother.

I plan on listening to the Division II podcasts, and would be interested in attempting a discussion sometime after each lecture.

Kingraam - Shout out to you bro. Born in England, moved to Scotland when I was a kid, lived by Loch Lomond, went to Uni in Edinburgh. I currently live in Wisconsin.

Karl Tyson said...

James - I agree with you completely on the Second Life technical limitations. And, if you will help organize, facilitate and schedule post-webcast meetings using Skype for Div. II, I will definitely participate.

Now, in defense, or explanation, of the virtual reality experiment: What it seems you are most concerned with is getting the real work of the discussion group - the exchange of ideas and solidification of each person's comprehension of the material - to flow smoothly. In other words, you are setting up a situation where you are fairly certain the technological aspect will fade into the background, so we can have the concepts to learn in the foreground.

But what if we want the technological issues themselves to remain in the foreground, to allow for a breakdown in the flow, such that we can interpret the issues having to do with a digitally simulated meeting environment? In that case, we have to just dive into it and see what happens.

Second Life started in 2003, but did not take off until 2006. This technology is new and improving rapidly with huge growth, also as an educational tool. Many discern a rush toward the 3D web. Someday, virtual reality may also "recede into the background" as we do our work and learning in it.

I suspect Dreyfus is interested in Second Life partly because of his own repeated admonitions to the computer AI folks that however imaginative their software becomes, it will never adequately simulate human intelligence of the being-in-time type unless and until it can overcome the embodiment problem, which arises because a computer has no sense of a human body with which to press into the background flow, which itself is riddled with body-centric articulations.

Another version of the embodiment problem arises in education. Dreyfus seems to think true distance learning, at the highest level, needs to closely simulate physical presence. Second Life is not even close to enabling this level of simulation. The question is, is it a step in the right direction, or a dead end?

I have decided it is worth the effort to see. You are obviously technologically adept, and could engage these ideas at multiple levels. Your take on this would be very helpful.