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, February 29, 2008

Weekend Brunch in Second Life

Philosophy 7 posted a series of paper topics for the students earlier this week on the course website. I think they would also be great discussion topics in Second Life this Saturday night! We will also be having weekend morning brunches at 12pm Pacific/SL time to accommodate our friends from “across the pond”, as well as those who have lives and are otherwise engaged Saturday evening. Maybe we should try a half chat half voice interaction and see how that goes. Hope to see you all there!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Movie Night

This is film week in Philosophy 7. I know that some have already seen The Third Man and others are planning to. So I would like to suggest that we make this the topic of our discussion at our next Saturday meeting. According to Dreyfus, the film deals with the teleological suspension of the ethical as well as the themes of lower immediacy, the universal and of course, higher immediacy or the "Knight of faith". This would give us plenty to discuss and since people will be viewing the movie, this is a good time to discuss them.

Some of us may have some problems getting our hands on the film. My Blockbuster doesn't seem to recognize that films were made before 1990. Also couldn't find a copy at my local library. But Dean told me that most libraries have interlibrary lending and I am going to try that. But even if I fail to see the film, I would enjoy a discussion focused on these important topics in Fear and Trembling.

I know that Dreyfus won't be discussing the film this week as his students will be viewing it Thursday. But the 06 lecture is available. It is sometimes interesting to listen to these to hear the changes in his views. As he stated, his opinion of what nature symbolized in Hiroshima Mon Amour completely reversed. This is one of the things I love about Dreyfus. He seems to embody "an open head turned towards the world".

Again, since people are making an effort to see The Third Man now, it just seems like a good time to focus on Fear and Trembling and the topics listed above.

What does everyone think? If agreeable, I will pop the popcorn, get some milkduds and soda and see y'all Saturday night.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Report: Feel the Risk

This will be a difficult one for me to write, so I'll start with the good news. This blog was originally meant to spark one or more discussions centered around the teaching on existential thinking of Hubert Dreyfus through his webcast lectures. That has happened. Later tonight I will join other members of this "outer circle" and discuss philosophy in Second Life.

The other day Bert Dreyfus emailed and asked how the Second Life discussion group was going. I replied that I had missed the last one, but the report from others was good. He wrote simply: "You really seem to have launched it. As soon as I catch up on my work, I'll drop back in." I take it he means all of us, no matter how lightly you have brushed up against the project, we have all managed to launch it.

And that brings me to Risk. I have been thinking a lot about Risk lately. It is not easy to lure intelligent people into risky undertakings, even by risking oneself. Ours is an inherently risk-averse communication culture - the more controversial the subject, the less likely we are to risk our opinions as our own, the more we seek safety in detached and nameless monitoring.

Risk, I think, is a Dreyfus usage. If you have come across his writings on learning, the Risk comes in, necessarily, at the transition from competence to expert skill acquisition:

"In general, if one seeks to follow rules one will not get beyond competence. There is no substitute for taking risks... With enough experience and willingness to take risks, the learner becomes an expert who immediately sees what sort of situation he is in and what to do."

- HL Dreyfus "Can There Be a Better Source of Meaning than Everyday Practices?" 2000

It also seems to tie into Kierkegaard's Faith and Heidegger's Anxiety. It makes us feel uncomfortable, and care about the outcome. It puts us in touch with inifinite possibility within finite situations. It reminds us of our ungroundedness, and our culture's. Dreyfus strongly criticizes the web for removing Risk from encounters in his 2001 book "On the Internet".

But I have never felt as much at Risk on the internet as I do here. Professor Dreyfus could as easily have written "You really don't have a viable discussion group. I wasn't sure it would work from the start." He may yet. Whatever possibilities are here, are risky ones. And that's good. Just when we are learning in Division II that anxiety is good, this is an opportunity to embrace Risk.

What is this Risk? Risk is starting a discussion without knowing what will come of it (like this one - talk about experiencing "anxiety towards guilt"!). Risk is disclosing your true identity (saying "I am me" in a world of "guess who I am"). Risk is being open to new technologies and new ways of organized learning (floating, bumping, crashing your way into Second Life gatherings without a clue how to drive an avatar). Risk is participating when you just can't (overcoming my natural hesitation to act, rather than observe and reflect). Risk is a real philosopher reaching out to amateurs (I can't understand why an eminent sachem would do so, unless addicted to risk). Risk is amateur philosophers daring to take themselves seriously (and being labelled "fans" by professional philosophers like Nigel). Risk is giving over authorship of your blog to every interested dasein you can sense about you in the darkness of the electronic ether, and finding that only a very few will risk posting an article of any kind, then commenting about that fact, here, now, whilst navigating the delicate balancing act of individual and group dynamics that will make or break the project, and picking each word as if it really matters.

Ultimately, Risk is failing in ways that later whoosh up as success:

"A few people, however, at least in areas important to them, are never satisfied that they have done the right thing, even if public opinion assures them it was right. They sense that there is no one right thing to do and that they can always improve... Such continually anxious experts are never complacent. But, happily, if they brood over their successes and failures, replaying them over and over in their mind, they will reach a new level of skillful coping beyond expertise."

- HL Dreyfus "Can There Be a Better Source of Meaning than Everyday Practices?"

The paper quoted is available in the Phil 189 Course Handouts link on the right side of the blog. Here I have followed Risk out to the level of the Phronesis - Practical Wisdom. But that is only half way past expertise, and Dreyfus takes the Risk beyond that. Please read it through yourself - I would not give away the ending.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

On the Road with Second Life

Had another virtual run last night in Second Life. My internet connection at home was knocked out during the recent storms, so I had to give it a go by driving into town to a coffee shop (with wireless internet), and a 2 year old laptop. I am glad to say that things went reasonably well, given the mobile nature of the interface. The most important factor in getting voice enabled on my machine was setting the voice and audio options on my computer's operating system, and then fine tuning within the Second Life environment. I also had to make sure that the microphone was closer to my mouth, and was able to determine this while I was setting the thing up in the Windows environment. Bottom line is that I could hear and be heard on a common machine and connection. Unfortunately, I wasn't on the Left Bank at some Parisian cafe, but I could have been!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Report: Feb 2 SL Discussion Meeting

The meeting last Saturday night went well. About eight to ten avatars showed up. We seemed to have fewer technical problems, with a few exceptions. I encourage you other webcast listeners who were there to comment on this post, with your own perspective on the event.

The main part of the discussion was on the topic: What is the difference between Kierkegaard's and Heidegger's version of "taking a stand." It ended up being a good question to shoot to Dreyfus for clarification!

We tried out some new procedures:

1) We met in the "Sandbox" area of EdTech, right next to the garden spot, rather than the boardroom of the Lodge. This reduced the "object overload" problem, but some strange distractions in the form of virtual gypsies whooshed up. This is not the best solution to the location problem, but a start.

2) We alternated between keeping the discussion in text chat mode only, then going to voice. Over half the attendees did not have voice, so these periods equalized the discussion. It worked, but expect the voice vs. text issue to stay with us.

3) We picked a topic and pretty much stuck to it. This helped us avoid having many separate strands that everyone has to keep up on, which makes the chat history feel like spaghetti. It might be good to keep topics pertinent to the week's lectures, and to have a few topics loaded up before meetings, so if you have any please post or send them!

We have lots of other issues to iron out - such as schedules, locations, etc. I expect Professor Dreyfus (Farnsworth Roux as an avatar) will attend future discussions when he can. Some of us will do Wednesday night practice meetings - join us then if you can.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Second Life Meeting Issues

Hi everyone. Let's try another meeting in Second Life tonight (Saturday Feb 2) at 6:00 PM Pacific Time.

I am trying to sort out all the issues we have and break them into manageable pieces. Please bear with me.

Both webcast classes are in full swing now, so we should be generating good topics both for blog comments and real-time talking. Also, I strongly recommend you listen to the noozit interview I found from last April - it may amaze you where Dreyfus goes with the question "What is the meaning of life?"

OK, here are the issues as I see them, in the Question/Answer format:

Q: Some people want to participate, but cannot do it in Second Life. What are their options?
A: (1) This blog - post or comment. (2) Other blogs or group sites - find one or create your own and we will link to it. (3) Start a phone conference approach, either with Skype, or a free linkup for multiple cell phones - which usually do free long distance (these two options were proposed by James Roome and Beads Land). Bert Dreyfus said he would understand and support that simpler option. (4) Start an IRC (Chat) approach, where everyone would meet in a free, fast chat room. Please use this blog to base or launch such an alternative approach - I will support it however I can.

Q: In Second Life, some people can't get voice to work. How can they be included in the discussions?
A: This is a serious issue - see Brad's post below this one. We talked and experimented a lot with it, and I am convinced we need to clear a space for a text-only discussion period in Second Life, preferably right before doing a voice discussion. So I am proposing we start doing that when we first meet - set aside at least 30 minutes or more for text only. If Farnsworth Roux shows up in that period, we may switch to voice. Also, we may designate another text-only discussion period after the voice discussion. Let's try this and see if it helps.

Q: We have people in Phil 7, Phil 189, and both. How do we talk about the issues relavent to each group?
A: This is a tough one. We could split the group up into at least two sub-groups. But that seems drastic, to split the group before it really has formed itself by meeting several times. My suggestion is to put this issue on hold, until we can actually get a count of who would join one or the other group. Meanwhile, we should try to choose topics that, as best we can, alternately address one or the other class.

Q: Some people want to have a structured discussion, with prepared topics, and others want a free flow. How do we manage the topics and moderate the discussion?
A: I think this is a good point. But I am bad at structure, and worse at moderating, so I could use some help on this one. If you will email or post any topics you would specifically like to cover, I will turn that into a "suggested topic list" and post it on the right side of the blog.

Q: Some Second Life attendees want to use their voice apparatus but are having trouble with it. How can they figure out what they need to do to make it work?
A: If this is you, just find a tutor who is familiar with this feature. I (Dahr) will help if I can. Dean (Hammerer) will also help. I would ask the people who feel they know this complicated set-up to make it known to others and help them get their systems working to the best advantage possible. Dean has added a comment voice FAQ list to the last post which has many good instructions. But it is critical to get "in-world" and try voice out with another understanding avatar. There are many variables.

Q: Some people want to have discussions, but not on Saturday night. They have lives, apparently.
A: We need alternate times. Either we switch from Saturday to another evening, or we run two or more sessions a week. We already started a Wednesday potluck working meet, and that helped shake out these issues. I think we need an informal vote on the schedule people want. Let's see what everybody thinks and change accordingly. If we have a consensus, then we should ask Farnsworth Roux if he can adjust to the new schedule.

One last comment. It is clear that the "board room" in the lodge at Edtech Island complicates the technology problem. This is because it contains many objects which your computer must handle before it can let you have a philosophy conversation. I think we should move the discussion to an open space nearby, and I will try to do that this evening. See you there.

OK that wasn't the last comment, but this is: maybe not everybody else is ready, but I'd like to know whose who. We have at least three identities apiece (real, blogger, and SL names). This is just another authenticity pitch for taking a stand on our virtual being. In the words of Jean Valjean: "24601."