Blurring boundaries


I have been thinking a lot recently about digital identity and presence online (see earlier posts). Mark Childs has also been writing about presence, in particular, with respect to virtual worlds. I like his definition of presence:

Presence is a combination of mediated presence (“being there” aka immersion) + social presence (projection of ourselves, perception of others) + copresence (being somewhere with others) + self presence (or embodiment).

David Hopkins has blogged today about ‘The Technology of Touch’.  I think this takes the immersive experience of technology a stage further. David argues that:

By introducing touch in this way you can bring any substance or texture to the classroom where it would not be possible (or safe) to do so. What does moon rock feel like? What does hard enamel tell you about the integrity of a tooth? What does the surface of a scarf feel like when it’s frozen in liquid nitrogen? How do you spot a possible failure in an engine block when it’s running at 9000 rpm. To experience these things can bring the subject, the science, the learning alive where you would not always be able to?

So haptic technologies enable you to experience the textuality of things you may not be able to access in the physical world; either because it is not available or because it is unsafe to do so. It allows Medical and Dental students to practice and develop their skills in an authentic and textual environment, before unleashing them on the real world.

So, through technologies, we now have a full spectrum of experiences; from the social and connected interaction with others through social media and the power of ‘text-plus’ (i.e. text plus emoticons, hashtags, brackets, etc.), through the ‘virtual physicality’ of Virtual Worlds, and through the touch-based experience of haptic technologies. As a result the boundaries between real and virtual are truly blurred. What do these various digital spaces mean in terms of presence, experience, immersion and identity? And how can they be harnessed to promote different pedagogical approaches?