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RE: [xmca] adult affordances

 Having mentioned Turkle's book, I feel a need to mention this one also:

Baym, N. K. (2010). Personal connections in the digital age. Cambridge:
Polity Press.

Personally Baym's position resonates better with me than Turkle's, but it
could just be that Baym comes off as more optimistic and Turkle more

In truth though, Turkle's book is more relevant to this thread. 

-----Original Message-----
From: Adam Mendelson [mailto:amendelson@berkeley.edu] 
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2012 11:16 AM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: RE: [xmca] adult affordances

Another word from a would-be lurker:

While I disagree with a lot of what she says, and I think she often gets a
bit moralistic for my taste, Sherry Turkle's book addresses a lot of your
questions, Martin.

Turkle, S. (2011). Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and
less from each other. New York: Basic Books.

I continue to suggest that it's not the gadgets that are so consuming, but
the constant access to the social network that they permit. When we can
carry around all of our meaningful relationships in our pockets, it can make
the less meaningful relationships in our physical co-presence decreasingly


-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On
Behalf Of Martin Packer
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2012 11:06 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] adult affordances

Thanks, Greg. While I find Adam's suggestions about integrating this
technology into the classroom interesting, and I'm inclined to try it, in
both directions - both sending tweets (embedding them into the Keynote
presenter notes) and receiving votes (for quizzes and instant feedback; much
cheaper than a clicker) - I don't think this is going to eliminate or even
reduce cell phone use for non-class purposes.

And my main interest here is not controlling it, but understanding it. How
is it that a technology becomes compulsive? Is this why Apple is so
successful? And I don't agree with Michael that "technology has finally
caught up to our minds." Just last week we were discussing Latour's point
that technology came first, and human minds are built upon a technological
foundation (or are rocked in a cradle of technology). It is surely the use
of this kind of technology that has reduced our attention spans and our
ability to reflect, while it has undoubtedly enhanced our abilities in many
other ways.

One of which, of course, is communication. Is it the sociality that makes
cell phones irresistible? My exams in this course have a social component:
students take the exam first individually, then a second time in small
groups, ostensibly to gain a small bonus, but from my perspective to turn
the exam itself into an occasion for learning.  I wonder whether cell phone
use will go down during group work in the classroom (of course cell phones
are banned during the exam. Which is not to say...!)  I will try this, and
report back.

Meanwhile, any other suggestions about why cell phones turn grown men into
toddlers? Or how to distract students away from them? Or how to integrate
them into instruction?

I should add, perhaps, that this is a class where the students appear
enthusiastic, engaged, and interested. We have discussed cell phone policy,
and talked about the difficulties of multi-tasking. Nonetheless, a good
number of them seem to need to check for texts every 10 minutes.  

On Mar 15, 2012, at 12:59 AM, Greg Thompson wrote:

> And here I was about to suggest (somewhat jokingly) cell phone and 
> wifi jamming devices (some schools already have these in classrooms).
> But judging by the tone of the conversation, it seems like that would 
> be akin to joking about using medieval torture devices in the classroom!
> Nonetheless, I will try to present a counterpoint to the "embrace new 
> media" vibe that has been running through this thread (and somewhat in 
> the mode of the field of media ecology, but hopefully not quite that far).
> To start, I don't have a problem with students going on flights of 
> fancy in the classroom and would even encourage it. I'm all for 
> imagination, but, imho, that's not what facebook and twitter and the 
> internet do (and maybe I'm romanticizing in the same way that book 
> readers did when the radio came along and radio listeners did when TV 
> came along - but I'd still say that there is something more humane 
> about the temporality and pacing of nightly reading of a book that you 
> don't find in a nightly TV show [NB: I just returned to this email 
> from my weekly dose of Criminal Minds! Go get 'em Hotch!]).
> But it seems to me that these media suck you into events that are 
> "less robustly imaginative" (I put that in quotes so that anyone 
> interested can easily find it and criticize appropriately) than what 
> happens when you stare out the window in a history class wondering 
> about a pretty girl in some historical scene. That kind of flight of 
> fancy or imaginative play seems to me to be very different from what 
> you do when checking your email or shopping for a new pair of jeans 
> during class. There is a fundamental difference in the entanglements 
> that each creates and how these are caught up with, or not, the 
> substance of the course being taught. In line with Martin's original 
> note, I do feel that these new media are "seductive" - they pull on us 
> in ways that take us away from our own pursuits - even from our 
> flights of fancy. [did I mention that I'm supposed to be working on a
paper right now as I write this email?].
> For a break in the action, I'm reminded of Kurt Vonnegut's story 
> Harrison Burgereon when Harrison's mom, after watching her son shot 
> dead on tv, can't recall what just happened and when she tells her 
> husband, who had seen Harrison's picture but then immediately forgot 
> it because of the transmitter in his ear that makes it impossible for 
> him to maintain his own train of thought. When her husband comes back 
> from getting a beer, he hears a loud noise too that disrupts his query 
> about why she was crying. They both note "boy that one was a doozy."
> What was I saying again?
> Ok, just looked back at what I'd written, think I've got it. Thank 
> heavens for the written word...
> So anyway, maybe I'm a luddite, but it seems that there is value of 
> quiet contemplation and reflection. When teaching my General Semantics 
> course last year, during one class I had students sit quietly for just 
> a single minute while we all tried to grasp the world in its immediacy 
> (an impossible task to be sure, but a useful practice to engage in 
> nonetheless). I can't tell you how disquieting that single minute of 
> solitude was for many of them!
> Frankly, I'm fine with the argument that we need to do away with 
> higher ed as we know it, but as long as we are only together for 3 
> hours a week, it seems to me that it would be nice to spend that time 
> entangled with one another, at least entangled in one another's 
> virtual spaces - and I should add that this places a major burden on 
> the teacher to provide sufficient entanglements (and is increasingly 
> impossible as class sizes increase - more than 20 or so students and it's
a lost cause).
> Moving from Vonnegut to Orwell, don't they have computer tracking 
> programs that you could use to track what your students are doing during
> But seriously, Michael, it might be interesting (with their permission
> - and if anonymity could be maintained), to see exactly what flights 
> of fancy they are taking during class. I think we'd certainly be 
> surprised by some who are googling terms raised in class and making notes
and such.
> And also seriously, I know that there are far too many holes in this 
> dyke to hold back the flood so if anybody knows of any good programs 
> that can be used on a PC to integrate twitter and such in the 
> classroom, I'm all ears (the programs Martin suggested were Mac based).
> Looking backwards in front of my class, greg
> On Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 7:48 PM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>> OK, Michael, but what's the punchline to your story? With Facebook, 
>> twitter and texting, did they pay any attention at all to what you 
>> were trying to teach them?
>> (Actually, I didn't finish reading your message. I went for a
>> snack...)
>> Martin
>> On Mar 14, 2012, at 9:33 PM, Michael Glassman wrote:
>>> Hi Larry, Martin, Adam,
>>> Thanks for the great post Adam.  A couple of years ago under the
>> tutelate of a graduate student I had all students in my class bring 
>> the laptop and keep it open.  I told them they don't have to be 
>> listening to everything I say, they could be on Facebook or they can text
or twitter.
>> They didn't have to hide it from me.   My students were shocked.   No,
>> this can't be happening.  Every other class is a battle against this 
>> new technology.  I told them a story about when I was in college lo these
>> years ago.   I took a class in Russian literature with someone who was
>> considered one of the great professors on the subject in the country
>> - not just as a scholar but as a teacher.  And he was amazing, and 
>> passionate, and caring, and one of the two or three best professors I 
>> ever had.  I would go to class and dutifully open up my notebook and
focus my attention
>> on the professor.   My eyes never wavered but my mind certainly did.   A
>> little while into the class I would start thinking, "Hmmm, what's for 
>> lunch" and then, "I wonder what I should do tonight".  Oh I would get 
>> pulled back to the class again and again, I remember him waving his arm
>> shouting,   "And think of the scene of Napoleon riding into Moscow and
>> men cheering and the subtle irony in the scene and what lies ahead."  
>> I saw in my mind the soldiers gathering around their beloved emperor, 
>> but among them was this woman Lori who I wondered if I should ask to eat
with me at
>> the dining hall that night.   That is the way our mind works, jumping
>> point to point, and there is a method to the madness of our minds, the
>> jumps are meaningful and perhaps keep us in the game.   The idea that
>> anybody is paying attention to anybody one hundred percent of the 
>> time is pretense and the idea that even the most vibrant speaker has
control over
>> another's thoughts is an illusion that gives the speaker warmth.   The
>> Facebook, the texting, the cell phones, all of it, just outward 
>> manifestations of what our minds have been doing all along anyway.
>> Come one, be honest, how many reading this were thinking for a little 
>> while about their next snack or perhaps checking Netflix.  Technology 
>> has finally caught up to our minds.
>>> Michael
>>> ________________________________
>>> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Larry Purss
>>> Sent: Wed 3/14/2012 10:09 PM
>>> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
>>> Subject: Re: [xmca] adult affordances
>>> Martin
>>> Reading your post, I was thinking about Harre's explaining
>> Wittgenstein's
>>> notion of rule following and language games.
>>> Harre gives the example, When I say *6 times 6* persons 
>>> participating in our *way of life* will respond [immediately?
>> intentionally?
>>> with self-control?]  with the answer *36* If cell phones as a form 
>>> of technology are now part of a *way of life*
>> for
>>> many students [part of our grammar] who is in control?
>>> Larry
>>> On Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 6:31 PM, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:
>>>> An odd conjunction of issues of content and management  in my 
>>>> undergraduate developmental psychology course has me puzzled, and 
>>>> so I'm appealing for xmca help!  A few weeks ago I was expounding 
>>>> on the notion that the toddler lives in a world not of permanent 
>>>> objects but of affordances - irresistible offers to action, made by 
>>>> the things and
>> people
>>>> and places that surround him or her. Gibson, filtered through Vygotsky.
>>>> At the same time, I was waging an unceasing war against the use of 
>>>> cell phones in the classroom. (Today I actually got to the point of
>> confiscating
>>>> them when I saw them, and telling the students they could buy them 
>>>> back from me later in the city center. With humor, I hope!)
>>>> Finally, it struck me. These young adults, too, are victims of 
>>>> irresistible offers to action, made by their little iPhones or 
>>>> Nokias or whatever.
>>>> So what is it about a cell phone that completely overwhelms any and
>> every
>>>> facet of self control? Why is it that I can forbid cell use at the
>> start of
>>>> each class, yet in seconds they start to appear? What is it that
>> transforms
>>>> a young adult into no more than a toddler?
>>>> Martin
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> --
> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar Laboratory of Comparative 
> Human Cognition Department of Communication University of California, 
> San Diego __________________________________________
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