Towards a pedagogy of nearness

Ulises A. Mejias is one heck of a thinker when it comes to communication and the online. I’ve been waiting to go through my note-riddled copies of Online Discourse (.pdf) and Distributed Textual Discourse (.pdf) for some time now, perhaps not putting anything here because I don’t feel like a blog post would do it justice or perhaps because I know the amount of time I could put into it would definitely ‘get in the way of other things’.

diagramHopefully I’ll actually make it to my view on DTD sometime soon but in the meantime I’ve gotta note the publication in First Monday of his article Re-approaching nearness: Online communication and its place in Praxis.

Swerving from personal experience to Bhola’s ‘ontological reintegration’ to Habermas and Freire this article (or should I say Ulises – or neither as this is definitely ‘about’ – a publication I guess) looks at the tensions and alignments between communication ‘about’ and communication ‘with’. What comes to the fore with me is the interactions and symbiotic relationships between the two, the impact that the online is thought to have in terms of nearness and farness (and it’s actual relationship) and the relationship between reflection, interaction and action as demonstrated in the diagram in this post that I nick from the article!

Of particular interest in a practical sense (and that’s another thing I love about Ulises’ writing, there’s always practical application in mind, action I guess ;o) to those who think about this sort of thing are his thoughts on learning systems:

“I believe that by designing learning systems that take a holistic praxis into account, technology can spark a desire for nearness. This in spite of the fact that most current systems, by their mere failure to ask questions such as the ones above, are oriented towards using technology to decrease the importance of the near.” [Ulises A. Mejias]

But what comes across must is the simplicity of this idea, that what this boils down to is a need for us ‘to bring the epistemologically far near to us, and make the physically near relevant again’. Reminds me of my teaching days, DOGME and a pedagogy of the bare essentials, the need I think we all have of (re)discovering ourselves and, likewise, each other and the way in which technology is in many ways the cause of and can help or hinder how that goes.

There’s even a prequel / sequel if you’ve got the mental capacity left: Movable Distance: Technology, Nearness and Farness