Interaction & Media, some thoughts

INDIVIDUAL WORK – Apply your reading (individually) to your (individual) observations and vice-versa. Read the readings which were assigned, select one aspect of one of the readings and apply/comment on your observations from looking at media mediated interaction (e.g, as done in class, facebook, emails …)

Task : nau jean-marie, ma-multilearn, semester 2/4 – 2009-2010 (MAX)

In order to complete this task, I will gather the material available and make a selection according to papers read and topics relevant to my general/specific interest. Throughout the programme, there has been a constant strive to get a clearer picture what this programme is all about. What can be achieved by it and what not?

By following the categorization the programme has adopted, this course is called: Interacting and Media. While the course description on moodle is empty, information has been given on moodle. Readings are included in 12 different folders:

activity_theoretical_framework cognition_situated_or_distributed_ computer-mediated_discourse computer_gaming conversation_analysis embodied_interaction ethnographic_approach general_papers interaction_analysis language_learning multimodal_analysis online_social_networks

The way knowledge is classified is an important subject as it may determine ways in which we perceive knowledge and order it according to relevance and importance. This course is situated in the thematic domain of MEDIA, INTERACTION & DESIGN (MID). It is one of 4 learning domains that seeks to gain a better understanding on “the role of media and mediation in processes of learning & development” (ma poster, 17.3.2010). 5 other courses have been offered in the 2nd semester that address this topic.

Learning from difference (Ursula Günther, Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, 2000), Prise de parole en public (Bénédicte Vanderreydt, accomplished actress), Design (Wilco Lensink, Ph.D. Graphic Design), and Animated Learning (how to create & use subtitling in teaching) (Colm Caffrey, Ph.D.). I’m currently identifying the fields of ‘expertise’ of our ‘teachers’, as way to get a clearer picture what I’m actually studying.

All 5 courses have been extremely varied, bringing to learning & development various approaches and perspectives. As I read through the many papers, the abstracts and the ideas presented and developed, I discover new words that combine often several meanings. Matthew Chalmers, A Historical View of Context, 2004, talks about games for mobile computers, using GPS positioning where players know “where such infrastructure, -usually assumed to be ubiquitous and seamless- is” (ubiquitous, as: ever-present, everywhere, omnipresent, widespread). In chapter 5: Systems combining objective and subjective context, Chalmers states that “Hermeneutics impresses upon us the significance of individuals’ histories as a part of context”. Immediately there is the need to seek clarification on how this vast concept of hermeneutics is to be understood in the paper that I’m reading and at the same time I need to go back to my ‘pillar of belief’ to compare how ‘hermeneutics’ is used and understood there. In the case of the term ‘hermeneutic’, I found in Lample (2009, pp. 36-46) a chapter about the hermeneutical principles in the Bahá’í Teachings.

…the challenging process of acquiring understanding, many hermeneutical principles-that is, principles pertaining to interpreting or discerning the meaning of the Sacred Text-are presented in the Bahá’í Writings to guide the seeker of truth.

The Book has an intended meaning. …Comprehension occurs by degree, is influenced by culture and context, and there is always some ambiguity. …

Judgments about meaning should be made from the perspective of the Revelation….

There is no contradiction between authoritative passages.… Meaning is sometimes explicit and sometimes veiled. …The meaning of the Book cannot be exhausted. …

Truth unfolds progressively within the dispensation. …Understanding is influenced by the stages of the Faiths’ organic development. …Personal interpretations of the meaning of the Text should be weighed in the light of science and reason. Scientific knowledge and reason make an essential contribution to a sound understanding of the Baha’i Writings. They serve as a means to weigh personal interpretations and religious beliefs, …

While study of the Baha’i teachings may provide certain insights or a philosophical or moral framework for scientific investigation and technological applications, scripture is not scientific evidence. Science has its own body of knowledge, methods of inquiry, and system of justification and advances according to its own criteria. …

History and context have implications for understanding the meaning of the Text. …

The application of the hermeneutical principles presented here and any others that may be drawn from the Baha’i Writings cannot be reduced to a specific formula or set of rules, and caution must be exercised to avoid the extremes of absolute certainty or relativism. …absolutism should be avoided whether imposed as a literal religious orthodoxy or as scientific or historical certainty. …

The quest for sound understanding, instead, involves a community engaged in consultation, where differing views are welcome, unity is maintained, each individual exercises self-discipline, and varying perspectives are tested through action and reflection in a collective search for meaning …

We must learn to put forward our “views and conclusions with moderation and due humility” so that our diverse perspectives can contribute to the collective effort to achieve a better understanding …

We can be neither too rigid nor too lax. On a certain point, divergent viewpoints and ambiguity may be all we can achieve at any given moment …

As Bahá’ís study and discuss the meaning of the Text while applying a set of hermeneutical principles, greater insight and unity of thought will emerge. The purpose of religion, however, is not simply to describe reality but to change human conduct and create a new social reality. Interpretation does not stand on its own. To test the soundness of our understanding we have to strive to apply it in action. As in science, where theory is tested by experimentation, spiritual insights must be tested by their expression in the world. The aim is to give effective material form to spiritual truth. Interpretation creates meaning. But meaning is tested in action, and action shapes reality.

While there was no direct intention to dwell on this subject, it exemplifies my struggle to find an appropriate ‘unit of analysis’. Many papers are concerned with theories that seek to establish how learning takes place, who we learn with computers as mediating tools and artifacts, my interest and sincere passion lies more in the direction of what kind of learning and development is most suitable and appropriate in multicultural and multilingual contexts.

It gives me hope in my research to find an angle of research that may fit in the framework of this master programme to identify several authors referred to in the academic papers that ‘our’ professors have suggested us to read and in Bahá’í academic articles. The link is there but how can I make the right connections?

(Giddens, 1993), (Searle, 1997), (Toulmin, 1992), (May, 2001), (Flyvbjerg, 2001), (Carvalho, 2006), (Gadamer, Weinsheimer, & Marshall, 2005), (Bernstein, 1983), (Habermas, 1972), (Peters, Burbules, & Smeyers, 2010), (Kelly, 1994), (Smith, 2003).

I wish to include this insight on what a theory might be: “Thus, in scientific research, a great deal of our thinking is in terms of theories. The word “theory” derives from the Greek “theoria,” which has the same root as the “theatre,” in a word meaning “to view” or “to make a spectacle.” Thus, it might be said that a theory is primarily a form of insight, i.e. a way of looking at the world, and not a form of knowledge of how the world is. . . .” (Bohm, 1996).

Another promising area of research can be found through the paper: Situations, interaction, process and affordances: An ecological psychology perspective (Young, Depalma, & Garrett, 2002, p.49).

As our first commentary, we would like to highlight the importance of overtly including intentionality in the descriptions of interactions. …

Thus, a student may be pursuing the goal of becoming a great chef, of being an “A” student in computer class, of being a good wife/daughter/friend, of getting credentials that lead to a career, and of learning salad-making for its own sake all within the context of the authors’ salad-making ILE. This raises issues for the characterization of situation models that presume to connect patterns of interaction in one situation to patterns of interaction in another. In short, such connections may be inherently multi-dimensional and nonlinear, and this could present a considerable challenge when modeling a full description of context, interaction and process.

To study Ecological Psychology is to study the relation between knower and known.

This has brought me to watch a You Tube video called : an ecological approach to stopping fundamentalism –David Sloan Wilson, evolutionary biologist, Panel Discussion on Religion & Science, City University New York, 17.11.2009. He states that fundamentalism has a ‘home’ of existential insecurity. Compare places like Scandinavia (enlightened forms of religion strive) and place like the middle east (fundamentalism strives) (and live is existentially insecure). Making the world existentially more secure will help to eradicate fundamentalism (An Ecological Approach to Stopping Fundamentalism – David Sloan Wilson, 2009). This direction would seem interesting to me, posing questions, in the direction of: how can we learn to make the world a more secure place for everyone?

This in turn brings me to look at Evolutionary Psychology and the fact that the evolutionary approach to the human mind is becoming more and more influential (Dr Daniel Nettle, Lecturer in Psychology, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, England). In a beginner’s guide, Robin Dunbar addresses topics such as: why do we need evolution? The paradox of language, the social brain, intentionality, language and culture and the science of morality (Dunbar, Barrett, & Lycett, 2005).

I would like to mention some concepts found in the folder general papers on moodle. They include Situated Action in the development of activity, Situated Cognition, Distributed cognition theory (DCOG), Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) and Computer Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL). From my limited understanding in this field it seems fascinating that we humans invent tools that facilitate our daily lives and the way we communicate with each other, locally and globally. Only after some form of communication becomes a phenomenon and is used by millions, we become interested how this tool changes the way we interact, talk, write, eat, marry and live in society. Finding theories and methods to analyse the way we do it, the way we learn a language through e-learning seems to be the current challenge in the research field. It seems obvious that we want our children to use all these tools to help them explore the world and in this process create new media. Media mediated interaction ought to be a help to make education accessible to every child, a tool not a barrier.

When we discuss computer-human interaction and design for interaction, do we agree on the meaning of the term “interaction”? Has the subject been fully explored? Is the definition settled?

Interaction is a way of framing the relationship between people and objects designed for them—and thus a way of framing the activity of design. All man-made objects offer the possibility for interaction, and all design activities can be viewed as design for interaction. The same is true not only of objects but also of spaces, messages, and systems. Interaction is a key aspect of function, and function is a key aspect of design

In this article by Dubberly, Pangaro and Haque, 2009, several types of systems are presented.

Information flows from a system (perhaps a computer or a car) through a person and back through the system again. The person has a goal; she acts to achieve it in an environment (provides input to the system); she measures the effect of her action on the environment (interprets output from the system—feedback) and then compares result with goal. The comparison (yielding difference or congruence) directs her next action, beginning the cycle again. This is a simple self-correcting system—more technically, a first-order cybernetic system.

They include a model of nine types/levels of systems by Kenneth Boulding that give an interesting overview of possible interactions in a hierarchical way.

Technology is all around us, visible or not and it is changing the way we live. Access to new media through the internet is becoming a legal right in Finland as from July 2010.

The Finnish government has become the first in the world to make broadband internet access a legal right. According to local reports, the Ministry of Transport and Communications in Helsinki has pushed through a law that will force telecommunications providers to offer high speed internet connections to all of the country’s 5.3 million citizens. In an interview with the Guardian, Lane Fox said that there was an economic imperative to widening broadband access because people can use the web to save money, find new employment opportunities and give themselves other benefits. "To an individual who’s earning not very much in a year, every pound extra is extremely important, and therefore it’s important that we fight for the right to get that," she said

It really would be difficult to imagine completing two semesters on learning & development, finding & selecting articles, getting quick background information, using Zotero to collect references, coordinating group work and sharing information without regular access to the internet and all that is connected to it. With this subject, the media, that mediates, interaction between individuals, a huge box of tricks has been opened. The challenge seems to be to find a common ground to work on the subject(s), develop strategies that can guide the way these tools can be used for the benefit of all.


An Ecological Approach to Stopping Fundamentalism – David Sloan Wilson. (2009). . Retrieved from

Bernstein, R. J. (1983). Beyond Objectivism and Relativism: Science, Hermeneutics, and Praxis. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Bohm, D. (1996). Wholeness and the Implicate Order (Reissue.). Routledge.

Carvalho, J. J. (2006, March). Overview of the Structure of a Scientific Worldview. Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science.

Dunbar, R., Barrett, L., & Lycett, J. (2005). Evolutionary Psychology: A Beginner’s Guide. Oneworld Publications.

Flyvbjerg, B. (2001). Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again (1er ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Gadamer, H., Weinsheimer, J., & Marshall, D. G. (2005). Truth And Method (2 ed.). Continuum.

Giddens, A. (1993). New Rules of Sociological Method: A Positive Critique of Interpretative Sociologies (2 ed.). Polity.

Habermas, J. (1972). Knowledge and Human Interests. Beacon Press.

Kelly, M. (1994). Critique and Power: Recasting the Foucault / Habermas Debate. The MIT Press.

Lample, P. (2009). Revelation & Social Reality. USA: Palabra Publications. Retrieved from available as download:

May, T. (2001). Our Practices, Our Selves, Or, What It Means to Be Human (1er ed.). Pennsylvania State Univ Pr (Txt).

Peters, M. A., Burbules, N. C., & Smeyers, P. (2010). Showing and Doing: Wittgenstein as a Pedagogical Philosopher. Paradigm Publishers.

Searle, J. R. (1997). The Construction of Social Reality. Free Press.

Smith, H. (2003). Beyond the Post-Modern Mind, Third and Updated Edition: The Place of Meaning in a Global Civilization (Third Edition.). Quest Books.

Toulmin, S. (1992). Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity. The University of Chicago Press.

Young, M. F., Depalma, A., & Garrett, S. (2002). Situations, interaction, process and affordances: An ecological psychology perspective. Instructional Science, 47-63.

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