Message in a Floating Bottle

. . . A Writing Teacher’s Considerations about Cross-Border Education

I found a plastic bottle floating on the Atlantic at the south shore of Long Island some time ago. It was a warm summer day, and I was playing with my five and three year old children on the beach. As soon as I noticed a piece of paper inside the bottle, my curiosity was piqued and I took it out and read the message. It said: “Come here around this time tomorrow and we’ll talk about our plan further.”

The first thing that came to my mind was: “Gosh, is this message somehow intended for me?” I wondered who the sender of the message may be. Come? That is called an indexical in linguistics: it needs to have a point of reference, that of the speaker’s location, to which the other person is being asked to move. I would need to know who the addresser and addressee are. Continue reading

Navigating Cultural Technologies

The first two weeks of June, I am attending the summer institute Digital Media and Composition at the Ohio State University. For the final “digital book” project, I am planning to focus on the issue of how we learn and use ICTs, how we transition and make use of previous knowledge/skills to learn new technologies, and how we navigate cultural/epistemological worldviews that undergird the technologies that we learn and use.

In particular, I am interested in the way people view, understand, use, or assimilate into new ICTs when the new means and modes of communication have little resemblance to those that they have used in the past. Although culturally alien or radically new means or mode of knowledge-making create anxiety and learning curves, people with relatively little background knowledge or skills in new ICTs often seem to be more willing to invest great efforts, expect and accept more difficulty, and explore new affordances of new technologies further than people who have stronger background knowledge and skills. For example, when a person who has never owned/used a land phone will complain less about how cell phones infringe on privacy, influence social relations, and change the “natural” pattern of their life; while it is certainly important that overlapping skills and common grounds behind the two technological constructs (like voice mail box, or answering machine) will no doubt facilitate the learning of cell phone skills for the land phone user much better in some ways, the person who starts off with the cell phone might explore and use new affordances better because expectations, habits, and attitudes don’t hold them back (text messaging, call history, web access, and the wide range of tools and settings).  Continue reading