Monday, June 20, 2005

Screen distractions

Participants in the Transliteracies conference this past weekend were

invited to participate in an experiment in the social practice of conference-going by using the “comments” section of the Roundtable 3 page to post reflections, questions, or reactions in real time during the roundtable conversation. While these comments will not be displayed on the screen simultaneously with the roundtable conversation (because it would be distracting), they will be shown during the question-and-answer period.

As part of that thread of comments, Anne Balsamo reports that some classes at USC encourage just this kind of distraction:

Courses in the Interactive Media Division at USC use this system as “heckle screens”....where students are allowed, and in fact, encouraged to post, google,
surf during classes, including during lecture time. the “behind-the-back” heckling is projected onto screens on every wall in the room.
Several conference participants, including Balsamo, went on to call for their comments to be projected, though apparently that didn't happen.

At any rate, I find the making visible of what people are "doing" during class--and thus actually making it part of the whole texture of the class--very intriguing. It's all there, anyway, so why not make it obvious instead of discrete? Why not see what happens if all that extra media gets stirred up into the basic trajectory that the instructor brings to the class?

But, as Tara McPherson notes, that all comes with a certain amount of panoptic pressure, too. If you know whatever is on your screen could end up being projected for the whole class, well, that's probably going to lead to some self-censoring, isn't it?

Still, it's attractive. Why not make use of the creative way that minds wander, to see what that wandering can add to the class?

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