Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Ubiquitous Computing

Today I taught a class on 'language and technology' to my second year undergraduates. It was good fun and they seemed to engage with the topic enthusiastically. It made me realise just how dramatically recent changes in digital technology have altered our expectations and forms of interaction. I described to the students my experience of being an undergraduate, where if I wanted to call home, or my boyfriend or whatever (especially the whatever), I would skip my meal in the hall of residence and wait to use one of the three pay phones (shared by 300 of us!). Apart from the fact this made me feel like a dinosaur, (maybe that should be my second life avatar), it also brought home just how far our experiences of communication in this part of the western world have changed. I asked them how long they would expect to wait for a response to an email (2 days max) and for a text message (instantly, that day at least).

What was also interesting was their varying familiarity with the forms of technology and their attendant literacies. So while txtin was oh so familiar to all, altering the spelling (and even the speech) of the students, the world of blogs, wikis, even my space was definitely not familiar or comfortable territory. The wiki for the workshop at the Narrative and Multimodality symposium is now live, and I am watching it with curiousity (and terror!). I asked the students how they would have felt if I had asked them to use a wiki in the module we've just been taking together. Their instant reaction - 'I don't even know what one of those is'. I know that using the wiki for the symposium is a new venture, and I am experiencing the 'fear of the unknown'. But who knows, in 15 years time, what forms of online collaboration will be as readily familiar as email and texting are to us now?



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