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hi mooc-ers (who are humans)

December 14, 2015

lisa hammershaimb

Why am I here?

Basically read this great post by Autumm Caines and my answer is yep…me too.

all. the. paradox. : )

Like Autumm, I too heard murmurings of #HumanMOOC and decided though it sounded interesting…after three months of intensive doctoral course work I just didn’t have the mental bandwidth to engage on any level. Like Autumm, I also quickly changed my mind after hearing several people I knew were participating, seeing the schedule of guest speakers and realizing that the course is based on the Community of Inquiry (CoI), a model I first encountered two years ago during orientation week at Athabasca. (During orientation CoI came up so frequently it seemed to me it was pretty much the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and if you were clever about it…probably held the secrets to staying young, fit, and beautiful.) Since orientation, CoI has fallen off my radar. In HumanMOOC I am looking forward to getting reacquainted and seeing how Lisa-on-the-cusp-of-doctoral-candidacy‘s experience of CoI differs from Lisa-the-total-academic-novice.

Week Zero (basically a fancy name for orientation) of #HumanMOOC opened last Saturday with a conversation hosted by Matt Croslin (head “wayfinder” basically a fancy name for course facilitator) with George Siemens (my supervisor who prescribed lots of down time over break…which means I’m now living with low levels of paranoia that he’ll find out I’ve joined a MOOC.) It was an interesting chat about the tension that is human + technology and particularly the tension that comes with defining just what it means to be human whilst co-existing with so many non-human actors.

George is passionate about disseminating an anti-technofetishism message, proclaiming that humans are creative and if we resist the weird determinism that is rampant, we can leverage technology as a means to bring hope, compassion, and connection on a grand scale. Technology, by doing its piece very well and with great efficiency, can free us to pursue lives of deeper creativity as we engage in the things unique to us as humans. That said, we must think critically about who does what so we don’t inadvertently mistake ourselves for robots and venerate the programmed as our leaders.


In the chat, George gave an overview of human/technology interaction illustrated through a brief history of farm practice and the industrial revolution. He traced how technology has been able to augment human labor, extending reach and connection to places previously unimagined. Against the positive aspects of tech integration, George also identified what he sees as a deep failure in human/technology interaction, namely when humans take natural tendencies to anthropomorphize too far and rather than use tech as a means to augment and extend human energy…use technology as a means to replace humans or even worse, humans become subservient to tech. George acknowledges that technology can and will continue to do things better and with more efficiency than humans. Yet human presence and connection with all its messy inefficiencies, spontaneous mixed messages, and muddled awkward care embodies something that technology never can or should replicate.

I love these ideas on many levels. As a graphic designer dedicated to empowering others to find and actualize their visual artistic voice + vision, anytime I hear someone call for greater attention to opening pathways so creativity can flourish, I’m all in.

But here’s the thing…while I think it’s wonderful to open space for these ideas, pathways, etc. I think opening space for creativity, hope, and human flourishing is only the beginning. The real challenge comes with getting people to actually enter into said spaces and actually embrace the creative opportunities now offered to them. We can, metaphorically, have oxen plow our fields and thus cut our work time in half but if our minds are so programmed to only find value in one type of work we’re not going to use our newly opened free time to pursue anything other than finding another field, finding another set of oxen, etc. I think perhaps we must question the whys of technology….should it, can it, will it replace us? But right alongside that, I think we must also question our own motivations, and how we fundamentally identify what is valuable as work and even as being human. And all this “we” talk is just a clever cover as I know I am guilty of venerating the idea of creativity, open space, etc. and yet when it shows up in my own life I’m often much more likely to dismiss it to go find some more oxen and another field.

The conversation ended with Matt–in a brilliant show of how to be human in an online space–being inadvertently interrupted on camera by his young son. To me that was a major highlight as Matt’s son embodied just what I think are the best parts of what it means to be human online: being curiosity, being friendly, and most of all being open to engage and see what happens next.

So…why am I here? I’m curious to enter into this open space, meet people, remember what it is to delight in the spontaneous that is human and…see what happens next.

One Comment

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  1. December 19, 2015

    What a great post .. I love this reflection on George S. — “.. we can leverage technology as a means to bring hope, compassion, and connection on a grand scale.”
    Oh, I hope so. I truly do, and I believe it, too.
    Have fun in yer MOOC.

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