This week we considered a place that calls us back to somewhere else. We shared a fundamental aspect of each of our identities, a totem that makes us who we are. It was intriguing to see the lodestone that many of us find to be our magnetic center. This learning event resonated with many people as they gladly shared another place or space that makes us what we are.
For some people, this was a physical space or location. We saw a lot of sharing of hometowns, and places that we grow up. For others it was a physical item. This included books, musical instruments, and foods. For still others, we connected the dots on all of these items and identified a specific culture, or way of life. Through all of this, it was interesting to see what connects us to our own human experience. I thoroughly recommend this share from Mrs. Booth’s Class that wonderfully brings this point home.
One thing that resonated with me was that many of us wish that we could be someplace else in our lives. For many participants this learning event was not only a celebration of some aspect of our lives, but even more so a remembrance of a long lost connection. Whether it be life, love, or loss, there is a certain momentum that brings us each to where we are currently situated. These shared elements created a beautiful tapestry of emotions that was equal parts celebration and a somber.
Online Spaces as Totem
During the week, as I was reviewing, responding, and retweeting the work of others, I was engaged in discussions on different levels with people about our relationships with technology. In one discussion, I had the honor of working with a group of elementary teachers to discuss the role that technology will (possibly) have as our students grow up. Increasingly we are moving to hybrid spaces that are situated somewhere in between the “real world” and the Internet. I began to wonder if there are people that would rather interact and connect with online places and spaces than offline, traditional places.
In the discussion with the elementary teachers, we started to realize that many of our students have…and prefer…friends that they may never meet and exist online. In these affinity spaces, we can connect and interact with others that are interested in stuff we’re interested in. They might be just like us…and are not constrained by distance, language, or cultural factors. We can just be friends. I’m not here to suggest one is right or wrong…I’m just interested in this growing trend, or what could become a trend.
Prefer to be online
As the discussions progressed, I shared some of the recent advances in technology. We’ve seen an influx in virtual and augmented reality devices. We have the ability to layer, or substitute a connected, technological world on top of the everyday world we exist in. In some cases, this world, and the tools involved have an opportunity to be immersive and totally remove us from what we currently call reality. We’re not there yet, but we’ll quickly start to make science fiction into a reality.
Ready Player One
This discussion reminded me of one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple of years, Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. The book has a large online following. I definitely recommend following the Tumblr page to see what people are creating and sharing as they read the text. I don’t want to ruin anything about the book, so I’ll only paste in here the abstract from Amazon.
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines—puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them.
But when Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.
The book details a dystopian future that given my line of thinking here, is not too far off. I wonder how others will view their totem, or the lodestone that makes them who they are, and how these places and spaces will soon be replaced by online contexts. How many of our students in our classrooms disenfranchised by the world around them, and reach out another context to feel accepted and appreciated. It’s something to consider as we connect and socialize online. What do we gain, and what do we lose in these interactions?
I thoroughly recommend reading or listening to Ready Player One. I’ll leave you with the inset Cline uses to start the text.
Being human totally sucks most of the time.
Videogames are the only thing that make life bearable.
—Anorak’s Almanac, Chapter 91, Verses 1–2
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