You Can’t Use the Same Tool Twice

I originally wrote the blog post, “Real Problem – Virtual Solution” to explain how Second Life serves my learning and teaching as a tool in my PLE.

And my writing generated a question about affordances because I’ve seen Second Life used in such drastically different ways.   In my reading about affordances, I discovered Ulises Mejias — both his critical theorist’s exploration of networking (the dark side) and a project called “Open Affordances.”

Mejias has shared a partial transcript of a webinar he moderated on “Open Affordances” (Downes, Stephen; Mayfield, Ross; and Sardar, Ziauddin, 2004).  He begins by explaining his understanding of Paul Dourish’s definition of the affordances of an environment as a 3-way relationship between the environment, the actor, and the activity.  Mejias invokes the Heracitus quote about being unable to step in the same river or I’d suggest a most appropriate metaphor for me as a teacher of learning through literature – “you can’t read the same book twice.”  Or perhaps “you can’t use the same tool twice” for PLE.

I had also seen Stephen Downes’ slide show (Connectivism Learning and Teaching, 2010, May) in which he describes “. . . personal growth as a consequence of the interactions” of a community.

So two points prompted first by my writing and then by my reading of Mejias and Downes:

First, affordances may never be the same for two learners/actors or even for the same learner/actor.  This 3-way relationship is constantly changing.  For example, you might say that Second Life affords an open environment for interaction.  That’s certainly been true for my students and me who meet there for virtual book clubs and real-time seminars.  Yet a nursing professor recently presented on how she uses Second Life and said that there was a dress code and students were not allowed to engage in back channel while she spoke.  Her real-live sessions in Second Life are essentially lectures.


Second point is that in my reading of Louise Rosenblatt’s take on transactional later to be called Reader Response theory there is a distinct difference in the meaning of interaction and transaction.  Did I mention that Rosenblatt was a contemporary and highly influenced by John Dewey and his transactional theory?

Rosenblatt (Literature as Exploration, 1938/1995) distinguishes transaction from interaction by describing transaction as “emphasizing the essentiality of both reader and text, in contrast to other theories that make one or the other determinate….’Transaction’…permits emphasis on the to-and-fro, spiraling, nonlinear, continuously reciprocal influence or reader and text in the making of meaning. The meaning — the poem — ‘happens’ during the transaction between the reader and the signs on the page (p. xvi).

Transaction reflects what we learned about science from Einstein and represents a more organic, natural relationship while interaction is stuck in the science of the Newtonian, mechanistic age.  An example Rosenblatt (1985) gave is that interaction describes two billiards balls that hit and then go separate ways while with a transaction they collide and the course of their trajectory is changed – not individual entities acting on the environment or the environment acting on individual but “as parts and aspects of the total event” (p. 98).

So I’d suggest that the term transact works better to describe the relationships within an environment.


About criscrissman

so serious about really blogging this time
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