#edcmooc Thursday

Just trying out an application suggested in a tweet – still needs a lot of work but looks like it could be an interesting tool to use….


and I wonder if pechaflickr could be a way to go – quite random but certainly an option!  Why not have a play! 

I found “Thursday” an interesting short. My first thought was how similar the street grid system seen from above like the grids on the old computer games but I agree with some of the comments on the discussion board that the street grid system is like a computer motherboard.  Are we all living in a huge game? Where do reality and make-believe merge? Can we escape the automation of daily life and choose our own destiny? Maybe that is what the couple were doing when they went on their outing on Thursday?

I think that the way that the bird mimics the sounds around it is like the way that we have copied nature’s designs to build machines. It is ironic, but also we adapt the way we act and speak to fit in with our surroundings especially when we are in unfamiliar or challenging situations so as not to stand out and as a way to survive. Maybe this is a dystopian struggle for survival? But then if their day of escapism is hope for the future maybe it has a utopian element?

Other people have commented on the sadness of the people’s dependence and absorption in their gadgets, their machines and how when the power went out they found themselves bereft of anything to do.  Is that dependence stripping us of the ability to be creative, to think for ourselves?

It is certainly the cry of lots of parents, and I hear myself saying it to my children too!  When we turn off the internet or tell them that their time is up on their computers or tablets they mope around for half an hour until they remember (or are reminded) that there are other things to do!  We try to play family games but I am frustrated by how infrequently we do that now since my husband and I too are often to be found with our heads staring at a computer screen.  It is also easy to let our kids play on computers – a cheap babysitter, just as the TV has been the baby sitter in previous years – so that we can get on with what we need to do.

boys playing computer games sitting next to each other on sofa in living room

Interestingly, I have observed that my boys communicate more through the medium of computer games than face to face. Of course, they still have the rough and tumble of brotherly play, they are both keen sports players and we spend a reasonable amount of time outdoors. But the games they play require them to play as a team against another team, so they have to discuss strategy, make decisions, build things and interact. Sometimes they do this sitting next to each other as in the photo, sometimes they are in separate rooms, and it maybe that when the older brother goes away later this month they will play across continents. I think that the skills they are learning and developing during this play time will help them to grow as adults and help them in their lives.

Prince Harry said recently of his role in Afghanistan working as a helicopter gunner “It’s a joy for me. I am one of those people who loves playing Playstation and XBox and so I am good with my thumbs, I like to think that I am quite useful.”   Those comments have caused quite a stir but I think that he is right – I have read research (but can’t quite find sources just now) that suggests that parts of the brain are stimulated when playing computer games which help in quick decision making and manual reflexes.

The interactive nature of computer games now is, I believe,  far preferable to one on one games that require interaction only between the computer and the player.  A friend of mine remarked on that the other day when I went to pick up my 13 year old from his friends’ house.  They are twins and when I arrived, my son was playing an interactive game with one of them, they were in separate spaces in an open plan area so we could see both of them and they spent the whole time talking to each other, deciding who was going to do what, which bounty to collect, how to attack, counter-attack, defend etc.  The other twin was playing on a handheld device, completely self-absorbed and seemingly isolated.   That is not to say that there isn’t a place for one to one time, but a healthy balance is needed.

Which brings me to the idea in the film that people are so governed by their machines that they no longer notice the world around them.  It is easy to see how this can happen – computer games are addictive and it is for that reason that I avoid them; I know I will get sucked in, I know because it has happened to me!  Fortunately, I don’t think I have a particularly addictive personality and I usually get bored after the mania has run its course and I move onto the next thing.  But I do have a busy and demanding job, one that I love, but the demands of the job mean that I often come home from work and then immediately sit down at the computer and start again because I have stuff that I have to do for the next day.  I find myself missing out on the things I really love doing like spending time with my family, being outdoors in the hills or by the sea.

I am doing this course because the subject interests me but it too means that I am focussed on the computer.  Fortunately, it is summer here and I am sitting in the garden with cicadas chirruping, birds singing and the smell of the roses all around me.

As a family we do get out and about and it is always refreshing to leave the gadgets behind and play cards or boards games actually using a pack of cards and a board rather than on the gadgets!  However, we did find that this year on holiday we were still slaves to our gadgets; we used them to check the weather forecast,  Google maps helped us find the way, (better than an in-car Sat Nav), we could find out what to do in different places, Google Goggle was a great for identifting the names of landmarks and giving us additional information on the hoof and then I am hooked on Instagram at the moment so photos were edited and uploaded as I took them, and my husband and I had a mini competition going on as to who could check in to 4square first whenever we went to a cafe!  Gadgets in cars to keep kids amused are great too and stop the incessant refrain of “Are we nearly there?”

Father and son sitting on rocks by the ocean looking at hand held computers

But did we miss out on the world around us by having our gadgets on us the whole time?  I don’t think we did; I think that in many ways they helped us to look at the world in a different way.  I enjoy photography and using instagram has encouraged me to  look at what is around me from a different perspective – I like to upload photos that say something to me, they are contextual, they also reflect who I am as a person.  I still use my SLR camera for more planned shots but the immediacy of a camera on my mobile phone fulfils my need for instant gratification and feedback from my followers!

Keeping a balance is important and I know there are times when, as a family, we fail.  However, I think on the whole we do a pretty good job and hopefully the boys will maintain that when they no longer have us as guardians of cyberspace.

On that note, I am taking a break.  Going for a coffee with my husband who is also engaged in a Mooc and needs dragging away!

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