Saturday, 25 April 2009

Anonymity and its empowerment in discussion

The potential for Second Life to offer inherent 'anonymity' via the use of avatars, gives us scope to investigate and explore different and multiple identities. Being able to choose gender, colour, dress etc. at the avatar design stage and then being able to 'act , perform and interact with others' in this disguise clearly provides an opportunity for role interchange. The capacity of second life to facilitate such an interchangeability of role could lead to enhanced cross functional and interprofessional team working.

Using avatars to explore role interchange whilst interacting with others could, possibly, lead to a more embodied and immersive experience of the different roles, allowing students to become exposed to multiple subjectivity, thus allowing them to take up muliple subject positions or view points. Messer (2009) considers this crucial in terms of interprofessional working within healthcare profession and believes that this would be very difficult to replicate within real life.

Bayne (2004, p310) picks up this latter point in the context of LeCourts pedagogy and feminist agenda. LeCourt uses anonymised discussion boards to cultivate a learning environment in which students can take up multiple subject positions in order to allow them to express 'multivocality'.

In adopting anonymity on the discussion boards LeCourt also has an emancipatory agenda. Her online classroom has the potential to become a 'feminized' textual space where voices are heard and students' discourse resists reincorporation or silencing within already constituted discourses. LeCourts classroom experiences show that interaction on this level enables 'new' subject positions to be momentarily created that granted students power over how others had positioned them. (Lecourt 1999 p.172 in Bayne 2004, p.310)

Intersubjectivity is a topic picked up by Kim (2001) in relation to social constructivism and development of shared understandings. ' Intersubjectivity is a shared understanding among individuals whose interaction is based on common interests and assumptions that form their communication' (Rogoff, 1990 in Kim, 2001). Kim points out that any personal meanings developed by individuals during such interactions, are shaped by the intersubjectivity of the community involved in the interaction. This has some relevance to the multiple subjectivity and interprofessional subjectivity noted above. Intersubjectivity, if successfully established, could provide grounds for communication and support people in extending their understanding of new information and activities among the group members involved. (Rogoff 1990 in Kim 2001) and (Vygotsky 1987 in Kim 2001).

If digital discursive and networking spaces can provide a social space and environment in which an individual can create meaning through their interactions with each other then these spaces can also be said to support social constructivist approaches to education. The examples of multiplesubjectivity and interprofessional subjectivity above show how discussion boards and virtual worlds like Second Life can offer opportunities for online interactions and therefore by extension are spaces able to foster intersubjectivity too. Savin-Baden (2008) supports such an alignment, affiliation, tendancy or sympathy within the context of higher education and currently lobbies for learning in immersive worlds to be reconsidered in the context of a social reform model of education. She believes it is this model of or approach to education which should underpin the implementation of learning in immersive virtual worlds in higher education pedagogically rather than cognitive approaches which have informed practice in this area in the past.

Bayne, S. (2004) Smoothness and striation in digital learning spaces. E-learning 1 (2). p. 302-316

Kim, B (2001). Social Constructivism. In Orey. M (Ed.). Emerging perspectives on learning, teaching, and technology. Retrieved 10th February 2009 from

Messer (2009). Discussion Board Post: Course Design. Identifying Approaches: Teaching spaces and how they reflect learning beliefs, ideologies and values. 25th January 2009 and 30th January 2009

Savin-Baden, M. (2008) From cognitive capability to social reform? Shifting perceptions of learning in immersive virtual worlds. ALT-J Research in Learning Technology. 16 (3). pp. 151-161

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