Wednesday, March 13, 2002

Oh What a Night...!
(OK. What group sang that song? Was it the Platters?)
Ah. Danced for 2 straight hours non-stop. Worked up a good sweat, got some unofficial Argentine Tango tips, and best of all, did a hot Salsa and a cool swing with the cutest, sexiest twenty-something dance teacher around! Hey, I guess becoming a blonde really does work! I most certainly am having fun.
Hooray for Henry Jenkins!!
Henry Jenkins is director of the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT. MSNBC online features an article he wrote for Technology Review that finally gets in right about what's happening with "blogging." Henry Jenkins, you're my hero!
And What of the Body Electric?
The danger of becoming too engaged with life in a cyber-Utopia is the old spectre of the Decartian split that writers like William Gibson have taken to the mind-extreme. I think of b!X, who caused me some concern when he was of junior high school age because he seemed totally unconcerned about anything physical and spent all of his time in his mind – reading, writing, fantasizing. When he got is first little Apple (even long before it was possible to wire to the web), well, that really consumed his existence. And now I find that I am spending an inordinate amount of time blogging, blogrolling, commenting, and thinking about what I want to blog next time.

Slipping into a literal mind-over-matter life is especially easy when one lives alone, as I do, and as b!X does. I have to make a conscious effort to compensate, which I do primarily by ballroom dancing. I get a lot of physical contact and socializing on the dance floor. And I also try to get a massage once a month. I make a point of hugging my much-too-isolated mother and giving her massages as well. The psychological benefits of touching and being touched are not only important for infants, who, research shows, do not thrive without physical contact, without physical “socializing.” I believe that the same is true for all of us all through our human lives.

In his post on the web as a utopia, David Weinberger says:
We humans are at our best when we are involved with others. We are at our best when we are social and connected. The Web is a world that is profoundly social. Its geography itself is social, a map of connections and passions. It is thus a world that we've made for ourselves that is a reflection of our best nature and a place where can imperfectly perfect our imperfect natures.

What he says is true for only one part of who we are: our minds. (Well, and also part of our spirits – that part of our spirit that doesn’t need the body to express what is joyful and connected to the divine in the physical world.)

It’s significant and healthy, I think, that b!X has taken on baby-sitting for Galileo, the one-year old son of a friend. Babies love to hug and cuddle and smooch. Babies love physical contact. And so, while David is right that we are at out best when we are social and connected, we need to remember that passionately connecting minds is only half what we humans need to feel truly alive.

As an educator -- and a soon-to-be grandparent -- I'm also concerned with how this mind-body split might be exacerbated by the educational/informational/recreational richness of the web. A paper I found on the web (of course) does a very good job of examining this issue.

Learning Embodiment in Cyberspace: Morphing Toward Cyber-learners by Amanda du Preez, University of South Africa ends with the following statement:

It is however, important to note that we are bodies, we do not have bodies. Our bodies make us, just as we make them. We cannot truly know our bodies. We think our bodies, but we cannot know our bodies. They escape our grasp and evade the probing of our thinking strategies. Just when we think we have the body at our disposal, she slips through our fingers, so to speak. I want to conclude with Sandy Stone’s wise remark: ‘Even in the age of the techno-subject, life is lived through bodies’ (Stone 1990:109). We may add that even in the age of the cyber-learning, learning occurs through bodies.

Amen. Amen.