When I travel to London, the first part of the journey takes me, in a bone-shaker, from Ulverston to Lancaster. We cross Morecambe Bay and the views, as you can see from the image above – taken through the train window – are spectacular.
On Wednesday, I was on this train but I missed the view. I was not present. I was elsewhere. The image is not mine – I have taken it from a website to illustrate what ‘I’ missed even though ‘I’ was there.
Although my body was on the train, I wasn’t present. I was reading (Garrison and Anderson (2003)* and was experiencing what Lombard and Ditton (1997)** term ‘presence as transportation’. I have experienced this form of presence since I learned to read. My parents used to complain that they had to physically touch me to get my attention when I was reading as I wouldn’t hear them when they called if I was in Narnia or in The Hundred Acre Wood. I have spent much of my life ‘there’ and not ‘here’ – transported to other worlds, other conversations, other spaces through text.
We have been exploring presence and experiencing – through our Skype voice conversation – different types of presence this week. The Skype conversation*** created, for me, a different sense of presence, a different sense of connection with my peers, what Lombard and Ditton term ‘presence as social richness’. It wasn’t a straightforward and immediately comfortable space. There were many silences; it turns out that ‘lurking’ in a Skype conversation is much more awkward that doing so online. We were being asked provocative and demanding questions about our readings and about our experiences on the course and it was difficult – for me – to shift to the immediacy of an oral conversation about this rather than having time to reflect on this and respond via text. Paul commented on this in one of the discussions this week and reflected on the fact that this form of engagement offers more opportunity to be stupid:
However, towards the end of the conversation, there was more laughter and more ‘openness’. We reflected on our own silences, our own sense of what ‘participation’ means, and where our responsibility as learners lies when thinking about how we can create ‘social presence’ and a community of inquiry. We reflected on our use of Twitter too and Jen used the term ‘ambient congeniality’ to define how she and others experienced the medium. I like that. She also said that, at times, Twitter could feel ‘pleasantly overwhelming’. I liked that too.
Do I feel I ‘know’ this group of four better for having spoken with them? Perhaps. Ruth said that she felt she had more of a sense of what we were like. Roxane observed that, when she next saw our posts on the forum she would remember something about us now – perhaps a sound or a laugh. I didn’t experience the sense of what Lombard and Ditton refer to as ‘we are together’ but I did feel connected – somewhere ‘in-between’ (Greenhalgh-Spencer, 2014).