Thought snippet: absence and presence

This mini-post is just to note that a lot of my thinking this week has revolved around “Being in a sense present while apparently absent” (Shelley and Urry, ‘The New Mobilities Paradigm, ibid, p.208)

The prompt for this strand of exploration was the story of ‘The Invisible Student’ and the comment that Rory made about online environments offering, on occasion, the chance to take a ‘holiday from the self’.

Ren? Magritte, The Treachery of Images, 1928–29, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009
René Magritte, The Treachery of Images, 1928–29, Restored by Shimon D. Yanowitz, 2009

I started to think about what the last few weeks have been about is how to establish our presence and to feel present when, in essence, absent. Currently, we’re establishing our MSc selves in words, creating our presence in text; this reminds me of one of my favourite Beckett quotes, “I’m in words, made of words, others’ words” (Endgame). There’s the sense that words are not quite enough. Indeed, many of the issues highlighted in this week’s stories could be accredited to that Derridean gap between the sign and the signified. It will be interesting to see how our online selves and our community morphs as we develop our presence using other media – once we see others on Skype and engage through voice and video.

Slightly tangentially, this article was in The Guardian this week: maybe it’s harder than we think to escape from our ‘real’ selves when online.

Cartoon by Peter Steiner, published by The New Yorker on July 5, 1993



2 Replies to “Thought snippet: absence and presence”

  1. Hello Helen,

    Yes this is a fascinating topic. On another online course I teach the students didn’t feel they had ‘met’ during asynchronous discussion online or by commenting on each others’ blogs. Yet once we had a google hangout they did feel they had ‘met’ even though most of them didn’t turn their cameras on and some only participated by text chat. So many interesting layers in presence!



    p.s. great engagement with your blog, keep it up 🙂

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