OU week 4; suturing identity

Week 4 and repetitive reading is increasing familiarity with the core ideas in Block 1. The A4 pages are my constant companion along with articles the OU call Offprints. The set book ‘an Identity Reader’ is a heavyweight not designed for carrying about. Considering most chapters are short I would have preferred these as A4 pages too. Surrounded by annotated, highlighted sheets of paper, I’m learning to re-appreciate hard copy. Still no word from my tutor. I expected something along the lines of How am I doing? Have I any problems? Am I dead? But no, welcome to the loneliness of the long distance learner. The isolation must impact negatively on learning. It runs contrary to Wenger’s virtual communities of practice whereby learning is situated in the sharing of experience and there are none of Laurillard’s online conversational frameworks. Instead I have to rely on my captured car-share colleagues for the sharing of ideas and application of theory.  

This week includes Suture; the method through which film replicates Lacanian identity theory; or Marxist ideology, Foucouldian discourse or any other theory of social control and power structure.  Suture is the process whereby the subject (created through language and culture with no independent existence) absorbs and relates to dominant power relations as through for example the ‘male gaze’, theorised by Laura Mulvey where women are portrayed as objectivised objects. Through suture we ‘believe’ or are ‘taken in’ by the portrayal of the plot and in doing so we fail to question the ‘reality’ of what we see. Identification with gender roles or behaviours, or merely being present by watching the film, especially without being aware of it, we accept without question what we see.

I would query a theory that doesn’t appear to allow the viewing of film as escapism; or accept that the view may be actively seeking an entertainment experience. For me this is also the problem with the ‘subject of language’ approach to identity; it assumes identity has a single dimension but I know that I is not me; that I is the language I use to identify me meaning I am only I through language. I know the ‘real’ me can’t be spoken of – or transmitted – other than through language. I disagree with the Lacanian idea that says we panic and identify with the subject position offered by language because we have no alternative. Not only does Lacan not account for where consciousness is before the process of self construction, he also doesn’t allow for any later processes such as education or other life experience, that leads the individual to challenge their earlier conceptions about themselves.  The problem with Lacan seems to be that no one else has yet come up with an alternative theory.

D853 Identity in Question (OU course blog post 1)

 This week I officially begin Year 3 and Unit 5 of my MA in Open and Distance Education. The subject has enhanced and deepened my engagement with my work, given me a theoretical background and opportunities to meet and debate relevant issues with a wider audience; I couldn’t have had a better subject to work with. Unit 5 is Identity in Question. This takes me back to the research of my first MA in Gender Studies and forward to issues I want to research in the future; social and cultural attitudes towards difference. I’m looking forward to re-engaging with the theoretical baselines and testing their application to issues around to student’s perceptions of themselves in relation to higher education.  

The first four Units were delivered online but this is a traditional distance learning course and already I feel isolated. I’ve got used to the textual introductions and emoticons, the sharing of photographs, of where we are and what we do. I’ve actively taken part in the creation of Wenger’s community of practice, the first stages in Salmon’s 5step model, constructing Laurillard’s conversational framework, building Garrison and Anderson’s Social Presence. I’ve experienced, tried and tested, all these theories over the past two years but this is going to be different. I’ve had one email from my tutor about dates for ‘telephone tutorials’ but no reference to how this will take place. I’m assuming Skype but I don’t know for sure. In previous units we used First Class but have no software this time. I don’t like telephones. I don’t even have one at home. I prefer the keyboard. In previous units we’ve been encouraged to blog, to build an electronic portfolio and collaborate through wikis as well as use the traditional discussion forum. Suddenly all of that is missing. How can I ‘learn’ interactively with my colleagues when we are not virtually connected? The loneliness of the distance learner will be exacerbated by the lack of digital engagement. It feels like a backward step into a pre-internet world. Without the regular logging on to see what others are saying about the week’s subject matter, how will I stay motivated and engaged?

The benefit of blogging is the provision of a unique forum for reflection. The reality is it takes time. I know that multiple blogs will not work so this blog will become my work and my study blog. The integration will be interesting process.