Sunday, September 21, 2008

Into the Woods

This past summer I read Gaston Bachelard's The Poetics of Space. So I have been thinking about his ideas of "intimate immensity" as they pertain to how students (and well, anyone for that matter) sometimes perceive the World Wide Web. The screen about eighteen inches of my face has the lure of such intimate immensity.

Bachelard provides a metaphor of a forest to explain intimate immensity. It is the experience of being surrounded by the trees closest to you, and therefore, unaware of the vastness of the woods beyond this immediate, intimate circle. Perhaps the woods is as Robert Frost tells us "lovely, dark and deep." Or maybe not. Either way we can't see the forest for the trees. We are lured into a coziness, a security of a verdant canopy and steady bark pillars in our intimate vicinity.

Is that not how comfortable I feel as I type this in my own study, with my own familiar computer screen? Is that not how my students feel when they post pictures of their latest OMG moments with their friends? Sure. It's the intimacy of thinking we are talking only among one's "friends" or writing only to oneself that blogging can be.

Still, it's important before clicking "publish" or "upload" to remember ourselves and remind our students that as intimate as the Web may be when it's eighteen inches away or in one's lap, it and our audience may also be vast and unknown. Indeed, there may be a few "lions, and tigers, and bears, oh my!"

Fairy tales warn us about dropping breadcrumbs, straying from the path, and talking to wolves. As we tread into the woods of the World Wide Web and invite our students, these cautionary stories and a mindfulness to Bachelard's sense "intimate immensity" can help us find our way safely.

Image: Nicholas T. “Mossy.” Detail. Flickr. 19 March 2007. CC Licensed: BY-SA-NC

1 comment:

Franz said...

I think fairy tales are useful for children and for adults. Nice post