My impressions of distance learning and this course are necessarily informed by the class's dual identity for me of both a class and a job. These impressions are not going to be terribly organized or systematic--they will have rather a stream-of-consciousness feel.
Distance learning as a concept, in the abstract, is fascinating. In reality, it off-balances me. I hate seeing myself speak. Distance learning has brought home to me that I have formed the confidence I have when I speak in classes around my voice, my ability to speak clearly and sometimes amusingly. Seeing an image of the body attached to that voice is extremely jarring and makes a large part of my confidence evaporate.
I want to think a little about my discomfort in the wake of having just read John Berger's _Ways of Seeing_. Berger's thoughts about the way women's self being is "split into two" rang very true to me. "A woman must continually watch herself. She is almost continually accompanied by her own image of herself...From earliest childhood she has been taught and persuaded to survey herself continually. And so she comes to consider the surveyor and the surveyed within her as the two constituent yet always distinct elements of her identity as a woman." (46)
Following that line of reasoning, when I see my image on the video monitor, surveyor confronts surveyed, and vice versa, and I am jarred out of my habitual comfort within the academic realm.
I think that distance learning of this type, however, is particularly appropriate for this course, because we study media and are also ourselves within media. We become the spectacle.
In the context of the job, my primary frustration is that I hate not being able to contact you (Howard) as quickly as I could wish when I've got questions. Though I love working by myself, being able to check my own work, and having an easily identifiable "product" at the end of the work. I suppose in a sense I'm telecommuting. Not really, though, because I'm not particularly telecommuting _to_ anywhere. Hm.
My secondary frustration is just something I'm going to have to get used to: not being able to exercise my copy editing impulses. I'm responsible for, among other things, putting up documents that other people have created. I'm not responsible for editing them (except in the most basic sense of making the line lengths short enough to be read by Netscape), just for mounting them. So when I see typos, I can't do anything about them. I _hate_ that. (This paragraph is, by Murphy's Law, now guaranteed to have at least one typo. Whoever finds it wins a swift kick.)
The course itself--well, why not be effusive? It's a godsend. (N.B.: I was tempted to delete some of this upon remembering that this is going out to the world, or at least the WWW, but honor beat out tact-- this time.)
I had begun to feel that I was never going to be given the opportunity to think critically again in the context of my education, that the only thing SILS would demand from me was review after labored review of the library "literature," to no real purpose. I'm so thrilled to be reading theory again, and to be taking things apart, to be looking beneath the surface again. Even at this early point in the semester, what I've been reading and thinking about has influenced me so much that I can't sit in front of a television for a bit of escapism without analyzing the messages in the advertisements and in the show. ("Star Trek is really about respect for only the _proper_ sort of authority, and _appropriate_ use of technology. It functions to reassure us that technology and good will can save us...")
In other words, I'm quite pleased. Every so often I'll be reading something, and I'll think, "I'm reading this for a class? This is way too much fun."