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New media paradox: global use but cultural embeddedness

October 13th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

More on the issue of cultures. I have had an interesting exchange of emails with Eileen Luebcke from the University of Bremen. Eileen talks of the paradox of New Media in terms of “the promise of worldwide global use but the cultural embeddedness of the technology.”

She is interested in the idea of comparing e-learning environments with regard to hidden cultural differences. In terms of evidence for such cultural differences she suggests:

  1. “There are cultures that heavily depend on oral traditions for learning (the whole Orient, first nation people all over the world). It is still unclear how to deal with this difference, but it seems that the Western idea of libraries are not efficient for this. There is an article from South Africa describing that a certain disadvantage for African people is manifested even in the digital divide due to a focus on written information within library and e-learning systems. It is still unclear how to adapt Western e-learning concepts to this.
  2. This adds to differences in hierarchy and differences in the concept of teachers. Discourse approaches like in Western class rooms often fail because expectations towards the role of teachers are different. There is also comparative research investigating the different online behaviour of Norwegian, American, and Korean students. Norwegian students tend to be more discourse oriented than American students. If discourse is a main educative goal I would assume that this is mirrored in the e-learning environments used or in how e-learning environments are used.
  3. An additional interesting aspect is the design. There are some studies which investigate the design of websites. Especially interesting is a study of the use of American and Chinese users of websites constructed by native and non-native programmers. It turned out that even with the same content Americans find the information faster on websites with American origin and vice versa. “

Such cultural factors may interact with pedagogic approaches to learning using technology. In an article in First Monday Lisa Lane suggests that different Content Management Systems “may not only influence, but control instructional approaches. She says that Blackboard “forces the instructor to think in terms of content types instead, breaking the natural structure of the semester, or of a list of topics.” Lane compares the design of Moodle to Blackboard, proposing that the ‘opt in’ structure of the Moodle CMS allows  the instructor to make “choices about context on a macro level, and choices about features and tools on a micro level. This makes it possible to explore pedagogical options more freely.”

I will meet Eileen Leubcke next week to discuss designing a research project around these issues. If you are interested and have ideas around this, please get in touch.

3 Responses to “New media paradox: global use but cultural embeddedness”

  1. George Bekiaridis says:

    I’m really happy that after some years talking about it Graham, the issue is still hot. Localization and Cultural adaptaption of elearning was and will be an area where researchers have to give a lot. I’ll be really happy to contribute to this research project.

  2. Randy says:

    Agree, it’s vital to know about the determining factors of the learning culture, and then: how elearning is functioning within a given framework of values, knowledge patterns and practices. But for god’s sake why always ending up with a curriculum. Seems a ghost in the machine 😉

  3. Jon K. says:

    I’ve been writing about aesthetics and e-learning spaces, and touched on culture recently. My writing is less focused – I use my blog as a digital notepad to get ideas down before I forget them – but if there’s anything you want you can certainly borrow it.

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