I enjoyed this cheerful and caustic piece about MOOC’s on the front page of the NYT Sunday Review, although I guess it no longer surprises me that MOOCs have such an appeal to “star professors.” There seems to be something mutually self-reinforcing between this technological product and the kind of master professors who stand inaccessible above what is now a now myriad crowd composed of millions which they seek to illuminate as if via some direct and unmediated form of communication, some direct revelation of self-authenticating presence that may or may not pretend to be a “conversation,” but with whom there is no actual contact or mutual recognition (as if cognition does not depend upon re-cognition). Maybe that is, in fact, how some professors behave, ponitificating, in the classroom or at the seminar table, but I can’t see either the interest or use in that.
I’m going to offer, tentatively, the concept of “mis-mediation” as a way to make sense of those instances in which a medium fails to do what it promises to do, what a medium is actually supposed to do, namely to mediate effectively between persons across spatial and temporal distances and gaps, namely to communicate and make present across the distances and gaps. A MOOC is simply a format or platform that is no different than pulp books, e-books, books-on-tape, but which, without real-time give and take, cannot be much more. Beware of media whose operators promise unmediated goods and effects, in this case, the transmission of direct knowledge without the pesky and expensive intermediation of physical presence.