Editorial: Knowing about communication and media
Yngve Nordkvelle, editor
There is a tradition in media history from Plato idealising the communication situation that is person to person. Although several authors have shown that Socrates used many strategies for his communication to his audience, and quite a few of them were far less sincerely other-centred than his followers like to portray. In fact Socrates was using all the tricks of the communication trade: persuading, threatening, ridiculing and joking in addition to the sanctimonious dialogue. However, in the dialogues, we believe we find the true Socrates, or Plato, expressing the potential of self-liberation and self-expansion in the education of the person, in plain talking person to person. Jesus was a practitioner of communicative skills, addressing small groups, as well as larger groups and gatherings. Monty Python showed how difficult it must have been to convey the message to a really large group of followers without using a PA-system, and how creatively listeners compose new meanings from the bits and pieces they do actually hear. Nevertheless, speaking one to many was a necessity for the mass-communication ambitions of the Christians, who boldly went out to baptize the entire world.
While Plato nurtured the deepest suspicion of rhetoric as an art of communication, the Christians embraced the knowledge of Rhetoric, and developed it for their purposes in their activities of organizing the Western Mind. Socrates did use drawings and mental visuals: allegories, stories etc. for his purposeful teaching. The Greeks acknowledged that teaching was actually very closely associated with “pointing at”. “Didaskein” was the word they used for the teaching activity of pointing at or highlighting something worth explaining. In the development of mass communication the usefulness of pointing at something apart from what is conceivable here and now has been a significant part of rhetoric and teaching. Metaphors, allegories and stories - and then symbols, signs, icons, drawings, tables and graphs developed over the years and were used in churches, public buildings, lecture halls and schools to assist the preacher, speaker or teacher. Flexible visualizing tools, such as the blackboard, or the more theatrical “laterna magica”, then the “ballopticon”, slidesprojector, overheadprojector etc. arrived and made the tasks of the messenger more and more complex.
With the computer even more tools have arrived. Gradually our everyday teaching with media has been overwhelmingly furnished with gadgets that make visualization common - and sometimes grim and confusing, - sometimes enlightening and expanding. In our journal we try to explain, expand on and forward critique on both the media technologies and the way we use them.
In this issue we present four articles with different takes on the matter. Professor Theo Hug opens this issue with a deep analysis of what knowing about educational media is all about. From his base at the University of Innsbruck he provides us with a profound insight in the trends and fads that we are surrounded with, and suggest new angels and ways of seeing the problems we encounter of “the visual” in teaching and learning. Professor Halvor Nordby offers a deep exploration of the communication phenomenon related to the use of Internet for teaching and communication. He asks what the essential nature of this communication is and how it differs from ordinary face-to-face communication in a most fundamental sense. He provides us with a conceptual analysis as a philosophical method to explore the intrinsic nature of the concept interactive communication. His aim of this method is to develop a concept definition that matches shared linguistic beliefs about informative examples from Internet based communication and information exchange that is central in e-learning. PhD Ulf Olson, who works at the University of Stockholm offers us insights into the problems of how lecturers from three different universities interpret and apply certain methods in their blended learning/web-based courses. He compares their teaching methods to the lecturers' conceptions of learning. He used questionnaires for the survey and compares responses from lecturers in 10 subjects to each other. Olson’s main aims was to compare chosen teaching forms to conceptions of learning, and to compare subject areas with each other according to the lecturers' conceptions of learning. Not surprisingly, he did find important inconsistencies between the lecturers' conceptions of learning and the teaching methods they used. Finally, associate professor Arvid Staupe from the Norwegian University of Technology and Science, present a paper reporting from an experiment trying out new forms of evaluation at his own institution. The article describe how he went about to solve the particular problems of students’ learning in his classes by offering alternative ways of evaluating the students’ work. The article provides evidence of the success of alternative evaluation methods, as well as documenting how conventional learning styles at the university may slow down the pace of change in this important domain.