CLASSROOM: THE ELECTRONIC AGORA
[For many who have expressed interest in my next voyage into
global electronic Philosophy, I have attached an overview of course ideas for the next
offering of PHICYBER. For those interested in joining in the class, please email me from
the button at the bottom of the page. Thanks.
For you voyagers who are considering enrolling in the next
PHICYBER course, available through Valdosta State University, go here for a course description (the time of the next offering has not been
established at this time).
Introducing PHICYBER VII---
A VIRTUAL CLASSROOM: THE ELECTRONIC AGORA
Ron Barnette, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, Center for
Professional and Applied Ethics
Valdosta State University
In the so-called Marketplace of Ideas, a standard metaphor for
depicting philosophical dialogue and participants' give-and-take, it is generally assumed
that an open, critical thrashing-out of viewpoints enhances the pursuit of truth and the
level of communication between the parties. Yet we all realize how personal bias,
subjective presumptions (conscious and unconscious), based largely on another's physical
presence (age, race, gender, demeanor, body language, or what have you), affects the tone
and direction of such dialogue. In short, we all tend to bring to discussion with others
attitudes based on how we perceive one another. What would happen if a group of
interactive university classroom participants met and engaged in dialogue without each
others' physical presence, only through personal identification based on computer
exchanges? How would only the domain of mental thoughts, as represented through electronic
dialogue, affect the dialectical development in this new cyberspace version of the
marketplace of ideas, where one's ideas and expressed reasons are the class members' only
points of contact? Indeed, how would we relate to each other, where 'You are what you you
write' is the criterion for cyberspace personal identity?
In part to explore these questions, a full-credit Philosophy
special topics course was developed and offered at Valdosta State University during summer
quarter, 1994---probably the first such philosophy course at any university. "PHI
4800---A Virtual Classroom: the Electronic Agora" transcends traditional space/time
constraints on educational settings. It originally included local members---both on and
off campus---as well as participants from other states and countries, thus offering a wide
diversity of representation. Class members are virtually present around the clock, for the
weeks during the class. An expanded version was conducted summer, 1995, and included 71
participants from nine countries...the Electronic Agora indeed went international! In
summer, 1996, 111 participants joined PHICYBER for the global classroom, from 11 nations
and 5 continents! It is apparent that the world marketplace of ideas is now a reality
online...And during the 1997, 1998 and 1999 summer sessions, the international electronic
dialectic continued, with over 110 participants joining the agora, from five continents,
discussing topics of multinational significance. What a classroom in cyberspace!
Through an academic list named PHICYBER (Philosophy in Cyberspace), all class discussion,
debate, and critical thinking exchanges are ongoing, as relationships develop, and group
affinities evolve, all driven by the diverse thoughts and experiences exchanged through
the e-mail Internet conveyance, the electronic infrastructure of this technological
marketplace of ideas, or electronic Agora. Weekly assignments in the Virtual Library
comprise the research and 'paper writing' aspect of the class, with major philosophical
works made available on-line, and each assignment is designed to enhance access to
resources and Electronic Texts, highlighted internationally by the American Philosophical
Association through the Internet. We also feature my creative and fun Zeno's Coffeehouse (est., 1994), for
relaxation and brain-exercises!
All transactions, including all exchanges and works produced, are archived in PHICYBER,
available for reference, review, and record-keeping. An unexpected treat comes at the end
of the course for those who can make it: PHICYBERnauts meet in face to face material form
to discuss their experiences in this educational medium, and to re-establish personal
identities known beforehand as purely 'what you write.' Ah, cyber-metaphysics at its best!
You are invited to join in this memetic odyssey.
PHICYBER VII: A Virtual Classroom: the Electronic Agora, is open for inquiries, as plans
for its next offering are being discussed. I have added my email link below, for your
questions and thoughts.
For now I remain
Dr. Ron Barnette