I stayed in the Agdal apartment Thursday and (in a Web-segue I cannot quite recall now) decided to read Henry James' The Turn of the Screw, which I did not recall having done before. As the governess's psychological state takes shape in complex Jamesian sentences requiring all one's attention, and I was at several points daunted (almost rebuffed) by the degree to which I was compelled to wait for her reconstruction of each scene and gesture. A few chapters in, I googled "goody gosling" to find the 'mot' referred to and noticed how very many Web pages there seemed to be with advice and downloadable text for the perplexed student reader asked to produce an analysis of the novella. I shortly found myself in a University of Chicago page about a fine old prof leading a mixed graduate-undergraduate discussion of the book, his low-tech, well-thumbed, paperback in hand. I was reminded of this vignette of the traditional liberal arts classroom at its best a day later, as I browsed the audio files about teaching with technology awaiting activation at stetsonville.com and heard myself saying (early last November, 20 minutes into the first Skype conversation Gar recorded for podcasting) that we must acknowledge, appreciate, and empower the gifted traditional teachers in our institutions if we are to have any hope of bringing their often-inspiring level of pedagogy to the distance-education future about which we are preaching.
Earlier in the morning, as I planned the last visit in this Morocco trip to our extended family in Zawiya, I had bethought myself of "The
Magic Seed," my proposal to my Haverford Provost in April, 1998, for
a Toshiba laptop and English-Arabic for Hamid's family. I found that the only Google-able version of this appeared to be a now-defunct USLink copy, and I spent perhaps half
an hour updating a local file and dropping it on to the/ddavis/d2 folder at
Haverford. On re-reading it was chastening to recall
that I had promised to follow this project for a year through an e-mail link I
proposed to fund for Hamid, since for a variety of reasons this never happened. We have exchanged occasional e-mails at the prompting of Muslim holidays and school vacations, and I have managed to visit every year or two and to delight in the growing computer skills and involvement of Ayyub and Yassine. We have not, however, had anything like the regular, casual, consulting/kibitzing interactions I had imagined so vividly eight years ago. In any case, I found myself again yesterday imagining
what it would be like to have a real 24/7 DSL connection to the family in
Zawiya. I think -- Charlie
Brown/football associations notwithstanding -- that this might well now work,
with moderately- priced and reliable ADSL available almost everywhere in Morocco, with Hamid's sons apparently committed to producing podcast and/or blog
content and to staying in touch with me, and even young Karima eager to frequent the nearby cyber.
The difference between this way of using the Net from home and infrequent visits to the cyber ought to be like that between the old 1980s-vintage Haverford faculty workstations down the hall from our offices and the present state of at-home DSL in which many of us bask. The former allows pre-formed prose to be uploaded to the Net, while the latter allows structured, subtle, richly-associative (Jamesian?) thought to take shape at the keyboard. From the point of view of hands- or voice-on help with installing software, editing content, or supervised Internet use by my young Moroccan friends, the difference could be vast. I think it's time for "Magic Seed 2," and I hope to have a conversation about what that might entail out in Zawiya this weekend.
But why did this juxtapostion of a Jamesian digression with a Zawiya fantasy evoke a memex entry? I've been getting a lot of encouragement in these circum-retirement months for telling/typing my own old-prof story in blog/podcast form. I feel, most days, eager to do this, and I have not lost my fascination with the vast array of diary entries and screen images I have accumulated since I took the Apple II to Zawiya in 1982. I realize, however, that I do (pace Susan) need "data": ethnographically rich examples of how other individuals and groups are actually using these tools to do something more than ripping and chatting. I am, as I said to Gar over lunch two days ago, my own best example of this fully engaged/enmeshed use of the Net, but it will be important to show that I haven't kept this universe alone.
The associations to that phrase from a Frost poem -- which I of course felt compelled to find and link -- is to late-80s student Evan S's follow-up note a couple of days ago appropriating my expressed dismay that folks find me 'sanguine'. If I am not merely sanguine, but some more complex and engaging thing adumbrated and enabled by the poetry I've been reading and recalling since high school, how would my casual readers -- un-ladened with a Jamesian sense of my complexity and for the most part uninterested in being so encumbered as a precondition for browsing a little blog content -- come to know this? Will their experience of whatever practical advice I wish to offer about technology in the classroom or the current state of Moroccan society or the fractal weirdness of a dream of Freud be thereby enhanced? Would they feel moved to build equally subtle portrayals of themselves? Would others then give a damn?
hour and a half passed I had dictated Frost's "The Most of It"
-- found on a local file and on the Web
-- into my classroom voice recorder
As IT is, one spends an hour or two fiddling with details in order to get back to the moment at which a reflection about the degree to which one ought to display one's ego plumage in one's blog elicited a segue to a poetic chestnut, and a reading of a poem that pops up in a personal screen window from time to time reminds me of impending long reflective days alone at the lake.
Dunya hiya hadi, wa hna mwaliha. (Moroccan darija: "This is the world, and we are its owners.")
They pulled with an art of their own the strings of my invention and my memory; and nothing else perhaps, when I thought of such occasions afterward, gave me so the suspicion of being watched from under cover. It was in any case over my life, my past, and my friends alone that we could take anything like our ease—a state of affairs that led them sometimes without the least pertinence to break out into sociable reminders. I was invited—with no visible connection—to repeat afresh Goody Gosling’s celebrated mot or to confirm the details already supplied as to the cleverness of the vicarage pony.