Ulises Mejias

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= Ulises researches networked proximity issues.

Blog at http://ideant.typepad.com/

All material below is from http://ideant.typepad.com/ulises_mejias.html


"I was born in Mexico City, but I've been living in the United States since 1990. I am currently a Research Consultant with Cornell University. I am also an Ed.D. student at the Communication, Computing and Technology in Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University, where I am also teaching a graduate course on Social Software. Previously, I was Director of Learning Systems Design at eCornell, where I was the principal architect behind the company's patent-pending approach to online learning systems design and production, Learning Molecules."

-Research Interests (short)=

My work focuses primarily on new media and the social construction of attitudes towards proximal and non-proximal space and time. I'm interested in how, from a sociological perspective, communication technologies engender new forms of sociality which traverse onsite and online environments. In essence, I look at how the concept of nearness is being redefinined in terms of mediated proximity and relevancy.

Research Interest (long)

My research encompasses three interrelated areas:

First, I am interested in analyzing the nature of Virtuality and its relation to Reality, specifically how technology influences the degree of relevancy with which we perceive the world. In other words, how technology mediates our perception of things being Near or Far, not just physically but epistemologically (things being known or unknown) and ontologically (things being real or unreal). I argue that before modern communication technologies, what was near physically was also near epistemologically and ontologically (i.e., the physically near was also known and real). But modern communication technologies have effected an interesting inversion. Now, what is far physically can acquire a nearness in epistemological and ontological terms, while what is near physically can appear to be less known and real. I refer to this phenomenon as the Irrelevancy of the Near, and I explore its history, cultural manifestations and societal impacts in my work.

Second, I undertake an investigation of the process of delegation of human agency to Code (computer language). Through this delegation of social agency, new forms of communication and sociality (such as hybrid online/offline social formations) are engendered, with potential benefits and liabilities. The delegation of social agency to Code per se is not always negative and need not always contribute to the Irrelevancy of the Near, as it can facilitate new social formations that were simply not possible before such technologies were available. In order to examine this process in more detail, communities and networks can be differentiated by the way social agency is distributed amongst humans and Code.

Communities, under this definition, allow individuals to retain their social agency, while networks mandate that individuals relinquish most of their social agency to Code. I am interested in researching the links and interstices between communities and networks, as well as the complex ways in which humans assert their social will as users or through Code. Finally, I am interested in exploring the pedagogical challenges of preparing individuals and organizations for meaningful participation in ‘glocal’ (global-local) contexts using emerging forms of collaborative computing. I believe that the same technologies that have contributed to the Irrelevancy of the Near can be re-appropriated and used to invert the process. Instead of simply going back to physically-oriented notions of the Near, this would involve a redefinition of Nearness as well as the formulation of new pedagogical models that allow people to re-incorporate Nearness into their daily lives. Models that distribute social agency across the boundaries of online/offline communities and networks (and don’t focus this social agency exclusively in one or the other) are necessary for meaningful participation in our world. At the same time, no model of social agency in our times is complete that does not consider the implications of unequal technological access (the so-called ‘digital divide’), and that strives to make the benefits of new ICTs extendable beyond the lives of the elite minorities that have access to them."

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