Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Introduction/Research Philosophy

As some of you may know, I am a doctoral student at the Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences at Nova Southeastern University conducting research on how learning is experienced in SL museums through avatars.  While my research track is generally broad, being computing technology in education, I have academic and professional experience in the diverse fields of Art History, Museum Education, and Information Science. Given my background, studying virtual museums and born digital art works felt like a natural choice. Fundamentally, I am interested in the age old question raised by Walter Benjamin in his The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction essay – how does changing modes of production (digital media and environments, immersive builds, simulations) affect how we experience, relate to, and learn from art?
In an attempt to understand virtual viewing (and in turn, learning) practices, I am using a qualitative research method - Hermeneutic Phenomenology, based on the philosophical works of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer - to interpret my research findings. The title of this blog references Hermes, the messenger to the gods in Greek mythology and not coincidentally, at the etymological root of my chosen research method, hermeneutics. In a way, I feel like my role in this research endeavor is similar to that of Hermes, in that I am interpreting your experiences of the studied phenomenon.  Unlike Hermes, who has been portrayed as a liar and trickster, I want my research process to be entirely transparent to you, hence the purpose of this blog.  
After interacting (and befriending) many of you in-world, I realized that I needed some sort of web presence to bring my research closer to you as well as to receive important and much needed feedback from you. In this blog, I will be documenting my research efforts and keeping you all updated as to my progress, successes, and failures.
I am a firm believer that research is not the result of isolated study, but rather a symbiotic exchange between a researcher and members of various communities, whom I like to refer to as co-researchers. As my co-researchers, I want you to have input in all aspects of my study and in turn, have a “voice” in the academic community.
Please feel free to comment and make suggestions – everything you write will be read and taken into consideration.  I am also thinking of using this blog to share current research and views on virtual worlds and virtual museums in particular. If you come across anything of interest, please share it with me! I am always eager to learn something new or through a different perspective.
If you ever have any questions or want to chat in-world, my name is Kathleen Koolhoven (Kathleen Cool in RL) – I hope to “see” you all very soon :)

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