The Apparent and the Existent

A ‘tumblog’ exploration towards the development of learning ‘objects’ in digital culture

The separation of the apparent [seeming, not proven real] and the existent [present, a real thing] provides the founding argument for my tumblog exploration of learning in digital culture. Berger (2010, p.9) tells us that “appearances are volatile” and that “technological innovation has made it easy to separate the apparent from the existent” indicating that the “system in which we now live has a mythology”. If, as Johnston (2009) tells us “our conceptual system defines our reality and shapes our cultures”, then the hiatus and mythology, within what ‘seems’ and what is ‘present’ must be seen as critical to the continuing development, and representation of society and community, including the representation of learning cultures for the 21st Century.

To further comprehend a continuing hiatus between the apparent and the existent my tumblog explores the nature of culture, defined by Georg Simmel (1910-­11) as “The cultivation of individuals through the agency of external forms which have been objectified in the course of history”. Simmel’s definition of ‘human cultivation’ is echoed in the Post­Human debate relating to subject and object, and the separation of matter and meaning (Pedersen, 2010; Edwards, 2010). The importance (and complexity) of cultivation through “the agency of external forms” (Simmel, 1910-­11) is explored throughout my tumblog, in the writings of Berger, to the definition of (existent objects) paintings (art) as cultural objects, to the power and effect of ‘brand’ (apparent objects), in digital communities (ethnography), to semiotics in Critical Design, and the possible application of Critical Design to teaching and learning.

My tumblog exploration continues and extends previous course work ‘The Babel Fish’ (assignment one; Digital Futures for Learning, 2012). The Babel Fish set out to explore the locations and representations of the 21st Century teacher within the digital domain, and how those representations were seen as translations of knowledge. E­learning and Digital cultures (#ededc) tumblog (2013) has purposely re­positioned my understanding of representations of learning objects in the digital domain within the working and reworking of digital culture. #ededc has presented numerous opportunities to find and locate cultural artifacts, in cybercultures, #edcmooc and post­humanities. #ededc digital environments, thus, have allowed me to observe artifacts, and the potential agency of artifacts in the digital domain.

The concept of ‘agency’ within digital artifacts, in the light of this discussion, I believe, now becomes paramount. The design of acquisition of agency (related to critical design), being generated by subject, I would suggest is key, in part, to digital education, and the acquisition of knowledge in the 21st Century. I would like to go on to suggest, that to further understand the re­interpretation of agency in learning and teaching within the digital domain, and that cumulative effect on 21st Century society, it is necessary to fully comprehend representation of nature. Georg Simmel (1910­-11) tells us that what we see as nature is represented by the way our intellect assembles and orders sense perceptions (physico­psychical organization). Simmel (1910-­11) further extends the Kantian world­view by introducing the concept of ‘rejection’. Simmel tells us that objects reject representation in that “coherences, regularities, appear as subjective, as that which is brought to the situation by ourselves, in contrast with that which we have received from the externally existent”. In light of Simmel, I would like to go on to suggest that the agency of an artifact (object) is (possibly) not delivered by representation, but by experiment, assemblies, orderings and sense perceptions, perpetuated by the relationship between the apparent and the existent.

An exploration of the nature and acquisition of agency, within digital artifacts (objects) for learning, will be a central theme in #ededc final assignment.



Berger J (2012), The shape of a pocket. 5th ed. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group: ISBN 0375718885, 9780375718885.

Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday, 14(4). [].

Geog Simmel (1910­11), How is Society Possible?, American Journal of Sociology, vol. 16.

Pedersen, H. (2010). Is the posthuman educable? On the convergence of educational philosophy, animal studies, and posthumanist theory. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol 31, no 2, 237­250.

Edwards, R. (2010). The end of lifelong learning: A post­human condition? Studies in the Education of Adults, vol 42, no 1, 5­17.


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