Thoughts, writing & snippets

Marguerite Koole, PhD

Interesting Research Tools (Goodies) to Investigate

mkoole, · Categories: E-Research · Tags: , ,


Google Maps Mashup: MapTube




Digital Replay System


National e-Infrastructure for Social Simulation


Survey Mapper


My Experiment: Social Networking Site for Scientists

Thoughts on E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel

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Hand, M., & Sandywell, B. (2002). E-Topia as Cosmopolis or Citadel: On the Democratizing and De-Democratizing Logics of the Internet, or, toward a Critique of the New Technological Fetishism. Theory, Culture & Society, 19(1-2), 197–225. doi:10.1177/026327640201900110

Computer mouseThe main purpose of Hand and Sandywell’s (2002) article is to bring awareness to the social discourses that are used to paint a picture of technology as democratizing, progressive, and benign or, alternatively, as destructive, corporate-driven, and hegemonic tools. The authors suggest that these discourses are oversimplifications of much more complex phenomena. Whilst I agree with their position, I am left with some questions about their underlying epistemology. Particularly troublesome for me is their presentation of social constructionism and essentialism. First, I will examine their argument on technological determinism, then I will examine their epistemology.

Hand and Sandywell divide the positions into a utopian-dystopian dichotomy.

  Utopian Dystopian
Associated terms
  • Democratic
  • Global citizenship
  • Borderless world
  • Deregulation
  • Global village
  • Voluntary association
  • Continuous town meeting
  • Grassroots social movements
  • Computer-mediated civil interaction
  • Participative democracy


  • Global capitalism
  • Social inequality
  • Enhancement of power and wealth structures
  • Dumbing down society
  • Poverty and cyber-exclusion


Types Computer-mediated Cosmopolitanism

  • Communication that was few to many is now many to many
  • Hierarchical society gives way to flatter structures
  • Unidirectional becomes multidirectional

  • Globalization becomes homogenization
  • Have-nots cannot participate

Global Citadel Theory

  • End of the social; end of politics
  • Consumerism & capitalism
  • Hedonistic

Electronic Panopticon of Cybernetic Capitalism

  • Technocratic control and surveillance
Extreme form Technological fetishism




Hand and Sandywell, define technological essentialism as a view of technology that is intrinsically utopian-ist and dystopian-ist. Essentialist views are based on notions that technology has some underlying “essence” or characteristics that determine their effects upon society. The authors suggest that when these notions surface solutions include grafting “the ‘social’ or ‘historical’ dimension onto the technology” (p. 206). They refer to this as a kind of social constructionism that “often results in a kind of ‘balance sheet’ perspective in which ‘technical’ factors are counter-balanced by ‘social factors’” (p. 206). They then call for a more radical socio-cultural perspective that emphasizes a human-machine dialectic. They observe that some historicism abstracts machines from their contexts, and that the development of technology is contingent and situated rather than linear. In addition, they note that some historicist models suggest that technology was intentionally constructed for specific purposes with clear stages of development. And, finally, they add that historicist accounts are themselves socially constructed (see Abbate, 1999) and that essentialist accounts are aimed at prediction—that is, deterministic.

The new, radical perspective that the authors offer takes a view of technology as relational, contingent, non-synchronic, discontinuous, and power-mediated. They are critical of simply positing the social construction of technology. Social constructionism, according to Hand and Sandywell, mechanically divides the world into separate categories such as technology, society, and nature.

My understanding of social constructionism, from the European philosophical perspective, is that terminology such as technology, society, and nature are constructs. But, social constructionists do not necessarily support the view that such dualisms exist in a “real” underlying reality. Rather, the nature of existence cannot be known for certain. In a social constructionist view, knowledge is relational, and language is an imperfect medium for discussing ideas, constructs, and perceptions. Critical realists, on the other hand, are more likely to take a position of the world as constituted by “real” objects that are perceived by “real” subjects—though perhaps these subjects view the objects in unique ways. Social constructionism does not necessarily relegate meaning construction to autonomous subjects of “society”, but to a dynamic relational and reflexive interaction between subjects and society that cannot necessarily separated into dualist typologies with essential characteristics.

The authors’ proposed solution would appear to fit nicely within a social-constructionist philosophical perspective quite commensurably. Their acknowledgement of Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as promoting their radical, new perspective supports my argument as social constructionists often draw upon ANT as a methodology for research. Notions of agency and socio-cultural appropriation also fit within social constructionist philosophy.

Finally, the authors propose moving towards a “deconstruction of technological essentialism” as an escape from dualism. Yet, then they propose that theorists take up a “detailed phenomenology of specific technologies” (p. 215). My limited understanding of phenomenology based on Husserl and Merleau-Ponty is a philosophical perspective and methodology aimed at discovering the “essence” of a phenomenon(-a). Hence, the authors are proposing an escape from essentialism by employing a methodology and philosophy that relies upon essentialism.

As I write this, I realize that there may be some misunderstanding of terminology. Social constructionism is understood differently in North America than it is in Europe. I take the European view of social constructionism as defined by Berger and Luckmann (1966), Burr (2003), and Hacking (2000). According to Hacking, “social constructionists teach that items we had thought were inevitable are social products” (p. 47).  He defines social constructionism as:

Various sociological, historical, and philosophical projects that aim at displaying or analyzing actual, historically situated, social interactions or causal routes that led to, or were involved in, the coming into being or establishing of some present entity or fact (p. 48). 

According to Berger and Luckmann (1966), reification is a significant process in social construction:

Reification is the apprehension of human phenomena as if they were things, that is, in non-human or possibly supra-human terms. Another way of saying this is that reification is the apprehension of the products of human activity as if they were something else than human products—such as facts of nature, results of cosmic laws, or manifestations of divine will. Reification implies that man is capable of forgetting his own authorship of the human world, and further, that the dialectic between man, the producer, and his products is lost to consciousness. The reified world is, by definition, a dehumanized world. It is experienced by man as a strange facticity, an opus alienum over which he has no control rather than as the opus proprium of his own productive activity . . . The objectivity of the social world means that it confronts man as something outside of himself. The decisive question is whether he still retains the awareness that, however, objectivated, the social world was made by men—and, therefore, can be remade by them.

To conclude, I agree in principle with Hand and Sandyman, but their representation of social constructionism is not in line with the definitions that I draw upon.


Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge (p. 219). Garden City, NY: Anchor Books (Random House, Inc.).

Burr, V. (2003). Social constructionism (Vol. 2nd). New York, NY: Routledge.

Hacking, I. (2000). The Social Construction of What? (p. 272). Boston, MA: Harvard University Press. Retrieved from

Working on my CV. I didn’t realize how busy I had been over the last few years!

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, Mobile learning, PhD Studies, Research, Uncategorized · Tags: , , , , ,

Publications, Presentations and Workshops

Book chapters

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2012). Networked Learning and the Web of Identity. In S. Warburton & S. Hatzipanagos (Eds.), Digital identity and social media. London: Information Science Reference, an imprint of IGI Global. [Coming out in July]

Koole, M. (2009). Chapter 2: A Model for Framing Mobile Learning. In M. Ally (Ed.), Mobile Learning: Transforming the Delivery of Education and Training (pp. 25-47). Edmonton, Alberta: AU Press.

Stauffer, K., Lin, F., & Koole, M. (2010). Chapter 19: A Methodology for Developing Learning Objects for Web Course Delivery. In M. R. Syed (Ed.), Technologies Shaping Instruction and Distance Education: New Studies and Utilizations (pp. 280-289). IGI Global. doi:10.4018/978-1-60566-934-2.ch019

Papers in Refereed Journals

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2012). The Ethical and Practical Implications of Systems Architecture on Identity in Networked Learning: A Constructionist Perspective. Interactive Learning Environments. [Coming out in May]

Fahy, P., Spencer, R., & Koole, M. (Awaiting review). The self-reported impact of graduate program completion on the careers and plans of master’s graduate: Second report in a series.

Koole, M., Letkemen McQuilkin, J., & Ally, M. (2010). Mobile Learning in Distance Education: Utility or Futility. Journal of Distance Education. URL:

Garrison, D., Cleveland-Innes, M., Koole, M, & Kappelman, J. (2006). Revisiting methodological issues in transcript analysis: Negotiated coding and reliability. The Internet and Higher Education, 9(1), 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2005.11.001



Koole, M. (2012). Ontological and epistemological threshold crossings of doctoral students in networked learning environments: “My ontolo- . . . what?” The 4th Biennial Threshold Concepts Conference and 6th NAIRTL Annual Conference (June 27-29). Dublin, Ireland.

Koole, M. (2012). A Social Constructionist Approach to Phenomenographic Analysis of Identity Positioning in Networked Learning. The 8th International Conference on Networked Learning (April 2-4). Maastrict, Netherlands.

Koole, M., & Parchoma, G. (2011). The Web of Identity: Identity Formation in Online Learning. CIDER Sessions (online presentation). The Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research. URL:

Koole, M. (2010). The web of identity: Selfhood and belonging in online learning networks. The 7th International Conference on Networked Learning (May 3-4). Aalbourg, Denmark. URL:

Mobile Learning

Koole, M., de Waard, I., & Elsayed Meawad, F. (2010). Mobile Learning: Solutions & Challenges. CIDER Sessions (online presentation). The Canadian Institute of Distance Education Research. URL:

Koole, M. (2010). Mobile learning: Do the benefits justify the cost and time? New Era Teaching and Learning (online presentation). Commonwealth of Learning. URL:

Ally, M., Cleveland-Innes, M., Koole, Marguerite, Kenny, R. F., & Park, C. (2009). Developing a Community of Inquiry in a Mobile Learning Context. Learning and Technology: A Capital Idea! (Canadian Network for Innovation in Education Annual Conference, Ottawa, Ontario) URL:

Koole, M. (2009). Workshop: Go Mobile! Advantages, Issues, and Examples of Mobile Technologies in Distance Education. 8th Annual International MADLaT Conference (Winnipeg, Manitoba). URL:

Koole, M., & Ally, M. (2008). UMLAUT-M Understanding Mobile Learning at a University Through MobiGlam: Utility or Futility? MLearn: The bridge from text to context (October 6-10). Telford, UK.

Koole, M., Ally, M., Elsayed Meawad, F., & Letkeman McQuilkin, J. (2008). UMLAUT-M: Understanding Mobile Learning at Athabasca University through MobiGlam. Canadian Network for Innovation in Education Annual Conference (April 27-30). Banff, AB.

Koole, M., & Ally, M. (2006). Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (FRAME) Model: Revising the ABCs of Educational Practices. International Conference on Networking, International Conference on Systems and International Conference on Mobile Communications and Learning Technologies (ICN ICONS MCL’06) (pp. 216-216). Mauritius: IEEE. doi:10.1109/ICNICONSMCL.2006.103

Koole, M. (2006). Practical Issues in Mobile Education. Fourth IEEE International Workshop on Wireless, Mobile and Ubiquitous Technology in Education (WMTE’06) (pp. 142-146). Athens: IEEE. doi:10.1109/WMTE.2006.261363

Koole, M., & Ally, M. (2006). Framework for the Rational Analysis of Mobile Education (FRAME) Model: Revising the ABCs of Educational Practices. The 1st International Conference on Interactive Computer Aided Learning (IMCL), April 19-22. Princess Sumaya University for Technology, Amman, Jordan.

Ally, M., & Koole, M. (2006). Workshop: Best practices for instructors and trainers who use mobile devices to deliver instruction to students. The 1st International Conference on Interactive Computer Aided Learning (IMCL), April 19-22. Amman, Jordan.

Koole, M. (2006). Mobile Devices in Distance Education: Compare, Consider and Collaborate. 5th World Conference on Mobile Learning (October 20-26). Banff, AB.

Koole, M., & McGreal, R. (2006). mLearning: What is it and where is it going? Innovations in Education: Challenges, Issues, and Solutions. (CADE/AMTEC Annual Conference) May 23-26. Montreal, QU.


Moisey, S., Hoven, D., Kenny, R., & Koole, Marguerite. (2009). E-portfolios – A Viable capstone activity for graduate programs. Learning and Technology: A Capital Idea! (Canadian Network for Innovation in Education Annual Conference, Ottawa, Ontario) URL:

Hoven, D., & Koole, M. (2008). Integration of an e-Portfolio into a Master of Education program. Invited presentation for the Teaching and Learning Effectiveness Program. University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB.

Koole, M. (2007). Reflecting, scaffolding and showcasing: Integrating an e-portfolio tool into a master’s program. ADETA: Distributed Learning in the 21st Century (October). Edmonton, AB

Technology & Learner Support

Spencer, R., & Koole, M. (2008). Value and uses of open source products in support of graduate student learning. MADLaT: E-Learning Comes Together (May 8-9). Winnipeg, MN.

Spencer, R., & Koole, M. (2008). Workshop: Moodle – An open source LMS. MADLaT: E-Learning Comes Together (May 8-9). Winnipeg, MN.

Wagenaar, C., & Koole, M. (2007). Podcasting in a blended learning environment: Alberta Children’s Services. ADETA: Distributed Learning in the 21st Century (October). Edmonton, AB.

Spencer, R., Moisey, S., & Koole, M. (2007). Moodle and the Master of Distance Education Program. Moodle Moot. Edmonton, AB.

Cleveland-Innes, M., Koole, M. & Kinsel, E. (2006, May).  Teaching presence in online communities of inquiry: Learners, facilitators and learning.  Paper presented at CADE/AMTEC Annual Conference Conference, Montreal, P.Q.

Cleveland-Innes, M., & Koole, M. (2005). Learner Support in Online Learning. Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning (August 3-5). Madison, WI.

Cleveland-Innes, M., & Koole, M. (2005). Workshop: Student Support Technology. Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning (August 3-5). Madison, WI.

Cleveland-Innes, M. & Koole, M. (2004).  Role adjustment for students in online environments.  Invited keynote address, Learner Services Forum 2004, Campus Saskatchewan.  Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Fun Projects

Fantastic Chapter: Interactivity & Interaction

mkoole, · Categories: Identity, PhD Studies, Research · Tags: , , , , ,

Page, R. (2010). Interactivity and interaction: Text and talk in online communities. In M. Grishakova & M.-L. Ryan (Eds.), Intermediality and Storytelling (pp. 208-231). Berlin: De Gruyter. doi: 10.1515/9783110237740.208. URL:

As our technologies change, so does the human story and our ability to tell it. Many researchers in educational technology suffer an unending interest in how digital technologies are affecting human interaction and learning. In this chapter, Ruth Page takes draws upon the field of narratology. She looks at interaction by “bringing together sociolinguistic, discourse-oriented and literary approaches” (p. 208).

Page views interaction from three main perspectives: modes of feedback, the audience, and the storytelling process. The chapter offers an interesting table showing how exploratory and ontological factors interplay with user-text and user-user interaction. Don’t let the jargon bother you. The results of her analysis are not only accessible, but very interesting.

When someone mentions narrative, we expect text-based narratives to proceed from start to finish. We expect the text to progress through a beginning, a middle, and an end—a linear path presumably as the author intended. Many websites are, in fact, set up in such a way. We start at the top left (in Western culture), eyes moving back and forth, targeting the bottom right. The latest technologies including the ever-so-fashionable social networking sites, blogs, and wikis, enable the reader to post comments, enter into story-related discussions, click on links to related topics, and even co-author a narrative-in-progress. Now, as in more ancient times, storytellers are once again in communication with their audience whose expressions and suggestions at times shape the story itself. As Page writes: “The affordances of computer mediated communication thus blend the written mode with the conversational style and near instantaneous responsiveness characteristic of oral discourse” (Rettberg, 2008 referenced in Page, 2010, p. 209). (Page mentions Ong’s concept of secondary orality (as per his book, Orality & Literacy (1982)—a great read in itself).

Feedback Channels

Interaction with digital texts (includes audio, video, graphics, and text) can involve the manipulation of the interface through the mouse, keyboard, joystick, or other input devices. Through such means, a reader can manipulate what they see, when, and how quickly. However, additional creativity is now available in the form of content creation. Page refers to Ryan’s (2006) categorizations of interaction which is made up of four dimensions: internal vs. external and exploratory vs. ontological. “According to these parameters, a reader can participate internally as a member in the storyworld (for example by role-playing an avatar in a simulated story scenario), or they can remain situated outside the storyworld in the external mode” (p. 212). Indeed, online narratives can fit on a continuum between the following dimensions:

Exploratory interaction: readers cannot change the storyline. They can only explore. The reader has “minimal navigational control of the narrative content” (p. 221).

Ontological interaction: readers can change the story or follow different options leading to a different path. In some cases, “the reader can control the content of the narrative itself” (p. 221). Wikis that offer full administrative/write access to participants are an extreme example of this form of interaction.

Page compares the characteristics of comments fields and message walls (as seen in social networking sites such as Facebook).

Comments Fields  


Message Walls

“Always text-adjacent” (p. 216). That is, they cannot stand alone. They are always posted alongside the narrative to which they refer.



Can stand alone. May or may not refer to a particular narrative.


Implication: “The closer the commentary’s textual and thematic connection to the narrative segment, the greater the potential the reader’s interaction has to shape the evolving narrative text” (p. 216).




In highly interactive environments the relationship of the audience (reader) to the text is altered. Participants become creators and co-constructors of stories. The personal characteristics of the audience members influence narrative development. “Interpersonal and identity work achieved by conversational storytelling may vary according to the speaker’s gender, age, ethnicity; the social distance between speaker and listener and the cultural or institutional context in which the story is being told” (p. 213). As Page, suggests the readers come into relationship with the author, text, and other readers. We might say that authors and readers periodically exchange roles.

Writers often write with a kind of audience in mind. Anticipating one’s audience can be difficult in the online environment as many readers will leave little if any trace of their visit. When, a reader does leave a trace, it will likely follow expected social conventions (p. 217). Consider, for example, the acceptability of pseudonyms, avatar-selection, and expectations of authenticity in some networked environments.

Of course, audience can be controlled somewhat by access restrictions. However, Page acknowledges that “even if the storyteller has delimited the scope of their readership to persons they know, the audience might still conflate groups of individuals normally segmented in offline contexts” (p. 217).

So, how does an author choose a tone and style appropriate to an audience that she cannot anticipate?

Storytelling Process

Page discusses the difference between serial versus episodic storytelling.

Serial Narrative Episodic Narrative
  • Posted in its final, completed form
  • Unlikely to be revised and reposted
  • Comments posted after-the-fact are not likely to influence its shaping
  • Evolve over time
  • Commentary may influence revisions, reposting, and new directions
  • “Emergent in nature” (p. 219)


Biographies, histories, completed stories, reports



Fan-fiction, collaborative writing, wikis, autobiographies (episodic in nature)



I found this section particularly interesting and so I will quote it at length:

In online contexts, the serial nature of the discourse creation is assumed to keep approximate pace with the personal events being reported. Thus blogs usually report on the near (rather than distant) past events while status updates of sites like Twitter and Facebook are even closer to the present moment in their public announcement of what the author is doing ‘right now’ (p. 219).

I very much agree with Page when she suggests that the immediacy of these “autobiographical fragments” is illusory as they are not reported in “exact real time”. Further they lack “retrospection” and

. . . a pre-determined narrative design arranged around a fixed teleological [purposeful] focus, the reader’s feedback is experienced as an intervention in the present moment which stimulates the ongoing production and anticipation of future updates from the author (p. 219).

As she considers serial and episodic narrative, Page notes that “the editorial interaction afforded by wiki technology would seem to be at odds with the factors which promote the creation of coherent narrative patterns” (p. 225). Such editing is non-linear and the identities of the authors can be concealed allowing degrees of authenticity. She gives the example of A Million Penguins. As the Wikipedia article here states, it remains undetermined as to whether or not the contributors succeeded in writing a novel. (Link: The final report for A Million Penguins.) The biggest problem was that the authors did not agree on social-editing rules resulting in “wiki wars” (p. 226).


Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London and New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis Group.