Being Human Means… (Week 3 of #EDCMOOC)

13 Feb

The following is the fifth of several blog posts related to a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) I am currently taking on “E-Learning and Digital Cultures,” which is being run by the University of Edinburgh.  This week’s theme:  “Being Human.”

Being human means that you can only run so many parallel programs–husband, father, writer, teacher, neighbor, friend, citizen, freelancer, consumer, debtor–before the system starts to shut down.

Being human means some weeks you’re a MOOC, and some weeks you’re not.

Being human means that the dog needs a walk, and no, he’s not going to leave your side until at last you go get the leash at which point he will become so excited that he will SNORF!! through his nostrils onto your pants.  You will have to change your pants.

Being human means alternately finding this infuriating and hilarious.

Being human means your daughter is not sleeping and so you are not sleeping and then she climbs into your bed to sleep and so you switch places and go to sleep in her bed, which means you are a human surrounded, as humans sometimes are, by stuffed animals and graham cracker crumbs and the thoughts in your head that keep you awake until the dawn starts to creep and you figure you may as well get up and do some writing.

Being human means not being sustainable.

Being human means you are, in some sense, made of meat, and the meat needs recharging but there is no easy battery with which to charge yourself.

Being human means you have no on/off switch.

Being human means the damned MP4 about being human won’t freaking load, but it’s probably not the machine’s fault, it’s yours.

Being human means being impatient, sometimes.

Being human means leaving digital ephemera in a way that we once (and still) leave biodegradable ephemera.  Being human means this ephemera gives a hint of who we are, who we once were, but it is not up to the task of representing the totality of the thing itself.

Being human means marking student papers, too many student papers, electronically in a way that is both entirely efficient and not (“Be quick, Kuno!”) because a human marks papers more sloppily and yet more deeply than a machine ever could.

Being human means believing this, even if it is an entirely self-serving point of view, even if machines already are marking papers.

Being human means because if not believing this then the point exactly what is?

Being human means consciously writing the above as if a machine wrote it.

Being human means that sometimes we go into the Peace Corps to serve our fellow human beings by doing things like teaching English in China, where we suddenly take ill, and die.

Being human means we leave families and friends in mourning, and we leave behind digital traces of ourselves, of our own making and of others’ making.

Being human means we leave old emails and schoolwork in the in-boxes of our teachers and on eternal cloud-sourced course websites that hover over Northern California and the world and the satellites and will last longer than the molding boxes in grandma’s attic.

Being human means we are good people who no machine could precisely duplicate.

Being human means that sometimes we go far far too soon.

Being human means it’s been one of those weeks.

Being human means we hope to live another week, to keep up with this project of defining ourselves, because we, like the shark, must keep moving.  You never know when being human will stop.

Being human means rest in peace, Nicholas Castle.


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