Phone Narratives: In Between Private, Public, Personal, Pedagogical, Political Calls presented at the Narrative Matters Conference in Toronto, ON, May 6-10, 2008
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The number and choice of online and distance graduate education programs in Canada is growing. Literature of this emerging field debates the quality of programs and delivery strategies to ensure that students feel connected and part of a community of learners. Alarmingly, little, if any, attention has been paid to instructors in these online distance programs and their practices of teaching as well as issues of 'online living'. John Durham Peters (1999) suggests that the desire for presence and intimacy underpins all modern communication. We see these desires at work in distance and online teaching and learning. Light is commonly cast on the experiences of distance students. In this inquiry, we flood light on instructors and ask: How do they/we create community support, friendship, collegialtiy, digital intimacy among the teachers of online distant education? How do we share personal and intimate experiences and affective resonances across distance and displacements? How do we 'become real' in the realm of virtual reality? In effect, this work calls into question the taken for granted understanding that proximity is the realm of intimacy and distance is the realm of estrangement. We are focusing on these questions by drawing upon our phone narratives produced while teaching two separate sections of an online asynchronous graduate research methodologies course. Thus the site of our inquiry is a mentoring relationship within the university of distant education. We, two Athabasca University professors, investigate the phone narratives of our experiences and inquire performatively into multiple boundary crossings/blurrings in between (private, public) personal, pedagogical, political callings.