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Peer Review

Figure/Ground Communication

by Barbra Bied Sperling


Overall Numeric Rating:

3 stars
Content Quality:
Effectiveness: 3 stars
Ease of Use: 3 stars
Reviewed: Mar 04, 2014 by Teacher Education
Overview: This is a collection of interviews of scholars and artists conducted by Figure Ground Communication group. The interviews focus on reflections of teaching and communications. There is a focus in some of the interviews on the impact of social media on education and communications. This material was reviewed from the perspective of teacher education since it was submitted in that category. Another discipline, like communications or philosophy might see it quite differently.
Type of Material: Collection
Recommended Uses: Education professors could assign interviews to be read and discussed, or questions to be used in student-led interviews. This is a useful faculty development resource.
Technical Requirements: Browser.
Identify Major Learning Goals: * To examine the viewpoints of a variety of educators and the genesis of their approach to teaching * The goals vary with the particular interviewee but the idea of a philosophy of higher education seems to be consistent.
Target Student Population: Graduate students and professors in higher education.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Strengths: The variety of interviewees allows for disparate viewpoints.
Concerns: There does not seem to be any way to search for a particular topic. Tags would be helpful. Some of the interviews are transcripts, while others are videos. A podcast format would have allowed for a much better appreciation of the context of the interview.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: Some of the interview questions were excellent and would provide a model for students doing interviews with other educators. The site provides honest and candid answers about education and communications. There is a variety of approaches. This might be a good site for those considering a career in higher education to explore.
Concerns: There is no way to search for a particular topic. It is not always clear who the interviewer is and what his or her background and credentials might be. Links to the subject's work and background would be useful in determining the credibility of that interviewee. In some of the interviews, background material was provided, but it was not standard. Dates are not provided for the interviews in all cases.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 3 stars
Strengths: Navigation has two main tracks: scholars and artists. It is easy for users to start accessing the interviews. The site is open source. The interviews are available for print and for download which allows users to spend more time with the material.
Concerns: The site is not interactive and there are discrepancies between places where it is said you can comment, and yet there is no place to do that. Some broken links make navigation difficult. There are issues with consistent quality. A taxonomy for the site would make it far more usable. This is not text that can be read quickly and easily digested. The intended audience is not clear, although the material seems to be focused at the graduate level and above.

Comments from Author: Please thank the reviewers for their all their feedback. While it is useful, informative, and much appreciated, I think that the overall critique focuses too much on issues of design and functionality at the expense of content and its value for F/G's intended audience - i.e., graduate students and university professors. A more in-depth review would have had to take into consideration the following aspects of the website: 1) The content is free. Critical academic voices are thus made available to diverse publics. This is a crucial component of democratizing technology. 2) The content is accessible. In order for broad dissemination of high theory and innovation to be effective, it must be expressed in a form that non-specialist readers will find accessible. The interview format Figure/Ground uses is thus ideal: we ask lively and penetrating questions that allow his respondents to cover both personal and professional terrain in resonant ways that don’t require dumbing down leading points. 3) The content is diverse. From philosophers to media experts to education specialists. This diversity enhances appeal as the texts address difficult matters of ideology without themselves cohering around any narrow ideological frame. 4) The content is of high caliber. There are no brief and superficial conversations here. Each interview is comprehensive, not to say exhaustive. Figure/Ground poses thought-provoking questions and then steps back and allow them to explain and expound upon their ideas. Past interviewees include academic heavy-weights such as John Searle, Noam Chomsky and Bruno Latour, among countless others.