How is my driving?

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Rating and quantifying the consumption of ‘experience’ is on the increase. Recently in the course of my daily life I have undertaken such diverse activities as contacting local government departments, calling in a plumber and some real life chocolate shopping 🙂

Soon after these encounters I have been invited to rate my experience via a phone call or by logging on to a website where I may select a number on a scale to record my level of satisfaction with the service I’ve received. In each case, the government official, the plumber and the shop assistant have all asked or alerted me to this with an unspoken understanding that they stand to gain or lose from the feedback they receive.

This is a demeaning experience both for me as consumer/customer and for them as service provider. The consumer is constructed as a potent arbiter able to award points with no other authority than the money in her pocket. The service provider is fashioned as a worker needing to amass tokens to attest to satisfactory service. Such a contrivance is part of the ontology of the computer harnessed by capitalism which dehumanises the individual and reduces social contact to a mechanistic exchange after the real one has taken place and thereby calling into question its authenticity. Similar construction of  the individual was predicted by Hand (2007) as one of his ‘narratives of threat’,

The idea of a digitally mediated participatory citizenship disguises the ‘push-button’ nature of digitally mediated political life (Street 1997). That is, the Web is simply another media of simple polling of preferences and opinion. The figure of the consumer-citizen takes centre stage where the processes of political management and engagement are inseparable from mass-mediated and customized forms of consumption. Information, instead of being an empowering force for cultural democratization, operates as a substitute for authentic knowledge, particularly where institutional and organisational uses of information centre upon the construction of preference databases. The individual freedoms associated with digital-empowerment are illusory – these are simply methods of decentralizing and delegating responsibility for citizenship to the individual. Citizens are thus now expected to behave like the dominant images of private consumers in economic theory – autonomous, individualised decision-makers removed from the communitarian fabric.
(Hand, 2008, p.39)

Push-button voting is redolent of Social Media likes and the use of rating and gamification in learning environments. Rehearsed in our consumer experiences, they become more readily acceptable in our educational exchanges. The teacher as facilitator is construed as a service provider in a relationship with the student that can only be verified or valorised by digital computation.

Hand, M., (2008) “Hardware to everyware: Narratives of promise and threat” from Hand, Martin, Making digital cultures : access, interactivity, and authenticity   pp.15-42, Aldershot: Ashgate

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