Category Archives: Notes

Cyborg Manifesto – Notes

Donna Haraway

A Cyborg Manifesto


A feminist, materialist, socialist, manifesto. According to the writer too many US socialist feminists see mind/body, animal/machine, idealism/materialism as dualities. Author argues that they are mixed symbiotic concepts.

Is the manifesto an effort to build a coalition of affinity rather than identity? Given that gender, race and class consciousness are constructs thrust upon people thru historical circumstance this is too shaky a basis to build a coalition. It resulted in endless splitting. P.296.

p.297 Use cyborg as a new category and is not exclusive unlike “man” (excludes women) and “woman” (cultural narrative excludes women of colour).


Argues cyborgs are a social reality as well as in fiction. This parallels “women’s experience” it is a social reality and a social construct.

We are all cyborgs. We are joined with machines.

We need to embrace this as it is fun but also take responsibility for where we draw the line between human and machine.

Fictional cyborgs have no gender. They are post-oedipal. There’s lessons in being for humans mired in gender relations. Could we really live in a gender free world?

Psychoanlysis and Marxism have an origin myth – there was a time when we were one (with our mothers or hunter gatherers, respectively) all our problems stem from the rupture of this state and us trying to get it back.

Cyborgs skip this origin myth. They were constructed. They have no unitary origin myth.

Cyborgs defines a polity based on reconfiguring social relations within the household. (e.g. no more gender politics).

Cyborgs are the product of militarism and patriarchal capitalism/state socialism. But are not necessarily going to reproduce their values and social structures.


3 boundary breakdowns that lead to cyborgism:

  1. Human – animal. (we acknowledge that humans are animals) – cyborg fills a similar philosophical space to where the boundary between animal and human is breached.
  2. Organism – machine. We can’t distinguish between the two. Machines can self-move, design, be autonomous.
  3. Physical – Non physical. The immateriality of information. The micro-ness of lots of dig tech makes it barely seem physical.


Don’t see cyborg world as either masculine orgy of war. Don’t see it as a utopia where people feel kinship with animal and machine, embrace contradictory standpoints and partial identities.

Try and see it from both perspectives to understand both dominations and possibilities.

p.300 useful quote “But in the consciousness of our failures, we risk lapsing into boundless difference and giving up on the confusing task of marking partial, real connection. Some differences are playful; some are poles of world historical systems of domination. Epistemology is about knowing the difference.”

p.301 “one must think not in terms of essential properties but in terms of design, boundary constraints, rates of flows, systems logics, costs of lowering constraints.”

p.302 instead of all that is solid melts into air we have all that is natural becomes information. Haraway suggests that this could be freeing as with no “natural” facts to draw upon race, class, gender, etc are revealed as social constructs. Will that let us build something new from there?

p.302 Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formlizations, as frozen moments, of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but they should also be viewed as instruments for enforcing meanings.

p.303 Cybernetic summary. Aim of system thinking is to map flows of information. Info is the universal element that allows unhindered instrumental power (effective communication). All threats to system are communication breakdowns. All system breakdowns are a function of stress.

C3I – Command, Control, Communication, Intelligence

p.304 – tech allows feminization of work. The erosion of labour rights so the employee is in the historical supplicant position of women e.g. exploited.

The changing state of the family parallels capitalisms changes:

Early industrial – patriarchal nuclear family, private/public spheres

Welfare state – Family propped up by welfare state

Modern homework capitalism – Women keeping family afloat. Erosion of gender differences


Women in the integrated circuit: – p.308

No longer able to characterize women’s lives by public and private spheres. It’s all interwoven.

Idealized social Locations, have no place for women, only contradictions and differences. This can’t be understood from the perspective of a single self. The subject is dispersed –

Home, Market, Paid Work Place, State, School, Hospital, Church – All are affected by science and tech. Seemingly for the worse. Socialist-feminist need to find a way to engage with tech

p.309 – don’t just sort people’s subjectivity into “clear sighted critique/Marxist” or “false consciousness”. Aim for subtle understanding of emerging pleasures, powers and experience as human tech relationships expand. BE aware how social norms are changing.

p.310 – finally gets round to stating her argument clearly. Feminism and Marxism are still too totalizing. We can learn from cyborgs to create potent fusions that offer multiple understanding of the lived social experience.

p.311 Cyborg writing isn’t about returning to a mythic time when all were one. It is about seizing the tools that mark the oppressed and repurposing them.

p.313 cyborg politics is the struggle for language and the struggle against perfect communication.

Desire as a force lead to language and gender. What if tech subverts the power of desire? New genders emerge. Like Otaku?

Cyborg politics undermines the idea of constructing a revolutionary subject from the perspective of victimhood, righteousness, innocence, being “more natural”. Thus it is more inclusive and less prone to fracture than Marxism or feminism.

Freed of identity, the need for salvation, privileged reading we can finally play with text. We can recognise ourself as fully implicated in the world. We can do away with purity, vanguagrd parties and the like.

  1. 315 Bodies are maps of power and identity. So is the cyborg body. It has no origin, innocence, it collapses unitary identity and dualisms. And many more things I can’t be bothered to list.

p.316 Cyborg imagery means engaging with the social relations of tech and science. Learn to enjoy the skilful task of constructing boundaries of daily life.

Materialist – nothing exists but matter.

Dialectic – investigating truth of opinions

Taylorism – scientific efficient management method

Infomatics of domination – a person’s integration into the world system of production/reproduction and communication.

p.303 – amazing quote on AIDS and children with baboon hearts.

Bayne – What’s Wrong with TEL – IDEL Summary Repost

What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’?
Learning, Media and Technology
Volume 40, 2015 – Issue 1

Pages 5-20
Sian Bayne

In this article Bayne analyses the rise of the term “Technology-Enhanced Learning (TEL)“ within the field of UK and European education. She then suggests that the coining of TEL as a neologism is more problematic than had previously been widely considered as TEL is, in her opinion, far from value free and neutral.

Bayne argues that such a critique is necessary as TEL is an inherently conservative term that does not reflect the multiplicity and complexity of digital academic practice. She draws upon postmodernist ideas on the importance of language in defining the direction and limits of thought leading her to state that by using the term TEL researchers may be preventing them from engaging properly with the relationship between education and technology.

Bayne’s evidence for the adoption of TEL as a terminology comes from three sources, firstly the incorporation of TEL in the titles of several national research programmes, individual university research units and postgraduate courses. Secondly, the use of the term TEL in public documents by other key institutions in UK HE such as the University and Colleges Information Systems Association national survey. Lastly, her own google trends frequency analysis which showed a correlation between the decline of “e-learning” as a search term and the rise of “TEL”. In order to appear more authoritative it would have been useful to have the results of the frequency analysis referenced but there is certainly enough evidence to suggest that the term is currently used widely within the UK. Bayne suggests that the term TEL remains specific to the UK and Europe however it appears to have currency in South Africa at the very least (Ng’ambi et al. 2016).

To make her critique of TEL Bayne use a different analytical framework for each word in the term to better reveal its hidden values. Bayne deems “Technology” in TEL to be vague and ill-defined concept which only seemingly exists to support existing pedagogic practice. Bayne suggests that it would be beneficial to take a critical technology studies approach, such as the work of Hamilton and Friesen (2013). This would allow us to avoid essentialist and instrumentalist fallacies with regards to technology as well as allowing to properly position technological development as a social practice.

Bayne then takes issue with the term “Enhanced” suggesting that this reveals a philosophical debt to transhumanism. Bayne posits that there are parallels between transhumanism’s refusal to interrogate the human subject in depth and TEL’s obscuring of the social factors in Education. This obfuscation prevents researchers from discussing the context of what is being “enhanced” and who the beneficiaries are. She suggests that critical posthumanism would be a better model for TEL to draw upon as we would produce a more valid account of education as an assemblage of the human and non-human.

Finally, Bayne questions TEL’s privileging of “Learning” over teaching. Bayne states that this focus on learning is misleading as technology is more often applied to teaching and administration than the aims of individual learners. She then suggests that this focus on learning is emblematic of wider educational trend that Biesta termed “learnification” (Biesta, 2012). This once again leads TEL to obscure the social context in which education happens. By using the term TEL to define the field of research little room is given for questioning the purpose and function of education, as well as the power relations that are constantly being contested.

Whilst Bayne makes a strong case that the term TEL should be treated with greater caution she does not take the next logical step and propose other terms which could stand in its place. It would be interesting to see if a more flexible, open term could be formulated. A further avenue of critique would be to pose the question whether previously popular terms such as “e-learning” were equally conservative and limiting? It is of course entirely possible that we are trapped by language and that rather than calling for a new term Bayne is aiming to promote a critical, postmodern approach amongst the readership of this journal.


Bayne S., (2015), “What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’?”, Learning, Media and Technology, Volume 40, Issue 1

Biesta, Gert. 2012. “Giving Teaching Back to Education: Responding to the Disappearance of the Teacher.” Phenomenology & Practice 6 (2): 35–49.

Hamilton, Edward C., and Norm Friesen. 2013. “Online Education: A Science and Technology Studies Perspective.” Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology 39 (2).

Ng’ambi D., Brown C., Bozalek V., Wood D. (2016) “Technology enhanced teaching and learning in South African higher education – A rearview of a 20 year journey: 20 years reflection on technology enhanced learning”, British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 47, Issue 5

Bayne – What’s wrong with TEL – Notes


Tech Enhanced Learning is not a neutral term. It has biases. This paper explores them.


TEL is a UK specific term. Evidence for it’s usuage – google trend shows uptick. Loads of unis establishing TEL centres and offering degrees that have TEL in the name. Funding bodies and projects use the term (UK research council). There is TEL journals, it’s used in nationwide uni surveys.


HEFCE and UCISA in favour of a notion of ‘TEL’ which is claimed by one to be ‘more explicit’ about the enhancement value of technology (UCISA 2008 UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association). 2008. “2008 Survey of Technology Enhanced Learning for Higher Education in the UK.” and by the other to be ‘less narrowly defined’ than the previously dominant term ‘e-learning’ (HEFCE 2009 HEFCE. 2009. “Enhancing Learning and Teaching through the Use of Technology: A Revised Approach to HEFCE’s Strategy for e-Learning.”


2013 Kirkwood, Adrian, and Linda Price. 2013. “Technology-Enhanced Learning and Teaching in Higher Education: What is ‘Enhanced’ and How Do We Know? A Critical Literature Review.” Learning, Media and Technology. doi:10.1080/17439884.2013.770404[Taylor & Francis Online], [Web of Science ®],

Kirkwood approach empirical literature review

Tech enhances in 3 ways 1.) Operational – more flexibility in teaching styles

2.) Quantitative – improves scores

3.) Qualitative – makes students happier



Term is too neutral. Terms are important as they help decide the direction of a field.

Doesn’t do justice to the disruptiveness of the digital in the academy.

What’s wrong with technology:

When tech is ever clearly defined it’s always seen as “supportive”. By doing this Tech gets “black boxed” and cut off from social usage. Technology studies no longer ignore social usage so EdTech studies shouldn’t either.

This see’s tech as instrumentalist.

i.e. it contains no biases or values. It’s neutral and can be used unproblematically for whatever ends the user decided

Tech is essentialist.

i.e. tech embodies essential qualities. KEY PHRASE “harnessing technology”


The rising popularity of ‘TEL’ as a phrase can perhaps be partly explained by the alluring and efficient neatness of its division of the social and the technological, and by the reduction of their complex entanglements to a clear relation of subordination: technology can be utilised to enhance pre-existing personal and societal educational objectives (instrumentalism); equally ‘learning’ can be transformed by the immanent pedagogical value of certain technologies simply by allowing itself to be open to them (essentialism).

Don’t ask – how can tech make education better. Instead ask – what do we want education to be? How can current tech be used to fulfil those values?

What’s wrong with enhance:

“enhance” is inherently conservative. Means no radical change.

It hides a problematic link with transhumanism i.e. Education is to enhance brain processes and output.

This needs to be debated. Do we want enhancement? Equality of access to enhancement?

The term enhancement is entirely contextual. A judgement is needed to see if something is getting better. It cannot be assumed.

(What is transhumanism? The primary concerns of the transhumanist worldview are with the perpetuation of the humanistic values of rationality, autonomy, dominance over ‘nature’ and human perfectibility via technological enhancement and the power of scientific progress

This leads to capitalism, patriarchy, colonialism.

Posthumanism critiques all this. It denies a universal “core of humanity”. Everything is mediated through history and social experience.)

As Thacker (2003 Thacker, E. 2003. “Data made Flesh: Biotechnology and the Discourse of the Posthuman.” Cultural Critique 53 (Winter): 72–97. doi:10.1353/cul.2003.0029[CrossRef], [CSA]) points out, such a view is blind to the ‘ways in which technologies are themselves actively involved in shaping the world’


A critical posthumanist position on technology and education would see the human neither as dominating technology nor as being dominated by it. Rather it would see the subject of education itself as being performed through a coming together of the human and non-human, the material and the discursive. It would not see ‘enhancement’ as a feasible proposition, in that enhancement depends on maintaining a distinction between the subject/learner being enhanced and the object/technology ‘doing’ or ‘enabling’ the enhancement. And where ‘enhancement’ discourses have a tendency to decontextualise – to fail to interrogate in which contexts, and for whom, ‘enhancement’ is desirable – a critical posthumanist position would be committed to a detailed account of the social and political ecologies and networks through which technological innovation is performed.


What’s wrong with learning?

Most of the time the tech is being applied to teaching not learning.

to reduce ‘education’ to ‘learning’ prevents us from asking critical questions about how educational goals are negotiated and how its power relations are constituted

This makes education instrumental.

fails to take account of the fact that ‘a major reason for engaging in education is precisely to find out what it is that one actually needs’

How we became posthuman – notes

Katherine Hayles

How We Became Posthuman

Argues that mind cannot be separated from body. Against cybernetics.

Argues that posthumanism and lots of other “new” theories of subjectivity in fact reinforce and transcribe traditional liberal humanistic values. E.g. universalism, rational mind, progress, individualism.

Argues that it is important to understand the history of how information became theoretically untethered from the material. If we do this we can critique and resist seeing immaterial info mindset as inevitable result of technological development. (p20). We’ll get to restate virtuality so that it acknowdges the importance of the body.

Argues that sci fi lit can explore the implications of sci theory in a way that sci theory cannot. Influences the cultural narrative of cultural engagement with theory and technology and is thus worthy of serious study.

Key Question: Can information circulate unchanged thru diff substrates?


Identifies 3 narratives in cybernetics, cognitive, science, biomedicine, etc.


1.)    Information without bodies:

Intelligence is the formal manipulation of symbols. Computers can do this as well as humans.

Wiener Cybernetics – info is an entity distinct from the substrates carrying it.

< think Fang’s information structure


Thus having a body isn’t essential to being human. You can take the brain and put it in a robot.

This kind of abstraction is appealing as it means info is free to travel without considering time and space. Immortality.

Privileges digital information over context bound analogue info.

2.)    Cyborg and cultural artefact and icon:

Post WW2


3.)    How we became posthuman (although I think the author means transhuman):

Human and intelligent machine union. There’s no essential differences and they can join together.

Prefers info patterns over material instances. Biology is incidental. Emphasises human cogn over emobodi.

Consciousness is not the only source of humanity.

You learn to manipulate the body after birth. Why not continue to manipulate the body with prosthetics?

Recognize there is no self-directed free will on its own. We are products of society and tech and our relations to the world.

We don’t have to be cyborgs to be posthuman. Key difference is the construction of subjectivity (exisit in mind, not “real” world). Not robo add ons.



3 ages of cybernetics:

1945 – 60 – homeostasis – Aimed to make a theory of communication and control that could be applied to man, animal and machine. Makes humans essentially the same as intelligent machines.

Still based on humanism. Intelligent machines with rational self directed autonomy.

Homeostasis emphasised so that philosophical implications did not threaten current social order. (p7 – how does this work? Need to ask)

1960 – 1980 – reflexivity – What creates a system becomes part of the system, from another perspective. What was thought to come from the conditions in fact MAKES the conditions.

Think about marshall amps, designed for early rockers. Becomes incorporated and essential to the sound of rock.

Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get you. Reflexivity?

In homeo period cyberneticians saw the observer as not part of the system. This changed in this era.

19880 onwards – Autopoesis – organisms reactions to environment are decided by their self-organisation. They exist to replicate this self-organisation.

Implies diff from feedback loop. Info doesn’t come from outside environment. The system is closed. The only info we get is what our self-organisation allows us to see.

Implies info flows no longer key. What matters is matches between the self organisation of two different organisms. A bit like constructivism in IR? Nations perception of each other models behaviour?


Plato forhand – World is complex, make a simple model, treat the multiplicity of the world as imperfect versions of your perfect model.

Plato Backhand – world is complex, build a simple and gradually make it more various until it reflects the complexity of the world.


Virtuality – the belief that objects are penetrated by information patterns. They riddled. They are laced.

The internet of things needed this conception in order to be built. The belief that all objects harboured information we just need the microprocessors to read them.

#Those engaged with virtuality tend to be key actors. Thus material penetrated by info becomes dominant cultural belief.

Miller – The Body and Information Technology


Should we embrace technological advances to prolong and improve quality of life?

Where should we stop?

Has our technological power outpaced our ability to make informed moral choices?

Will it create further conflict and inequality and society?




Body is not a given. It is made. Modern western life allows more chance to shape our bodies to our preferences.

Foucault – The body is a target for exercising power in society. Discipline and Control

Feminism – Female body as site of oppression.

Tech allows to change the “reality” of the body. Slow down aging.

Williams and Bendelow (1998) – modern medicine has problematized the body- 1.) more plastic/malleable 2.) bionic/artificial extras 3.) interchangeable/organ donor 4.) interchangeable across species/human ear mouse 4.) hyperreal/exaggerated



Key influence – Cybernetics (study of reg systems and self gov mechanisms). First theory to imagine humans and machines as a combined info processing system.

3 approaches

  1. Critiquing humanism
  2. Debate over bodies relation to technology (I THOUGHT THIS WAS TRANSHUMANISM?)
  3. Critique of relationship between the human and technology

Key terms:

Cyborg – Cybernetic Organism. Something with organic and inorganic elements in it. 4 diff. types of human/machine relationships. 1.) Restore 2.) Normalise 3.) Enhance 4.) Reconfigure.

Q? – Does the relationship between machine and human have to be permanent to count as true cyborg?

Extropianism – turn flesh into data.

Q – Is the brain just a thinking machine? If so, if we can eventually replicate the electrical impulses that make up brainwaves can we recreate human thought without a brain, within technology?

Transhumanism – Bodies have stopped evolving so we need to use technology to reach the next stage. The body is just a house for human intelligence. We need to make that everlasting.

Dreyfus (1972) critique of AI and transhumanism. 1.) Biological assumption that brains work the same as computers 2.) Psychological assumption that thought is a type of calculation 3.) epistemological assumption that intelligence is rational and thus computers can do it. 4.) Ontological assumption that we can understand and measure everything that needs to be replicated to make up intelligence.

Data made flesh – By understanding the body as data e.g. DNA codes, controllable biological compounds, etc. we actually remove the body as a whole from our conception of it.

Can everything really broken down to bits of information?

Rather than cyborgs what’s more likely is that humans will get the tech to artificially recreate bodies. Are these cloned cells, manipulated genes, etc. artificial or natural?

Body – tech – society – can we even neatly divide these things? Can we not see humans and society defined by the tech they use?

HOMO FABER – tool using man. Tech debates in an effort to seem epochal ignore man’s symbiotic relationship with tech throughout history. E.g. block and tackle, the plough, steam engines. All changed culture. Man is Homo Faber and cyborg.

Simmel – Man designs tech to overcome bodies limitations compared to its’ imagination. Therefore tech comes from man so how can it be unnatural?

Idhe – Man’s 3 relationships with Tech

Embodiment – When man uses tools he sees it as part of his body < yeah right, has to be a really well designed tool to get to that level. Not applicable in all cases.

Hermenuetic – Tools become the way man experiences thing. E.g. watching a gig through your smartphone even though you are at the bloody gig.

Alterity – Our perception of the world changes as we use the tool. E.g. we learn to judge speeds differently when we drive.

MOBILES AND THE BODY – a Phenomenological approach

Special relationship. Why? 1.) Always close to the body 2.) Uses multiple senses.

Mobiles create connected presence – feel connected with others who aren’t there.

Distributed presence – can be present in several ways at the same time.

Ambient Intelligence = Ubiquitous computing + Ubiquitous Commuincation + Adaptive interfaces

I have no doubt this will just be used for targeted advertising and little else

Historiography of Cyberculture – notes

Critical Cyberculture Studies

by Silver, David Massanari, Adrienne Jones, Steve


the historiography of cyberculture



Field is well established. Simple e-topian views are now critiqued. Studies more nuanced and complex

< really? There still seems to be enough e-topians. See epochal thinking Mozorov Click Everything.

BUT! Cyberculture studies is still using categories and narratives set down in the 80s and 90s. What the cul is and where it comes from is dominated by views of journalists and tech companies. The critical researcher should be open to other epsitemologies. Sound is a little used category for investigating cyb cul. Sound is used as an example of how to be open.


Some terms from Pierre Bourdieu:

Epistemologic break – Question assumptions about what the thing being researched is. Don’t just take what the culture says it is as a given.

Construct the object – Define your own research terms.

e.g. Epist Br – Cyb Cul includes sound design

Con the Ob – I will research this by looking at x, y, z I will define sound design as blah blah blah.


Why is sound ignored in cyb cul studies?:

Visual studies already established in humanities. Sound less so.

Do some sound artefacts not fit the accepted cyb cul narrative/historio? E.g. CDs good example of early adopted digital artefact. Yet no Cyb Cul Studies write about them.

Did sound tech not seem as “revolutionary” thus not merit scholarly attention?


VR – Sound design has been creating impossible virtual spaces since the advent of recording technology. Why is this not considered in histories of Cyb Cul?

Interfaces – Should we have familiar trad. Interfaces for new tech? Something that music tech has been grappling with for years e.g. theremin and early patchbay moog designs. BUT! History of cyb cul doesn’t engage with this. The field is too selective!

But then writing history is always making editorial choices.

The Relevance of Algorithms – NOTES

The relevance of Algorithms

Tarleton Gillespie



Algorithms are key actors in deciding what information is relevant to us. They have the power to assign meaningfulness. They are not always software.

If human culture is now expressed mainly through computational tools then we are applying a certain epistemology to all culture. Algorithms are contesting the position of previous cultural arbiters: experts, scientific methods, common sense, word of god.

6 potential political effects of algorithms:

  1. Patterns of inclusion – What counts?
  2. Cycles of anticipation – Can the algo. Predict what you need? Should it?
  3. Evaluation of relevance – How is this measured? Are the metrics kept secret?
  4. The promise of objectivity – Algo. Is portrayed as impartial. How?
  5. Entanglement with practice – Users change their behaviour to fit the algo.
  6. Production of calculated publics – algo presents a public thus shaping their sense of self. Who benefits?


Remember: Algos are not fixed entities. They are being tinkered with and negotiated at all times. They are designed by humans and represent certain institutional values.


Study and algo. You need to ask what’s the database it’s drawing on. Don’t confuse the algo and the database as one thing.

3 stages – 1.) Collection – who decides what data is acceptable to collect? Is this universal?

2.) Prepared for algorithm  – Categorising asserts certain ontologies. E.g. what books on amazon are “adult” and thus excluded from the front page sales rank?

3.) Exclusion and demotion – who decides what should be presented? This practice is hidden in algos.



Search algorithms change from user input.

To give “better” results that are more relevant to you search algorithms need info about you. How does the algo determine what is it you want? What data does it draw upon? How can algo. Providers get you to offer up more info? How accurate can the user’s “data shadow” be? How much info is enough to make predictions?



Relevant is a fluid concept. There is no set metric. What metrics are used to approximate it? Since no unbiased measure is available there will always be elements of bias.

  1. Criteria used – Often kept private by the companies who make them. Don’t want users gaming the system.
  2. Commercial aims – Is there financial incentives for the algo producers to promote certain info? Can the social data and commercial data really be easily separated? E.g. what if you follow a product endorsing social media influencers? Is their info an ad or social data?
  3. Epistemological premises – Assumptions are made, is what is popular more relevant? Language used more relevant? Commercial or public sites more relevant? The algo. Is a cognitive artefact where the expertise and judgement of those who made it is hidden and automated.



Gives the algo. Credibility. How the creators of the algo. Portray this is important. Methods include repeated claims, obscuring how the algo works, the language used (“best results”)

Parallels with journalism – public interest and objective “fair”reporting. These are more ideals with attached rituals than something that is actually achieved.



Particularly true for businesses who deliver information as a commodity (google). If people don’t use it in practice the algo. Has failed. Users can shape their practice to better fit algorithms. E.g. twitter hashtags

Algos. Give power to those who know their workings.

As new algos. Become part of public life users may interact with them in unexpected ways. Although because how they work is kept secret it is harder for them to be truly public goods.

Shape how people think about things – knowledge logics. Facebook encourages us to “participate and share” more. Inoculates us with certain idea of privacy. Google – popular is more relevant.


Algo. Shape how digital publics/communities are formed, shaped and dissipate. Creation of echo chambers and filter bubbles.

Algo. Can create groups. E.g. facebook privacy setting “friends of friends”, only the algo. Can calculate the membership.

Social science based on big data is often drawing upon public data that has already been filtered through social media algo. Theories and knowledge based on this data tells us something about the public that has been calculated.

In creating these notes in some ways I have had to grapple with the same questions about informational relevance that are automated in algorithms. I have condensed a 32 page essay into a few pages of notes. That is inclusion and exclusion. To do this I am trying to anticipate what I will need to know in the future, particularly relating to what texts I might write on algorithms for the DigCul course. What are the key words that can tell me what is in the essay? If I can get this right I can look at my notes then decide if I need to read part of the essay again. To a certain extent my note taking is tangled with practice, the content may not end up being relevant but the discipline of writing precis and making judgements on what’s relevant is vital for studying. I’m still trying to improve these skills.


Critical education and digital cultures – Knox Notes

Critical education and digital cultures

From Springer Encyclopedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory

Jeremy Knox


Tech and culture approach is relevant to educational studies. Particularly as dig tech is used more.

Most education studies concentrate on a developing human subject. Thus open to humanist flaws e.g. universalism, rational progress, assumptions of autonomy. Makes instrumentalist assumptions of tech.

So don’t just think of benefits and limits of tech. Ask how is a tech used, valued, imagined by those involved.

Don’t think about improvement. Just think about describing what is happening.


Avoid determinism

Social determinism – humans drive tech change.

Tech. determinism – tech drives human change.


3 phases


Cybernetics. Internet as virtual space. Web 1.0 cyber utopianism. Studies on identity on the web. Influences education with ideas of “virtual e-learning”. No constraints of trad. Institutions. Students not limited by physical presence/identity.

Big sci fi influence. Tech is otherworldly.

Deterministic – web will improve education


Focus on social aspects of internet use. Web 2.0. Tech as passive tool for enabling social interaction. Internet as invisible network rather than virtual space. Tech is normal.

Education – moves from tech providing ed resources to tech enabling student-teacher interractions.

Tech will provide networks which will sort out problems of access, hierarchy, inequalities.

Critical Culture approach will question assumptions of whether social learning/connectivism is a “natural” way to learn or is there a silicon valley agenda at work.



An effort to make the tech visible in education research. Algorithms as network actors. How do algorithms shape education? Epistemologies? Research methods? More stats and the death of theory?


Tech is a complicated factor in education.