“the fourth discontinuity is yet to be overcome and is the distinction between humans and machines”
“Norbert Wiener suggested that a pilot/aeroplane could be seen as a self-governing mechanism that continually processes and tries to respond to external stimuli under a complex, though ultimately predictable set of rules, in order to maintain homeostasis (that is, stability and control)” (Miller, V. 2011 Chapter 9, p211)
A number of interactions I had this morning with a learner using the VLE I manage and the VLE itself, brought me back to thinking about this paper and Wiener’s idea of the man-machine self-governing mechanism.
Whilst out and about, my smart-watch alerted me to a Forum message from a VLE user. I opened this on my phone to find out the details of the issue, which related to a duplicate account being created in error after being locked out of an existing account. I logged into the VLE and resolved the issue there and then and messaged the learner back to let them know everything was sorted. Whilst logged into the VLE automated notifications alerted me to a couple of small housekeeping tasks that needed completing and I dealt with those too. A few minutes later a notification popped up on my smart-watch with a ‘thank you’ from the learner. Normal service had been resumed.
As Miller proposes the lines between human and machine in those interactions were certainly blurred and one could argue that an observer might find it difficult to determine whether the machines were serving me or vice versa, or, as Miller suggests, the machines and I were ‘working together as a self-governing mechanism’.
My connections to my phone, my smart-watch and the remote VLE also reminded me of Donna Haraway’s ‘A manifesto for cyborgs’ and her proposition that “we are all chimeras, theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine and organism” (Haraway, 1991: 149-150), or as Hands, M. (2008) states “…what was previously visible as the hardware of technoculture and information culture is now increasingly invisible as the infrastructure of contemporary digital culture”.
Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.
Haraway, Donna (2007) A cyborg manifesto from Bell, David; Kennedy, Barbara M (eds), The cybercultures reader pp.34-65, London: Routledge.
Hand, M (2008) Hardware to everywhere: narratives of promise and threat, chapter 1 of Making digital cultures: access, interactivity and authenticity. Aldershot: Ashgate. pp 15-42.