This talk was delivered at Virginia Commonwealth University today as part of a seminar co-sponsored by the Departments of English and Sociology. The slides are also available here. Thank you very much for inviting me here to speak today.
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I started out by trying to grab a few select quotes from this talk that Watters delivered at Virginia Commonwealth University in November 2016, but it is pretty much all gold. She writes about how the stories we tell – or have told to us – about technology and educational technology direct the future, and asks how these stories affect decision making within education:
Here’s my “take home” point: if you repeat this fantasy, these predictions often enough, if you repeat it in front of powerful investors, university administrators, politicians, journalists, then the fantasy becomes factualized. (Not factual. Not true. But “truthy,” to borrow from Stephen Colbert’s notion of “truthiness.”) So you repeat the fantasy in order to direct and to control the future. Because this is key: the fantasy then becomes the basis for decision-making.
..to predict the future is to control it – to attempt to control the story, to attempt to control what comes to pass.
Watters’ interrogation of future stories – stories by Gartner, by the New Horizon Report, by Justin Thrun, and others – demonstrate that these stories tell us much more about what kind of future the story-tellers want than about future per se. This matters, Watters suggests, because these stories are used to ‘define, disrupt, [and] destabilize’ our institutions:
I pay attention to this story, as someone who studies education and education technology, because I think these sorts of predictions, these assessments about the present and the future, frequently serve to define, disrupt, destabilize our institutions. This is particularly pertinent to our schools which are already caught between a boundedness to the past – replicating scholarship, cultural capital, for example – and the demands they bend to the future – preparing students for civic, economic, social relations yet to be determined.
It’s a powerful read – and connected to the idea I want to pursue in my final assignment. I’m interested in seeing if there are different stories being told to different segments of the population, and trying to imagine what the consequences of that different imagining might be.