I posted a link to the complete Pew Research Report (Code-Dependent: Pros and Cons of the Algorithm Age) a few weeks back (March 11). This week, while thinking about my final assignment for Education and Digital Cultures, I returned to Theme 7: The need grows for algorithmic literacy, transparency and oversight.
While the respondents make a great deal of both interesting and important points about concerns that need to be addressed at a societal level – for example, managing accountability (or the dissolution thereof) and transparency of algorithms, avoiding centralized execution of bureaucratic reason/including checks and balances within the centralization enabled by algorithms – there were also points raised that need to be addressed at an educational level. Specifically, Justin Reich from MIT Teaching Systems Lab suggests that ‘those who design algorithms should be trained in ethics’, and Glen Ricart argues that there is a need for people to understand how algorithms affect them and for people to be able to personalize the algorithms they use. In the longer term, Reich’s point doesn’t seem to be limited to those studying computer science subjects, in that, if, as predicted elsewhere (theme 1) in the same report, algorithms continue to spread, more individuals will presumably be involved in their creation as a routine part of their profession (rather than their creation being reserved for computer scientists/programmers/etc.). Also, as computer science is ‘rolled out’ in primary and secondary schools, it makes sense that the study of (related) ethics ought to be a part of the curriculum at those levels also. Further, Ricart implies, in the first instance, that algorithmic literacy needs to be integrated into more general literacy/digital literacy instruction, and in the second, that all students will need to develop computational thinking and the ability to modify algorithms through code (unless black-boxed tool kits are provided to enable people to do this without coding per se, in the same way the Weebly enables people to build websites without writing code).
In week 11, I’ve consciously tried to wind back or wind down the Lifestream a little. I understand it is still assessed at this point – but by wind down I don’t mean stop. Rather, I mean ‘refocus’. I’ve tried to be selective about the content I’m feeding in, in order to focus on the assignment, and just feed content associated with that. It’s hard though, as in a sense adding to the Lifestream has supplanted my old habits of storing ‘to read’ texts elsewhere, and telling ‘the story of’ digital cultures through the Lifestream (and my own attempts to subvert algorithms that may be at play) has actually become quite addictive.
That said, I’ve been pursuing two themes in relation to the final assignment: the way that ‘imaginaries’ help create (educational) futures, and the notion of ‘algorithmic literacy’ and the potential to develop this. There’s been more of the former in the feed, but in part I think this may be just because it is better represented in media and research – I’m not convinced that the latter is the less worthy route to pursue.
Here are the ways I’ve been thinking about those themes, and some other bits of ‘life’ that have appeared in the stream:
I’ve been a little distracted the last couple of days, as I’m presenting the paper I wrote for my final assignment for Digital Education in Global Contexts (Semester B, 2015-16) at a conference today. To be fair, a lot of the conference seems focused on the promise technology is perceived to hold for education (I’m thinking of Siân Bayne’s 2015 inaugural lecture, The Trouble with Digital Education, 8:20) and I’m not certain that my paper will be of a great deal of interest to the audience, but it is, nonetheless, a little nerve wracking. As a consequence of over thinking it, no doubt I’ll also be summarising week 11’s lifestream and adding metadata later tonight.
Another exploration in the pursuit of the idea of ‘imaginaries’ and how these fictions play a generative role in the culture of technology – and specifically (my interest rather than that of the article) in education.
ABSTRACT: Scholarship in the history and sociology of technology has convincingly demonstrated that technological development is not inevitable, pre-destined or linear. In this paper I show how the creators of popular films including science consultants construct cinematic representations of technological possibilities as a means by which to overcome these obstacles and stimulate a desire in audiences to see potential technologies become realities. This paper focuses specifically on the production process in order to show how entertainment producers construct cinematic scenarios with an eye towards generating real-world funding opportunities and the ability to construct real-life prototypes. I introduce the term ‘diegetic prototypes’ to account for the ways in which cinematic depictions of future technologies demonstrate to large public audiences a technology’s need, viability and benevolence. Entertainment producers create diegetic prototypes by influencing dialogue, plot rationalizations, character interactions and narrative structure. These technologies only exist in the fictional world – what film scholars call the diegesis – but they exist as fully functioning objects in that world. The essay builds upon previous work on the notion of prototypes as ‘performative artefacts’. The performative aspects of prototypes are especially evident in diegetic prototypes because a film’s narrative structure contextualizes technologies within the social sphere. Technological objects in cinema are at once both completely artificial – all aspects of their depiction are controlled in production – and normalized within the text as practical objects that function properly and which people actually use as everyday objects.
At this point, I have to be totally honest and admit I haven’t got round to reading this yet. It looks as though it could shed light on the intricacies of how fictions influence reality, of how imaginaries can work as construction tools. I hope to get time to read it more closely this week – but it’s a busy, busy week..