Daily Archives: February 2, 2017

Pinterest! Hand and Trump but who’s holding the cards?

Pinned to Education and Digital Cultures: A petition to stop US President Donald Trump’s making an official state visit to Britain had gained more than a million signatures by Monday, an an apparent backlash to Trump’s controversial travel ban. http://ift.tt/2jLXmPx

This topical issue reminds me of a particular perspective and affordance of the internet described by Hand (2008) as a “tool for democratisation”:

The temporality of the Net allows for instantaneous relations. That is, the Net provides the architecture for a continuous feedback loop between citizen and state

Is the ability to sign this petition beneficial to UK citizens or not? Does it give us only the illusion that we have a say, or is it democracy in dynamic digital action? Threat, or promise? Ineffectual?

How audible and valued is the voice of the student? After the annual student surveys many universities run advertising campaigns to prove they are listening to their students, “You said, we did …” This is the voice of capitalism and commerce as institutions have to compete for student numbers. Audrey Watters regards the voice of the student as muted and controlled.

Elastic Time – Week 3 thoughts

Image by Ian Foss, Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/badboy69/2333409688

Elastic Time (not a cyberpunk band)

Thoughts about time have weaved through the lifestream over the past couple of weeks and through the themes of this first EDC block. The lifestream can reflect the speed at which new information is pelted at us on the internet – the blog is a way of grabbing at these multimedia bytes like pulling items off shelves in a frantic trolley dash. Here, time is contracted, so that much seems to happen all at once relentlessly. This is life on the internet and through this lens we can see how education and learning might work – finding, noting, glimpsing, gathering, liking, sharing and curating multiple information inputs from heterogeneous sources and making sense of them when elastic time expands a little for us to summarise and theorise on our pickings.

Thoughts, also, about how there must be a lapse of time before we can properly assimilate these new ideas and info scraps and forge links with our ‘already understood’ – this process happens subliminally, as if by some unconscious other.

When time is contracted we feel a little out-of-control and our lifestream blog can celebrate this relatively ungoverned and seemingly frenetic activity. We should “honour the mess” of our phenomenology (Fenwick and Edwards, 2010). Perhaps this digital stream is a vivid representation of how we pick up and absorb knowledge and experience as we go about our lives, grasping ideas on-the-fly and having flashes of connection or inspiration – education and learning not being confined to one space, nor one time, nor one network, nor even especially to one iteration of ourselves.

Time stretches when I read that Haraway (2007) enumerates the breached boundaries between, for example, science and religion, the human and the technological, the human and animal, and consider that these ontologies have been called into question for some good amount of it. Yet we seem little prepared to “navigate” the “devastated absence” (Bayne, 2015) left by the departed humanist – it is a desert space with no gods peopled by human chimeras and curious cryogenic recoverings, where we might fall prey to creeds of greed and insularity.

Here we are in our experimental sociotechnical internet classroom, homo faber (Miller,2011) in symbiosis with our machines, and trying to make sense of the not-quite-in-control to see if it attests to, or incarnates, our learning. We are tech voyeurs being surveilled, surrendering our data and privacy. We are profiting from our online community and benefiting from our access to everything. We are reading narratives of threat and promise (Hand, 2008) and living them out at the same time.

There seems to be a world of time passed since the early, and now dated, visualisations of cyberculture we have examined in Togethertube. Yet this has all happened in my lifetime, being already someone who can remember early computers and first debates about hypertext. I am out of time, not knowing any of the digital cultural references, and, as a human in the old accepted sense, also out of time. I am, I hope, just in time … trying to “get back on” and salvage my lifestream after some unavoidable absence.


Bayne, S. (2014) What’s the matter with ‘Technology Enhanced Learning’? Learning, Media and Technology, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2014.915851
Fenwick, T., & Edwards, R. (2010). Actor-network theory in education. 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. (e-reserve, pdf)
Haraway, D. (2007) A Cyborg Manifesto. London: Routledge.
Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.


Liked on YouTube! Donna Haraway: “From Cyborgs to Companion Species”

Labrador Friendship Dog Nature Snout Trust

Donna Haraway: “From Cyborgs to Companion Species”
Donna Haraway presented her lecture as the 2003-2004 Avenali Chair in the Humanities at the Townsend Center for the Humanities, UC Berkeley. Haraway is a prominent theorist of the relationships between people and machines, and her work has incited debate in fields as varied as primatology, philosophy, and developmental biology. Haraway’s The Cyborg Manifesto, first published in 1985, is now taught in undergraduate classes at countless universities and has been reprinted or translated in numerous anthologies in North America, Japan, and Europe.
via YouTube https://youtu.be/Q9gis7-Jads

I liked this YouTube clip because I enjoyed Donna Haraway’s amazingly eloquent, witty and erudite exploration of the relationship between people, machines and animals. She describes “us” (specifically herself and her audience, and more generally, humans) as

congeries of mini species running into the millions of entities which indeed are the very conditions of our being

This complex interrelation of our broken-down biological selves and what or whoever we come into emergence with she goes on to describe, quoting Margulis and Sagan, as a process of “the co-opting of strangers, the involvement and infolding of others”. This biological perspective vividly illuminates a way we might think of our technological adoption and adaption, of humans as being describable only in relation to what they are doing with what or whom where and when 🙂

Companion Species are assemblages of living and non living ‘species’, as well as human and non-human organisms

(Margulis, L. & Sagan, D. (2002). Acquiring Genomes: A Theory Of The Origin Of Species. Perseus Books, New York.)

Instagram! Times Ed crammed with tech

The latest edition of TES is crammed with features involving techology in some way. This isn’t surprising since the digital is now implicit and entwined in so much of our lives. As Bill Thompson remarked in this podcasthe is wary of institutions that need to develop their ‘digital’ strategy – there should be no need to prepend strategy with digital.

In the TES this week there are articles on data protection and security, giant Ed-tech companies and their mission to convince education of the indispensable nature of their software, an app to measure pupils’ resilience and a report on Ed Scheninger, luddite turned ed-tech proselyte.

So interesting to read these articles in the light of Bayne’s paper, What’s the matter with TEL? and thoughts about the work of Audrey Watters.

An app named Lengo, devised to encourage and measure students’ soft skills is described as being able to “instil appropriate behaviour in students”. Is this desirable? Who chooses what constitutes a “desired skill or character trait”? Who deems what is appropriate behaviour? Can this really be measured and what happens to the data and the “meaningful feedback”? This seems to be technology leading quasi-education, another company contributing to the commercialisation of education involving questionable surveillance of students.

Ed Scheninger’s perspective on technology for education is in marked contrast to Bayne’s plea for educationalists to become “critical protagonists in wider debates on the new forms of education, subjectivity, society and culture worked-through by contemporary technological change” (p.18). Whilst he acknowledges that it wasn’t just the technology that had wrought great changes in his institution, technology is still regarded in an instrumentalist and essentialist light in his account:

“We made sure that if technology is not going to improve a lesson or learner outcomes, then we don’t use it.”

This seems to me to exemplify what Bayne means by “the ontological isolation of the human from its material contexts” (p.18).