@StuiC Not quite: try https://t.co/p1WSQo0fNo to see a future. Ironically, I had to say ‘I am not a robot’ to generate the short url #mscedc

This was my reply to a Tweet responding to my earlier ‘Gumdrop’ Tweet. Here’s the Tweet I’m responding to:

It’s from a friend beyond the course, and good to have a response, however light-hearted, from beyond the world of EDC. I hope he watches the film.

In replying, I went searching for the URL for ‘Gumdrop’, and traced it to this site: https://www.singularityweblog.com/gumdrop-a-robot-story-short-sci-fi-film/ – I’m pleased I did. It looks a fascinating site to explore and follow, especially for the seventeen definitions of ‘singularity’, a term which connects with a lot of the set readings, but which, so far, I’ve not found within it (https://www.singularityweblog.com/17-definitions-of-the-technological-singularity/). I’ll keep looking out for it as I read on.

Also, it was interesting to read a bit more about ‘Gumdrop’ the film, and what its makers were aiming to communicate. Perhaps best of all, there are a stack of interesting-looking readings on lots of course-related topics on the site at https://www.singularityweblog.com/start-here/

Thanks, Stui!


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

‘Gumdrop’ has got me thinking (more than I thought it would) #mscedc

A stream-of-consciousness, of responses to watching, while watching. The film, by the way, is here:

1. I love the little details, the hesitation, the hand and finger motions. That’s an immediate first observation.
2. Then, as a second observation, ‘what is this? why have a robot-like figure doing this stuff?’
3. Next, I liked the irony, at about 1:30 mins in: “It’s like a movie set. Nothing is permanent, everything’s, a matte painting, everything’s an illusion, and it’s constantly changing.” Great from a non-human figure.
4. “I was the kid…” – ‘she’ thinks she is/was a kid! I should have picked that up earlier, at the start of the film, but I didn’t. Why not? Why the surprise now?
5. A machine having favourites. That reverses the ‘favourites’ notion in current digital cultures. That’s a thought-provoking moment. What other reversals await in possible digital futures?
6. Can machines be anything other than actors? Will they, then, be the best actors? Or not? Can a machine have genuine ambitions (I’m forced to rethink that word) from watching Charlie Chaplin?
7. Dancing – from the ‘waist’ up. Does that count? Does that work? Is it just new – or something else? Unsettling questions of previously (perhaps wrongly, given disabilities) settled categories for me.
8. “I like things that disturb me.” Hum. Me too, to a degree. Would you have degrees in this? Do you have any need for a stable self? Wow, I’m talking to a robot…
9. The different voice for the script read-through sounds false, contrived. Or is that great acting??
A lot of reaction and question from one short film!

from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Enjoying the film-festival fare. Wondering what it’s like to argue and negotiate with a machine. Can’t do that with a too-long tweet #mscedc

The above Tweet refers to the battle to send a 141-character-long Tweet. I can never win. You just can’t do it. But it never feels like an argument with technology, just a rule I can’t evade. This film felt different from that, for me.

We watched a short clip, and I’ve not seen the film. The trailer looks great:

The particular clip for the film festival is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZKrmyIbNCo&feature=youtu.be&list=PLZli0835JERNv_6mO7U5Wn0d-zeCOIENh

It’s a short clip, and I’ve not seen the film. Taken in itself, it makes me think about what it will be like to argue and negotiate with a machine. Will my grandchildren take that for granted, and will my children look back to now with the same kind of amusement and bemusement I look back on the more innocent days before mobile phones?

Clearly educational practices will change (are changing?) in light of such a prospect. I don’t see it myself as yet, but perhaps that’s simply limited exposure on my part. Or lack of observation.
This film chimed for me with a contents alert I received for the journal Social & Cultural Geography, for a new article published online last week. (David Bissell and Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr. ‘Whither labor geography and the rise of the robots? Social & Cultural Geography, 2017). They outline six ‘disciplinary interventions and opportunities’, namely:
  • Labor, robotics and new everyday routines
  • Labor, robotics and new workplaces
  • Labor, robotics and new forms of workforce surveillance
  • Labor, robotics and new techno-bodily relations
  • Labor, robotics and materializing futures
  • Labor, robotics and new experiments in living
We’re interested in education, not labor geography. But how about substituting ‘Education’ for the work ‘Labor’ in the above list, and seeing how the six categories then sound?
And, if you’re interested in looking further at that article, it’s available to Edinburgh students and staff on ‘My Ed’. Unless, of course, the system argues ‘I can let you…’ and ‘I’m not permitted…’ Perhaps firewalls are, already, the machine enforcing and requiring argument and negotiation…

from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Sorry to miss this Friday’s film festival. Trying to watch some any way. Finding ‘We Only Attack Ourselves’ to be thought-provoking. #mscedc

The film is here:

A thoughtful film. Here’s my four-act summation:

London. An urban wasteland. A flickering TV screen.
A robot-like character with a human, biological face. Seemingly uncertain of his movements.
Follows the light outside, only to find windy and cloudy weather.
Soundtrack lyrics: ”how come the sun doesn’t shine on me?’
A scarf blows away, towards a low and distant sun: a rare introduction of colour.
It’s cue to what comes to be seen as a prior story of two school-age-looking lovers; him vomiting in toilet; a medical diagnosis (presaging the character’s present existence); his medicalisation, and ‘treatment’, the anguished separation or him and her (a darkened chasm deepens between them).
Him ‘waking’ as a biological face on mechanical body.
Soundtrack lyrics: ‘how come the sun doesn’t shine on me?’.
Flickering TV screen of his fully biological past, not comforting him.
Showing him seemingly still in the same domestic setting, as his new android self. But not seen by her: she lives – and leaves.
Tears on the screen. He rips out the power for the screen; its destruction heralds his inability to stand.
He collapses. Vertical vomiting / ejaculating of body/mechanical fluids at the screen (cf. his tears, earlier) – cf. vomiting in toilet – at the broken memories, at the broken screen.
Inner light gone out; fade to black
And here are my reflections:
1. The film doesn’t dress up mechanical resurrection as real without remainder, as simply a continuation of biological life. Death comes across as a real chasm. She leaves. He can’t survive on his memories and projections alone.
2. The film doesn’t dress up its view of resurrection as a happy one. The inner light in his android self isn’t enough, and it fades. He can’t stand the memories – nor can he stand without them. He is held up by them, in two senses of ‘held up’, conflicting senses which seem to cancel themselves out with futile despair.
3. ‘We only attack ourselves’. The title wraps it up well.  ‘Don’t be afraid’, says the lyric, but the answer to fear is not here in this film. Myself, if I’m looking for life-after-death, I’m left looking for, hoping for, a strong saviour who comes to me in his strength, not mine, and from outside this system we might well call mortal life. Who is the ‘you’ of the repeated lyric ‘You know’?
This film casts a strong and long shadow over human consciousness preserved technologically as a way to preserve our selves beyond death. The digital has clear, and ultimately tragic, limits.
As such, it engages well with the extopianism and transhumanistic projects explored by Miller (2011: 214-216), connecting with the critique by Dreyfus of envisaging human intelligence as separable from human (biological) embodiment. Educationally, this connects with what we judge to be knowledge and learning, and how we conceive these terms, with or without reference to embodied practices.


from http://twitter.com/Digeded


A smart phone ‘infinity display’ is coming. https://t.co/sRADxLg4hE Does omniscience beckon? The god-trick looks alive and well. #mscedc

The language, as well as the functional need, for an ‘infinity display’ caught my eye. It’s an article about the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S8. I guess it’s a play on infinity pools. Here’s a Google headline on them:

The language for the pool is telling for the technology. It is constructed so that its “positioning gives the impression that it merges into the surrounding landscape”.

Carrying that across to the phone, here is an example of technological design – in this instance, the hardware – seeking to become invisible, blurred, at one with its surroundings. Of course, simultaneously it’s not. Hence, the attempted god-trick by the technology. Better, perhaps, that an earlier model coming with fire (but usually without brimstone), another marker of divine epiphany 😉

As an illustrative counterpoint, I also came across an article this week entitled ‘How I Quit My Smartphone Addiction and Really Started Living‘. Of course, such a title is as preposterous as an infinity screen, but the contrast is telling. The section most pertinent here reads as follows:

““My phone” has become “the phone”. It’s no longer my personal assistant; it has reverted back to being a piece of furniture – like “the fridge” or “the couch”, two other items you also wouldn’t carry around on your butt.”

Infinity has become manageable, adding infinity to life, it seems.

This tensive movement between technology, user and environment connects with some of the set reading. Miller (2011: 8) defines reflexivity as “the movement whereby that which has been used to generate the system is made, through a changed perspective, to become part of the system it generates”. ‘Infinity screen’ is a great example of this. It’s also a play for Miller’s “Platonic forehand” (p.12). Whether it’s successful as such is another matter, but the language reaches for it.

In terms of education, this merging of technology with environment heightens, rather than removes, the need for careful and critical consideration of the affordances and constraints offered by individual technologies, and technologies in tandem one with another. An ‘infinity classroom’ is some way off, but needs conceptualising and critiquing.

Here’s a picture of what the infinity screen might look like, for those who are interested:


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Reading Sian Bayne through biblical eyes

Sian Bayne’s article [‘What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning’?’ Learning Media and Technology 40(1), pp.5-20] reads for me in ways she might well not expect. My context is theological education, the training of church ministers to think about the whole of life theologically. Specifically, I’m a biblical scholar and teacher and, as part of the whole-of-life remit for my students, I want to help them learn how to read and relate with technology theologically. A non-theological understanding of technology would be deficient for their learning contexts and training outcomes.

This leads me to read Bayne’s article through different eyes, and I want to unpack some initial thoughts here. I realise this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is very much my context, and I’m feeling my way into it. I’d value feedback on this from others, and these theologically-charged comments might well be a sustained way that I use to reflect on some of the set readings over the span of the course. Also, I’d like to feel towards the feasibility of a possible dissertation topic on this topic, and would value dialogue with that in mind, too.
Bayne says (p.7) “The language we use to define a field is always performative – it brings it into focus and into being in a particular way, and this focus of and mode of being is always ideologically inflected.” I very much agree, and this for me captures why I need to think about technology theologically in order to be able to teach about technology theologically.
Bayne (p.9), quoting Hamilton and Friesen (2013: 3) is concerned that we reach for “a fuller understanding of technologies as social objects.” Within a theologically-charged understanding of technologies, this moves beyond homo faber (bouncing here off Miller 2011, another set reading), into homo adorans, that is, that we become what we love, what we worship, that ‘things’ can make us, and we give our desires and allegiance to them.
Here, I think I’m reading Bayne at a slant, but a highly stimulating one for my context, and for developing a digital culture within it, appropriate to it. Bayne (p.9) reacts against “the alluring and efficient neatness of its [TEL’s] division of the social and the technological… the redaction of… complex entanglements” to either harnessing technology or it transforming education. I think a theologically-charged reading would do likewise. This also parallels Bayne (p.10), quoting Hamilton and Frisen (2013: 16) asks what about where technologies “fail in relation to our expectations of education.” Thinking about technology theologically, in sacral-social instantiations, will include this negative question too.
If I summarise and paraphrase Bayne, rather than quoting or citing her, I’m reading her world as a complex one, where humans are not at the centre, nor where they are separate from their surroundings, nor are they constituted apart from wider relations of varying kinds. The kind of world she is reacting against strikes me as being that of western secular modernism, an individualism bleached of anything beyond the secular. Certainly her quotation from Simon 2003: 3-4) on p.12 sets up her position against that of the Enlightenment. It’s not then that I’m arguing that her alternative is a biblical worldview – far from it – but I think her critique opens up suggestive possibilities for such a worldview (if that is something one wants to pursue – and I do).
Bayne (p.12) sees critical posthumanism as attempting to negotiate what Braun (2004: 1352) sees as a “devastating absence” are the core of previous Enlightenment project(ion)s of what it means to be human. In a future post, I’d like to explore a different navigation of this absence, wherein the ascended Jesus represents an alternative approach to reading both the human and technology. I’m not going to develop that here, but it spins off other work I’ve written on the ascended Jesus, using critical spatial theory. The transhumanist vision of how “to remove human limitations” (p.13) is not the only option for addressing such limitations. In short, if I can coin a term, an educative negotiation of technology (and the technological negotiation of education) in my theologically-charged context invites a christohumanism.
Like Bayne (p.14) this will not assume that enhancement is always a good. That would start to render it a god. That would be, along with Bayne, “both normative and highly problematic.”
A christohumanism will also need a wider ontological framing to locate it. Alongside Hayles (1999: 5), cited by Bayne (p.15), this too needs to “recognise human ‘finitude'”. It will do so within a created order where – with Bayne – the human is seen “neither as dominating technology nor as being dominated by it”, but where both the human and education are “being performed through a coming together of the human and non-human, the material and the discursive.”
The radical distinction is that I doubt Bayne ever anticipates a biblical ontology, with plenty of non-human subjects and agents: God, false gods, angels, principalities and powers, demons, spirits, heavenly creatures…. If such a world could be granted a moment of consideration, at least for my context, then it’s very different from the human-centred, humans-as-somehow-separate-from-their-context humanism that Bayne reacts against. I’m not painting this ontology in any detail here, but simply saying that my context requires it, and am asking whether educational studies would or could allow discursive space for it.
There’s a lot more I’d like to say and develop on this. A dissertation topic, perhaps. Perhaps, too, I need to develop some of the sketches in subsequent postings and comments. To that end, please react and respond, I’d be grateful to hear what others think.

The ethics & politics of scholarly digital platforms & networks, at least partly uncovered https://t.co/BWqz6bwC43 Let’s get better. #mscedc

This is the second of a trio of posts based on articles found in a search to try and bring education into sharper focus in terms of contexts for digital cultures.

On one level, compared to the other two articles, this is much more individual, and at the higher-status end of the academic food-chain. These are professors, people seeking profile, visibility, networks at the higher-end stratification of the educational hierarchy. But the same anxieties and possibilities about the digital in education express themselves in differing ways.

Mixed in with a certain distancing, and disdain, for for-profit corporations? Never mind the HP computer ads surrounding this website, and the computers on which the work is produced… there’s no escaping the digital embrace, but here are some struggles to make it better, at least.  My Tweet only allowed me to hint at that: the reality of it will be much bigger than 140 characters can accommodate.

from http://twitter.com/Digeded

The shadow-side of education in Silicon Valley. Teachers priced out is the wrong kind of distance education. https://t.co/zDOMBewlCa #mscedc

This is the second of a trio of posts based on articles found in a search to try and bring education into sharper focus in terms of contexts for digital cultures.

If the previous post highlighted for me how digital cultures can be involved in the complex of solutions for a place like Kenya, this article reminded me that even the archetypal places of digital culture such as Silicon Valley are implicated, also, in the problems and challenges of education. The prosperity accruing to the area as a result of digital industry and revenue generation is unequally spread, creating new kinds of digital gaps within education locally. The contrast in hopes and fears with the Kenyan example are stark and illuminating.

As my Tweet highlights, this can result in the wrong kind of distance education. Towards the end of the article:

“Even teachers are not immune to such difficulties. Ten of the staff who work on early education programs – one-third of the total – commute two or more hours each way a day because they cannot find housing they can afford.

Amanda Kemp, 47, is the principal of an East Palo Alto school. Based on her income, she says she has no option but to share a home with three other educators. “I was done with roommates in college,” she said. “Not once did I even think I would live with others unless it was a significant other.”

Hernandez-Goff hopes to build apartments for staff on land owned by the school district. She speaks of her students and employees as an endangered species, on the verge of extinction.

Their predicament is not abstract to her. “I love this place,” she said. “I wish I could buy a house here.””


from http://twitter.com/Digeded

Digital education in Kenya, & local hopes and fears. Striking differences from, but similarities to, the UK. https://t.co/cWEttSA8Hp #mscedc

This is one of a trio of articles found in a search to try and bring education into sharper focus in terms of contexts for digital cultures.

I struck by how the Kenyan socio-economic context filters the same kind of debates about the scope of digital resources to inspire and transform learning and education. The large claims and dreams for digital education sound strangely familiar from issues raised within the IDEL course. Digital education as “the ultimate equaliser” (the words of a CEO of a company in the sector) comes up against ‘gaps’ which are digital and much more. The much more also needs addressing, alongside as well as by the digital. A report cited towards the end of this article calls for “structured pedagogic programmes, additional instructional time, remedial education and community engagement” (p.iv), and affirms (p.1) that ” there are no ‘magic bullets’ to ensure high-quality education for all, but there are lessons to be learned for improving future education programmes.” Digital education can be part of that, but is not the totality of it.


from http://twitter.com/Digeded