Comment on Lifestream, Tweets by Renee Furner

Thanks for your comment, Jeremy. You are quite right, the link to cybercultures is tenuous at best! Having recently readSiân Bayne’s (2015) paper, I was more focused on the ‘what is wrong with technology’ criticism of TEL terminology (i.e. narratives which separate technology from social practice). Here the connection is, as you have highlighted, more directly linked to our block on algorithmic cultures. I guess, though, in my mind there is also a loose connection (not made in my post!) between these new ‘smart’ toys and those of J.F. Sebastian in Blade Runner. I find that world to be quite a lonely one, where human-human friendships are replaced by human-machine ones.

Also, there’s the idea of enhancement, in that if we extend the discussion beyond toys with voice recognition that collect data and ‘speak back’ to include the full range of digital technologies marketed at children, we encounter dialogues which position the said toys as necessary for children’s development of digital literacies and future life opportunities, and which will enhance their cognitive growth. As Bayne (2015, p. 11) highlights, such narratives of cognitive enhancement create ‘a discursive link with transhumanism’.

On this last point, a friend who is parent to an eleven-year-old and a seven-year-old in Hong Kong recently raised her concerns about the pressures placed on parents (I would say largely by corporate marketing but also from within education and between parents) to future-proof their children through giving them access to digital tools, and programmes which teach them to code, for example. My friend argued that it was more important to focus on developing distinctly human qualities, such as empathy and imagination, but that her focus on this was at odds with the educational and cultural perspectives surrounding her. While I don’t disagree with the need for development of empathy and imagination, I also don’t see (digital) technology-rich environments as necessarily limiting these. There still seems to be a this or that / technological or human / scientific or creative tension at play, which is reflective of the human / cyborg opposition within much of cyberpunk. To me, there seems to be room for more non-binary thinking within discussions of who we (or our children) might be as humans in the future/within an age so enmeshed in digital technologies.

from Comments for Renée’s EDC blog

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