Week 2 Summary

Week two has primarily been focused on the ethical concerns of new technologies. A paper by Amy DeBaets (2011) led me to a greater understanding of how transhumanist perspectives sit across the political spectrum. It was interesting to learn that it is quite possible to be technologically progressive but politically (economically) conservative. Introspection of moral imperatives continued through analysis of Ghost in the Shell, review of discussion between Joi Ito, Scott Dadich and Barack Obama on the moral programming decisions of self-driving cars, and the cultural implications of ‘perfect’ female robots for human female body image. I explored the ethical discomfort further through examination of robot use in Japan, and my subsequent reading of Jenniffer Robbinson’s article on Human Rights vs Robot rights.

Lifestream feeds this week were primarily concentrated upon building community. I’ve been there for peers, offering to test IFTTT streams – it’s strange to see because generally I see myself as less technologically able. I do seem to be able to troubleshoot, mind..  a core educational area in the press this week.

What is clear this week is that technology is not separate from culture. The influence is two ways, and we do need to be proactive in the decisions we make about which technology to use in education. Always, we need to ask.. is there a purpose? What are the consequences? No technology for technology’s sake.

Week One Summary

There have been several recurring themes for me during the first week of #mscedc:

  • The need for diversity

While setting up IFTTT, Twitter conversation jumped to algorithmic cultures and the ‘filter bubble’ (Pariser, 2011). Starting with boyd’s (2017) ideas of self-segregation, talk turned to motives for such segregation and the need for diversity in networks to support democratic process. The call for diversity was echoed in posts about Ghosts in the Shell, within which characters suggest similarity weakens the group, and difference is the foundation of life.

  • Memory

The short film Memory 2.0, as well as Eter9 (which promises an eternal digital life), caused discomfort connected to memories being recreated potentially without the consent or presence of those involved. Similarly, encounters with extropianism through Dahls’ William & Mary (1961)  and a comic (‘transhumanism gift cards’) raised questions about the ownership of disembodied minds (including memory data) and potential changes in the terms and conditions of service by corporate ‘body’ or ‘eternity’ providers. Memory was also considered in connection to identity in discussion of Robot & Frank (2012) and the character Motoko in Ghost in the Shell.

  • Lack of clarity about the ‘natural’ human

This arose from readings of the body as a site of cultural activity and quest for social distinction (Bourdieu, 1984; Williams & Bendelow, 1998), as well as recognition of the difficulty in defining ‘natural’ human effort in sport.

  • Technology’s influence on culture
Neolithic tools by Michael Greenhalgh (CC BY-SA 2.5)

From the impact of changed affirmation practices on self-segregation to questions of whether being assessed changes participation and musings about the affordances of print vs film, I was repeatedly drawn to the idea of technology not just as tool but as co-creator of culture.