I’m not ashamed to admit that I can be struck – deeply struck – by the loss of a celebrity. Like the loss of Carrie Fisher and Prince in 2016, this one hit me hard. We tend to attach a lot of meaning to stars – and not just the meaning that Hollywood star systems and the like hope we will. Stars matter because they are inspirational and aspirational, and even when they are larger-than-life, they are, in the end, fragile and human. They live and breathe and love and suffer and die like the rest of us.
Tag: Audrey Watters
The efficiency of teaching and learning – that means we need to talk about labor, in this illustration, in our imagined futures, in our stories. Because it’s not just the machine (or it’s not the machine alone) – in this depiction or in our practices – that is doing “the work.” There is invisible labor here. Not depicted. Not imagined. Not theorized or commented upon by Asimov.
Michael Horn writes in Edsurge about “Why Google Maps – not Netflix or Amazon – Points to the Future of Education.” Funny, it was just a few years ago that he wrote that, indeed, Netflix and Amazon did point the way.
It’s almost as though there are zero consequences in ed-tech for being full of shit.
It’s worth remembering, of course, that A Nation at Risk wasn’t so much a fact-finding commission as it was a carefully constructed (and statistically suspect) narrative about “failing schools” – a narrative that continues to be wielded in sequel after sequel after sequel after sequel after sequel after sequel.
I wanted to do a lot of screaming at the event, I confess.
But I didn’t want to just scream at the investors and entrepreneurs about the misinformation they heard and they spread. I wanted to scream at all those reporters and all those pundits who uncritically repeat these stories too and at all those educators who readily take it all in.
I have created a page that lists some of the titles. It does not include works of sociology or guides on instructional design. It also does not include “books from history,” that is books written by notable historical figures in the field.
📓 Technology is a System
Technology is not the sum of the artefacts, of the wheels and gears, of the rails and electronic transmitters. Technology is a system. It entails far more than its individual material components. Technology involves organization, procedures, symbols, new words, equations, and, most of all, a mindset.
Watters explains that this includes many elements within schools and should not be merely reduced to ‘computers’. In a second post, she explains that:
“Hardening schools” is an education technology endeavor, whether or not we take seriously anyone’s suggestions about giving teachers guns. For now, “hardening schools” explicitly calls for hardware like those items listed by Governor Scott: metal detectors and bulletproof windows, as well as surveillance cameras and various sensors that can detect gunfire. It also implies software – social media monitoring and predictive analytics tools, for example, that claim they can identify students “at risk” of violence or political extremism.
Coming at this problem from a different perspective, Genevieve Bell responded to questions of data and ‘neutrality’ in the Q&A associated with her Boyer Lectures. Given the example of the supposed innocence of a train timetable, she explained how Amazon use variables such as timetables to continually adjust the price of goods.
Discussing Game of Thrones, Zeynep Tufekci explains how technology is more than a story about a group of individuals:
That’s a story much bigger than Zuckerberg, Dorsey, Schmidt, Sandberg, Brin who-have-you. It’s also a story of Wall Street and increasing financialization of the world; it’s a story of what people are calling neoliberalism that’s been underway for decades. It is also a technical story: of machine learning and data surveillance, and our current inability deal with the implications of the whole technological stack as it is composed: hardware firmware mostly manufactured in China. Software everywhere that I’ve previously compared to building skyscrapers on swampy land. Our fundamentally insecure designs. Perhaps, more importantly our lack of functioning, sustainable alternatives that respect us, rather than act as extensions of their true owners.source
Inspired by Neil Postman, David Truss argues that technology changes everything.
Technology doesn’t just change our relationship to the tool, it changes the relationship to our environment.
Responding to the The Social Dilemma, Niall Docherty argues that we will never understand the problem until we understand technology as a set of relations.
it is necessary to re-frame social media as something more than a mere “tool”. Rather than simply leave it to former tech industry insiders to spell out the ills of social media in documentaries like The Social Dilemma, we must engage with thinkers from a diverse range of backgrounds to look to the historical conditions of social media’s origins, while always questioning the economics and cultural politics of its global dissemination. We must personally examine how our own thoughts and actions are subtly shaped by social media’s design, while taking time to listen to marginalized individuals and communities who are impacted the most by the violence produced through social media today. And by seeing technology as a relation, by sharing responsibility in this way, we lift the burden of fixing the problem from the individual user alone, and discard the moralizing discourses such a burden brings.
Yuk Hui suggests that rather than technology is a system that we are in a system which technology is a part of.
The unilateral globalization that has come to an end is being succeeded by the competition of technological acceleration and the allures of war, technological singularity, and transhumanist (pipe) dreams. The Anthropocene is a global axis of time and synchronization that is sustained by this view of technological progress towards the singularity. To reopen the question of technology is to refuse this homogeneous technological future that is presented to us as the only option.
In this episode, Kin and Audrey talk about the tech “regrets” industry, the attention economy, and more.
The coverage of Elon Musk’s companies is almost always coverage of Elon Musk. That’s how he wants it, of course. Journalists, as mythmakers, seem happy to oblige.
Amazon’s the sleeper to watch. It’s the one I think is increasingly shaping how we think about learning and how we think about work – and central to both in the American ideology, of course – how we think about consumption. The company has made a few gestures at “the education space.” It’s acquired math worksheet company. It’s launched Amazon Inspire – what it calls “an open collaboration service” (or more accurately, a site where educators can find and download and probably some day buy digital lessons and resources). Amazon also remains the go-to site for purchasing textbooks online. And ed-tech evangelists, as they’re wont to do, continue to write silly things about Alexa and the future of the “voice-activated classroom”
The problems of technology – and the problems of the storytelling about the computing industry today, which seems to regularly turn to the worst science fiction for inspiration – is bound up in all this. There’s a strong desire to create, crown, and laud the Hero – a tendency that’s going to end pretty badly if we don’t start thinking about care and community (and carrier bags) and dial back this wretched fascination with weapons, destruction, and disruption.
Instead of experts, Zuckerberg says, it’s going to be up to “the community.” This disdain for experts is part of the problem we face now – culturally, politically, intellectually. There are researchers whose field of study is precisely this: how do people assess the credibility of information sources? How do technologies shape our notion of trust? How is trust gained, and how is trust violated? How is trust gamed? But why listen to experts when Facebook’s CEO can just get the engineers down the hall to cobble together some poll, and then tell the users this is what they wanted all along. Personalization.
The Friendly Orange Glow is a history of PLATO – one that has long deserved to be told and that Dear does with meticulous care and detail. (The book was some three decades in the making.) But it’s also a history of why, following Sputnik, the US government came to fund educational computing. Its also – in between the lines, if you will – a history of why the locus of computing and educational computing specifically shifted to places like MIT, Xerox PARC, Stanford. The answer is not “because the technology was better” – not entirely. The answer has to do in part with funding – what changed when these educational computing efforts were no longer backed by federal money and part of Cold War era research but by venture capital. (Spoiler alert: it changes the timeline. It changes the culture. It changes the mission. It changes the technology.) And the answer has everything to do with power and ideology – with dogma.
I was supposed to speak to a reporter today about iPhones and addiction, but the interview fell through. I jotted down some of my thoughts in preparation for the call, and I thought I’d post them here in case it’s a topic I decide to return to and flesh out more in the future…