Week 2 Resources

Popular cultures

Film 1: A Day Made of Glass 2 (5:58)


Film 2: Bridging our Future (3:17) 

These are two video advertisements - one from Corning, and one from Intel - setting out these companies’ visions of how their products will evolve and be used in the future. In both cases, the companies position their information technologies as completely integrated with daily life and education. Questions you might try to answer in the discussion boards, on 腾讯微博, or in the form of an image are: 

  • how is education being visualised here? what is being learned and taught?
  • what is the nature of communication in these future worlds?
  • are these utopian or a dystopian visions to you? In what way(s)?

Film 3: A Digital Tomorrow (9:36) 


This is a video-based 'design fiction' created as part of a research project about gesture and digital rituals. It is a playful, ironic reframing of the sorts of narratives you saw in the Corning and Intel videos - here, future technology is portrayed as just as frustrating, mundane and absorbing as its present day counterpart. What do you think the creators of this video are trying to say about our digital futures?

Film 4: Sight (7:50) 

Sight explores how the ubiquity of data and the increasingly blurry line between the digital and the material might play out in the sphere of human relationships. The focus on the emerging social and educational use of game-based ‘badging’ is particularly interesting. What is going on here, and how do you interpret the ending? How does this vision align and contrast with the ones in the first two films?

Ideas and interpretations

Johnston, R (2009) Salvation or destruction: metaphors of the internet. First Monday, 14(4).http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2370/2158

Johnston draws from the key work of Lakoff and Johnson to highlight the important work that metaphors do in shaping our thinking. She identifies two broad categories of metaphors drawn from the titles of editorials about the internet in late 2008 - those that take a utopian perspective (salvation - transformative and revolutionary) and those that are dystopian (destruction - attacking and supplanting). Last week we explored how to identify and consider determinist positions about digital cultures and e-learning. Noticing the sorts of metaphors that are used to draw comparisons between the unfamiliar and the familiar, or the abstract and the concrete, can be another very useful way of understanding the assumptions that people are making about e- learning (the ‘native’ and the ‘immigrant’, for example). In the next ‘perspectives’ section, we will look at some MOOC-related articles, and this will be a great opportunity to do a bit of metaphor analysis of your own. What examples of both ‘salvation’ and ‘destruction’ metaphors can you find in these, or other MOOC reports and editorials? How does Shirky’s metaphor of the MP3, for example, create a certain kind of story around the MOOC? 

Newitz, A. (2011): Social media is science fiction. Google I/O conference, 10-11 May 2011, San Francisco. 
Watch on YouTube 
This video should begin at minute 7:00 (if it doesn't, start at 7:00 yourself), where Annalee Newitz describes four common stories that science fiction tells us about the future of social media. Her talk lasts about 5 minutes. What do these stories indicate about our future options and relations with technology? And what do they tell us about our preoccupations and assumptions now (or in the recent past)? To what extent are they structured by the utopia-dystopia opposition?  

Bleecker, J. (2006). A manifesto for networked objects — Cohabiting with pigeons, arphids and Aibos in the Internet of Things.
This article looks ahead to the increasing potential for objects connected to the Internet, the so- called Internet of Things, to interact with each other and with humans by blogging (Bleecker calls these objects ‘blogjects’). The paper looks forward to a cacophony of inanimate objects murmuring in cyberspace or getting lost in their own private conversations. Bleecker stresses that it is the networked, communicative nature of Things that is important - what they say, and to whom - not their technical ability to store and transmit data: 

The significance of the Internet of Things is not at all about instrumented machine-to-machine communication, or sensors that spew reams of data credit card transactions, or quantities of water flows, or records of how many vehicles passed a particular checkpoint along a highway. Those sensor-based things are lifeless, asocial recording instruments when placed alongside of the Blogject. (p.15)

While Bleecker sees this future in largely utopian terms, you might consider it in light of this week’s films, and sketch out some of the ways that a future of blogjects might present some complex ethical and practical problems. Can you find some more recent examples of developments that fit into Bleecker’s vision of ‘cohabiting with pigeons’? 

Perspectives on education

Balfour, S., 2013. Assessing Writing in MOOCs: Automated Essay Scoring and Calibrated Peer ReviewTM. Research and Practice in Assessment, 8, pp.40–48. http://www.rpajournal.com/assessing-writing-in-moocs-automated-essay-scoring-and-calibrated-peer-review/ 

Stewart, B., 2013. Massiveness + Openness = New Literacies of Participation? Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 9(2).http://jolt.merlot.org/vol9no2/stewart_bonnie_0613.htm 

The two education resources this week are academic explorations of possible futures for the MOOC. The first is focused on assessment, and there are a number of assumptions about institutionalisation, accreditation and the purpose of the MOOC that come along with that. The second looks at how the MOOC format might generate new networked digital literacies in its participants, and again, there are many assumptions about the purpose and nature of learning embedded in this way of describing the MOOC. 

When reading these, consider both the stories that each are telling and the metaphors in use. What educational futures are seen as possible, likely, and desirable in these different articles? You might pay attention, for example, to Stewart’s discussion of the ‘sea’ and ‘flow’ of information; ‘sowing seeds’ of new literacies. How does this compare with Balfour’s use of metaphors like ‘mechanisms’ and ‘machine learning’? How do these two authors approach the idea of ‘creativity’ in a MOOC? What are the utopian and dystopian visions present or implied in each, and which future do you find most convincing? 

Last modified: Monday, 9 November 2015, 3:17 PM