Week 3 Resources

Popular cultures

Film 1: Toyota GT86: the ‘real deal’ advert (1:01) 
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Film 2: BT: heart to heart advert (0:40) 
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This advertisement for the Toyota GT86 plays on some of the dystopic visions of our immersion in a pixellated simulation of reality which may be familiar from some of the previous clips you’ve looked at. Here, the reality and authenticity of human emotion is aligned with speed, control and a ‘breaking out’ of the artificial into the ‘natural’. (Note, however, that the means of breaking out is still entirely technological!) The opposition created here is between digital technology as ‘unreal’ and de-humanising, and the natural world as authentic and living; how does this opposition continue to be played out in popular discussions about technology-mediated education? This advert takes on the theme of mediation and, again, the nature of ‘authentic’ human contact. What aspects of ‘the human’ do you see as being ‘re-asserted’ here? Can you link this clip with the notion of ‘the illusion of non-mediation’ referenced in the Kolowich article we are also looking at?
Film 3: World builder (9:16) 
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Film 4: They’re made out of meat (7:20) 
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World builder is a short film which explores some of the same themes (simulation, immersion, artifice) as the Toyota advertisement, though in a slightly more nuanced way. What is your interpretation of this film? In what ways does it position ‘the human’ in relation to the technological? What does it say about ways in which human emotion can be manipulated by digital simulation? This short film has a darkly comic grounding idea which we won’t spoil here! The vision of humanity it constructs is one which is rich but also slightly repellent - it works to make the notion of ‘the human’ seem strange. What conclusions might you draw from this about the human body, and whether we can see the body as providing a stable basis for defining what it means to be human? This is a theme we will return to in week 4.

Ideas and interpretations

Humanity 2.0: defining humanity - Steve Fuller’s TEDx Warwick talk (24:08),http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/newsandevents/podcasts/media/more/tedx?podcastItem=steve_fuller.mp4

View the presentation slides here 

In this lecture, Professor Steve Fuller (University of Warwick) takes us on a rapid ride through the history of how ‘humanity’ has been defined and made. By asking the question ‘have we always, sometimes or never been human?’, he draws our attention to the ways in which ‘humanity’ as a social category has been defined from ancient to medieval to modern times. ‘Let me tell you’, he says, ‘it is very difficult to define what it is to be human’. While you are watching this lecture, you might consider some of the following questions - these are also issues you should take up in your course discussions over the week. 

  1. Why does Professor Fuller say (almost as a joke) that education is ‘a dying art’?
  2. He talks about the ‘modern artifice’ of enhancement: how might this notion of becoming more ‘fully human’ via enhancement impact on the project of education?
  3. Professor Fuller argues that there’s historical precedent for considering only some homo sapiens to be ‘human’: what are the political implications of this in contemporary times? And how might such a notion position education?
  4. He suggests that we are questioning the very existence of the ‘human’ because we have failed in the humanist project (for example, we are far from achieving racial, gender or class equality): do you believe this?
  5. In claiming that ‘the old humanistic project should not be dropped’, Professor Fuller links his talk to our key theme of re-asserting the human. His stance seems to be that ‘you can only be morally credible’ if you are addressing issues of human freedom and equality. Thinking about education specifically, might we see MOOCs as an example of an ‘old humanistic project’, particularly in the promise they appear to offer for democratisation, equality of access and so on?

Nimrod Aloni. (1999). Humanistic Education. In The Encyclopaedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory, M. Peters, P. Ghiraldelli, B. Žarnić, A. Gibbons (eds.). http://marul.ffst.hr/ENCYCLOPAEDIA/doku.php?id=humanistic_education 

Where Professor Fuller’s lecture gives an historical account of the social construction of the idea of the human, this useful entry in The Encylopaedia of Educational Philosophy and Theory is very helpful to us in starting to understand how philosophical humanism has informed many of our ideas about education and its purpose. According to the author, the ideal of humanistic education is to ‘achieve in [our] students the right integration as well as the right tension between a commitment to high cultural standards and a strong sense of individuality in both the forms of autonomy and authenticity’. 

Many of the ways in which the article defines the function of the teacher seem unobjectionable: it suggests that the humanistic educator both ‘liberates their students from the fetters of ignorance, caprice, prejudice, alienation, and false-consciousness’ while also empowering them ‘actualize their human potentialities and lead autonomous, full, and fulfilling human lives’. How important to you - as an educator, a learner, someone with a stake in the idea of education - are these principles, derived from philosophical humanism? And in what ways might they be problematic? 

Read this text alongside next week’s core reading on Posthumanism, to get some insight into what alternative philosophical positions might bring to the question of education, and use it to get a sense of the perspectives informing the two articles below.. 

Perspectives on education

Kolowich, S (2010) The Human Element. Inside Higher Ed http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/03/29/lms 
This article attempts to make a case for the inclusion of more video and audio in online teaching, in order to increase the sense of presence and ‘human-touch’ for distance learners. Articles like this are standard fare in popular discussions of technology-mediated education. What happens if we look at it from a perspective informed by the readings we have been doing this week? If we accept that ‘humanity’ is an ambiguous category at best, where does that leave claims like the ones made here for ‘the human element’ as a touchstone for good course design? And why are video and audio constructed here as being ‘more human’ than, for example, text? What assumptions are at play here, and what do they say about the broader discourses which dominate discussions of technology and education? 

Monke, L (2004) The Human Touch, EducationNext http://educationnext.org/thehumantouch/ 
Monke’s article is a plea for a re-thinking of education policy prioritising technological ‘literacy’ in schools from the earliest years of education. It is intriguing to read this in the context of some of the thinking we’ve been exploring in this and previous weeks. Here are some questions you might consider in reading and discussing this: 

  1. Monke relies on a set of principles defined by ‘human purpose and meaning’ which set ‘the human’ very much in opposition to the technological. Technology education should be driven by ‘human values’ rather than by the prerogatives of the technology - is this simply a re-working of the ‘technology should follow pedagogy’ mantra we have already discussed?
  2. What kinds of divisions and oppositions does Monke set up between nature and technology? Between experience and mediation? Between ‘inner’ resources and external power? Between information and meaning? And what kind of perspective on ‘human nature’ does he rely on to maintain these divisions?
  3. Does his vision of education count as one of Steve Fuller’s ‘old humanist projects’ - the kinds of projects we need to ensure our ‘moral credibility’? Or is it simply a luddite view which fails to ‘get’ the new ways of being human that technology makes possible?
  4. We might find it quite easy to agree with his statement that young people should be helped to ‘think about, not just with, technology’, but do we need to depend on an oppositional relationship between the human and the technological to do this?
Last modified: Sunday, 28 June 2015, 11:40 PM