Technology Bytes Back? – #edcmooc

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Well, coming to the end of the first week in the University of Edinburgh’s E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC (EDCMOOC) and, having gone through the resources for Week 1, I have been given a fair amount of info to reflect on.

Chandler’s web essay on Technological Determinism had my head in a spin, as did Dahl’s article on a Non-Reductionist Methodology. Ironically, it made me realise how deeply I have been immersed in IT systems and networks and how ‘left-brained’ and algorithmic my thinking has become because of it.Technological determinism of a sort in action? From this point of view, I can certainly see where and why a reductionist approach would evolve. Of necessity, thinking within the technological sphere certainly involves reducing the sum of the whole to its parts, particularly in a linear fashion. This is inevitable when you are involved in troubleshooting a system or network problem.

As for reifying or treating technology as neutral, I can say from personal experience that this sort of determinism is disastrous. In my own experience with technology in a learning environment you ignore the social aspect at your peril. I think many educational institutions make the mistake of simply seeing technology as a means to an end – a magical panacea that will upgrade the teaching and learning experience at the mechanistic flick of a switch. At the risk of sounding deterministic myself, I feel that it is crucial that educators quite literally see the possibilities of blending the social and the technical and allowing each to impact upon the other, for good or for ill. There is certainly no technological or social golden mean in a world which is in a state of rapid flux, with human and technological agents acting upon one another all the time.

As to the utopian and dystopian views of technology. I feel that these are subjective and determined (no pun intended) by how the human agent conceives of technology, produces technological artefacts (or not) and moves within a reality that is becoming more and more interwoven with and dependent upon technology. The intimate intertwining of the social with the technological, and the myriad possibilities (for better or for worse) no longer allows for a neat reduction of the whole from one particular perspective but calls for a combined approach.

These are, of course, very early musings and create further technological/sociological/pedagogical mazes that need to be explored. Just what the correct approach might be will hopefully become clearer as I progress through the four weeks of this course. Further reflections on other resources to follow as I continue to get my thoughts in order.

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