This was great Brian and watching it again I cannot help but be reminded of the ways technology can be used in so many ways, both for the benefit of others or to enhance bodies and make them ‘super’. Your montage was very well executed and the choice of music and font worked extremely well. Like any other ‘development’, good or bad intentions are in the minds of whoever wields them and there is no use ‘blaming’ technology.
Comments on Val’s Visual Artefact
I was really impressed by this and I think you have shown the juxtaposition of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ spaces within education very well. I would posit that, even in today’s 21st century classrooms, there are still significant numbers of educators who would be far more at home sitting on the left-hand desk, than that of the one of the right. I can immediately think of a handful of individuals in my own institution who would fall into this category – the proud Luddites, digital laggards and techno-sceptics, who resist, bemoan and detract at even this tiniest suggestion of technological advancement within their teaching practice.
However, your image could also represent the theme of digital divides that exists in technology enhanced learning, and this is one of the key themes explored in the Digital Education in a Global Context module. It considers how there are deep regional and global divisions in the way in which technology is accessed and utilised for education – the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and all those in between. It also examines how, as technology advances, there comes rapidly changing cultural norms, and discusses how the need to keep apace with those norms creates a high degree of friction amongst educators and their students. I wonder how many learning spaces and educators around the world are sitting comfortably on the right hand desk? Very thought provoking 😊
Ewins, R. (2019) White Paper in Digital Divides, from Digital Education in a Global Context module.
Comments on Charles’s Visual Artefact
Thank you for your beautiful pictures. I have been to Budapest many times, and I have an apartment just near Heroes Sq, so it holds a very special place in my heart.
As a teacher of secondary history, your quotation had real poignancy for me, as it is something I often proclaim to my students, particularly when teaching certain topics that show humans making the same mistakes over (WW1 followed by WW2, African slavery in America followed by the Jim Crow etc). It also brought me in mind of similar quotation from German philosopher Georg Hegel who said ‘We learn from history, that we do not learn from history’.
I would echo what Jeremy has said about how this applies to digital education, in that it seems that there are we are perhaps repackaging the same thing and delivering it over and over again with a nothing more than a rebrand.
I would also extend those comments to education on a wider scale. Every few years teachers are promised paradigm shifts in educational practice through new delivery methods, pedagogies and approaches to learning. But speaking to older colleagues, these only engender a feeling of déjà vu, and a ‘been there, done that’ mentality.
But I wonder, does the ever-changing vernacular of digital education really matter? Surely, the rapidly evolving nature of technology is what is significant in making educational change. Where pedagogies and schools of thought can be cyclical, emerging technologies can only give an upward and onward trajectory to be truly transformative in education.
Great video Jon. At first, I thought this is what had really happened in the production of your visual artefact, so you had me going all the way to the end!
You say: ‘some techno evangelists will believe that all thing technical will enhance the experience regardless of how it’s used’
I have known a few of these individuals in my time in education and they are difficult characters to manage. I used to know one head of school, who was such an ardent believer in the power of technology for pushing boundaries in education, that he brought in any technological development he came across. The only problem was that this done was indiscriminately and without due diligence, and resulted in a number of platforms and technologies working in direct competition to each other. The result was an ‘gordian knot’ of tech, that was difficult, and in some cases near impossible, to disentangle.
Comment on Adrienne’s Visual Artefact
Hi Adrienne. Thank you for sharing your visual artefact. ‘The cyborg is a feature of social reality, as well as science fiction.’ This theme has also had an impact on me, and has helped me to realign my understanding of what we mean by the term cyborgs. Prior to starting the course, I had little concept of the ‘social reality’ of cyborgs and had not fully considered the real world application of the terminology. The use of this quotation in your artefact had poignancy for me.
However, I would challenge your assertion that popular culture still depicts female cyborgs as vulnerable. I would ask you to reconsider this by looking at the recent examples of the female Terminator (the TX) in Terminator 3 (2003), as well as the Seven of Nine character from Star Trek: Voyager series and more recently Star Trek: Picard (1997 – 2001, 2020). Both are represented through a strong and tenacious characterisation. Is there perhaps a wind of change, or are these anomalies in how the female cyborg is represented in popular culture?
Comments on Human Digital Screenome Memoir
A really great visual artefact here David. Thank you for sharing this. I had never heard of the Human Screenome Project before, but it certainly makes me consider its practical use and potential impact.
I recently delivered an assembly to our Year 10 students on the topic of ‘screen time’. As a prop in the assembly I shared the data from the app, Moment, on my iPhone, to visualises how much screen-time I had personally spent on my device over the 4 weeks prior. As it turned out, it was quite a lot and that didn’t include hours spent on my iPad, laptop or desktop etc. It was quite shocking actually!
I also couldn’t understand specifically what I had been doing over that time… It felt like a lot of ‘lost’ hours. So, something of this nature, which adds an extra layer of data on the specific patterns of online activity, would certainly have been useful. There is definitely a practical application that this type of data could generate for users.
That said, I don’t think I would have been so willing to share that visual data with my audience, and so privacy is definitely an issue to consider.
Thank you again for sharing this.
In reply to dyeats
Thank you for your comments David.
Yes, I did see ‘Years and Years’ when it first screened. However, I was far more enticed to the programme by its socio-political storylines rather than its commentary on the development of technology. In fact, as the series progressed and the daughter went ever further down her transhumanist journey, I became increasingly frustrated as a viewer and felt that the show was deviating from what was a hard-hitting imagination of a (not-too-distant or implausible) dystopia created by Trumpian policy, Brexit Britain, the migrant crisis and a whole host of other ‘real-life’ contemporary issues. At the time, the transhuman storyline just didn’t ring quite true for me.
It’s odd how my perception of the show has changed since starting this course and I have delved more and more into scholarly analysis of transhumanism and posthumanism. Having re-evaluated the characterisation of the transhumanist daughter it is possible to see that her extropian ideals are actually widely mirrored by many youngsters today, and the idea of biohacking is gaining traction amongst younger people. The scene where the wonky cybernetic eye implant that had installed by back-street charlatans, may not be that far removed from the reality of our near future.
I think you also raise some interesting points here about the ownership of technology, and how there may tensions that could arise, particularly in terms of governmental/ corporate ownership, and how much control they could assert over posthumans. As Hayles states, ‘consider the six-million dollar man… As his name implies, the parts of the self are owned, but they are owned precisely because they were purchased, not because ownership is a natural condition”. She goes to onto say, “similarly, the presumption that there is agency, desire or will belonging to the self and clearly distinguished from the “wills of others” is undercut in the posthuman, for the posthuman’s collective heterogenous quality implies a distributed cognition located in disparate parts that may be in only tenuous communication with one another.” How will we be able to reconcile this dichotomy between self and ownership in a posthuman world? Certainly, within an educational context, there is already tremendous challenge in regards to ownership of technology and how it could/should be used for educational purposes. How much more difficulty and tension will schools and colleges face, when these issues are being discussed within a transhumanist/posthuman environment?
Hayles, K. (1999) ‘Towards embodied virtuality’, in How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics, pp 1 – 24, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
In reply to jknox.
I think you raise a very interesting point here Jeremy. Much of what has been discussed in terms of technological enhancements to humans has been from a wider social perspective. If we look at the issue from a narrower point of view, viz. technological enhancement of school children, I ponder what impact transhumanism would have on our education systems.
Take for instance the most basic of the ‘real life’ enhancements from my video – the insertion of a data chip into the back of an individual’s hand. What educational opportunities would this avail, should schools and colleges insist on turning their students into an army of mini-cyborgs? There would certainly be many benefits from an administrative point of view; for example, schools would be able to undertake expedient and instantaneous attendance as children walk through the school gates, an essential part of their safeguarding procedures. In addition to this, cashless cafeterias would ensure the speedy distribution of lunches, and collate data on the types of food children are eating, with this being visible to both parents and teachers. Furthermore, this could form the basis for health-based discussions and schemes of work centred around real-life consumption data. An implanted chip that recorded biometric data from the child’s body in the same manner as a Fitbit or Apple Watch, would also be highly valuable for PE departments in devising personalised fitness plans and class setting according to physical ability. The list of educational benefits could go on….
However, the ethical concerns surrounding what is being suggested here are glaringly obvious, particularly in reference to privacy, and Orwellian oversight of young people. As such, to my mind, the acceptance of this type of technical enhancement within mainstream education is a non-starter, certainly for primary and secondary aged children. I cannot imagine any teacher, senior manager, head of school, or politician that would be able to put forward a convincing enough ‘educational’ argument that would supersede the ethical implications of doing such a thing. The educational arguments are strong but surely the ethical considerations will always win for the parents and children.
In reply to Crouchipuss.
Thank you so much for you comments. I’m glad you enjoyed my visual artefact.
Yes, I was trying to encapsulate the view being argued by Knox (2015), that digital education has “largely shifted away from the phase of cybercultures, towards the view of an educational world in which technology is more firmly embedded, but importantly subservient to its human users”. The dystopian image of cybercultures and cyborgs, that has been diffused to us through science fiction, is exactly that – fiction! Knox says the “next phase of education and digital cultures reveals a pacification and instrumentalism of technology for predefined social ends”. I had hoped for the artefact in the latter half of the video, was able to represent this change in how cybercultures can viewed and imagined in more positive ways.
I think you draw a very interesting parallel regarding how those who have altered the human form through technology, aside those who had done so through gender reassignment. I agree that both would certainly receive prejudice rooted in ‘otherism’ and in the belief that the individual has done something ‘unnatural’. However, I think that perhaps fear and hatred of the cyborg is fuelled more from a mistrust of technology, as well as the augmented abilities that a technological enhancement may provide to a human. So whilst there are some similarities in the prejudice, I don’t think its exactly the same.
This week my interest was piqued by the unusual practice of biohacking, and how this has contributed to the transhumanism discussion. Newton Lee, in The Transhumanist Handbook defines transhumanism as anyone that is “using science and technology to enhance or alter our body chemistry in order to stay healthy and be more in control of our lives.” (Lee, 2019, 5). The YouTube clips and tweets on biohacking from this week’s lifestream were certainly representative of this view, particularly in respect to the idea of greater control, which was predominant theme throughout most of the social media on this topic. As individuals merge their bodies with technology, ranging from RFID chips inserted into hands as a replacement to contactless debit cards, to more radical cases such as Tim Cannon’s (rather crude) forearm implant that records biometric data from his body, there was consensus amongst all biohackers – these experimental modifications had given them greater agency and control of their individual lives.
There is little doubt that biohacking is a growing trend, and the discussion on the BBC Sounds podcast, as well as the interviews with Michael Laufer and Eric Matzer from this week’s YouTube clips, supports this view. However, many critics of biohacking argue that its growth will ultimately be limited to a niche subculture, and that the movement is unlikely to gain enough traction to became mainstream. Medical ethics and opposition on religious grounds will ultimately curb the movement and limit its potential to grow beyond the very curious.
Conversely, proponents of the movement claim that biohackers are extropians of human change and that by pushing these boundaries today, they are catalysing an inevitable movement towards posthumanism. However, this does raise some very important questions. If this transhumanist movement is an inevitability for the 21st century, what ethical issues must be considered as we progress down this road of human change? Should there be interventions to regulate the range of practices this encompasses and, if so, what should that regulation look like? And if this were to happen, how long will it take before we start to see the appearance of modification clinics on the high street, offering biohacker-esque body augmentations to a mainstream market? Biohackers would certainly argue that this will be sooner, rather than later.
- Lee, N. (2019) ‘Brave New World of Transhumanism’ in The Transhumanism Handbook, Springer: Switzerland, p5.
- ‘Transhumanism’ (10 February 2020) Wikipedia, available at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transhumanism (Accessed: 10 February 2020)
A dystopian novel that imagines the opposite of Lee’s vision of ‘more control’. Instead it shows an oppressive, divided society, examing the possible winners and losers of human immortality. An easy read but it has some links to the themes we have explored in the cybercultures.
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) February 9, 2020
Biohackers are people who want to hack their biology to make their bodies and brains function better.
In the documentary ‘Staying Younger For Longer’ neuroscientist, Dr Sarah McKay meets Eric Matzner who — if things go his way — will live forever. #Biohacking
Biohacker Michael Laufer recently had a 512GB drive implanted in his leg, which can store data, stream music or movies, and power a hot spot and mesh network. It’s called the PegLeg, and WIRED’s Daniel Oberhaus spoke with Laufer about the device and the field of biohacking.
For more of Daniel’s reporting on Laufer, his PegLeg and Biohacking technology, visit WIRED.com: https://ift.tt/2HAdH5o
Humanity just made a small, bloody step towards a time when everyone can upgrade themselves towards being a cyborg. Of all places, it happened in the back room of a studio in the post-industrial German town of Essen.
It’s there that I met up with biohacker Tim Cannon, and followed along as he got what is likely the first-ever computer chip implant that can record and transmit his biometrical data. Combined in a sealed box with a battery that can be wirelessly charged, it’s not a small package. And as we saw, Cannon had it implanted directly under his skin by a fellow biohacking enthusiast, not a doctor, and without anesthesia.
Called the Circadia 1.0, the implant can record data from Cannon’s body and transfer it to any Android-powered mobile device. Unlike wearable computers and biometric-recording devices like Fitbit, the subcutaneous device is open-source, and allows for the user the full control over the data.
This week I was intrigued by the concept of embodiment, as it brought to mind some of the school students that I teach. A New Hope questioned ‘at what point do our bodies begin and end. How do we define our most intimate borders?” This has congruence with what Miller defines as embodiment relationship, in that “when technologies are being used, the tool and the user become one” and the object becomes “part of the body image and overall identify of the person” (Miller, 2011, 219). Vincent delves further into the theory of embodiment relation by examining the intimate relationship that many individuals have with their mobile devices. Citing the work of Richardson (2007), he outlines that the close proximity of mobile phones to the body and the manner in which they connect to a number of sensory functions creates a much more powerful connection to humans than any other type of technology we use.
This concept had significant influence on this week’s life-stream and I identified some YouTube clips that explored our increasingly complex relationship with mobiles, and how smartphone dependency has become a rapidly growing epidemic. I was particularly interested in the article that I tweeted from Psychology Today that argued the attachment of a young person to that of their mobile phone is akin to the relationship a child has with a teddy bear. I was further intrigued by the TEDx talks from Jeff Butler and Anastacia Dedykina who respectively delved into discussions of how mobiles phones change the way we think, and whether we could live without them.
In my school, this is particular concern of mine and despite the existence of a ‘silent and invisible’ mobile phone policy, I see youngsters walking around our campus carrying mobile phones as if the device was an appendage to their limb. There is no doubt that these youngsters have a deeply intimate relationship with their mobiles, and any suggestion of their removal can often lead to anxiety, and in some cases despair. As Vincent argues, the devices are very clearly an extension of themselves and the social platforms they are accessing are reflections of their identity and self. Therefore to forcibly remove the technology would be tantamount a technological amputation.
However, the question remains as to how much this increasingly symbiotic relationship humans have with mobile technology, will actually contribute to human development? Does the embodiment relationship enhance our ability to grow into more advanced versions of humanity, or does this desecrate humanity and stymie its potential to flourish?
Miller, V. (2011) The Body and Information Technology in Miller, V. Understanding digital culture pp. 207 – 223, London: Sage
"he left behind an unfathomably rich web of content – endless tendrils of his digital self, captured in imagery, video, music, writing and a truly breathtaking number of tweets"
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 26, 2020
Great article on why Japanese do not fear robots to the same extent as the West. It attributes the religion of Shinto, which affixes spirits to humans, animals and inanimate objects, as one of the major factors. ‘All things have a bit of soul’ #MSCEdc https://t.co/tnWzIL9vFg
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 25, 2020
Essentially, it is incumbent upon us as educators to ensure that technology is not weaponised and that it becomes a tool for development and progress.
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 25, 2020
.. our school due to the essential and transformative role it has within their education. I think its more important to think about how we manage the use of technology for youngsters so that they are educated about best practice and appropriate use.
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 25, 2020
I also teach children, but older students in secondary. Their lives are imbued with technology and, sadly, I am regularly witness to its negative impacts – social disengagement, cyberbullying, tech addiction etc. That said, I could not in good conscience ever remove it from…
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 25, 2020
Fab article Jemima! It certainly makes me ponder ethical issues in such developments. Although I think that if technological boundaries can be pushed to this limit, humans will always attempt to do so, even when our ethical guidance suggests we shouldn't. Thanks for sharing
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 25, 2020
https://youtu.be/uNQujCwCu88 Anastasia Dedyukhina ditched her smartphone, together with her senior international career in digital marketing, when she realized how dependent she had become on the gadget. Today she acts as a business mentor, supporting ethical tech startups, and runs Consciously Digital, helping companies and individuals be more productive and less stressed in an age of digital distraction. In her talk, Anastasia will explain why we feel the uncontrollable urge to check our smartphones all the time and share the valuable lessons she learned and the tips that helped her find the balance between her online and offline life.
Having worked for 12+ years in senior digital marketing positions for global media and internet brands, and easily spending 16 hours a day connected and even sleeping with her phone, Anastasia eventually realised she needed to unplug to remain healthy and productive.
Giving up her smartphone was the first step to creating Consciously Digital – a London-based training and coaching company that helps individual and corporate clients be more productive online, so that they can have more time for things that matter.
Anastasia is a frequent speaker at global internet conferences on the topics of ethical tech and digital detox, as well as marketing in the age of digital distraction. She blogs for Huffington Post about digital detox, and is currently finalising her first book on the same subject. Anastasia was born in Russia, lived in six different countries, and has an MBA from SDA Bocconi (Italy) and NYU Stern (USA), and a PhD from Moscow State University.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx
It identifies the fine line educators must tread between the advantageous application of technology as a tool to enhance learning, against the often dangerous pitfalls and losses, that its use (and overuse) may result in.
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 25, 2020
As a teacher in secondary education, this video has resonated with me. Youngsters are increasingly viewing mobile technology as extensions of themselves, and as suggested by Miller (2009) have 'achieved an intimacy with their users that other technologies have yet to match'
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 25, 2020
Upon reading The Body and Information Technology (Miller, 2011), my interest was piqued in the manner in which the ‘cyborg’ was represented. The terminology, as a result of popular culture and dystopian notions of cybernetics, has often been framed as something to fear, with the term being imbued with pejorative connotations. Citing Gray et. al’s idea that by using technology as a means to restore, normalise, enhance and reconfigure the human body, it is possible to view the notion of cyborgs through an entirely different prism. Ten years ago my father was lucky enough to receive a cochlear implant on the National Health Service after years of degeneration in his hearing. Prior to the operation his hearing had diminished to such low levels that had essentially rendered him severely deaf. The implant to restore his hearing was life-changing and this ‘normalising’ technology significantly improved the quality of my father’s life. His hearing was restored to such a level that the was able to once again hear the sound of a spoon clinking against the side of a mug, as he stirred sugar into his tea – an everyday noise that he had not heard for years. Until I read the core paper, I have never viewed my father as a ‘cyborg’ but Miller has certainly put forward a reasonable case that has helped realign my perspective on this. Imagining cyborgs as individuals who have benefited from technology to improve the quality of their lives, rather than a traditional view often put forward in science fiction, establishes a more positive framework for understanding the complex relationship between humans and machine. This was very influential in my lifestream this week, with my inaugural tweeted about cochlear implants and cybernetics from the Ear Institute.
That said, there are possible ethical concerns on the horizon with this technology – as auditory cybernetics have developed over the past decade, my father’s device has become increasingly connected to the digital world. He can now connect his cochlear to Bluetooth and is able to attune the device to his mobile phone, laptop and television. This has brought me to wonder whether, in the not-too-distant future, humans who do not suffer from acute deafness, will be choosing to voluntarily implant the technology in order to enhance their connectivity to digital environments. This of course raises a gamut of ethical concerns over the nature of voluntary augmentations on the human body. Is this something that should be prevented from happening? And if so, can it be stopped?
Miller, V. (2011) “The Body and Information Technology”, from Miller, V. Understanding Digital Culture pp. 207 – 223, London: Sage.
Interestingly, this was the same Olympics that, now disgraced runner, Oscar Pistorius took part in the main race. Critics argued that his prosthetic 'blades' gave him an unfair advantage over his able bodied competitors!
— Brian Kerr (@BrianDigitalEd) January 19, 2020
Absolutely, there's no doubt the intention of the campaign was to was to emphasise strength of character rather that physical enhancement. That said, its difficult not to reflect on the idea of homo faber, the maker and user of technology, and the resulting symbiosis that occurs
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 19, 2020
Simmel (1971)… characterised the human desire to manipulate inorganic matter and create tools and machines as a way of overcoming bodily boundaries and limitations in the pursuit of physical transcendence'.
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 18, 2020
Just read Vincent (2011) ‘The Body and Information Technology’. Fascinating stuff… My father received a cochlear implant in 2010. A means of using technology for to ’normalise’ his condition. I have never viewed him as a cyborg until now https://t.co/w1QKVUFQni
— BJK (@BrianDigitalEd) January 18, 2020
Before we get properly started on the business of lifestreaming, I thought I would briefly introduce myself.
My name is Brian Kerr and I am a teacher of history and geography at the leading British international School in Qatar, where I have been living since 2010. I have the added responsibly of being Head of Digital Learning for our Primary and Secondary campuses, so this is what motivates me to learn more about digital education.
I have been enrolled on the Digital Education programme with Edinburgh University since September 2018, and have completed the IDEL course and Digital Education in a Global Context.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Educational and Digital Culture has in store for the weeks and months ahead.