Film Festival – Part 2 and 1/2
This week we once again looked at some film clips (some of the same ones as last week, with a few additions, including Chappie which was nice) and considered not only what they tell us about people’s ideas about perceptions of technology, but also how these might apply to education using digital technology. The chat was interesting, but again seemed to focus on the negative (worries about control, fear of tech going out of control, cold and inhuman aspects of areas such as Learning Analytics and so on). While it is prudent to look for cautionary tales and draw conclusions from them, I think it might be equally as useful to look at our “White Hat” characters and see what they can tell us. Perhaps in their stories we can find the seeds of solutions to the sort of problems that we’ve foreseen? To avoid my tendency to ramble on forever, let’s just look at one of the types:
It seems that the general worries around cyborgs are to do with the idea that technology in some way disrupts or diminishes our essential humanity in some way. The influence of devices developed to run on lines of pure logic and reason having a detrimental effect on us, especially if they are physically part of our body. I think that this may be explored in “A Cyborg Manifesto” by Donna Haraway (2007), but unfortunately I’ve yet to force myself to read it all the way through as her style is incredibly annoying. I plan to get round to reading this and will update this blog entry afterwards.
So where do our cyborg characters stand on this and what can they tell us? As a reminder, we looked at Cyborg (DC Comics), Luke Skywalker, Picard, LaForge, Bashir, 7 of 9, Robocop and the reprogrammed Terminator. I consider that these fall into two categories (well, okay, many more than that, but for this argument let’s call it two):
- Cyborgs who are very human, just with some technological tweaks which may or may not be obvious (Cyborg, Luke Skywalker, Picard, LaForge, Bashir).
- Cyborgs who are mostly machine like, but are striving to become more human (7 of 9, Robocop, reprogrammed Terminator).
The first category gives us a great bit of news about becoming a cyborg (at least in terms of fiction) – it doesn’t make any difference to your humanity. Those characters embrace their humanity and live lives blissfully unencumbered by any machines taking over their mind to cause mayhem. The connection to education would surely be – it doesn’t make any difference, education is a human thing. Regardless of the technology used it is put together and received by humans. A traditional face-to-face course can be cold and inhuman (especially if we think of really traditional classes in say a Victorian Public School). The medium isn’t the message when its online any more than it is when its death by PowerPoint.
The second category shows us how even something that starts off seemingly inhuman can grow and develop in ways that make them more acceptable to our human sensibilities. 7 of 9 and Robocop where originally human, and manage to re-engage with that side of their nature. The Terminator on the other hand started off as a machine that has been reprogrammed to bodyguard a teenager, who then sets about making him display human like behaviour. I think the first two tell us that when we talk about Digital Education we are really just talking about Education. The Digital aspect is something new that seems a bit scary and inhuman to some people, but eventually these tools and techniques will just be considered to be the norm – education will have the human touch regardless of how it is delivered (it may take a period of adjustment, but we’ll get there). Sian Bayne covers this interestingly in “What’s the matter with ‘technology-enhanced learning?” (2015).
Terminator has a slightly different story to tell though. Even the most inhuman, logical, put together for sinister purposes piece of technology can be given a veneer of humanity that can fool us. The character is a “White Hat” not because it chooses to be so, but because its programming compels it to be so. While education can shift to encompass and incorporate the possibilities of digital, leading back to being a human experience, the worries we have about the abuse of data, leading learners down specific learning paths and so on will still be relevant. The public “face” of these systems can be more approachable and human, but in the background they were built for a purpose, to specific design specs, and they will carry out those tasks with maybe less oversight and intervention if we don’t scratch below the surface and see them for what they are.
I would love to bring in some of the Robots and AIs, especially Chappie and his journey from being built to frighten and injure to being a person in his own right who enriches the lives of those he meets, but this post is already about five times too long. Perhaps I’ll do something in a separate post 🙂