Thursday, September 24, 2015

NL an optomistic enterprise

We've been reading Feenberg (1999) and Hodgeson et al. (2012) on the doctoral programme. I studied economics a little bit when I worked for a bank and at Aberdeen. But I suppose many people will have heard of Adam Smith's 'invisible hand'... It helped me to apply this to 'technology' when reading Feenberg. I think Feenberg is explaining that different ontologies leave one with very different views as to whether 
  1. We can/can't really control 'the invisible hand'
  2. Does that matter? 
In the case of Marx, he is saying that not only can we not control the invisible hand, the hand's effects are, at worst neutral. However, some, like Feenberg (also cites Foucault and Marcuse who I have barely heard of still less read), are deeply suspicious of what the hand ('hooded claw' better?) is really up to.
There could be a connection between Feenberg's argument, that we 'should be asserting human control' and Hodgson et al's stated ontology (p292) for networked learning, and even the expanded definition of networked learning which, enacted through programmes like the Lancaster PhD, pushes back against strong tide of 'economic-pragmatic discourse' (Hodgson et al 292). Hodgson and Feenberg's view of the world 'as we would like it to be', may well clash violently with the daily realities of, say, learning technologists who are...
  1. trotting out multimedia at the bequest of unwitting lecturers with no better agenda than that it could look good/modern, appeal to the millennial students (sic) and may save them time/effort in the long run
  2. Rolling out moocs, to pay their mortgage and other bills, as an extension of the university's marketing department
Do you recognise these 'value laden' examples as such? Are they real to you? If they are, does that really matter? If it does, can/should we be doing anything about it? Feenberg is saying we certainly can and should.
Do we agree with the political angle in these readings, however ambitious it might be? After all, there is a sense in which, on programme like the one I'm on, we're very much part of attempts to enact it - if you have or are on such a programme, how was/is it for you? You're paying handsomely for the 'bus ride', did you realise where it was hoping to take you?
I spent a while yesterday discussion a proprietary tool with our learning technologist who was bemoaning the impossibility of making 'progress' with staff who are so ardently Luddite, in their opinion. This is a fairly typical moan for a learning technologist to make, and it falls some way short of 'the Feenberg perspective'. What would be the impact of such a blithe embrace of 'all that technology can offer' on your place and even society as a whole. Would we become super efficient but/and/or loose our humanity in the process? Which of those things really matter?

Or should we be enacting learning designs which are 'appropriate and suited to live in a digitally connected and networked world where sharing and collaborative ways of working are the norm rather than the exception' (Hodgson et al p292 again) and 'we all live happily ever after'?
Networked learning, to the likes of Hodgson et al, is an optimistic enterprise... What alternatives are there when (if?) one sees 'market failure' in all directions?
  • Feenberg, Andrew 1999 Questioning Technology. London ; New York: Routledge.
  • Hodgson, Vivien, David McConnell, and Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld 2012 The Theory, Practice and Pedagogy of Networked Learning. In Exploring the Theory, Pedagogy and Practice of Networked Learning. Lone Dirckinck-Holmfeld, Vivien Hodgson, and David McConnell, eds. Pp. 291–305. New York, NY: Springer New York.

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