John Dron 23 November in Change11 mooc
What are technologies anyway?
Dron starts with eg of screwdriver or is it a paint-tin opener, or a stirrer or a backscratcher…its not a single technology
We have a tendency to think of it as one thing, but really its many; there are
an infinite number of possible ways it can be used
This is a very ANT (actor-network theory) conversation. To consider that we and they (others including things) are made in association. And reminds me of Latour talking about what a gun is; a weapon or an item of beauty to a collector.
As well as reminding me of Simone de Beauvoir and Judith Butler on what makes a woman...
And then he put a thought provoking question forward:
Do people learn better with screwdrivers or without them?
This is a nice way to introduce the implausability of the common question:
do students learn better with pencils, elearning, classroom, moocs….
And I would suggest a better ANt like question, what happens when these approaches are used rather than the dichotomies of good or bad.
There are limits though
More than one less than many as Annmarie mol would have said
Further definition of technology is useful in considering therefore the orchestration of phenomena for particular use,
It becomes different technology when used for different things
Its about organizing things in the world.
A soft technology, many have had this idea, but how and why a thhing is used a particular way and the limits on possibility, that is, the orchestration of a phenomenon
Pedagogies as technologies
Multiple blurred and overlapping meanings
Technologies don’t have to be embodied in the thing, but the ways in which we use it, organized, a thing that is in our heads
Very ant like again; for we are shaped and shaping in association. Akrich would have talked of this in terms of what is inscribed into an object
Soft is enacted
Hard technology is in bits bytes atoms physical stuff
Not embodied is an important aspect
Latourian take on this is that we are all socio-technical hybrids and Donna Haraway would have us named Cyborg, but Dron doesnt go this far.
We implemented this and they learned better as a result
But its really about an orchestration of things
Not that online better than face to face, its just the way it is done
All technological assemblies constituted in relation to other things around them. Eg a computer keyboard as a particular bunch of things in order to get some result
Soft technologies an active orchestration by individual people, something without meaning until we start using them. Knitting needles no purpose untill applied.
Now there's a technology that has many uses licit and otherwise, ....but would also have been interesting to consider technologies as more immersed with us and us in them...I am reminded of Sherry Turkle's evocative objects, things we think with.
In contrast knitting machines are hard, the usability constrained, embodied
A continuum nothing wholly hard or soft
Not just about machines, eg legal system is a hard human system
Its not about soft or hard software etc its about created in limited ways
(this is similar to psychology of hard and soft architecture)
The thing about hard technologies, they make some things easier possible, eg refrigerator. To cool food is difficult with a soft technology eg shifting into shade or fanning…
Reducing scope of possibility to make things easier we harden technologies in order to be more simple, regular, reliable
Hard technologies are brittle, stifle creativity, and that’s the point as choices are not needed,
(He made a reference here to "see a city is not a tree" but I am unclear as to why)
Soft gives flexibility, creativity, but a soft technology is hard to use, but you are having to orchestrate those possibilities to make them happen.
(Okay, the use of hard for difficult needs to be considered as it begins to get confusing)
Soft technologies need people, they are nothing without people, whereas a fridge will trundle on by itself, automated.
“We shape our buildings and after the buildings then shape us” (Winston Churchill)
But it’s a lot more iterative than this suggests, he comes back to this later in q and a’s
Hard and soft not good or bad of themselves…fridge not good or bad, pre made web design versus the slowness involved if i had to start from scratch with coding is so slow, I want things to be easier, the big question then becomes how hard or soft in any situation
Moocs too soft for most people, an lms such as blackboard too hard for many…but also complexity: whose good or bad, used by different people, teacher as an authoring tool, or for the student as a learning tool…
Intent and use and what’s the orchestrating intent matters,
The pedagogies pulling at each other, acting together and in tension, a tug of way, technologies that fight with us
Technologies that don’t fit together well are also easily done eg lecture driven classroom and add a discussion forum and then assess the discussion forum…doesn’t add up. We need to design so the assembled work together, it is really easy to make deeply incompatible combinations thoughtlessly.
that is, an electronic system and a pedagogy may be in conflict
Important to assemble them effectively
Hard technologies limit the range, they structure our spaces, we will bend our pedagogies easier than change a hard technology
Facebook kind of hard, everything about it channels in a particular direction
the softer things we want to do being filtered through a hard technology
kind of how a university works, the beaurocracy of learning objectives
This is what i've been trying to do how we shape those technologies and the balance between hard and soft at a particular time, I really don’t want to have to design a lms and would much rather have the one I want than one that doesn’t, balance of constraints with movement
Not too hard not too soft on a given moment, in a given application of technology being adapted to purpose: the Goldilocks moment
eg twitter, how we should be building egs of not too hard not too soft just right
It's about building assemblies that are just right, the assembly makes it possible, just to assemble is how to do it, different ways, to make a hard technology softer easiest way is to add on to it eg blackboard here's mcqs you have to choose….but automated…so solution is to allow some kind of dialogue to happen that it can then be changed overridden by the teacher on the basis of the student's sound argument...so we add to to make softer, so softer when we aggregate.
(Seems an incongruity with knitting machine versus knitting needles where that aggragation made it harder...so some assemblies I would say soften, and some harden. Latour would talk of the adding chains of connection that strengthen, this understanding might also be applied to what hardens. Again a very ANt/ Latourian argument presented yet ANt was never mentioned.)
eg initially twitter didn’t begin with @ or # and the smart people in twitter then automated it, and made the system softer, it did not limit it, but added to
So softer increased use, so it became hyperlinked….auto ...adding to doesn’t always make harder.
(I can also feel a Macluhan moment coming on where we addd and add and then there is a flipping pint where the new technology obsolesces)
We harden eg when I say I’ll give u some feedback, ill give you some feedback to a learning outcome, I'll grade it…each step a little harder. So it's important to see pedagogies also as harder or softer.
And all technologies grow on a past
It becomes important then to think about what kinds of systems support aggregation so its about malleability
A key thing in aggregation, does it make it softer hardier, easier more difficult, more or less open for possibilities and fitness for purpose as well as adaptabilities...
eg electrical plug adaptor that’s multi use across the world
to make technologies not too hard or too soft
The elephant in the room is its not the technology as much as the passion, artistry in order to make those technologies do wonderful things, to get to those points we need to be I would say thoughtful
This was a very actor-network congruent presentation
Cites Ursula Franklin, wholistic technologies that expand vs prescriptive technologies
Thinking of things as technologies gets us away from the kneejerk all technology bad, restrictive technologies terrible…they are not
To follow up, further reading: Dron has allso written a paper called any colour you like so long as it’s blackboard
How to make the just right Goldilocks moment, eg grsshapper in a mook, enabling aggregation, harness when its needed, useful to have technologies that can be hardened or softened by those using it.
Might just be the policies around the use that need softening...might be us that need to soften rather than the techy. Again I am reminded of Latour and also Peter Sloterdikt in how to make digital spaces suit our human needs, but this has given me a way in to lever that conversation in my thesis
A guided path option, with choices that soften or harden,
To be harder when we need them and softer when we don’t, having smaller optional hard pieces eg drop downs…but problem is can end up with millions of small pieces and it becomes difficult again…
Yes there are some good ideas in this for the thesis, both philosophically, and for the handling of current pragmatic difficulties associated with the practice I have investigated (use of SMS messaging for youth counselling).
refs for where i am coming from
Franklin, U. (1999). The real world of technology (Revised ed.). Toronto, Canada: House of Anansi Press.
Latour, B., & Sloterdijk, P. (2009). Networks and spheres: Two ways to reinterpret globalization. Presentation to the Graduate School of Design [Video webcast]: Harvard University. Retrieved from http://webcasts.gsd.harvard.edu/gsdlectures/s2009/sloterdijk.mov
Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: Ontology in medical practice. London, England: Duke University Press.
Sloterdijk, P. (2009). Spheres theory: Talking to myself about the poetics of space. Harvard Design Magazine, 30, 126-137.
Saturday, November 26, 2011
John Dron 23 November in Change11 mooc