Sunday, August 23, 2009

Deskilling humanity or cyborg enhancement?

Ivan Illich wrote of the effects of school as more than a dependent variable within society; but as the reproductive organ of a consumer society. If I take the institution of schools as being nothing but a tool that leads to another end, the education of people, I miss so much of what does and doesnt go on. He argued for a radical change to how teaching and learning might therefore be envisaged, namely by deschooling society.

His 'deskilling' argument leads me to wonder about more recent innovations with the ways we might to do things,and to wonder if the outsourcing of so much of people's abilities to their mobile phones is a deskilling of their humanity or just sour grapes on my part.
See, I dont have one, iwant one, an iphone that is.

This mornings rant is following a nice little column on smartphones by Richard Fisher that helps that author find a cab, a cafe, is a note taker and records interviews, times his teeth brushing, maps and times his cycle rides, and even finds itself through a synch option with a computer. Fortunately he drew the line at only musing about the vibrator option (I know, don't go there).
The cyborg connection is made, there's enhancement of abilities. And there are questions of what does this do to how we function as people.

In light of my PhD study: I continue to consider the questions of what it means to be mediated by a mobile phone in our relationships with others, specifically with regard to counselling relationships mediated by text. And I continue to wonder about the assemblages that create changes in the ways we relate; how such changes occur and what the anticipated and unanticipated results might be.
I am prompted, again, to wonder of how we are shaping the mediums we use, and how they might be shaping us, for no other technology is so close, so much of the time.
What impact does this have on our relationships and on us?

As expressed by one of the young people interviewed for my study, "I had every technology possible, but it was my mobile i reached for." Texting was her first choice for a conversation she anticipated as likely to be distressing, not because it denied the emotions involved, but because it allowed her to express these.

And the reskilling that then occurs seems to more than compensate; have a look at this article on the positive associations texting has for literacy in August Wired magazine.

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