Franklin (2004). Chapter 10 (The Real World Of Technology).

Franklin, U. M. (2004). Chapter 10 (The Real World Of Technology). In The Real World of Technology (Revised edition). Toronto: House of Anansi Press.

“Myths, religion, and science have endeavoured to transmit knowledge and experience so ordered as to convey sequence and consequence as ordering principles. … Ordering schemes help us to evaluate and interpret new knowledge and experience. Ordering schemes, in turn, are revised and augmented by new insights.” (p 167)

“Those concerned with the advancement of technology, with finding new and more encompassing ways of doing things, often underemphasize the nonnegotiable embeddedness of human society in nature. … You just can’t opt out of nature.” (p 167)

“While the biosphere, existing in real time, encompasses past, present, and future, the bitsphere — a product of human minds — exhibits no tense or temporality, and no roots in physical space.” (p 168)

“Earlier, I contrasted a growth model of education, rooted in an organic context, with a production model, based on mechanistic considerations. In the latter, schooling is regarded as a production process that can be analyzed and evaluated in terms of input, output, efficiency, and cost effectiveness.” (p 168)

“Unfortunately, the new technologies have entered the realm of education largely because they were regarded as production improvements, promising better products and faster or bigger production runs, and not because they were deemed to offer enrichment to the soil. Thus it is not surprising that the electronic classroom raises the same types of problems and exhibits the same social and political difficulties that one encounters in the realm of work or governance in the real world of the new technologies.

“As I see it, these common problems and difficulties fall basically into three streams: the first occurs because of the displacement of people by devices,5 an extension of the Industrial Revolution’s old dream of the workerless factory to the school without teachers, or the government without officials.

“The second stream, arising as a consequence of the first, contains the problems caused by the vast underestimation of the contributions to a task made by those working or learning together,6 as well as a lack of appreciation of the fact that knowledge is cumulative.

“The third stream contains the problems created by the increase of asynchronistic modes of doing things and the resulting social time-space dislocations.7” (p 169)

“… implicit learning, the social teaching, for which the activity of learning together provides the setting. It is here that students acquire social understanding and coping skills, ranging from listening, tolerance, and cooperation to patience, trust, or anger management.” (p 170)

“Yet the implicitly learned social skills and insights may be much needed, even when the explicit skills can be obtained externally via appropriate devices such as spell checks, calculators, or computers. Without an adequate understanding of the social processes of teaching and learning and a careful attention to their well-being, the whole enterprise of education can be at risk.8” (p 170)

“The production model of education makes it difficult to even acknowledge the existence of implicit learning, let alone compensate for its loss.” (p 171)

“While the pool of information available to the students may increase, the pool of available understanding may not. This has considerable consequences for social [page break] cohesion and peace and deserves careful attention.” (p 171-172)

“But how and where, we ask again, is discernment, trust, and collaboration learned, experience and caution passed on, when people no longer work, build, create, and learn together or share sequence and consequence in the course of a common task?” (p 172)

“The inability, but mostly the unwillingness, of the state to intervene in order to limit the social and human impacts of the new technologies on their own citizens has been documented thoroughly. This ‘retreat from governance’ as H. T. Wilson calls it,13 is relatively new. It had long been assumed that being a [page break] citizen, belonging to a nation or a community, conferred a measure of practical and emotional security. But at the interface of biosphere and bitsphere, the reality of togetherness and belonging becomes eroded by the asynchronous activities in virtual time and space.” (p 174-175)

Selected Notes

  • 5. David F. Noble, Progress without People (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1995). Jeremy Rifkin, The End of Work, the Decline of the Global Laborforce and the Dawn of the Post-Market Era (New York: G. P. Putnam, 1995).
  • 6. For an appreciation of the contributions of workers to the workplace technologies, see for instance DeBresson Understanding Technological Change (Montreal: Black Rose Books, 1987); Karen Messing, One-eyed Science, Occupational Health and Women Workers (Philadelphia, PA: Temple UP, 1998); as well as the work of David F. Noble.
  • 7. Heather Menzies, Whose Brave New World? (Toronto: Between the Lines, 1996). Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1998).
  • 8. Ursula M. Franklin, “Personally happy and publicly useful” in Our Schools / Our Selves 9.4 (October 1998).
  • 13. Linda McQuaig, The Cult of Impotence: Selling the Myth of Powerlessness in the Global Economy (Toronto: Viking, 1998); Stewart, Dismantling the State; and an early and important warning regarding Canada was given by H. T. Wilson, Retreat from Governance (Hull, QC: Voyageur Publishing, 1989).
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