Re: [xmca] Don C about the "epic" googlization film - a bit of mcahistory

From: Martin Packer <packer who-is-at>
Date: Fri Jun 29 2007 - 09:26:32 PDT

On 6/28/07 6:45 PM, "Louise Hawkins" <> wrote:

> The discussion is really pointing out that an expert and a novice are both
> context dependant. Depends on the context, who is involved as to whom is the
> expert/novice, if these labels are even useful.


Okay, but I think it's important to recognize that the phrase "context
dependent" really tells us nothing. What context? What *is* a 'context'?
What kind of 'dependence'? Isn't it *mutual* dependence? (I.e., contexts are
dependent upon experts and novices.) What is required is a lot of conceptual
clarification, and a LOT of empirical work to figure out how an expert is
produced. Mike's airline pilot, for example, wasn't born a pilot, and she
didn't become a pilot just by wearing the right hat. She was a participant
in complex practices from which other candidates were excluded or discarded
as 'lacking,' practices which built upon her prior dispositions and shaped
these in particular directions, which fostered a certain kind identity,
which educated her perception of the realities of flight (a feel for the
plane; reading runway lights at night; parsing the weather) and in which she
was positioned within the complex institutions that make up airlines,
airports, etc. As a result of all this she is a particular kind of expert,
qualified for the important and difficult work of piloting a plane - in
collaboration with all the other people (attendants, flight control, desk
agents, passengers) in the network that makes flying possible. At least I am
guessing that this is what happened; lots of field work would be required to
give a decent description.

Material artifacts are intimately woven into this network: after all, our
pilot's expertise doesn't amount to much if there's no plane to fly. This
means her expertise can't be defined without reference to the expertise of
the mechanics who prepare the plane for flight, or those workers at Boeing
who built it in the first place. Does that mean the material artifacts are
on equal terms with the human artifacts? In a sense, yes. And perhaps one
day the technology will advance and the plane will 'fly itself.' Then our
pilot will need to be retrained as a flight attendant, and all she will
'need' to know is how to serve a beverage at 30,000 feet. This will bring
new profitability to Microsoft Airlines (and new meaning to the phrase 'the
computer crashed'), but her expertise hasn't disappeared; it's now embodied
(disembodied; reimbodied?) in the software, thanks to the expertise of
programmers, who are now those who could be said to be doing the flying.

But this kind of utopian/dystopian vision can't be projected indefinitely.
Planes don't build themselves, and more importantly they, and the machines
that do build them (with human assistance), can't invent the next generation
of planes - or a completely new form of transformation. Marx showed that we
have created for ourselves a society that is dynamic and unstable; it
*needs* to change in order to continue to exist. (Marx's critique of
capitalism was hardly a static one!) Without innovation capitalism will get
caught by its own contradictions. (Innovation? Creativity; critique;
thinking: call it what you will. It's the difference between Necessity and
Freedom that Vygotsky kept harping on, god bless him!) And without
innovation we won't find an alternative to this crazy economic system.
Innovation is, I would argue, an entirely human characteristic (though we're
not born with it, only with the potential for it). Our tools don't have it.
We need it; we need our children to achieve it. We can't prepare them just
to play with their tools.


xmca mailing list
Received on Sat Jun 30 12:08 PDT 2007

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Jul 02 2007 - 07:31:11 PDT