Re: [xmca] change in education

From: Mary K. Bryson (
Date: Tue Aug 02 2005 - 15:52:22 PDT

On 8/1/05 5:49 AM, "Carol Macdonald" <> wrote:

> This speaks to units of analysis issue that seem to be important, and to
> interactions among levels or spheres of activity. Some hang their hats on
> educational, digital, networked, etc. technologies as ways to distribute
> knowledge, activity, and power differently in education. Though the politics
> of education continue to operate as they have for generations, what do
> others think about the possibilities of new technological capabilities
> fostering what Peg Griffin offered, "interactive activation among parallel
> distributed processes," being revolutionary? Can communication channels'
> being multiplied and diversified disrupt old-school politics?

Well now... Starting with the notion of ³distribution² - I presented a
modified CHAT triangle at the AERA CHAT SIG meeting talk, where instead of
³distribution of labour², I drew on Paolo Virno¹s notion of the ³Grammar of
the Multitude² (2004, Semiotexte)-- which is a post-marxian, post-fordist
rearticulation of relations to ³flows of capital² and the retooling of
labour. Virno, like Appadurai, wants to get into a position that is neither
utopic nor dystopic regarding the ³possibilities² inherent in new
technologies of mediation. These scholars are interested in the everyday
uses of technologies by folks where people participated in cultural
resignification and recycling ‹ work and cultural production become less
distinguishable. So people access the web at work, podcast, blog and the
like... And so we have a move outside of the traditional marxian dialectic
and more in line with a notion of circuits, networks, rhizomes --- pick your
favorite post-Deleuzian image... The relationship to ³education² then
requires that we deal with the question of whether we are talking about a
retooling of how to ³do school² or whether we are seriously going to look at
where it is that people learn what is culturally relevant as they
participate in various kinds of collectivities. Distributing power
differently, as Foucault persuasively argued, changes everything except our
capacity to hang on to some illusion that we are producing freedom or agency
in so doing. The most repressive environments, he argued in his Panopticon
model, are those where power is diffuse and immanent. Which gets me back to
one of the questions that I was wrestling with a while ago ‹ how to
articulate the significance of mediation as a property of artifacts, and the
mediational mileux that animate artifacts ‹ and so, say, we talk about
³educational television² as a distinctive and somehow appropriate use of a
medium in the setting of schools. So what is that we are suturing onto
television by bracketing certain types of engagement, presumably, and
content, as somehow, educational? This is surely also a very vexed question
in contemporary discourses around ³educational computing². What makes it so,
and not otherwise? Lots of critical folks have hung their hats on the notion
of multi-literacies, but I am not persuaded. I have found it useful to go
back to reading Latour on what, in the Politics of Nature, he calls,

³The case of asbestos can serve as a model, since it is probably one of the
last objects that was called modernist. It was a perfect substance... at
once inert, effective, and profitable. It took decades before the health
consequences of its diffusion were finally attributed to it, before asbestos
and its inventors, manufacturers, proponents, and inspectors were called
into question... Once an ideal inert material, it became a nightmarish
imbroglio of law, hygiene, and risk.... Yet like weeds in a French garden,
other objects with more extravagant forms are beginning to blur the
landscape by superimposing their own branchings on those of modernist
objects... [Quasi-objects] have no clear boundaries, no well-defined
essences, no sharp separation between their own hard kernel and their
environment. It is because of this feature that they take on the aspect of
tangled beings, forming rhizomes and networks... They have numerous
connections, tentacles, and pseudopods that link them in many different ways
to beings as ill assured as themselves.[1]²

My favorite medium for thinking this through at the moment is blogging,
where people literally relocate memory and cultural production onto surfaces
of exteriority in a manner that seems unlike anything that has come before.

But is it educational? This question performs its own exclusions, of course.
A while ago, Suzanne de Castell, Jennifer Jenson and I dealt with some of
these questions in a paper that may be of interest:


<PS ­ I am away for the next two weeks, even from email. So if someone
responds and I don¹t chime in, it¹s cuz I have cut the wires, temporarily>

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