I’m still waking up, and will be perpetually struggling with my awareness and complicity in all of this. As I continue to wake up, and become more vocal against the hand that feeds me, I am reminded of how important it is for us to acknowledge those who have been doing this all along. It is alright for us white male technologists to step up and become critical of what we have built, but we shouldn’t be taking the lead on defining how to fix all of this, assuming our regular domineering role in simultaneously fucking up the world, while also trying to fix it once we realize what idiots we’ve been. We need to make sure we are respectful of those who have been vocal all along, and work hard to shine a light on newer more diverse voices when it comes to speaking out, and crafting any plans to fix this mess. Our desire to be center stage is a big problem. We need to step back and develop a more thoughtful strategy as we move forward.
“Democratization” in tech-speak does not equal “democracy.” It means the spread of a product and a culture. And that culture is authoritarian, not because it’s Chinese or American, but because it has emerged from this computational ethos, one that is built on counting and tracking.
What if anything “good” about ed-tech this past decade was so overwhelmed by all the money funneled into the “bad” that the “good” didn’t matter one whit? What if all that “bad” meant any semblance of “good” was stifled, suffocated? What if, as David Kernohan has suggested, there wasn’t anything this past decade but technological disappointment? What if there wasn’t anything good about ed-tech?
I’m serious. Sit with that sentence a minute before you pipe up to defend your favorite app or social network or that cute robot your kids coded to move in a circle. What if there wasn’t anything good about ed-tech? What if ed-tech is totally inseparable from privatization, behavioral engineering, and surveillance? What if, by surrendering to the narrative that schools must be increasingly technological, we have neglected to support them in being be remotely human? What if we can never address the crises of our democracies, of our planet if we keep insisting on the benevolence of tech?
Source: HEWN, No. 337
Platforms are, in a sense, capitalism distilled to its essence. They are proudly experimental and maximally consequential, prone to creating externalities and especially disinclined to address or even acknowledge what happens beyond their rising walls. And accordingly, platforms are the underlying trend that ties together popular narratives about technology and the economy in general. Platforms provide the substructure for the “gig economy” and the “sharing economy”; they’re the economic engine of social media; they’re the architecture of the “attention economy” and the inspiration for claims about the “end of ownership.”
“Move fast and break things” is an abomination if your goal is to create a healthy society. Taking shortcuts may be financially profitable in the short-term, but the cost to society is too great to be justified. In a healthy society, we accommodate differently abled people through accessibility standards, not because it’s financially prudent but because it’s the right thing to do. In a healthy society, we make certain that the vulnerable amongst us are not harassed into silence because that is not the value behind free speech. In a healthy society, we strategically design to increase social cohesion because binaries are machine logic not human logic.
The problem is that digital design isn’t cynical enough.
First, the Internet is an amoral force that reduces friction, not an inevitable force for good. Second, sometimes different cultures simply have fundamentally different values. Third, if values are going to be preserved, they must be a leading factor in economic entanglement, not a trailing one. This is the point that Clinton got the most wrong: money, like tech, is amoral. If we insist it matters most our own morals will inevitably disappear.
Students’, educators’ and regulators’ critical resistance to edtech is likely to grow as we learn more about the ways it works, how it treats data, and in come cases how dysfunctional it is.
Increasingly, journalists are on to edtech, and are feeding into the growing sense of frustration and resistance by demonstrating these technologies don’t even fairly do what they claim to do.
So, there is a rising wave of edtech resistance from a wide variety of perspectives—from activists to students, journalists to regulators, and legal experts to ethicists.
Without a grounding in theory or knowledge or ethics or care, the Silicon Valley machine rewards stupid and dangerous ideas, propping up and propped up by ridiculous, self-serving men. There won’t ever be a reckoning if we’re nice.
Source: HEWN, No. 321
we cannot presume that the adjective “open” is sufficient when it comes to re-orienting our technologies towards justice.
Source: HEWN, No. 321