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Every week, I take all the essays and articles that I’ve bookmarked and sift through them in order to craft this newsletter. I’m always struck by how many weird and ridiculous claims are made about education and technology, both in the “mainstream” and industry press. (I don’t know why this continues to surprise me, and the right response, quite arguably, is to neither link to nor write for these publications…)

There’s the continuous clarion call for more data collection, more automation, more engineering, more scientific management, and of course more disruptive innovation. These are the narratives loudly trying to shape the future.

Of course, these narratives are intertwined with power and policies. As Alan Jacobs notes, we confuse surveillance with care. We confuse surveillance with self-knowledge, Rob Horning adds:

I don’t think self-knowledge can be reduced to matters of data possession and retention; it can’t be represented as a substance than someone can have more or less of. Self-knowledge is not a matter of having the most thorough archive of your deeds and the intentions behind them. It is not a quality of memories, or an amount of data. It is not a terrain to which you are entitled to own the most detailed map. Self-knowledge is not a matter of reading your own permanent record.

We confuse individuals’ acts of (self-)documentation with structural change and justice. We confuse the “sharing economy” for the latter as well. According to Evgeny Morozov:

The citizens, who are not yet fully aware of these dilemmas, might eventually realise that the actual choice we are facing today is not between the market and the state, but between politics and non-politics. It’s a choice between a system bereft of any institutional and political imagination – where some permutation of hackers, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists is the default answer to every social problem – and a system, where explicitly political solutions that might question who – citizens, firms, the state – ought to own what, and on what terms, are still part of the conversation.

It doesn’t help that so many of these narratives comes from “a town without history,” as Mike Caulfield observes in “People Have the Star Trek Computer Backwards.” Here’s my latest look at the history of ed-tech: on how, thanks in part to the work of Seymour Papert, Maine went one-to-one. It’s worth thinking how and why that initiative is being dismantled…

Yours in struggle, ~Audrey

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Audrey Watters


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