Thursday, November 14, 2013

Utopias & Dystopias: Looking to the Future

Film 1: A Day Made of Glass (5:58) Watch on YouTube
These are two video advertisements - one from Corning, and one from Intel - setting out these companies’ visions of how their products will evolve and be used in the future. In both cases, the companies position their information technologies as completely integrated with daily life and education. 

Film 2: Bridging our Future (3:17) Watch on YouTube
Questions you might try to answer in the discussion boards, on Twitter, or in the form of an image are: 
 how is education being visualised here? what is being learned and taught? what is the nature of communication in these future worlds? are these utopian or a dystopian visions to you? In what way(s)?

Film 3: A Digital Tomorrow (9:36) Watch on Vimeo
This is a video-based 'design fiction' created as part of a research project about gesture and digital rituals. It is a playful, ironic reframing of the sorts of narratives you saw in the Corning and Intel videos - here, future technology is portrayed as just as frustrating, mundane and absorbing as its present day counterpart. What do you think the creators of this video are trying to say about our digital futures?

Film 4: Sight (7:50) Watch on Vimeo

Sight explores how the ubiquity of data and the increasingly blurry line between the digital and the material might play out in the sphere of human relationships. The focus on the emerging social and educational use of game-based ‘badging’ is particularly interesting. What is going on here, and how do you interpret the ending? How does this vision align and contrast with the ones in the first two films?

I’d like to extend the points you make about gamification, recognition, status and organic interactions…  

The Corning and Intel films depict utopian lifestyles where children – clearly from affluent circumstances – possess technologies that allow for rich, exploratory learning through interactive simulations and authentic problem-based projects. Teaching in this context looks like a dream come true – such eager, attentive, engaged students and no accommodations to be made for social problems, special needs, or those other realities that most schools face today.
'A Digital Tomorrow' pokes fun at technology's imperfections as it drifts into that area where organic human-to-human interactions are starting to become secondary to the devices – the mind syncing apparatus at the end suggesting that humans need technology to be able to codify or validate their capacity to think. 
'Sight' pushes the dystopic envelope to where gamification and status are the primary motivators, and biologically implanted digital media, in essence an elevated sixth sense, determine the meaning of life. This constant companion serves to alienate the individual from those organic interactions – human-to-human and human-to-nature – to the extent that the individual might just as well be living in a barren prison cell.
I have always been an advocate for technology in education based on the belief that it has the capacity to help connect humans, build community, and support knowledge development. This last film, however, made me fearful of a future where humans are no longer human, but rather inseparable from technologies that take advantage of our innate proclivity for play and exploration. We already see the seductive power of gaming and other media in society. I am starting to question what their role should be in the classroom and whether I might be contributing to a future dystopic society.

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