9. The Instant of Being Everywhere: Options and Obstacles in Technology-mediated Education

Michael Krikonis, Jaan Valsiner

Abstract


Contemporary technological advancements create new forms of human experiences – most notably the speed of communication, and the linking of the here-and-now and there-and-now settings. We analyze the new hybrid setting that is created for the teaching/learning contexts through seminars that use videoconferencing between remote locations, and emphasize that through these technological means teaching and learning activities move into the liminal place – heterotopia – where time and space of actions is set up under new constraints of immediacy. Human relations of our time emulate new technological devices in ways that let us forget them. Once mastered, we forget all the confusions we lived through when trying to use a computer, cell phone, or i-pod for the first time. Moreover, reliance on such hard-attained technological devices becomes a primary psychological necessity – as anyone forgetting one’s cell phone may understand. Objects which once – not so long ago – were foreign and somewhat untrusted interventions into our ordinary ways of living quickly become hyper-ordinary.

Yet information technology is special; it changes us more than technological breakthroughs in other life areas – cooking technology (microwaves), water reprocessing technology, or laundromats – do. The old social boundaries or private<>public kind are broken down (e.g. receiving a phone call while in bathroom) and newly established (e.g., switching off one’s cell phone at the beginning of a relevant social event).

We turn around while walking in a street hearing somebody behind us saying a loud «hello» to meet the friendly stranger, only to find her deeply attached to her cellphone. Even more curious are the street scenes where seemingly normal human beings can be seen talking loudly to themselves. The hands-free sets make the difference between ordinary street and an insane asylum that of a matter of degree. The nature of social institutions is likewise changing. The historic difference between formal (school) and informal (community) education crumbles with the wireless internet connections arriving inside school classrooms, and the cell phone photo cameras used to communicate exam questions to the peer elsewhere. Technology makes us free – or, more precisely – makes us dependent in new ways. These new ways both enable and restrict our ways of living; the speed of sending a message instantly to the other side of the world is balanced by the slow agony of trying to remember one’s own forgotten password among the many.


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