Being Online: Facing the Digital Future Together
Stephen Downes, Nov 28, 2020, Professional Development, Toronto, Online via Zoom
Over the last few months, we have all become much more experienced with working and learning online. As we look to the future, we will no doubt carry on with a certain measure of digital teaching and collaboration. What will this new experience look like? Stephen Downes looks at our recent experiences using online learning and conferencing and paints a picture of what the longer-term future is likely to look like. He'll talk about what technologies worked, what didn't, and what we've learned about navigating the online environment.
What I find interesting about this is that the illusion is produced by changing the direction of arrows. This makes it one of the very few optical illusions I have seen where the illusion is produced by cognitive content - that is, by some kind of interpretation of the perception - and not just the experience of it (indeed, I'm not sure I have seen any before). One wonders whether we would experience the same illusion if we have not been educated to know the meaning of significant of arrows, or whether perhaps this meaning or significance is somehow an essential part of all perception.
"Not even the Sixties flower children were as countercultural as philosophy is today," writes Jeannette Cooperman, "and philosophers are clever enough to know their odds." But that was never the point. People who become philosophers, indeed, people who don't scan the job market before deciding on what to study, are thinking of far broader aspirations. "If you train your mind to think deeply, you are not predestined to be a blazing success in our culture’s material terms. You are likelier to wind up juggling data in the tech world or doing slightly blurry, multipurpose work supporting a nonprofit." If, somehow, you can afford to be concerned about more then mere survival, then you might be lucky enough to be one of those who gets to be in the room when the large topics are discussed.
In recent years (or, it seems, months) there has been an increased desire to defer to the voices of under-represented communities. These are well-intentioned, however, " Doing better than the epistemic norms we’ve inherited from a history of explicit global apartheid is an awfully low bar to set. The facts that explain who ends up in which room shape our world much more powerfully than the squabbles for comparative prestige between people who have already made it into the rooms." The people who serve as handy representatives of the under-represented community may be very different from typical members of their community, which explains why they're in the room to begin with. "For example,"says Olúfémi O. Táíwò, "the fact that incarcerated people cannot participate in academic discussions about freedom that physically take place on campus is intimately related to the fact that they are locked in cages." Or as Nick Estes says in the context of Indigenous politics: “The cunning of trauma politics is that it turns actual people and struggles, whether racial or Indigenous citizenship and belonging, into matters of injury. It defines an entire people mostly on their trauma and not by their aspirations or sheer humanity”. Aas Táíwò comments, "This performance is not for the benefit of Indigenous people, but “for white audiences or institutions of power”.
I have a copy of Susan Haack's Philosophy of Logics on my shelf and its very existence gives me all the backing I need to push back against a world view that admits of only one way of reasoning or one conception of truth. Reading this paper (16 page PDF) I find I have much more affinity with her than I thought, both from the perspective of an overall approach to epistemology, which "depends on experience; not, however, the recherché experience needed by the sciences, but close attention to aspects of everyday experience so familiar we don’t usually notice them," and also style of writing, "which, unlike the stilted, impersonal 'social science' style adopted by so many philosophers today, is direct, plain-spoken, and yet informal, conversational, idiomatic, sometimes even humorous." And yes, there's a price to be paid for such a stance: "isolation, a sense of alienation, and sometimes real resentment and hostility on the part of some who are unwilling, or not in a position, to pay the price such freedom requires." But I for one think that the world is better off for having people like Susan Haack willing to pay the price, and that it is they, not the popular philosophers of the day, who will have the lasting and meaningful influence.
I studied computer science at college in 1980 and then philosophy during my university years. If I had based my decisions on what pundits of the time were declaring to be 'future skills' I would probably have steered well clear of both areas (and most likely would have ended up studying engineering). And that points to the problem of basing a learning strategy (52 page PDF) on labour market information and skills demanded by employers. They don't define what an individual needs, they define what employers need, and are therefore irrelevant to anyone not seeking to base their lives on what employers need (which, I dare say, is most of us). Even if I were to be focused on the economics of learning, I as a learner would want information on markets, not jobs. And I would want to know what competencies successful people have, not merely successfil hires.
Here is Alex Usher's criticism of the Future Skills Council report: "It is a 50-page document. That purports to provide a vision of learning in Canada. And it uses the word 'provinces' exactly twice." I can verify that his page and word counts are correct. But in addition to the jurisdictional issues, Usher is critical of the idea of "a government-run career website" as "one of five key pillars to making Canada a learning nation." This, in addition to the recommendation to "promote, enable and validate skills development and training in all their diverse forms” leads him to express concern that the "Federal government might soon be in the business of 'accrediting' skills." Disaster lies this way, he says, and I'm hard-pressed to disagree.
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Copyright 2020 Stephen Downes Contact: firstname.lastname@example.orgThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.