On Selwyn – Digital inequality – and the Pirate Party

I find this paper by Selwyn very interesting: insightful, pragmatic and honest. I’m reading a lot about the subject of digital technology use by students and the youth and it’s useful that someone writes candidly without idealising the subject – as he shows is typical.

In many ways, he brings the aspirations of the advocates back down to earth and some of his arguments remind me of the fascinating Austrian Priest/philosopher Ivan Illich, who criticised schools for instutionalising the young into economic systems (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ivan_Illich#Deschooling_Society). Of course, Illich advocated – with caution – the use of technology to educate, yet we have yet to see (as Selwyn shows) that technology makes any meaningful or significant impact or effect on youth education.

I am curious in how the digital apparatus these essays describe empower the youth as well, and appreciate Selwyn’s honesty in claiming that they don’t necessarily do so. However, parts of the essay remind me of the Pirate Party in Germany – which seems to have gained popularity and credibility, despite operating with a slim mandate – namely, endorsing file-sharing and highlighting concerns about data-protection and censorship. That such a political platform could engage so many as to gain seats in Germany’s party proves that technology and its related issues are central to many voters’ perceptions of the future. Or does it prove that democracy is regarded as a bit of a joke? Either way, whoever you vote for the Government always gets in (as Dylan said)…and whatever starts out as subversive eventually gets recuperated within the system….just as Facebook founder/market strategist Zuckerberg asserted with his recent justification of floating Facebook on the stock market, wherein he called he and his cronies ‘hackers’ and described them in the rhetoric of revolutionaries. The clown.  This is deconstructed quite irreverently in the column on this BBC link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16859526

Pirate party: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/sep/18/pirate-party-germany-berlin-election

and a Facebook fan page about Ivan Illich, with the top post being an appeal to close itself down:


There doesn’t seem to be a fanpage about Neil Selwyn; consider this one.




Filed under Technology and education

5 responses to “On Selwyn – Digital inequality – and the Pirate Party

  1. John

    He’ll be delighted to hear it and I hope we get to hear from him later. This is a rely interesting area that he is working in – showing an interest in getting to the socio-cultural heart of the matter and refusing to get swept up in the techno hysteria. He would argue that scepticism is an essential correcting force to some of what gets written on this subject. Did you read the Downes piece?

    • Yes, I did read Downes piece. Interesting that the debate about digital technology is so divided. There’s a lot to be positive about these tools and their potential. What a lot of writers neglect to draw into the debate are the experiences of teachers in actually applying them and measuring how effective the results are.

  2. Thanks John – I’m getting more interested in the subject. I was looking at a book called The Age of Spiritual Machines (Ray Kurzweil) yesterday – which postulates that computers are beginning to exceed human intelligence. It makes predictions on the future of different areas of life, including education and prophesises the demise of the teacher and school, the end of ‘reading’ and uses translation devices as a metaphor for how we will not need to learn others language, because the technology will arrive that overcomes communication barriers. Somehow, this seems a bit sad.

    I’m not sure I can believe that teachers will cease to exist in future. On the other hand, it’s interesting how many jobs actually are disappearing due to technology. Perhaps the England football team can be replaced by a robot?

    • Hi Can tank, Can I have a groan too? I’m not sure it’s robots you have to fear. Somehow the growth of technology seems to be accompanying casualisation of labour. Don’t know how, or even whether it’s causal. We’ve all seen the promised benefits, of increased leisure and prosperity for all, transformed into increased prosperity for the few and increased hours/pressure or unemployment for the rest. Now casualisation, with its vacuuming of power away from the workforce into senior management is riding through many industries like the Black Horseman of the Apocalypse. I’m told it’s already started its charge through higher education… where next?

  3. Thanks for this interesting post. It will be fascinating to see how the effect of technology in education pans out over the next decade or so. I enjoy using technology to bring alive the most abstract imagined ideas that children have (see The Hackney Pirates adventure into stop-motion: http://sheepsjourney.com/episodes/episode-5/), but I am glad that I myself spent most of my adolescence up trees or on a bicycle (when I wasn’t smoking fags behind the bike sheds, that is.)

    PS. There is such a thing as the Pirate Party?! Why did I not know this already?

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