Strange reading assignment for #telic1 this time. The paper
is called ‘Mixing Humans and Nonhumans Together: The Sociology of a Door-Closer’.
The author is Jim Johnson but that actually is a pseudonym for Bruno Latour. Latour is a French sociologist of science and
anthropologist, and is best known for withdrawing from the subjective/objective
division1. The reason for this pseudonym was his opinion that no
American sociologist is willing to read things that are not American.
To illustrate the sometimes rather
strange language constructions (to me), I cite a paragraph from the paper:
‘For the umpteenth time I have screamed to Robin, “don’t sit on the
middle of the rear seat: if I brake too hard, you’re dead.” In an auto shop
further along the freeway I come across a device made for
tired-and-angry-parents-driving-cars-with-kids-between-two-and-five (that is
too old for a baby seat and not old enough for a seat belt)
and-from-small-families (that is without other persons to hold them safely)
This sentence illustrates the
metaphoric style of the author. He uses the example of a new type of child car
seat to illustrate how we constantly invent technologies to cope with growing
complexities in our society. Complexities, by the way, that we create ourselves
and are not necessarily of major importance. Do we use/invent technologies
because of the lack of discipline of humans? If we would all have the
discipline of driving carefully, we would not need car seats, we would not need
to brake too hard? This idea of being undisciplined and therefore in need of
new technologies is very present in the paper. People need to be disciplined to
close the door behind them. But since people are unreliable, we might find a
better solution in disciplining one person or a technology to close the door
after all the others.2
The example of the car seat
also illustrates the main purpose of the author: drawing our attention to the
work of Nonhumans (technologies) in social situations and that there is
actually no division between the technology and us operating the technology (Bruno
Latour is best known for withdrawing from the subjective/objective division).
Some other blogposts were
very useful in unpuzzling this metaphor of the door-closer, and the purpose of
it in our road to master technology enhanced learning environments. I share them
Read this article as a summary of the paper:
So, what are my conclusions after having mixed this paper
with my instincts, with other readings, and with the content of our current
Technology Enhanced Learning module?
When using technologies in
teaching environments, the teacher is very much related to the technology.
There is no division between the technology and the teacher. We must be aware
of how we ‘delegate’3 fundamental elements of good teaching to technologies. When
we are undisciplined in certain areas, we cannot rely on the technology to
solve our own lack of discipline. Take ‘effective communication’ for instance.
Effective communication starts or ends with competences of the teacher. In our
school we use GooglePlus as ad-valvas for our students. It is not due to the
technology that we communicate ineffectively, but sometimes the technology is seen
an easy scapegoat?
Teachers facilitate as
hinges for effective learning. A hinge is a very small but effective technology
that allows a door to be easily opened and closed. It seems a very minor
invention, but it has a great impact on the use of the door. The hinges are important to
bridge ‘in’ and ‘outside’ the house. The teacher and how he uses technology
seems to be very small in the complex environment of educational systems and structures, but this has major impact on the effect of learning.
The technology is invented,
designed by people who assign different scenarios and roles to the technology.
We must be aware of these scenarios in-scribed to the technology by those who
create them. Most likely other people (teachers) will come up with different scenarios
and roles of their own.4 Which can be great. People like manipulating powerful
technologies5. An example in my school: we have a culture of professional
development of teachers in small design teams. This happens quite organically,
which is a problem when an external ‘inspector’ is asking us how we encourage
professional development. The balance of actually doing (professional
development) and putting it in paper (words, words, words) is a constant tension in education. We now use http://pearltrees.com
to visualise our initiatives in teams that lead to professional development. We
assigned a different role to pearltrees from our own needs. We needed a very
user-friendly, quick way of curating professional development activities that
emphasize the relations between people and roles. We use six roles (Lunenberg,
Dengerink, Korthagen, 2013) as a basis for the professional development in the pearltrees. I’m quite sure that
the people who invented this great tool pearltrees did not have teacher
professional development tool in mind.
The pearltree (in Dutch): http://pear.ly/crtpn
Knowledge, morality … are
not properties of humans but of humans accompanied by their retinue (effect) of
delegated characters. Since each of those delegates ties together part of our
social world, it means that studying social relations without nonhumans is
impossible (Latour, 1988a). There is no division between the teacher and the
technology he uses.
1. Bruno Latour on Wikipedia
3. to delegate: from de- "from, away" (see de-) +
legare "send with a commission" http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=delegate
4. Madeleine Akrich http://brettworks.com/2011/12/01/on-wonderment-and-scripts-in-electronic-music-making/
5. Empowered learners – Manipulation Gee paper http://telic.posthaven.com/gee-learning-by-design