Politics, privilege and invading holograms

photo of Darth Vader MaskPhoto by issac cortes on Unsplash


Oh dear, so much to write about and so little time. Or maybe things just moving so fast that the moment for blogging passes and another week goes by without me taking time to write. Anyway in an attempt to remedy that situation, this is just a very quick post based on a couple of things I saw last week.

On Friday I saw this tweet from Helen Crump.

Of course ed tech has politics, it’s steeped in them. Everything has a political context.  Education isn’t neutral, is highly political and contextual. The right to education maybe enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Rights , however that doesn’t actually set the context of how education is perceived, instantiated, supported and controlled at national and international levels.  To think that educational technology is neutral is naive. It too is developed, owned and sold by someone with an agenda, and there is a Political or political motive to that.

Despite the claims by most ed tech vendors, ed tech is not the solution to education. It is a solution but right now in the Global North it exists in a neoliberal context. The cost of education and personalisation is increasingly being driven by biased, highly political, data driven, developments.  AI and all those algorithms we are constantly hearing about, are not neutral or non political . They conform to the standards and privileges of those who develop them.

Then I read  Maha’s post on the privilege to choose global perspectives.   Once again Maha reminding us in the Global North of our assumptions around globalism, diversity, the acceptance of our ‘norms’ in academic writing, presenting and referencing.  The political context of academia.

Maha puts  the mirror up to our faces by pointing out:
if you are in the US, your career will survive completely even if you never read a single article by someone not from your culture, not in your language.
would a journal accept my article if it had ZERO references by Western canon?
Well would it? How would you react if you were peer reviewing a paper like that?
So Maha plays the game she understands the political context, she finds ways to get her voice heard.
I blog, I tweet, I publish, I f*%$ing invade conferences with Virtual keynotes and presentations and conversations and I join and initiate collaborations and I speak that language and I build those relationships. So you can all *see me* and you can all *hear me*.

That’s hard work. I have such huge respect for Maha and that f*%$ing invasion.   It is so needed and welcome (well from most people I know. And yes, that’s my politics coming through).  It can be uncomfortable,  but education should be uncomfortable at times. It shouldn’t just be about a “personalised journey”, where you are never challenged and you never question of challenge the context of that experience. Higher education shouldn’t just be judged on the kind of money you can earn, the perpetuating of an increasingly fractured and fragile political scenario.

Then I see the news about teaching holograms and I automatically think of Maha’s post.  How this the exact opposite of her invasion. This could be the starting of another f*%$ing huge cultural invasion. Yet again, we (in the Global North) are developing “new” ways to subjugate “global markets” with this great new (?) technology

 . . . members will also be offered the hologram system, which Imperial is adopting for its MBA classes, aimed at cutting the cost of sharing their academics while hopefully improving on videoconferencing.

Note the emphasis on improving videoconferencing – not improving/developing pedagogy. That doesn’t get mentioned until much further down in the article. But fear not the holographic teacher can take questions in real time. Which is great, because obviously a great big hologram (of a white, middle aged man- check the article’s lead picture) is much better than say synchronous chat session within a video conferencing session – or you know having live video q & a session, or using some twitter, what’s app or snapchat or any technology that might be actually used by students outside education.  And I bet all the planned classes will be in English. Once again we invade the rest of the world except this time we don’t have to face the natives in their own country. We can just beam in star Professors, Darth Vader stylee.

What politics are implicit in that ed tech?

5 years on and struggling with my silence

This week marks my 5th work anniversary at GCU.   This isn’t going to be a look what I’ve done the past five years post, it’s more an attempt to write something at a point where I find it hard to write anything.

As you know, dear reader, I’ve been blogging for quite a while now – since 2006 which is quite scary in itself.  Over the years I’ve found the act of writing my blog quite centrally to my professional ‘being’.  I’ve never written for anyone in particular, in fact I’ve probably written more for myself. My blog has become a way for me to think out loud, remember ‘stuff’ , share ideas and every now and again have a bit of a rant.  I don’t have any hard and fast rules about blogging apart from a sort of mantra to try and write something at least once a week.  That doesn’t always happen, and recently I have been finding it increasingly difficult to find things to write about.

5 years ago I doubt any of us could have envisioned the world as it stands today.   I never expected to have experienced 2 referendums; to see the UK being taking to the brink by an interminable internal leadership struggle and existential euro angst.  I never thought Donald Trump would ever stand, let alone be elected President of the United States.  I didn’t think the politics of cruelty would ever rise in ways we have seen and suffered from in my life time.

My blog has been, and is, about my work life and I keep it non political.  My political and Political values obviously permeate, but I try not to be overtly political.  Partly this is down to personal choice, but that choice is indirectly linked to many, many other factors.  I’ve never written to be overtly controversial, to bait or to explicitly self promote  I’ve always thought of my posts more as a way of sharing bits of my internal dialogue(s). I also don’t want to invite “the trolls”.  I am comfortable in my little echo chamber.  That said if I feel strongly about something I know that I am in the fortunate position of being able to share those thoughts on this platform. Or so I thought. . .

What happened last week in America to Christine Blasey-Ford has left me speechless, enraged, reduce to tears and at a loss at what to do or say.  Everything I believe in was tested to the absolute limit. It was in another country, but it could (and does, and will) happen here.  “They” won again. The white, male, middle class, middle aged, right wing pulled it off, yet again.  Poor old Bret, having to suffer, having to be dragged in front of a congressional committee. But,  hey it’s ok he’s got a job for life now.  Yet again President Trump brazened it out, shameless mocked victims of sexual attack and got away with it.  #metoo is more a case of #notmetoo for him.  Boris Johnston is testing the limits of UK tolerance just now,  no doubt gaining encouragement from his new friend Steve Bannon at every swipe at burkas and suicide belts and every (seemingly) ridiculous photo-opportunity.

What to do, what to do?   The older I get the more I know that context is key to everything, and context is inherently political.  So for all my attempts to fool myself that this blog isn’t political, the constraints I have set for myself around it are of course a  direct result of my political context and how I place myself in it.   Self censorship for self preservation is always there. I am fooling myself that into believing I that I am not a coward, that I just don’t have the words.  I just don’t have the nerve, or the energy most of the time.  I stay silent, I am complicit.

I hope that writing this will help me find the words, help me to move on and find my voice again, to be brave, to be more focused political by being more criticality engaged. Here’s to the next 5 years, where ever they may take me and the rest of us.