Tuesday, November 25, 2014

E-Learning and Digital Cultures #edcmooc - Week 1

Week 1 of #edcmooc is about looking to the past to see how technological advances are viewed from both utopian and dystopian perspectives. 

Two quotes state my takeaways from the video resources presented this week:

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
 Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future: An Inquiry Into the Limits of the Possible

"Fear cannot be without hope nor hope without fear."
 Baruch Spinoza

Reflecting upon the four videos I was transported back to my childhood of "duck and cover" drills and Civil Defense films in school, and watching science fiction movies on television. 

The development of hydrogen bombs in the 1940's...  

led to the hope of a utopian atomic age where the use of nuclear fission could provide the power of the future...

and to the fear of atomic bomb use during a dystopian cold war era attack. Notice that both perspectives were reinforced with educational films (technology) shown in school.

Classic science fiction films from the 1950's reinforced the utopian and dystopian perspectives with their depictions of the hope of technology turning into the fear of its unexpected repercussions.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) Example of the tension between man's technological world (atomic war) and the natural world (Earth and beyond). The movie reinforces the potential power of technology over man in that Gort, the robot policeman, will monitor Earth's use of technology and will use technology to destroy mankind if unwise choices are made.

Them! (1954) Another example of the tension between the natural world (ants in this case), and the technological world (atomic bombs in this case), with the future of mankind caught between the two.

Forbidden Planet (1956) And a third example of tension. In this case, of being so focused on creating the technology of utopia through positive creation thoughts, they failed to take into consideration that there is a natural dual side of negative (dystopian) thoughts that can create (destruction) as well. The film comes with bonus side warning that an obsession for obtaining and hoarding knowledge (or not letting go of your daughter!) can lead to negative thoughts with potential deadly outcomes.

I end week one with reflection on the assigned readings. My perspective of technology is eclectic, and, in my view, non-contradictory: 

  • I believe technology has been and is the prime mover of societal change (technical determinism). 
  • I believe that technology, as a means of societal change, becomes greater than the sum of its parts (holism).
  • I believe that technology is neutral and its intended or unintended use can be positive, negative, or neutral (instrumental view of technology).

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