iCyborg: Shifting Out of Neutral and the Pedagogical Road Ahead

iCyborg: Shifting Out of Neutral and the Pedagogical Road Ahead

Catherine Adams
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-678-0.ch008
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Teachers may no longer envision their educational technologies as powerful yet essentially neutral tools plied to accomplish their own pedagogical ends. Rather, these technologies are more accurately theorized as vocative objects that prereflectively engage and invite us into their world, and mimetic interventions that scaffold, transform, and sustain new teaching and learning practices and ways of thinking regardless of teacherly intentions. This chapter explores some of the significances and implications of a ubiquitous technologizing of educational lifeworlds in light of this understanding.
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Vocative Objects

The totality of the immediate environment that we inhabit, our lifeworld, is best described as “a milieu—a field of intensive forces, vibrant according to their own inner codes” (Lingis, 2004, p. 278). Ivan Illich (1997) coins the phrase le milieu technique to refer to the irresistible embrace of the high technology lifeworlds we find ourselves dwelling in today. The technological milieu is shaping substantially—insinuating itself, habituating us and simultaneously reinterpreting—how we act in and perceive the world. To gain access to the unique tenor and structure of this new milieu, Illich suggests we look beyond what technological objects do, and attend more carefully to what they say to us, to what they invite us to do. Within the situated, relational, embodied context of lived space, each object or place presents a unique evocation or “pathic” appeal to us: “cool water invites us to drink, the sandy beach invites the child to play, an easy chair invites our tired body to sink in it” (van Manen, 1997, p. 21). Of course, beaches and easy chairs do not “speak” to us in the same way as people do:

Pathic knowing inheres in the sense and sensuality of our practical actions, in encounters with others and in the ways that our bodies are responsive to the things of our world and to the situations and relations in which we find ourselves” (van Manen, 2007, p. 12).

Orienting to pathic or lived sensibilities, we are positioned to catch glimpse of the nature and quality of the intimate rapport enacted between human beings and their technologies every day.

The pathic or invitational quality of a thing is always “heard” in light of our intentionality or indissoluble connection and orientation to the world as child, parent, teacher, etc. The sandy beach commands the child differently than the watchful parent, or the teenage sibling in the company of friends. Intentionality expresses the phenomenological insight that we do not exist apart from our world, but are always already intimately intertwined, caught up in and tacitly informed by it: “human experience and consciousness necessarily involve some aspect of the world as their object, which, reciprocally, provides the context for the meaning of experience and consciousness” (Seamon, 2002). Too, how a thing shows up to us in our world as well as what it simultaneously “says” to us rests on our cultural pre-understandings and meaning structures. The cultural ground of our existence pre-reflectively provides the “conditions whereby we experience something—whereby what we encounter says something to us” (Gadamer, 1976, p. 9). Similarly, the world discloses itself differently to us depending on the historical (onto-theological) epoch we find ourselves living in. According to Martin Heidegger, we currently suffer (and enjoy) the sway of das Gestell, the technological way of being: the things of our world tend to appear and speak to us as resources to be used and manipulated (Heidegger, 1977).

Heidegger, one of the earliest philosophers of technology, shows that each thing (or place) opens a new world to us, revealing novel structures of experience and meaning; every technology discloses a new horizon of possibilities to us. Human beings are “the be-thinged” (Heidegger, 1971, p. 181): we are prereflectively inhabited, conditioned, and creatively provoked by the things of our world. Having pre-reflectively responded to the invitational quality of a thing, we enter into a “rapport” with it (Heidegger, 1971); we become ontologically and hermeneutically engaged. From a phenomenological perspective, we may thus seek to describe the vocative appeal digital technologies make to teacher and student in the lived space of the classroom. Using the example of PowerPoint, we might inquire: What invitation does PowerPoint issue to a teacher as s/he is preparing for a class? What is the nature of the rapport that is enacted between, with and through the teacher and this tool? What practices are newly informed, reformed, and transformed, and what habits of mind are prescribed, subscribed to, and subsequently inscribed?

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