Saturday, February 9, 2013

On Utopias and Dystopias - Part 2

In the introduction to this week's activities we were warned that "some videos were evocative and sometimes disturbing" but I couldn't imagine how true that was until I watched the first one.

The advert displays very utopian visions of technology, in my opinion. Some parts of it seemed worthwhile to me, but some looked quite daunting.

 In terms of education, I think, this should work. We can see how involved and engaged the children in class are. To refer back to last week's reading Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, I am prepared to accept the fact that if technology is correctly incorporated into an education system, we may see better results in the future. Currently many kids complain about Maths, Chemistry, Physics, etc being boring. However, with the help of technology studying these subjects could be made more interactive and informative. I personally believe that this is a positive development. What makes me especially happy is the fact that teachers are not left out of the learning process even in such a technologically advanced world. On the other hand is it going to be possible for everyone to have these devices or the majority are going to be left out?

Another thing is environmental concern. I am not so sure about this kind of development being good. The solar panels on the roof of the school are good, but what was in the forest/park before the glass for educational field trips was installed? Are we going to cut out more trees to improve education?

I went on to watch the next video in the series A Day Made of Glass 2 Unpacked. As the explanation of the advert is given by a Corning employee, it is very utopian and does not address problems such as deforestation and technological disruptions. The questions that I had when I was watching the first video still stand: What happens when the Internet connection is disrupted? How is the glass wall installed? Will more trees be cut out to install it? What happens to the environment or the animals?

The next film, although with beautiful views and lovely colours, made me think that this is not a very good prospect for the future.

People even interact with each other through technology. I mean they can just ask the person next to them instead of sending information requests or ordering something. A child communicates with her mother via technology. She seems to be happy. But is this really what children want? Do they really want to have digital mothers or fathers?

And then the translating glasses. To me it seems that the message in the film is you won't need to study a foreign language because technology will translate any for you. I hope in the future we are not going to rely on our devices to do everything for us. Otherwise we will end up learning only how to use our gadgets. If the first film really appealed to me, the second one made me think that this is a world that I wouldn't like to live in.

However, I do have a question regarding both films. What happens if the Internet connection is bad or if the city is hit by some sort of natural disaster and there is no electricity? Do we stop living until all that gets sorted out?

The next film to watch was Sight which I had already watched for the Gamification course on coursera as a task to identify game elements applied in gamification. So when I watch this film, it makes me think of gamification. This is just a made-up world where people wear lenses which allow them to see through the other person, look up their profile, give scores, get virtual coach advice, etc. However, I see a fault in this vision. Before we play a game, we learn the rules of it. Especially, in computer games we mainly follow the stages of onboarding, scaffolding and then mastery, but the woman in this video does not seem to be aware of any of this happening. An unfair game, don't you think? The ending is especially unpleasant. How comes that the man can stop and rewind a situation and the woman cannot? To me it's simple - the man is playing a game only he knows about which is already not a game but is some kind of fraud.

Points, badges, feedback (part of gamification or computer games) have their own role but I don't see this to be applied to real life. Again the same artificiality as in the previous two films.

Charlie 13

This film looks more like Big Brother to me or maybe Orwell's 1984. In a way this is a bleak representation of the future. However, it also gives a glimpse of hope that there will be some people who will resist and fight for their freedom. At present we have people who, to protect their privacy, do not set up an account on Facebook or any other social networking sites, which in itself seems to be an indication that people understand that, apart from having benefits, technology presents a threat to people's privacy and sense of autonomy. In a way, I think, there are people like Charlie now too.


We seem to be going through science fiction week. Another film and another reminder of Big Brother (the poster says "Beware Big Brother Bentham" ) but this time with some time travel involved.
I do understand that many of the technological devices that we have nowadays are invented thanks to science fiction films. However, I hope that time travel is not going to happen.
There have been a lot of talks that certain agencies keep a tag on people using social networking services and collect their data, it is also believed that social network providers, and not only, store user data for infinite period of time and that even deleted messages or profiles are not really deleted: they are there in the cloud. The same seems to be true about information on our mobile phones: phone call and SMS data appears to be kept by certain organisations.  This all is, in a way, present-day surveillance in action. Recently I read an article about women in Saudi Arabia being monitored through their mobile phones and if they are trying to leave the country without their husbands, the latter receive an alert. I thought this was appalling  but  this is the reality we are leaving in. It horrifies me to think that the same can start happening in other parts of the world. Another article discusses surveillance at schools and states that we have become fixated on crime, security and violence. We try to fight for freedom, human rights, etc but can we ever really gain those? For some reason, I don't think so anymore.

Now the next talk was more related to e-learning, in my opinion.

The idea of opening education appeals to me a lot. New form of education is emerging and as it is new, as it is opening, there will be problems and faults obviously, but as the time passes, it is possible to improve and develop and give many people a chance to study in collaboration with each other and be in control of their own learning. It is believed that we can learn better when we collaborate, because we learn from each other. Isn't it what many of us try to achieve in a classroom setting by dividing students into pairs or groups to complete a task or to discuss something? As Gardner Cambell says in his talk: "My network is helping me to learn".

After such a depressing set of films (apart from the last one) watched this week, I still would like to hope that the education system could benefit from a certain amount of technology constructively incorporated into a curriculum.

Kevin Werbach - For the win


  1. Hi Anna! Great write-ups and I largely agree with your analyses. The only one I had a slightly different view of was "Sight". I thought (but only at the end) that the "woman" was not real and that he was playing a dating game with a realistic "woman" programme. That was why he could take control, rewind etc. when she reacted badly when "she" notices he is using a programme.
    Sometimes his eyes looked unreal... so I was left wondering if he was just a hologram too. But I don't think so because of his game in the safety of the rug on his floor at the start of the film. :-) He lives in a risk free world, devoid of reality. I found it quite an intriguing short film and so well made!

    1. I just watched it again and saw and understood so much more... "Sight"! right! :-) I now think she is real but she has no idea how much he can manipulate her, since he works for "the company" which has taken - pardon the pun - virtual control of everyone.

  2. Thanks Annie for commenting. Comments make me reflect further. Actually both versions offered by you are possible. The woman might be a virtual character rather a real person. It could also be the possibility of 'the company' (similar to the one in plurality) controlling everyone.
    Today there was a post in the forum about the male character in Sight. The post discussed the fact that we may not actually know whether the man is a man or a woman because in a virtual environment it is possible to forge a personality and we should be aware of that fact. Something that is true, but never occurred to me when I was watching Sight.
    What do you think?