#edcmooc Sleek and white – a utopian vision of the future

I just watched the first two videos for Week 2 and am struck by the sterility of the environments that are portrayed. Where is the reality of a world of busy people rushing her there and everywhere, living, playing, eating, making a mess for heaven’s sake?!  Is the message somehow that the arrival of these amazing products will make our lives serene, stressfree, and successful? I guess that is the utopian model that is promoted but maybe I am unusual in enjoying a bit of colour, dirt, feeling and real life.

Yes, I would welcome less stress and for centuries man has striven to make our working and home lives easier by developing machines to do jobs for us. I would not do without my washing machine, car, tumble drier, dishwasher now that I have them. I reckon that there is no way that women would be able to work full time and manage a house without those machines because, at the risk of upsetting a minority of good men (my husband included), the housework and cooking does, more often than not, still get done by women!  That these machines have had an impact society and the way that we live is incontrovertible. However, there is a long way between making my life easier and the anodyne, emptiness of feeling that is suggested in these films. I think there also comes a point when a machine can’t do a job better than a human. I think that the idea of soul, feeling, emotions has been touched on in many posts and we haven’t quite managed to invent something that can replace the human touch.

But what of education? What is being learned and taught? I like the way that the computers used by the family in the second film are used to connect the family even though they are apart. The child could research on the computer for a recipe but also involve her Mum and tap into her experience and knowledge. They connected in a real way – what is more basic than cooking? There was the opportunity for emotional connection, to nurture relationships. Much has been made of the social impact of absent parents, the effect absences have on a child’s emotional and social development. Maybe that is the difference these tools can make? Maybe that is the impact the will have to change society? I think it is important that in both these films the children are seen using computers in a supported environment, they are guided by their parents. And because the whole environment appears to be connected the idea of being raised as a digital citizen, learning to interact and react within a virtual as well as a real world, is evident. Will this technology help shape and hone the social nature man? Will it change the way we think, act, interact, learn, work, live and die?

The ability to collaborate, share information, talk, communicate, connect – all key skills. But I don’t really see how the hardware they were using does that any differently to the way we can do those things now. Yes the gadgets are prettier and shinier, they have more potential but unless we change the way that we do things and not just the gadgets we do them with, what is the point?  I like the practical applications of the tools in the second film especially at the beginning when the two people communicate about accommodation and travel arangements.  Communication is clear, concise, effective; real communication in a real life contexts.

I go back to the sterility of the environment though because it was striking to me. The work environments had white walls, white or glass benches and tables, there were no pictures, no external stimulus. Even in the house which had some warmth, everything was in its place, it was a house and not a home. The only break in the whiteness was the “living” wall; a wall made of foliage. A connection to the outside worlds, to nature. This motif apears again and again in the course videos; the connection or disconnect between technology and nature.  How can we maintain our humanity, our soul if we don’t connect with nature? Surely a dystopian vision?

#edcmooc “Inbox”

Boy jumping off high diving board at swimming pool“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” —Mahatma Gandhi

I found this quote as I was reading through some of the blogs featured in the edcmooc news.  It has no real relevance to our theme of Utopia and Dystopia but I like the idea of learning for as long as you live and living life as fully as you can.

Living in the here and now – is that what the characters in the “Inbox” were doing? Making the most of a random opportunity, responding to a situation, communicating, connecting, building futures?  Utopian or dystopian? Once the connection was made there was hope, when the link was broken, hope remained. Makes me think of La Condition Humaine – Man’s Fate – an existentialist state where man chooses his own path, his own destiny, which dictates how people communicate with each other and how they interact with the world.

“Existentialists believe that when someone or society tries to impose or demand that their beliefs, values, or rules be faithfully accepted and obeyed it destroys individualism and makes a person become whatever the people in power desire thus they are dehumanized and reduced to being an object.” 

So where am I going with this?  I’m not really sure but I have a glimmer of something in the back of my mind that is glinting that I can’t quite grasp!

Does technology, do the shiny, pretty things, the gadgets and gizmos, the tweets, FB, the constant updates impose rules, beliefs, values on us that we don’t want to accept?  Do we risk losing our individualism and our personal freedom?  Or do they offer us the opportunity to discover ourselves, to find out who we are, to unlock our potential, and find happpiness?  Or is that just too black and white?  Are there more shades of grey?  Do we need to recognise that life is an essential mixture of utopian and dystopian experiences?

Communication, connections, webs, networks …..