The Digital Laundrette: Technological Determinism

I rarely if ever talk about work. It’s a fight club policy. Today is an an exception, as a colleague (Anon) used the phrase “Digital Laundrette”. Nothing spark the imagination more that a mashed up culture. What we’d discussed was a sort of post-web2.0, post-ICT integration, post-expert, post-gatekeeper world where those who enjoy and see benefits from using technology are constantly thinking of ways to use it better — and not simply repeat, copy, clone or marginally adjust what has come before.

I should point out we’ve both been doing this a long time and have seen many technologies come and go. What is common to each is that they are invariably discussed as being being good or bad in a ‘global’ sense. We discussed how people short on time, often on short term contracts, classes of hundreds never tens of students find time to learn this. Some people are surprised to learn many  people teaching in Higher Education have no under-graduate or post-graduate degree in teaching, let long how to deal with hundres of iphone toting students rolling into tutorials and lectures.

Technology, and places which promote it’s use are not however digital-laundrettes where learning and teaching problems with technology can be dropped off, shoved through a spin cycle and picked up later. As we know from public life, the advent of the domestic washing machine has not meant less clothes to wash or liberated anyone from the chore of washing clothes. In fact most accounts of the washing machine say it created work and an entire industry to support what was once a systematic operation with some clear (if dirty) inputs and clean outputs. At a time where teachers in all of education are being to a) to do more with less and b) take the political and management beatings dished out (by people with no teaching qualifications) … technological determinism has seek people who design and work with technology (to blend and enhance learning in new ways) to often find themselves in situations where people rush it, drop off and leave … because they are so dammed busy and stressed they don’t have time to peruse the vast amounts of detergents, softeners, machines and other products and solutions that apparently makes for ‘good washing’.

It’s a bizarre situation: On one hand, digital laundrettes are taking care of business, while big business is taking care of itself — selling more solutions with marginal pedagogical difference of imperatives. Don’t forget — selling technology is a multi-billion dollar enterprise … where as supporting or teaching with it is a ‘deficit’ envrionment. After all, if we knew what we we’re doing there would be no need for more technologies to supersede the last.

So do you ‘feel’ like you’re in a laundrette — or are you a fashion designer?