On Monday 6th July colleagues from across the University joined Dr John Troyer to discuss: What is Technology? This event questioned our rationale for relying on digital technologies within our research and teaching.
Understanding what constitutes technology is an interesting historical question but increasingly technology has become almost synonymous with computers and digitality. Dr Troyer began his discussion with a teaching anecdote in which he asked his 1st year undergraduates to show him a technology. As expected the majority reached for their mobile phones, laptops or tablets, leaving him to question them on the role and importance of their pens, their glasses, contact lenses etc.
Within the first half of the presentation Dr Troyer explored and critiqued technological determinism, challenging the divide that often emerges between technology and humans and calling for more nuanced understandings about socio-technological relationships. Drawing from the work of Raymond Williams (1989), Dr Troyer described some of the criticisms of technological determinism as it does not take into consideration the way that humans use technology and the relationship between society and technology: the ‘moment’ of any new technology is a ‘moment’ of choice.
Following this, and informed by this scholarly background, the focus shifted to thinking about not only what is technologically possible but also what is desirable and the implications of this for lecturing. Through a case study of his own teaching without powerpoint, Dr Troyer discussed the merits and challenges of this approach. Student feedback and unit evaluation although favourable, did raise some pertinent issues that were followed up within a wider group discussion.
The case study then, like much of the presentation, was not about the presence or absence of technology but rather explored the way that the current focus on digital and computer-based technology somewhat takes for granted other learning technologies.
A full recording of the discussion is here: https://vimeo.com/133962092
If you are interesting in reading more on this topic, have a look at these two articles: