Monthly Archives: February 2013

#EDCMooc Assignment. Posthuman : More complicated

Click on the Image to view my Artifact


If the above link doesn’t play in your browser you can find the same video on you tube here


All photos and screen shots were taken by me  and are available under  [CC-BY-SA-2.0]

The 2 drawings were created by Edward Fox-Gliddon (my 9 year old son) and are also licensed under  [CC-BY-SA-2.0] you must attribute both him and his comic company “Air Balloon Comics”

I used the following 3 images from the web

Hashtag cloud  ( By Tony Hirst [CC BY 2.0] via flicker

By William Hook [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Jeremy Keith (Flickr: Device pile) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Music  SledgeHammer from Camtasia 8 by TechSmith (best description of licence is here)

Note for sharing to the Guardian newspaper the above music did not meet their licence rules so I have re-recorded and used “CDK – Silence Await” from ( – Creative Commons — Attribution) cdk / CC BY 3.0 (see this link to view the updated video)

Rational (I would suggest watching the video before reading this – cheers)

PostHuman, the initial point I am hoping to make is that an argument can be made that we have already reached a stage where our abilities could be considered beyond human, certainly someone from 1900 would see some of our abilities as beyond human (although not beyond their imagination or comprehension).

We control our reproduction (contraption), we are never lost (SatNav), we can answer any question (google search and wikipedia), we can communicate to anyone any time any place (phone, email etc).  In the 1700’s this kind of ability might have been considered Witch Craft.

Distributed Intelligence, I am trying to convey the concept here that we are more than just our bare brain, it is the tools we have and the networks of people that we interact with that fully define our intelligence.  This article gives a more scholarly take on this

Thinking through other people, this continues the Distributed Intelligence idea, I wanted to emphasize how the social part of the internet is dramatically increasing the pool of people that we can use in our intelligence network.  Certainly the number of people we can connect with is larger, I have no direct evidence that we are using them to improve our cognition – however anecdotally would you say you have learnt more from the course materials in #EDCMooc or from the social media connections you have made (In my case I have found the reflections of others on the course materials to be invaluable).

My Children, can I first say this is not a digital natives/immigrants idea (this has been long discredited although it is a Zombie theory as I have posted previously).  There is no great change between me and my children’s generation, what I am referring to here is the Moore’s law of increase in computing power and the fact that they will be alive long after I am dead, thus what they achieve in their prime is likely to be orders of magnitude greater than what I do in mine.  Similarly what they do in their school years should (in some ways) be radically different to what I did in mine.

Pencil, this looks back to our first week on utopia and dystopia.  Here I am worried not about the possibilities of Technology but instead about the ability of our Education system to keep up.  The effect I am hoping for here is that it causes the viewer to think about not just what technologies we can use in education but also how education will enable our children to thrive in the modern technological environment.

This is of particular concern to me at the moment because

  1. Education is my job (specialism – Technology Enhanced Learning)
  2. I have children in the Education system
  3. The United Kingdom government appears to be determined to take us back to a “Golden Age” of education that didn’t exist.

In support of point 3, our current government are a group of privately educated people (so no direct experience of participating in the systems they are changing) with few qualifications in the Education field and little experience of working in education (see this blog for a nice summary).

They also appear to ignore expert advice instead rushing ahead with  any “good idea” that pops into their head (reform GCSEs? reform A levels? change inspections? change fees?)  They also do not appear to be particularly aware of the opportunities of technology or to support it being used in schools.

Planning my Artefact #EDCMooc

When creating something its good to storyboard out what you are planning to do.  I wouldn’t normally post what is in effect my brainstorming, but the EDCMooc is about the process as well as the finished product so below is the notes I made when making my artifact (yes its messy and yes it wont make much sense to you – but when I do post the artifact it will make (some) sense)

So all the reading and watching is done, time to start making my Artefact. I want to do something that looks at posthumanism (partly because I think that its not really a clean break – we became human the first time we made a tool to use, the tools we have now are just more powerful).

I also want to comment on the obsession with testing particularly as (in the UK) our government is trying to change our education system to more resemble how things were when they went to school.

Text: Visual I am a posthuman : Brains & boxes? (Ed pic)

Technology – Faster : Bike&Car (Photo) Brighter :Light (Photo)

Distributed Intelligence : Devices (photo)

Think through my friends : Tree video with social media pics superimposed (use this but attribute! )

At work : Enter (video)

Home : Media (dont know!)

My Phone : phone (picture)

Communities : Social media images

My Children : Cyberman masks (photo)

Fading intellect :wings pic (Ed)

Pencil: Video – snapping pencil

Tried to get #edcmooc visualisation but the communal brain on G+ let me down.  Found this visualisation AND his blog looks useful, so in fact I learnt more – communal brain failure causes brain to grow

What is a human #EDCMooc

Having watched Steve Fuller I see that there are a lot of ways you can categorise a human. So here I am trying to elaborate what I think it is to be human

Functional – A human is a tool creating, social/collaborative, being with linguistic capabilities.

Which is good as far as it goes but is not specific enough, there are a number of other species on this planet (most notably the Great Apes) that fit that definition and there may well be species on other planets that also fit.

So biological – a human being is something that has some % of DNA in common with (which human do we choose?) and is able to breed with other humans.  This is again problematic choose too low a % and we are including other species that some might be uncomfortable calling human, too high a % and we might rule out some current groups or some human descendants in a number of generations.  There are other problems with the biological but I will come back to those.

Cultural – a human is someone who is part of a community of other human beings (and has been raised in a human community?). Is what makes us human other people?

I like the cultural definition, it appeals to me that it is by our daily interactions with others that we define what is and what is not acceptable “Human” behaviour, and it ties into a pet theory of mine that the reason why some of the rich and famous go a bit “unusual” is that they don’t have the normal checks on their behaviour, when you are really powerful, people tend to not to say “No you are wrong, thats stupid” even when what you are saying is really stupid.

However the cultural one again could be problematic – if an alien crashed to earth and was raised by humans (Superman!) does that make him a human?  If we do create AI they will have been raised in a human culture so are they also human?

Hopping back to the biological definition – it is likely to be problematic in the future due to 2 changes, we will be able to alter the DNA of our descendants and we might reach a stage where people that were once human have replaced so much that they are mainly machine (read bi-centennial man) or have uploaded completely.

In conclusion – I would like to make the case that anything that can meet the Functional and Cultural requirements should be considered a human being.  I am aware that there are some “Humans” that might be uncomfortable with such a wide definition of Human, however I have always been an inclusive type of being and would be proud to shake the hand/grasping mechanism/flipper/pseudopod of those that would call themselves human.

GreyalienNoun project 1248Reptilian

#EDCmooc – ponderings “Technology” is a force multiplier and a cost reducer

A lot of the reading for week one got me thinking about what is “Technology” or a particular bit of technology.  Jesse B posted a link to a good article on cyborg humans and then followed it up with a post “We Are Already Cyborgs: How should we feel about that? #EDCMOOC

So if the cyborg is a blend of human and technology I thought I would try to go back to first principles – what is Technology.

I would say that “Technology” is tools.  Either individual tools or collections of tools.  A tool can be defined as something that lets us do something better or with less effort than we could do it without the tool.

Doing it better = a force multiplier.

Less effort = reducing the effort/cost of the action.

Our first tools were generally tools that helped us physically, a hammer was a force multiplier allowing us to hammer in nails better, a horse and cart reduced the effort required to get somewhere.

However there are mental tools as well, tying knots in a bit of string reduced the mental effort/cost of knowing how many sheep you counted in and out of the field, in contrast an abacus is a force multiplier allowing people to calculate better.

Catapult for town wall

You know I don’t normally like newfangled technology but student complaints have pretty much stopped since I got this beauty!

There is a 3rd category of tools, those that store something until it is needed. A physical example would be the energy stored in a catapult when it is cranked, that is used when it is fired (a more modern example would be a battery)

Writing on papyrus allowed your thoughts/instructions to be stored so you could read them later or they could be passed on to anyone who had the papyrus (and could read).

Finally because humans are a social animal there is the use of tools to help communication and collaboration.  Now technically the improvements to communication are just the tool being a force multiplier or cost reducer or storage, but because the act of collaborating and working together with other humans is so important (is it stretching the point too far to call it using other humans as tools?), I think it needs mentioning as a distinct use.

Now the internet (with all its applications), computers and smart phones don’t do anything different to the previous mental tools.  They just do it much much more effectively!  The force multiplier for mental tasks done with the computer allow us to do easily things that would take ages without (a good example is maths), the effort/cost of doing something is getting closer to zero (example planning a big family gathering) and storage is vast and easy.

My argument is they are doing it at a cost that is approaching zero for an individual human.  Now what this means and its possible effects on how humans organise themselves I will look at in my next blog post

– Oh and for those of you that cant wait Ivo Correia da Silva shared this link earlier “The Impending Social Consequences of Augmented Reality“, I hope to work some of the ideas into the next post

Video reflection 1 – The future is great! (if you are rich) #edcmooc

2 Adverts start the film festival for week 2 of the #edcmooc

From Corning “A day made of Glass (2)”

And Microsoft’s snappily titled “Productivity Future Vision”

Now one of the questions was to look at how education was portrayed in the videos, and it is all very shiny and bright and slick.  There isn’t however much evidence of learning going on, students are shown shiny displays on a big screen which is duplicated on their little screens.  Later they look at the world and have artificial reality imposed over the top – and on my first view I thought looks great but what value does it add.  Similarly in the Microsoft video I thought the looking for the recipe was just a search with better pictures and a cute polar bear.

Then I looked at both videos again and I realised I had missed a lot of potential.  The big Dinosaur park would be exciting for the kids they would see the Dinosaurs in a natural context (admittedly not the Dinosaurs actual natural setting)  and get a real idea of size and behaviour.  The screens pull up contextual information on what is being seen – I particularly liked when it identified the Elk from the footprint.  Then at the end of the day they share what the saw with their mum and discuss it.  You then see them working collaboratively with their mum on their homework.  In the microsoft one the girl contacts her mum to discuss what she is going to cook, the tablet then shows the girl on the workbench the things she needs and what to do with them (I was reminded how I cooked Tarka Dal for my Wife using instructions & recipe from Video Jug)

So – Inspiration, Contextual information and instructions, communication & collaboration plus the ability to work/learn anywhere.  Not a bad attempt really, I would have liked to see some of the ways that students could be “creators” using this tech, however we do have to remember that this was made by advertising executives not teachers.

Who makes it and why is an important point, it is likely that in the future we will (as we do now) use technology designed for entertainment and business and adapt it to be used for learning.

Now to the bit I didn’t like – this was a tale of the life of the affluent made easier and better by technology.

Woman with servant

Hold my laptop steady or your fired

The massive house and big new car  had plenty of room for the beautiful glass display surfaces, the new build school was clean and very spacious (If you look at the floor plans for new (non-private) schools in the UK you will see you would get about 1/3 of the space per child).  The microsoft one was IMHO worse, the beggar on the subway was virtual (have the poor been herded off somewhere?), despite the high tech car pickup the driver was still picking up her bag.  For me the worst/funniest was the idea of the high tech card knowing who was coming and in which car etc but the poor bellhop still has to stand out in the cold waiting for the business woman to arrive.

I understand why – this was an advert and the targeted people would be used to other humans  having jobs that are based on making the targeted peoples life easier.  The advert held out a vision of the world where technology had become another better Butler, to go with all of the servants service staff you already had.

Actually its more complicated than that #edcmooc

The readings, discussions and blog posts for this week have been interesting.

There has been a lot of discussion about the various theories asking which are, or what combination of them are, correct. There have even been some people who were quite offended that we looked at the digital native/immigrant theory, forcefully mentioning that it has been discredited several times by now.

Zombie picture copyright Joseph Gliddon

Arrgh zombie theory! Die zombie die!

I do have some sympathy with their point, this is one of those zombie theories that no matter how many times you think you have killed it keeps coming back. However, this weeks theme is “looking at the past” so the native/immigrant theory deserves including, if only to consider why it has proved so popular in the public imagination.

Looking at the other readings my opinion is that none of them are definitively “Right”. I don’t think we were given these readings to find a “right” answer, but rather to make us familiar with the various categories of explanation. This allows us both to identify when an argument is being made that is using (for example technological determinism) to make its case rather than evidence and also make us aware of using them ourselves.

So which should we use? Well IMHO there are times to use all of them.
My first degree was in Environmental Chemistry and that involves creating models to explain what is happening in reality. Once you have a decent model, you test it, and if you are brilliant/lucky you may improve on it and all the other scientists will start using and improving your model.
Generally speaking each improvement makes the model more complex (reality is complicated!). This doesn’t always mean that older simpler models become useless, they can be used when you don’t want to complicate with too many variables or are explaining to an audience lacking an in depth knowledge of the system.

(to make life even more fun there are often different competing models both rightish looking at things in different ways or scales. Oh and of course models that are just plain wrong – example the sun does not orbit the earth)

The key thing is that you must never mistake the model for reality!

So in summary when I make claims in future they should be in this structure

Here is what I think, here is my evidence, here are the theories I am using to support this and actually it will be more complicated than that