Faculty of Education - Theses

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    Liberal education, Heidegger and digital information technology
    Barker, Matthew Steve ( 2010)
    Digital information technology in contemporary education has generally been represented as a tool for which students need to become appropriately skilled in order to be thoroughly prepared to participate in society. This has meant that the utilisation of digital information technology in schools has often been accompanied by instrumental attitudes. Such approaches characteristically view technology in terms of its usefulness and relevance for passively facilitating the intentions of human actions. Supported by this instrumental understanding, it has been assumed that digital information technology has a neutral and benign influence on education. In this thesis I shall argue that the instrumental approach which has accompanied the utilisation of digital information technology in schools fails to recognise the negative influence which it can have on the achievement of liberal educational aims. Here I have focused on both “classical-humanist” and “modern” liberal aims of education (Miller, 2007, pp.185-186), which emphasise the development of the student’s personal culture and sense of autonomy. I shall employ Heidegger’s interpretation of modern technology in a critical appraisal of the instrumental way in which we relate to technology so as to show how this can lead to dimensions of our existence becoming technologically determined. Heidegger’s (1993a) suggestion to poetically reflect on technology to access a “saving power” (p.334) that may avert this determinative capacity is then considered as way to develop alternate understandings of digital information technology. To facilitate further development of alternate understandings of digital information technology I have examined the technical properties which differentiate it from other forms of technology. Central to these properties is the process used to digitise ‘real world’ or analogue information. This process can have significant influence on determining dimensions of our existence by privileging digital data which is more compatible with the functioning of this technology. In contrast, I explore the practices of post-digital artists so as to demonstrate how expressive responses to digital information technology have been achieved which appear to acknowledge Heidegger’s saving power. I will conclude by proposing a post-digital approach to education which both supports liberal educational aims and counteracts the possibility of technological determinism inherent to instrumental approaches to digital information technology.