Technology, Culture, Education: (Dis-)abilities
This page was composed by Aaron Hung on the basis for the lectures notes as they were in the Summer 2008. I want to thank him for the work. I am making some changes for the Summer 2009. The notes on the main web site for the course will generally be more up to date.
Everyone is welcome to use and edit these pages, perhaps on the basis of your own notes (since sometimes I do not follow my own notes).
Link to Professor Varenne's notes for this course.
- Technology: possibility and determination?
- (Ethno-)Methodology for (de)constructing human production
- Human (dis-)abilities: expansions through tools and institutions
- Hoes, plows and familial strategies
- Irrigation: Power and social structure
- The power of the printed word
- Possibilities in print: Play and control
- Industrialization I: The imagination of the machines
- Industrialization II: The experience of machines
- Living with the bomb
- The body and the machine
- Further reading
- McDermott, R. and Varenne, H. Culture as disability. Anthropology and Education Quarterly 26: 324-348. 1995.
Topics from last class
- Having only read the assigned chapters in the book, I wonder whether the idea of inscription devices is true for all kinds of research, as academics are all obligated to produce texts, papers, proceedings, and so on. In publications, authors are forced to render their ideas into writing, and while we can offer images, photos, and transcripts, we cannot embed sound bites and video clips (although interestingly, there is nothing to stop online journals to do so, but most have not - at least none that I know of). So, aren't we all just producing texts as well? How are the scientists in the lab all that different? I think Latour had referred to this as "immutable mobiles" at some point, as the task that all scientists have to do. Aaron Hung 20:35, 3 June 2008 (EDT)
Transition notes from Professor Varenne's website
Latour & Woolgar give us a general framework for investigating the construction of about anything that human beings do construct, together, including facts that end up being known as "scientific," and, by implications facts that end up being known as "technological" (or "educational," etc.).
They do not specifically deal with the possible consequences of particular facts for particular people, or for the making of particular "groups."
- University has to build labs to attract best scientists to compete with other universities. These scientists will need a space for a lab. Labs are made up mostly of machines - measuring devices. Their data they create are "real" even if they are constructed.
- Latour had been concerned about how something becomes a fact. Scientists are concerned about audience who will shape the kinds of arguments you make. People will change what they are saying in anticipation of how people might respond. In a sense, Wikipedia might be an example of how facts are constructed and agreed upon.
- Latour shows methods in studying science and technology
- medium of communication can both enable and handicap
- handicap is a better word than disability; it has to do with having to carry more weight than others
- computers, like people, still have to check back to make sure that communication had taken place adequately
- Jakobson, who studied language, had shown the importance of the medium in carrying communication
- people at sea have to make signs and signals because voice cannot carry
- voice can only carry a limited range
- telephones helped resolve the problem of range and transformed a handicap to an ability
- internet breaks the need for synchronous communication
- speech, chat rooms, phones are well constructed for those who are in the same time; if something changes, it happens to both parties in communication
- in email, something can happen between two statements; they often contain reference to time lapses
- asynchronous communication leads to problem due to time
- need ways to mark time because it is not obvious; technology creates temporal handicap
- Scollon and Scollon tried to pay attention to the changes in communication pattern in the emerging use of the internet for distance learning
- communication systems are arbitrary
Culture as disability
- Ofelia Garcia would argue that monolingualism is the disability
- not knowing English would be a disability in certain school systems
- the best of intentions can often handicapping people further
- article discussed deaf people in Martha's Vineyard, where at one point, it had a large number of deaf people
- they did not know who was deaf and who wasn't because people had adapted to one another and they had no problem until people came in with good intention to help them
- deaf children were taken out of school and their literacy rates dropped
- cultural arrangements had further handicapped them
- once you say that there are things that people should be able to do, then you create handicaps
- interested in what it is in the school system that transforms physical characteristics into a disability
- all cultures had deaf subcultures who have developed their own system of communication
- different sign systems will need to decide how to unify their communication method
- technologies enables some people but disables others who do not have access to it
- intelligence tests allowed people to turn the idea of an intelligence into a measurable variable
- dyslexia is a form of brain structuring that makes it hard to read alphabetic script; discovered only in 1930; why did no one notice this earlier?
- Rockefeller and some of his children were dyslexic but could get away with not knowing how to read or write; but had trouble getting into top schools
- people in top positions will have people who can read or write for them
- Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0199256055
- Scollon, R., & Scollon, S. B. K. (2004). Nexus analysis: Discourse and the emerging internet. New York: Routledge. ISBN 0415320623
- Suchman, L. A. (1987). Plans and situated actions: The problem of human-machine communication. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521337399
- Varenne, H., & McDermott, R. (1998). Successful failure: The school America builds. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0813391296
- Vonnegurt, K. (1964) Harrison Bergeron.