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The False Promises of the Digital Revolution

How Computers transform Education, Work, and International Development in Ways that are Ecologically Unsustainable

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C.A Bowers

The False Promises of the Digital Revolution examines what currently goes largely unnoticed because of the many important uses of digital technologies. While many people interpret digital technologies as accelerating the global rate of progress, C. A. Bowers focuses attention on how they reinforce the deep and ecologically problematic cultural assumptions of the West: the myth of progress, the substitution of data for different cultural traditions of wisdom, the connections between print and abstract thinking, the myth of individual autonomy, the conduit view of language that hides how words (metaphors) reproduce earlier misconceptions, and a Social Darwinian justification for colonizing other cultures that is now leading to armed resistance – which, in turn, strengthens the ties between corporations, the military, and the computer science industry. The book also investigates how to understand the cultural non-neutrality of digital technologies; how print and the emphasis on data undermine awareness of the tacit information pathways between cultural and natural ecologies; and how to identify educational reforms that will contribute to a more informed public about the uses of digital technologies.
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Chapter 6: Making the Connections Between Educational Reforms and Democratizing the Uses of Digital Technologies

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Chapter 6

Making the Connections Between Educational Reforms and Democratizing the Uses of Digital Technologies

There is nothing in the diverse realms of communication that is politically neutral. The earlier discussion of the differences between print-based cultural storage and communication and oral traditions brought out that there are gains and losses at all levels of cultural life. Similarly, the use of English nouns that reinforces the illusion of fixed entities and ideas cannot, at the same time, reproduce the dynamic relation/information-rich processes that are essential characteristics of cultural and natural ecologies. These fixed representations reduce our capacity to exercise ecological intelligence—which involves being aware of what is being communicated through relationships. The metaphors that carry forward the misconceptions and silences of earlier eras become the basis of the linguistic colonization of the present by the past. The amplification and reduction characteristics of technologies also point to the inherently political nature of digital technologies—whether they take the form of robots on an assembly line, software programs that enable security agencies to track the behavior of massive number of cell phone users, or that collect data and model the connections between the warming of the oceans and the movement of fish populations that will reduce the protein available for millions of people.

That all forms of communication have political implications should be part of the commonsense knowledge of everyone, and not just what a few academics write about. The political nature...

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