Bringing back the web: The digital literacies we need right now
Who are we when we're online? And how can we engage in digital spaces in ways that don't undermine the mandates, practices, and ethos of higher education? The keynote explores the underpinnings of our emergent information ecosystem. Digital and open spaces are being weaponized, while pervasive surveillance and predatory practices are normalized. Trolling and bots are regular features of social landscapes, and people are often hesitant to engage online in fighting the echo chamber. Concepts of what it means to know are increasingly generated outside the academy, in Silicon Valley AI frameworks.
What does this mean for higher ed, and for the future of knowledge in a data society? This keynote, from Virginia Tech's Digital Literacy Symposium, explores ideas grounded in adult education, critical pedagogy histories, and contemporary open practices—including participatory digital literacies and the pro-social web—that may be ways we can ALL help bring the web back from the brink.
Something is rotten in democracy when huge numbers of those
participating in its debates are unaccountable and
untraceable, when we cannot know who or even
what they are…the bots are everywhere now.
Information organizations, from libraries to schools and
universities to governmental agencies, are increasingly being
displaced by a variety of web-based "tools" as if there are
no political, social, or economic
consequences of doing so.
- Noble (2018)
The new Silicon Valley venture philanthropists are seeking
more overtly computational models of education reform…
to design new software systems and
technological fixes for insertion into the
institutions of education.
- Williamson (2017)
Williamson, B. (2017). Educating Silicon Valley: Corporate education reform and the reproduction of the techno-economic revolution. Review of
Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 39(3), 265–288. doi:10.1080/10714413.2017.1326274
we’ve handed over control of our
data, our identities, & our
shared public infrastructures,
we are outsourcing
knowledge-making & governance
we need to bring back the web.
Or bring into being a NEW web.
a pro-social, pro-societal web.
• NOT anti-technology
• Threatened by the effects of
encroaching industrial systems
• No vote to change the systems
• Organized “friendly societies” for
• Broke machines
• 14 executed in 1813
• When you don’t tell your story, it
becomes another story
and we DO need to understand what
counts as enfranchisement in
the systems we are in.
a critical pedagogy approach
Nothing will change until WE change – until we
throw off our dependence and
act for ourselves.
- Horton (1997)
key digital literacies for building
a better web:
complicated systems of thought
CANNOT solve complex problems
While machine intelligence
is rapidly outstripping human performance in
many disciplines, it is not the only way of thinking,
and it is in many fields catastrophically destructive.
- Bridle (2018)
we need literacies
– & digital practices –
that foreground COMPLEXITY
no single right answersystem in constant fluxpatterns emerge over time
How might technoscience be appropriated and
reimagined for more liberatory ends? How, in short, can
we design our sociotechnical systems differently?
- Benjamin (2018)
“If you want to travel fast, travel alone.
If you want to travel far,
- probably NOT actually a proverb
the web is a complex system of
collaboration & cooperation.
Collaboration is a coordinated, synchronous activity
that is the result of an ongoing effort to construct and
maintain a shared idea of a problem.
Cooperation divides labor among participants,
so each unit is responsible for solving a
portion of the problem.
our problem? we’ve made ourselves
extras in our systems.
Any strategy other than mindful, thoughtful cooperation
is a form of disengagement: a retreat that cannot hold.
We cannot reject technology any more than we can
ultimately and utterly reject our neighbours in society &
the world; we are
- Bridle (2018)
we can’t fix the web without the
resistance as presence & participation
The classroom, with all its
limitations, remains a
location of possibility. We
have the opportunity to
labor for freedom…even
as we collectively imagine
ways to move beyond
boundaries, to transgress.
This is education as the
practice of freedom.
– hooks, 1994