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Object-oriented Education NERA 2017

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Object-oriented Education NERA 2017

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Project in collaboration with Niels Jakob Pasgaard. The thesis argues for an object-oriented approach to Education based on the object-oriented philosophy of Graham Harman and the Object-oriented ontology of Levi Bryant.

Project in collaboration with Niels Jakob Pasgaard. The thesis argues for an object-oriented approach to Education based on the object-oriented philosophy of Graham Harman and the Object-oriented ontology of Levi Bryant.


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Object-oriented Education NERA 2017

  1. 1. Object-oriented Education PASGAARD & LYNGDAL
  2. 2. Purpose of Teaching • Two current understandings of the purpose of teaching: 1: Students learn something unspecific about something specific - Continental didaktik tradition, content-oriented - Content: Primary focus and pre-specified - Learning outcome: Secondary and unspecified 2: Students learn something specific about something unspecific - Anglo-Saxon curriculum tradition, learning-objective-oriented - Learning outcome: Primary and pre-specified - Content: Secondary and unspecified • Both positions can be seen as examples of “representationalist epistemology” (Oral 2013); the goal is either for students to achieve knowledge of the world (as it is to us) or for students to achieve competencies to act adequate within the world (as it is to us)
  3. 3. Object-oriented ontology Being has never consisted of anything but objects Objects are in their own right and withdrawn from all relations Object-oriented ontology is a Flat ontology where: “All things equally exist, yet they do not exist equally” (Bogost 2012:11)
  4. 4. The split object Objects are split between their local manifestations and virtual proper being or powers “An object is a box of surprises, never fully catalogued by the other objects in the world (Harman 2005:78)”
  5. 5. Split between relations Endo-relations and exo-relations Endo-relations Exo-relations Objects consists of objects in objects in objects... and is at the same time part of an objects of an object of an object... - an infinite regress in both directions Otherness
  6. 6. The object - Otherness and Magic The otherness or enchanting magic stems from the object’s endo-relations and from the notion, that it always also plays a part in another hole.Endo-relations Exo-relations
  7. 7. Objects or Things cannot be reduced to what we know about them or to what use we put them. They harbor hidden volcanic powers that in a given relation could be put to use. Every object therefore bears the potential of being otherwise.
  8. 8. Liberating Facts • “Once knowledge and skills are brought into the school curriculum, they become subject matter and, in a way, become detached from everyday application.” • “We could say that it is no longer an (inanimate) ‘object’, but a (living) ‘thing’.” (Masschelein and Simons 2013: 46) • “Facts have to be liberated from their “cold and hard” status and become things that captivate us with their uniqueness and dynamism.” (Oral 2013: 117) • “Education is not about knowing facts. It is about interacting with facts as textured and layered events that have the power to surprise.” (Ibid.: 119)
  9. 9. The thing in question - the question of things
  10. 10. The Real Purpose of Teaching • The purpose of teaching is for students to learn something unspecific about something unspecific. • Teaching is not about learning facts, it’s about liberating facts • Students must learn to listen to the questions of things: “What am I?” • The outcome of teaching ought to be some sort of “unspecified uncertainty”

Editor's Notes

  • What we’re presenting is a work in progress. We have a draft of our article in danish, that we can email to anyone interested in it.

    We hope to use this article as a sort of ground for future analysis of things like learning platforms, learning analytics, the idea of 21st century skills etc.

    What we’ll be presenting today, is the key arguments of the article.
  • We would argue, a little simplified, that what we currently see in the field of education is a battle between two understandings of the purpose of teaching

    1: Derived from a continenatal didaktik tradition, and oriented towards the content of teaching.
    Introducing students’ to the subject-matter is all a teacher can do - learning outcomes are more or less a “black box” -it’s difficult to specify excactly what students will learn from being introduced to the subject-matter 2: Derived from an anglo-saxon curriculum-tradition, oriented towards the learning-objectives.
    Definition of learning objectives is seen as the first and most important task for teachers
    Content is ”arbitrary” – and can be changed in order to better fulfill the pre-specified learning-objectives “Representationalist epistemology”:
    The world is already known – it is what it is to us - the purpose of school is to make students know what the world is and/or how to handle it (as it is)

    We would like to suggest a third position – which we call object-oriented education - as a way to make school “school” again - in the understanding of “free time” where students are allowed to interact with the world in unspecified ways - not as it is to us- but as a living thing

    This third position draws on the ideas of object-oriented ontology
  • With object oriented ontolgy we argue that….. Objects are thus any entity - material or immaterial, corporeal or incorporeal that exists. With the object oriented ontology we state that humans are not the monarchs of being, but are instead among beings, entangled in beings, and implicated in other beings.
    The notion of all objects being withdrawn allow us to sidestep the endless and somewhat barren land and obsessively focus on epistemology, and in philosophy, the one single gap between humans and objects that always revolve around the manner in which objects or things are inaccessible to representation. Instead and with Object-oriented ontology, we argue that this gap is not preserved to a gap between the human and the thing or object, but is true of all relations between objects whether they involve humans or not.
    The difference between humans and other objects is not a difference in kind but a difference in degree. All objects translate one another. Translation is not unique to how the mind relates to the world. NO objects has direct acces to any other object.
  • If we turn to the object itself, - object oriented ontology first and foremost presents us with a split or torn object. Here we draw on the american pgilosophers Levi Bryant and Grahman Harman.

    Objects are split between their local manifestations and their virtual proper being or powers. This means that objects are always in excess of their own local manifestations and harboring or holding back hidden volcanic powers. Powers, that are irreducible to any of their local manifestations. This means that: No relation that the object enters into will ever deploy all of the forces contained within an object. This also means that objects are NOT identical to any qualities they happen to manifest locally
    Therefore - as Harman states….” An object…
    Objects are NOT constituted by their Exo-relations which means their relations to other objects.
  • This means, that we have relations between internal objects within the object itself and on the other hand – the object as a hole has relations to external objects.
    Tegning: As Levi Bryant states, the object is split between its endo-relations and exo-relations. Endo-relations are internal relations between objects that constitute or generate the object in question. While the objects Exo-relations are relations to other discrete or independent objects external to the object itself. We could say that Every object is both a substance and a complex of relations. And that an object is always a hole consisting of relations between other parts and at the same time a part in another hole. Because of that, the object is always something else to someone else. There is always some sort of Otherness hunting the object.
    An otherness.

    The object is also split in its relations - it

    “There are objects (...), withdrawn absolutely from all relations, but there is also a ubiquitous ether of qualities through which these objects interact (Harman 2005:76)”
  • So, to round up
  • 1: We don’t normally see a things potential of being otherwise. We only see it as the thing it is to us. But school gives us the opportunity to detach things, as Masschelein and Simons puts it, from our everyday understanding and use of them. School should be seen as “free time”, a place where we suspend our everyday understandings and set things free - a place where we allow things to be ‘otherwise’ - to be living things, and not inanimate objects.

    2: The Turkish Educational Researcher Sevket Ben Oral speaks of this in the manner of the need of schools to become places for re-enchantment of the world. This re-enchantment of the world is made possible by what he calls the liberation of facts.


    4: This means, that school is not about teaching students cold and hard facts or certain specified ways of interacting competent with these cold and hard facts, instead it’s about interacting with unspecified facts in unspecified ways. Facts must be seen as living things that have their own intentions - derived from their chaotic endo-relations - and thus the powers to surprise us.

    The thing is: We can’t get to know a real thing - we can only know its qualities in specific relations - this doesn’t mean, however, that there is no such thing as the real thing - we just don’t get to fully know it because of its’ infinite regress. This is why things, if we allow them to be free, will always keep surprising us.
  • To see how and why the object is magical and always unspecified we have drawn a model that captures a moment in time, where an object (Y) is manifesting itself and relating to other objects (X).

    From the perspective of all the X`s surrounding the “Thing it self” the Y - questions of being arises. And all the X`s in their relations to the Thing answers this one qustion of being. We could state the question as a question of “What am I?”. And while the I is observing or listening to the X`s - the things in relation - an answer is given. The answer is always a karrikatur or reduction of the thing. And why is that? It is because all the X`s are only relating to the local manifestation of the object.

    This is even more complex:
    Every X has the potential of being otherwise (endo-relations)
    Every X could be other X´s and if so, The Y would manifest itself in a different way. It would unleash other powers or capacities and thereby make different local manifestations.
    And the I Could turn and observe another X, and thereby be given another reduction or karrikatur of the thing in question.

    The thing or object is always mediated by other objects. And these mediating objects are always only giving a reduced and caricatured version of the object in qustion. tviser sig altid medieret for de ting, som tingen selv står i relation til her og nu

  • To sum up:

    If we acknowledge this object-oriented understanding of things and their relations, we also need to see teaching in the light of object-oriented education:

    1: In this understanding, the purpose of teaching is not for students to learn something specific about something unspecific or something unspecific about something specific –it’s to learn something unspecific about something unspecific

    2: We also have to acknowledge, that teaching is not about learning facts, but about liberating facts, and allowing them to be living things

    3: Not so much about focusing on their own or other things’ answers to the questions of things – they should instead focus on and dwell by the questions of the things themselves.

    4: This focus on and dwelling by the questions leads to the idea, that the outcome of teaching should be some sort of ”unspecified uncertainty”

    Students become uncertain of things through teaching – as the things are liberated and re-enchanted
    The uncertainty is unspecified, because we can never know how the uncertainty will show itself.

    That’s our thing - thanks for listening.