Technology & Society

The End of Theory in Digital Social Research?

Monday, January 20, 2014 Comment image of codes creating a light tunnel

Computer code, software and algorithms have sunk deep into the “technological unconscious” of our contemporary “lifeworld.” How might this affect academic research in the social sciences and the formation of the professional identities of academics? These are important questions for researchers working in Digital Media and Learning, asking us to consider how the digital devices and infrastructures that we study might actually be shaping our practices, shaping our production of knowledge, and shaping our theories of the world. Professional work across the natural, human and social sciences is now increasingly mediated and augmented by computer coded

The 5 Most Interesting Writing Developments for 2014

Monday, January 13, 2014 Comment close up of iphone showing keyboard and typed words hello world

It is a common theme to complain about the way that writing (or reading or math) skills are declining as our society becomes increasingly digitized. In this post, I look at some examples of the way that digital technologies are making writing more interesting by exploring stories or trends from the past year that have impacted writing and the teaching of writing. Not all of these examples suggest that writing is getting better (or that it is getting worse). Rather, they illustrate how writing is changing under the influence of emerging technologies. 1. Writing is in

New Media, New Civics? The Bellwether Lecture at the Oxford Internet Institute

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 Comment rally in india men holding facebook signs peace signs

The Oxford Internet Institute was kind enough to invite me to give the inaugural lecture in their Bellwether Series. The OII’s director, Professor Helen Margetts, introduced the series explaining that she hoped talks would anticipate what is to come in the space of internet and society…and explained that the word “Bellwether” came from a middle English word for a castrated ram, who was fitted with a bell and made to lead a flock of sheep. That’s pretty ominous compared to my assumption when I was invited, which was that they found someone named Bellwether to sponsor

Learning from

Thursday, December 05, 2013 Comment close up on black keyboard

“But I just want to remind everybody, we did not wage this long and contentious battle just around a website.” – Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act,” Oct. 21, 2013 The disastrous launch of gives an opportunity for everyone invested in digital media and learning initiatives to reflect critically about what we do and to ask some hard questions.  Although it may be “just” a website, according to the president, the flawed federal Internet portal intended to enroll millions of consumers into a system of affordable healthcare coverage exposes a

Programming Power? Does Learning to Code Empower Kids?

Thursday, November 14, 2013 Comment close up of hands working at laptop

The idea that young people should learn to code has become a global educational aspiration in the last few years. What kinds of questions should digital media and learning researchers ask about these developments? I want to suggest three approaches: first, to take a historical look at learning to code; second, to consider it in political and economic context; and third, to understand its cultural dimensions. The importance of learning to code is expressed in catchy slogans and ideas like Douglas Rushkoff’s “program or be programmed,” and the view that if you are not working on

Expanding Women’s Participation for Wikipedia in India: Access to Knowledge

Thursday, October 31, 2013 Comment classroom full of students sitting at desks in india

In the past DMLcentral has covered efforts to recruit more women to edit Wikipedia and to produce more women’s studies content.  As a blogger, I have presented this story as a relatively uncontroversial initiative to improve the accuracy and coverage of the sprawling online encyclopedia (See my interview with Wikipedia’s Adrianne Wadewitz here).  Working with the Project Feminism Wikipedia community to produce digital material, students trained in classes involved in Dialogues on Feminism and Technology have worked to improve the rigor of Wikipedia entries on topics that range from Afrofuturism to disability art. Recently, Fox News

Understanding Education through Big Data

Friday, October 25, 2013 Comment close up of data code creating light tunnel

The seduction of ‘Big Data’ lies in its promise of greater knowledge. The large amounts of data created as a by-product of our digital interactions, and the increased computing capacity to analyse it offer the possibility of knowing more about ourselves and the world around us. It promises to make the world less mysterious and more predictable. This is not the first time that new technologies of data have changed our view of the world. In the nineteenth century, statistical ‘objective knowledge’ supplanted the personal knowledge of upper-class educated gentlemen as the main way in which

Using Social Media for Women’s Rights: Breakthrough

Friday, September 13, 2013 Comment students working around table on laptops

The horrific Delhi gang rape case in which a 23-year-old physiotherapy student was murdered as a result of a grotesque sexual assault brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets of the city to express outrage about the prevalence of gender-based violence in India.  Many have credited access to sites like Facebook and Twitter for allowing Indian citizens to express their dissent, but the story of political organization and awareness campaigns on the ground is much more complicated and predates this galvanizing high-profile crime by a number of years. For example, Breakthrough describes itself as

How Software Sees Us

Friday, August 02, 2013 Comment man sitting in dark room designing bird on 2 computers

How we think about digital media is paralleled by how we think about learner identities. What kinds of learning identities are being promoted for an anticipated future in an increasingly softwarised society? About ten years ago, the designers Dan O’Sullivan and Tom Igoe asked the question “how does the computer see us?” The striking image of a hand with one finger, one eye, and two ears that they produced as a response to this question—a simple yet weirdly obscene finger-eye-being—reminds us that the technologies we create carry built-in assumptions about the people who will use them.

Big Data, People’s Lives, and the Importance of Openness

Monday, June 24, 2013 Comment hundreds of blue ethernet cables plugged into wall

Openness has become the buzzword for everything in India right now. From the new kids on the block riding the wave of Digital Humanities investing in infrastructure of open knowledge initiatives to the rhetoric of people-centered open government data projects that are architected to create ’empowered citizens’, there is an inherent belief that Opening up things will make everything good. I am not an Open-data party pooper. In fact, I firmly believe that opening up data – through hardware, through software, through intellectual property regimes on content – and enabling access to information and data is