“Ubiquitous computing is an attempt to reform reality by making technological objects conform to human needs and wishes…” (218)

Blackboard and other platforms like it are technological systems that instead of creating a new space of interaction, mimic and conform to the previous mode of remediation. They are a literal translations of our needs into the digital. Blackboard, Elearning, RenWeb and etc. ape the older constructions of grade books and classroom. The speed and efficiency at which the information is disseminated on such virtual platforms increases, but has that remediation also brought the object to greater immediacy and transparency? Bolter and Grusin describe the ideas about ubiquitous computing that prevailed at the dawn of the digital world. For The Jetsons, daily tasks such as showering and dressing were not transformed, but rather supplanted by technology. In their world, new media reformed reality by mimicking the old. This ubiquitous computing, the authors argue, is the opposite of virtual reality. A wired classroom does not transcend the traditional classroom, but solidly ground its students in the technology used within it. The authors describe a classroom experiment (though 11 years later this “experiment” would seem to be the norm) in which the teacher’s lecture is recorded digitally, the information written and displayed in class is on a screen, and all the students communicate instantaneously with each other and the teacher through their personal computing devices.

Such ubiquitous computing is currently used in many educational setting. Online classrooms are constructed around the traditional classroom setting. Teachers write on “virtual” blackboards and interact with students via message boards in instant messaging. Card catalogs in libraries are replaced by virtual card catalogs. The belief that this shift from analog to digital would improve the quality and immediacy of education was strong at the end of the 20th century. During the 1990’s, Clinton tried to gain support for a funding initiative that would place a computer in every classroom. However, that simply the greater presence of a technology would increase that technology’s efficacy is naive.

I believe Bolter and Grusin posit that blindly remediating information systems is treacherous. They would agree with Benjamin and ask that as we remediate, we consider the impact of that new form of remediation on the media object itself. When a lecture is remediated into a podcast, what has changed? We know the immediacy of remediated educational objects has expanded their availability to those who perhaps could not attain them before, but what else? The remediated map, in the form of Google Earth, magnifies the actuality of the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls to students but how should it be used in a Geography lesson? The trouble with ubiquitous computing is that we use technological objects as band-aids, rather then lenses to more clearly see our needs and wishes. The remediation of educational objects should focus on the usage within its learning structure and therefore, hopefully spark a remediation of the structure itself.

Courtney Hernandez

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