(2003) opens his Natural-Born Cyborgs: Minds, Technologies, and
the Future of Human Intelligence recounting the recent loss of
his laptop, an experience he likens to “a sudden and vicious
type of (hopefully transient) brain damage…the cyborg equivalent
of a mild stroke” (p. 4, 10). At a faculty development workshop
on applying brain research to enhance instruction, a brief
technical glitch prompts the presenter to humorously remark, “If
PowerPoint crashes, my IQ will drop 20 points!” Such anecdotes,
jokingly hyperbolic in their account, nonetheless allude to the
tight intimacies, the primordial interminglings, and, at times,
the acute dependencies we find ourselves living with technology
today. Our being-in-the-world is evermore adumbrated by, folded
into, and transpermeated by the objects of our post-human world.
We are, it seems, “natural-born cyborgs, forever ready to merge
our mental activities with the operations of pen, paper, and
electronics” (Clark, 2003, p. 7). In this paper, I take up Mark
Prensky’s (2001) casting of teachers as “digital immigrants” to
the new media landscape (and his matching presumption of
students as “digital natives”), and reckon this popular metaphor
with phenomenological understandings of human-technology
relationships. Drawing on insights from media theorists (Hansen,
2000, 2006; McLuhan, 1964; Thrift, 2005) as well as
phenomenological philosophers of technology (Borgmann, 2002;
Dreyfus, 2004; Harman, 2007; Heidegger, 1971; Ihde, 1990;
Introna, 2007), I argue that today’s teachers and students alike
are more aptly (and less divisively) visualized as digital
migrants or nomads bound to continuous traverse and settle new
medial territories—turbulent mixes of old and new media spaces,
each inviting and assembling other ways of being, thinking and
doing in the world, and simultaneously inaugurating and
mobilizing new dialects, fluencies and practices. Dwelling too
long in any given world, the scene inevitably changes, the lived
space shifts, and “naturalized” digital inhabitants find
themselves once more “deterritorialized” (Deleuze & Guattari,
1987). Digital worlds resist “old-fashioned attempts to put down
roots, ways of being that sink into the earth in search of a
sturdy foundation on which to erect a new life” (Buchanan,
2005). Rather, teacher and students must each learn the supple
art of swimming through these vocative landscapes, the difficult
task of re-territorializing in new environments, and an open
willingness to enter the flow again as the world shifts once
more. Further, theoretical constructs such as digital
immigrants, natives, and nomads, rest on a more fundamental
post-human identity: the cyborg. Within the context of this more
phenomenologically-attuned purview, I posit the significances
(and insignificances of) cyborg-teachers in the wake of new
media technologies. Our interactions with new media, often via a
screen and keyboard/mouse/controller, are direct, sensuous and
mimetic. Software “affects our experience first and foremost
through its infrastructural role, its import occurs prior to and
independently of our production of representations” (Hansen,
2000, p. 4). In this way, our lived experience is being
radically, but prereflectively re-habilitated; our intentional
involvements perturbed and re-inscribed via the constraints and
dispensations of pre-fabricated digital architectures. We are
now well into an era of technological-becoming, our sensuous
bodies quietly adapting to the inhuman rhythms of an evolving,
digitally-inscribed and intensifying mechanosphere. Today’s
brick and mortar classrooms may persist for decades in one form
or another, but tomorrow’s digitally-enhanced teachers and
students will increasingly interface, enfold into and inhabit
digitally-enhanced environs and virtual spaces. As we grasp hold
of these powerful new technologies with growing vigor, they too
take hold of us, adumbrating new ways of being, doing and
thinking in the world. It is imperative that we attend mindfully
to the material, hermeneutic, and existential shifts that are
transpiring as our worlds are daily extended, intensified, and
complicated by digital technologies. The continued promotion of
digital technologies as benign or necessarily progressive agents
in the educational landscape—a foundational belief or “posit” of
our current ontological epoch—imperils the normative project of
pedagogy by concealing the instrumental constructs they
materialize. Rather, these paratextual machines must be
recognized as effective and affective mimetic interventions that
prereflectively inform our being, knowing and doing in the
world. Such a view necessarily burdens tomorrow’s teachers with
a renewed sense of professional responsibility, one sensitive to
the fragile ecology of our classrooms in the wake of digital
technology “integration,” but more importantly, for the future
well-being of our “post-human” children living in the midst of
this brave new world.
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