We are delighted to invite you to attend this hybrid event, kindly co-hosted by the Centre for Research in Digital Education (CRDE) at the University of Edinburgh.
This seminar will foreground the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries, in order to examine the ways in which visions of desirable futures shape the relationships between education and technology. Sociotechnical imaginaries call attention to the ways depictions of the future reveal profound insights, not only in relation to the societal norms and values of the present, but also about the structures of power through which technologies, societies, and futures are made. Furthermore, sociotechnical imaginaries are performative, in the sense that they solidify and institutionalise particular kinds of futures over others. Given that the discussion of technology in higher education is habitually accompanied by an array of predictions, forecasts and prophesies about the future of the sector, sociotechnical imaginaries offer a potent means of critically appraising suggestions of the digital university. This seminar will bring together three prominent scholars utilising the concept of sociotechnical imaginaries in their current education research.
Dr Lina Rahm (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm), Dr Barbara Hof (University of Lausanne, Switzerland), and Dr Jeremy Knox (University of Edinburgh, UK) will each provide a 20-minute talk (abstracts below) on their respective research, followed by group discussion.
This event can be attended in person or remotely via Zoom. Please take note of the below information before making your booking.
University of Edinburgh staff and students are welcome to attend this event free of charge. To book your free place, please ensure that you register using your University of Edinburgh (firstname.lastname@example.org) e-mail address.
Information for in-person attendees
Charteris Land (room 5.11), Moray House School of Education and Sport, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AQ. To view a campus map, please click here.
We would like this event to be as inclusive as possible. If you have an accessibility need we can prepare for to ensure your participation, please contact email@example.com with more details. The room in which this event is taking place is wheelchair accessible - for additional useful information on this please click here.
Please communicate any dietary restrictions in advance of the event so that we can accommodate these, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tea/coffee and scones will be provided.
Information for online attendees
We would like this event to be as inclusive as possible. If you have an accessibility need we can prepare for to ensure your participation, please contact email@example.com with more details.
Notes on event format
Online attendees will have audio of this event and visibility of speakers' slides. Please note that visibility of the speakers may be restricted. Zoom webinar details will be emailed 1 day before the event.
Defuturization: how the OECD planned the computerized future of education in the late 1960 (Barbara Hof):
In the late 1960s, the number of computers actually available in higher education was quite small, but the pursuit of a technology-based society nourished visions of their coming relevance. I argue that such visions are not only expressions of the desired future, but also entail defuturization, which I propose as a complementary figure to sociotechnical imaginaries. Defuturization is an analytical concept to describe how visions inform governing strategies in the present, namely through a deliberate reduction in the openness of the future. Therefore, the concept of defuturization is helpful for understanding actors that attempt to define policies and support their implementation, such as the OECD. In my talk, I therefore not only outline the early history of computer education in OECD member countries, but also show how this intergovernmental organization shaped the discourse on technological innovation and social change.
China’s ‘talent pipeline’ for AI expertise (Jeremy Knox)
This talk will examine the imaginary of a national ‘talent pipeline’ for AI expertise in China, focusing on the ways government policy and private sector networks envision the restructuring of state education to fulfil the promise of a future data-driven economy. Education will thus be suggested to constitute an often-unacknowledged foundation for the wider geopolitical contestations over AI supremacy, predominantly interpreted as new ‘cold war’ rivalry between China and the US. Critical of such assumptions, this talk will highlight: 1) the international flow of ‘talent’, which challenges nationalistic views of ‘AI capacity’ and emphasises a significant trans-pacific connection for graduate and postgraduate study, as well as subsequent employment; and 2) a much longer history to the Chinese notion of ‘talent’, including not only the wider ‘Thousand Talents’ (千人计划) programme launched in 2008, but also a range of scholarly exchange throughout the 20th century.
Imaginaries and Problematisations: a heuristic lens in the age of artificial intelligence in education (Lina Rahm)
This talk is about how information, knowledge and education has been presented as important for technology acceptance as well as steering technology in desirable directions. Lina will specifically be looking at how automation was imagined and problematized in Sweden during the 1950s and the 1970s, She will also I argue that an analysis of such sociotechnical imaginaries needs to consider problematizations, and that an analysis of problematizations needs to consider imaginaries. This is because imaginaries and problematizations co-inform each other during techno-political processes. Lina argues that imaginaries and problematizations, when brought together, produce a symbiotic and mutually beneficial theoretical connection, where both concepts gain analytical traction from each other.
Barbara Hof is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Lausanne, conducting research on the history of digital technologies as part of the SNSF-funded project “Towards Computational Historiographical Modeling.” Her research activities are in the history of cybernetics, AI, computing, educational technologies, and digital humanities. She is currently also working on her first book, which demonstrates how high levels of government funding of the nuclear technosciences during the Cold War changed the demand for knowledge and how access to this knowledge became a powerful tool in national politics and international relations.
Jeremy Knox is Senior Lecturer and Co-director of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. His research interests include the relationships between education, data-driven technologies and wider society, and he has led projects funded by the ESRC and the British Council in the UK. Jeremy’s published work includes Posthumanism and the MOOC (2016), Artificial Intelligence and Inclusive Education (2019), The Manifesto for Teaching Online (2020), Data Justice and the Right to the City (2022), and AI and Education in China (2023).
Lina Rahm is an Assistant Professor in the History of Media and Environment with a specialization in Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden. She has a PhD in Education with a focus on adult learning. Her current research focuses on how (imaginaries of) automation and AI contributes to educational governance.
Edinburgh, City of
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