Panel 35

The obsession with techno-futures in education

Organizers: Paolo Landri (1); Leonardo Piromalli (2); Assunta Viteritti (2)

1: IRPPS-CNR; 2: "Sapienza" University of Rome, Italy

Topics: Sociomaterial learning processes and/in digital worlds

Keywords: education, technology, acceleration, techno-future, time

Everything about technology in education seems to have happened already. Most notably since the COVID-19 pandemic, digital technology in the educational worlds appears as a new ‘state of nature’—we only realize it exists when it fails (Bowker & Star, 1999). Just like Benjamin’s Angel of History, education has lost its state of wise expectation as it is continually drifted across multiple techno-futures that narrow it down along obligatory passage points.

The social worlds of education are deeply intertwined with accelerating technological change today. Caught up in processes of interessement and enrolment (Callon, 1986), schools and universities are implicated in attempts at educational futures-making grounded in increasingly new, innovative, engaging, and seemingly essential data-intensive technologies. They are interested by narratives, imaginaries, and scientific perspectives that redefine the field, perimeter, boundaries, objects, subjects, and the very categories of analysis on education—what it is, what it will be, how it is done, who does it, and where it happens. Scenarios are thus constructed around the worlds of education that produce an ongoing presentification of technologically dense, perpetually looming, and ultimately speculative futures (Decuypere & Vanden Broeck, 2020).

Multiple labels encompass educational environments—platforms, virtual immersive environments, educational robotics, virtual learning, gamification, metaverse, machine learning—and draw them into increasingly incorporated frameworks that are pervaded by futuristic technologies which promise post-human—or ‘super-human’—improvements and enhancements of educational processes. These technologically-driven acceleration processes produce effects on the practices of local educational actors. Schools and universities are indeed infiltrated by rapid and accelerated information and technology flows driven by the big players of the edtech market (Williamson & Komljenovic, 2022)—who pioneered the obsessive anticipation of imagined techno-futures—and transcalar policy networks and ‘real-time’ governing instruments (Williamson, 2016).

The future of education thus appears as a process of ongoing production which still risks running out of steam in the scope of a present obsessed with technological scenarios that anticipate, amplify, and enhance practices, environments, and teaching models (Sellar & Cole, 2017).

This track welcomes contributions interested in problematizing the obsession with techno-futures and acceleration in the fields of education. A space of reflection will thus be open for interrogating possible ways out to slow down the present of education without relinquishing the non-human and creative power of technology. Issues of interest include (but are not limited to):

  • educational technology, educational environments and futuristic techno-utopias: vulnerabilities and perspectives;
  • edtech markets and speculative futures-making;
  • governing by techno-futuring: policy-making, governance, and policy networks;
  • the tempos, rhythms, and hauntologies of techno-futures: present pasts, real-times, and problematic nostalgias;
  • success and failure in techno-futurist educational acceleration: euphoric and apocalyptic educational scenarios in social worlds and pop culture;
  • technological acceleration and (dis)empowerment effects on local educational practice;
  • escape routes from technological obsession: cheating, gaming, desistance, resistance, rebellion, and the creative use of technology in educational practice.