Some Perspectives Involved in Speculative Multidimensional Time-Line Thinking

As has already been discussed, it is necessary to consider the historical aspects of any given technology before one can speculate on various possible alternative potentialities. After having investigated and thought about the historical aspects, speculative multidimensional thinking starts from the perspective of individual agency: how does an existing communications technology, for example, affect an individual and how does that individual change as a result? This will be different in degree for everyone. For example, I am very anxious about joining a social networking site for a number of reasons, the fear of my privacy being compromised being one. I have lived a lot longer that many younger members of social networking sites, who for the most part, do not appear to be so anxious about joining, and this may be one of the factors differentiating our perspectives. However, I have many friends and colleagues of a similar age to me who are members of social networking sites. There are no universal demographics at work here, just individual agency made manifest in the different ways that we are all affected by a technology, and how that causes us to affect other technologies over time and so affect other human beings. If everyone shared my perspective about social networking sites, they would probably not exist, at least not in the way they do now. My involvement, as part of the assemblage known as social networking sites, manifests in my tending to pull in the opposite direction from the architects of these sites as well as their many satisfied users. This may not always be the case. Change will happen and happen for many, hitherto unknown reasons. Speculative multidimensional time-line thinking can not only help explore and speculate about these future potential trajectories; it can also seek to explore the reasons as to why different individuals and groups either like or do not like to participate in social networking sites.

A second perspective in multidimensional time-line thinking is the concept of the middle. As discussed earlier, every technological event starts somewhere in the middle: it has a past that influences its present incarnation, which will, in turn, influence its potential to change and become actualized differently in the future. If a technology does not change over time but continues to exist, it simply becomes a repetition of what went before— something that, for whatever reason, resists change. But any resistance to change is a factor worth considering in speculative multidimensional timeline thinking because resistance to change will affect in some respect, just as change will affect in some respect. An important and significant factor in this perspective is to recognize that there are many possible future trajectories for any technological event; some may be resistant to change, some speculative, and many unknown. For example, human beings follow one of many possible future trajectories every day. If I choose to stop working on this chapter now, I give up the alternative possible trajectory of continuing to work on the chapter. The choice I make will influence the direction I take next and that will impact the future. My train of thought may be disturbed, I may have less time to complete the work, I may prefer to go for a drink, or I may choose to watch television. Indeed, every choice I follow has at least one alternative. The path I follow therefore will be different, in varying degrees, from any alternative I might otherwise have followed. This is the same for everything. An assemblage forms by chance, something emerges as a result, and change occurs. The level of change is a matter of degree. The level or degree of change, or resistance to change, can have an influence beyond the individual. It can have little or no influence on the future or it can have significant influence with global implications. This applies to past futures as well as to actual futures. In other words, given that assemblages have at least two possible futures, one actualized and one potential, they have always had at least two possible futures. Speculative multidimensional time-line thinking offers a way not just to question the genesis of a given technology but also to explore the various events that led to the technologies emergence, to the changes that occurred over its history that have led to its present incarnation.

None of these changes are the subject of a linear process. Many associated overlapping assemblages come into existence as a result of changes, which then enabled other overlapping assemblages to form. The stronger the overlap, the stronger the connections will be. Assemblages are fractal in nature.

Finally, all technologies have properties that render them identifiable at any given time. However, as has been discussed earlier, they also have capacities and tendencies. Early computer technology had a tendency to crash. Technologies also have capacities to affect, some of which have been actualized, some of which remain potentialities, and many other capacities that either are fringe capacities or are as yet unknown. Technological capacity in terms of effect is rarely given much consideration in school-based technology education today. Remember that capacities are dualistic in nature; they require something other to affect in order to actualize their potential. A knife requires something cuttable in order to cut; a cyberbully requires someone capable of being bullied in order to bully.

Thinking in this way—thinking in terms of assemblages, thinking in terms of Speculative multidimensional time-line thinking—therefore, helps reveal a multitude of alternative possibilities that any technology might have followed or might actually follow in the future.

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