A Contemplation into Extra-Sensory Spatial Awareness in the Screen time learning environment
You are excused if you felt misled by the title of this article, thinking that you are either heading into a post-grunge Cyberpunk EDM concert or, stranger yet, involuntarily participating in investigative field work of paranormal activity. In actuality I am indeed drawing on some strange counter-culture to develop an impending statement, in fact, I am drawing on two intriguing sources of counter-cultures and will relate them to techno-educational situation we find ourselves in today.
The first being ‘More Human than Cyborg’ which I have appropriated and mutated from a 1995 track off of the White Zombie album, Astro-Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head, titled More Human than Human. This title itself borrows from Ridley Scott’s 1982 cyberpunk masterpiece, Blade Runner, which centers around the ethical dilemma of manufacturing ‘replicants’ (humanoid cyborgs) and eliminating them due to their questionable state of sentience? The company who manufactures said replicants have as their motto “More Human than Human” – a statement that can be confirmed in the conversation scene between Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) and Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) in which they baffle over the uncanny humanistic resemblance and nature of a replicant. Blade Runner in turn was appropriated from the 1968 Philip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Which asks a fundamental question about AI sentience, and how far can our personal familiarity stretch with technology? In some sense we have already developed relationships with our ready-at-hand tech, such as our smart phones and laptops, we feel odd if we left our smart phone is out of sight for 5 minutes / 5 seconds… and we have entire personas on the inside world of the screen. I have wondered whether our fixation to apps such as Instagram and TikTok has implicitly diminished our ability to hold an attention span longer than 10 seconds? According to Rach and Lounis (2021) TikTok themselves have recognized this issue and have developed a parallel platform called EduTok, not as a means to deter screentime, but as a ‘convenient’ alternative to refocus excessive screentime, yet still quaintly holding onto the attention of its subscribers. Or maybe we do need to submit to Zuckerberg’s Meta and eventually plug ourselves in to the cybersphere and completely immerse ourselves in virtual life – you could sit in a classroom on top of the Swiss Alps and your teacher could be Elon Musk,,, but, you are not really sitting on the Alps, and Elon is not really there… this is just fabrication, an artificially perceived reality that appeals to our dopamine induced peripheral senses, or as Jean Baudrillard states in the English edition of his Simulacra and Simulation “It is no longer a question of imitation, nor duplication, nor even parody. It is a question of substituting the signs of the real for the real…” (1994, pp 1-2). It seems we are not that far off from plugging ourselves into the Matrix. Imagine for a moment a world where there are no more physical classrooms, teachers and learners are in a home studio each with a green screen (or further yet, mentally projected with implanted technology), sounds familiar right?
Now if Klaus Schwab’s (2016) socio-techno-economic predictions are anything worth paying attention to, and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is already underway – with not much alternative means but to accept the rapid pace of technological influence in every aspect of our lives, then, let us consider whether the plugged-in person (i.e. the cyborg) can still be human or have a human experience… furthermore, whether spatial awareness in the learning environment and the engaged experience is still accessible even if we as ‘humans’ are confined to spatially constricted pods. I for one would argue that we need sincere elements to have a healthy learning experience – sun on the skin, earth beneath our feet, the tacit experience of climbing a tree… yet, future science may argue that this can be replicated through mind altered/induced influence. Which leads me to Part 2 of this discussion, do we need the physical body for an integrated learning experience? I will cover the question of consciousness parameters in ‘Ghost Beyond the Machine’. After which, in Part 3, I will introduce a contemplative practice as a means to return and ground a sincere sensory perception in the human experience that may hopefully equip the teacher/learner with a useful tool in a digitized contemplative educational arsenal.
Baudrillard, Jean. (1994). Simulacra and Simulation. Trans. Sheila Faria Glaser. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
Rach M., Lounis M. (2021). The Focus on Students’ Attention! Does TikTok’s EduTok Initiative Propose an Alternative Perspective to the Design of Institutional Learning Environments?. In: Antipova T. (eds) Integrated Science in Digital Age 2020. ICIS 2020. Lecture Notes in Networks and Systems, vol 136. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-49264-9_22
Schwab, Klaus. (2016). The Fourth Industrial Revolution. Cologny/Geneva, Switzerland: World Economic Forum.