Here, you will find other articles and essays by Langdon.
I regret that the call for alternative ways of imagining a computer-centered, digitally infused society went largely unheeded. Then as now this realm of activity tacitly worships a philosophy of technological determinism: Technology relentlessly "advances." Society adapts, taking on the imprint of the latest varieties of hardware and software. Rumors about the "social shaping" of key parts and pieces of the ensemble comprise the favorite cover story that obscures what everyone eventually accepts as necessary. Among the obvious consequences of this dynamic process have been a massive redistribution wealth to the top 1%; a ghastly widening economic and social inequality; collapse of any widely shared sense of the common good; the steady erosion of democracy in charting the nation's future. The piece was published in Computers and Society, 1997, 27(3), 14-19.]
Philosophers and scholars of rhetoric point to the significance of what they call "god terms,” concepts that have a certain “inherent potency.” God terms sweep up whole periods of history as nations and cultures strive to reach a higher state of being. (1) From the late 1700s and well into the early decades of the 20th century, for example, a prominent focus of inspiration was "Revolution,” an idea that heralded sweeping social, economic and upheaval with the expectation of wonderful outcomes. By the same token, a fascination with “Progress” during the Enlightenment promised inevitable improvement in human knowledge and its beneficial, universal applications. Or course, a perennial favorite in the United States has long been that of “Frontier. While its specific location and meaning have changed over the years -- from the geographical expanse of a great continent, to the horizons of modern science, to the space program of the 1960 geographical, to the realm of cyberspace widely celebrated in recent decades –- Americans have always looked longingly towards the next “Frontier” looming just over the horizon.
Hopes for the future of democracy must now confront a basic power shift that has emerged since the early 1970s and is now reaching its advanced stages. This shift in control over key decisions and policies is clearly visible in my own country, the U.S.A., but is evident in many other nations as well. At stake is a seemingly ineluctable transfer of power from national governments to the transnational firms; from elected officials to directors of large banks, hedge funds, and global firms; from citizens to plutocrats; from democracy to corporatocracy.
Waves of enthusiasm for technological innovations that promise to revitalize teaching and learning are at least a century old. Unfortunately, the record of accomplishment for the many varieties of hardware and software introduced into the schools over the decades is remarkably thin. Today’s promoters of technology in education tend to forget similar efforts in the past, launching forth with initiatives that use the latest hardware and software, as if such projects were unprecedented. While initiatives like the iClass network in Europe show considerable promise, their development would benefit from recalling the history of earlier attempts to develop and market sophisticated technical instruments for the schools. Reflection up basic philosophical questions about teaching and learning can help us decide which technical devices are of genuine value and which are not.