Programme

(T127)
Cloud Computing: New Social and Political Spaces
Location 130
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 14:00
Sessions 1

Convenor

  • Langdon Winner (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) email

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Short Abstract

Systems of Cloud computing promise convenience and problem-solving power to individuals and groups that employ their services. But issues of autonomy, control, and privacy now loom as serious problems for public organizations that agree to the terms that often govern activity within the Cloud.

Long Abstract

Systems of Cloud computing promise convenience and low cost or not cost problem-solving power to individuals and groups that employ their services. Within schools, colleges, universities and other public organizations, the advantage of running programs and storing data on the Cloud is accompanied by widespread use of mini laptops and Chromebooks whose very functionality depends on remote servers and corporate agendas over which citizens, teachers and citizens in general have little or no influence. Within this alluring digital landscape issues of autonomy, control, and privacy have now arisen as serious problems for public organizations that agree to the conditions that govern activities and mentalities within the Cloud.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Nebulous Education: Cloud Computing and School Reform

Author: Langdon Winner (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)  email

Short Abstract

Drawing upon decades long debates about the uses of technology in K-12 public schools, the paper surveys the adoption of commercial Cloud computing as a new environs for teaching and learning, discussing the controversies such reforms have spawned.

Long Abstract

Budget cutbacks brought by neoliberal austerity policies within public schools of the US and other countries have sparked teacher layoffs, larger class sizes and other adaptations. In response, many K-12 school systems are exploring the use of corporate services offered by Cloud computing, ones that offer new, comprehensive environs for teaching and learning. A survey of the products and methods of global firms that have entered the "ed-tech" market, the current extent of adoption of these applications, and the responses by prominent educators, pro and con, provides an outline of the key issues and questions about the installation, use and consequences of the Cloud in schools. Concerns about standardized learning, teach-to-the-test methodology, erosion of teacher creativity, and privacy of student data are among the issues now hotly debated even among those who are enthusiastic about basic features of the new systems. The paper builds upon historical and social research in STS about technologies in education from the early 20th century to the present. Once again the notion that education consists of discrete packages of knowledge delivered to the mind through some technological conveyance is the one preferred by commercial interests and resisted by those who view education a place for open, diverse, widely creative varieties of human interaction.

CLOUD COMPUTING AS AN INHERENTLY POLITICAL TECHNOLOGY

Author: Javier Bustamante Donas (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)  email

Short Abstract

CC presents serious ethical and political problems related to its nature as an inherently political technology. It is becoming in fact a political constitution. The discussion on CC has to do with which values we are willing to support, and the society we want to be.

Long Abstract

Cloud computing (CC) is a revolutionary development in IT, and a new sociotechnical paradigm that theoretically empowers users, but also presents serious ethical and political problems that have to be addressed. This paper argues that such problems have to do mainly with the very nature of cloud computing as an inherently political technology (a technology that is strongly compatible with certain model of social organization). We argue in this paper that CC is an inherently political technology in the strong sense (it requires a set of political and social requirements to properly function). Once fundamental decisions are taken, changing the sign of its social impact will be extremely difficult.

Even dominant corporate agents are vulnerable to a power shift in favor of the States. CC services providers and big data companies are under pressure for several reason (national security, law enforcement, war on terrorism, defense of national values, protection of free trade, etc.) to play an instrumental role in these policies. They can also act as cultural and political battering rams (convergence of interests between the state and the Companies). We don't have to wait to a global implementation to forecast its impact on society. CC is in fact a political constitution. The discussion on CC has to do with which values we are willing to support, and the society we want to be. As CC extends the power of technology to more areas of human activity, citizens should be considered as stakeholders. Post-implementation changes won't be very effective.

POSITIVE FREEDOM AND ISONOMIA IN CLOUD COMPUTING

Author: Maria Antonietta Salamone (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)  email

Short Abstract

Dominant actors of CC follow the anarcho-capitalist doctrine, and promote technologies they consider free and democratic by nature. Anarcho-capitalism considers negative freedom as the main political value. Citizens seem to have opted for an unconditional surrender, instead of claiming more positive freedom.

Long Abstract

The object of this paper is to analyze the social and political action of the netizens. They see themselves as an essential part of a cloud computing environment in which they flow freely and enjoy the feeling of democratically participating in a world-wide socio-political life, particularly through the use of social networks. However, most dominant actors of cloud computing and networks' owners follow the anarcho-capitalist doctrine, and consequently promote the use of technologies they consider as free and democratic by nature. Anarcho-capitalism considers "negative freedom" as the foremost ethical and political value, a value they think of as inserted inside the human genetic code. Understood as a codified natural right, negative freedom can be extracted, computed, and used to create new algorithms. Therefore, computers and digital machines could automatically ensure negative liberty, and the object of social communities would be just its implementation by innovation and evolving technologies.

From a political point of view, what can be called citizenship 2.0 has to do with citizens delegating authority and power to the owners of the cloud computing environment in order to protect their private rights. In the era of post democracy, and on behalf of the new automatic and free of charge negative freedom, citizens of the Network seem to have unconsciously opted for an unconditional surrender to technocracy and anarcho-capitalism, instead of pursuing more "positive freedom", and a greater democratic participation in defining the borders of State jurisdiction in a post-territorial world.

The Dialectics of Distraction in Digital Learning Spaces

Author: Ernst Schraube (Roskilde University)  email

Short Abstract

Building on the theory of technological politics as well as situated, practice-based theory of learning, the paper explores critically the significance of digital technologies in problem-oriented learning and project work in higher education.

Long Abstract

The paper explores critically the significance of digital technologies in problem-oriented learning and project work in higher education. Building on the theory of technological politics as well as situated and practice-based theory of learning, it investigates digital learning spaces and the activity of learning from the standpoint of the learners as an integrated part of their conduct of everyday life. Starting point of the paper are typical dilemmas and conflictualities of students articulated in interviews about their experiences and engagements with digital devices in their processes of learning. A major recurrent theme here is what could be called dialectics of distraction. On the one hand, the cross-contextuality and multiple engagements of the practice of everyday living and learning is catalyzed by digital devices enabling new ways of social involvement, counterpoints, and access to the world on various channels. On the other hand, the students articulate serious problems with digital diffusion and fragmentation, and the need for presence, immediate dialogue, immersion and not least tranquility in their learning activities including the need and challenge of islanding and not to be always "on". Building on an examination of the actions and politics materialized in digital learning spaces as well as of what we actually do when we "learn", the paper analyzes the dialectics of distraction to substantiate an understanding where and where not digital technologies can expand problem-oriented learning.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.