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CUC2022: Otvaranje u zatvorenom svijetu - postdigitalna znanost i obrazovanje / CUC2022: Opening up in a closed world - postdigital science and education

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Permeating, ubiquitious, occluded?: imaginaries of the digital and what they do

Looking at the genealogy of the term postdigital as presented in (Jandric et al 2022), the origin of the construct is traced to Negroponte 1998), whose conception rests on the notion of inseparability of the digital and the analogue. He also states that the digital ‘will be noticed only by its absence, not its presence’. Here, it seems three ideas are at work; the first is that the digital and analogue are intertwined as one inseparable entity, the second is that it is also possible for the digital to be absent, and the third is that it will only be noticed by its absence, not its presence. There appears to be a tension inherent in these claims, and in more recent ideas about of the nature of the digital, flowing from them. In this imaginary, the digital is presented as an entity fully permeating on the analogue. It is theorised as ubiquitous, and also occluded form direct view – resulting in the postdigital, in which the digital as a presence seems to eb imagined as a kind of haunting, an entity outside of direct perception. This echoes popular discourses of the digital as a form of ‘magical’ or ‘transformative’ force. However, the potential absence of the digital is also alluded to as a possibility, in the form of what is noticed, a rupture. This - I would argue - implies an inevitable, totalising, and in some sense, an unknowable force. In this presentation, I will argue that these conceptions of the digital, and consequently the postdigital, lead to a range of effects concerning how the analogue, material, and embodied are recast. Focusing on higher education in particular, I will propose that a strong version of this imaginary may lead us back to much-critiqued fantasies of digital incorporeality which continue to influence research, policy and practice. With reference to New Materialism, Science and Technology Studies, and Affect Theory, I will consider the possible effects of this imaginary of the digital as fully permeating, ubiquitous and occluded, focusing particularly on how these ideas reverberate in higher education, and what they do to our conceptions of the nature of absence and presence, in particular with regard to human and nonhuman subjectivities and practices. The presentation will conclude with suggested implications for theory and research into digital higher education, and will also discuss how this critique might contribute to the development of a ‘capacious’ concept of the postdigital for future research.

References Jandric, P., MacKenzie, A. and Knox, J. 2022.Postdigital research: genealogies, challenges and future perspectives. Postdigital Science and Education. [Accessed 15 June 2022] Negroponte, N. (1998). Beyond digital. Wired. [Accessed 15 June 2022]

Lesley Gourlay
University College London Institute of Education, London, UK

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