Saturday 7 March 2009

Deschooling the Edublogosphere?

This post from NZ edublogger Leigh Blackall - which I picked up via Stephen Downes - hails (or at least hopes for) a comeback for Ivan Illich's 'Deschooling Society', which reminded me that I should blog the video of my Temporary School of Thought talk.

Many thanks to Vinay for filming that! He also blogged an audio recording of the event, which got picked up in a thoughtful post from Andrew J Cernaglia.

In a different key, I've just uploaded an article I wrote last year about Illich's influence on and warnings about the development of personal computing and the internet:

Carl Mitcham laughed when I told him I was working on an internet startup inspired by Deschooling Society. Now in his mid-sixties, Mitcham is a philosopher of technology, a professor at the Colorado School of Mines and former director of the Science-Technology-Society Programme at Penn State. He was also, from the late 1980s, a member of Illich's circle of friends and collaborators, the travelling circus which surrounded him from the closure of the Centre for Intercultural Documentation at Cuernavaca in 1976, until his death in 2002.

What made Mitcham laugh was his recollection of Illich telling him, in exasperation, “People are saying I invented this internet!” The thought of it was enough to make him throw up his hands in horror.

The story of Illich's influence on the internet and the reasons for his mistrust of it both deserve attention. Together, they present something like a paradox: how did a thinker whose vision of 'learning webs', 'educational networks' and 'convivial tools' inspired key figures in the development of personal computing come, by the late 1990s, to believe in 'the necessity of defending... our senses... against the insistent encroachments of multimedia from cyberspace'?


I just came across another blog that's picked up on Charlie Leadbeater's article on Illich and the DIY State this week, so it does feel like there's an appetite for these ideas at the moment. And if you were looking for more pieces of evidence, I guess you could say that us raising a second round of funding for School of Everything was also a good sign!

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