13 SES 03 B, Trust, Uncertainty and Risk in Education
Certainty has become a fragile good in a (post)modern and highly complex society, be it the global political order, the economic system, social networks and individual biographical plans. The social transformation towards a fragmented society makes it hard to rely on a common set of norms and values, since plurality is reshaping traditional modes of life.
Proponents of modernization theory such as Giddens (1990) and Beck (1992) diagnosed several societal challenges coming with the shift from a traditional to a modern society. An aspect that Beck and Giddens have in common is the idea of risk that is deeply bound to human activity and nested into societal structures, but a (post)modern society can assess individual and systemic risk for the good of future development. Computation plays a crucial role in achieving this. Complex computational systems brought up phenomena like big dataand machine learning which actually allows us to calculate not only the past and sense our habits or individual and systemic risk scenarios, but also let us predict a possible option of what the future might be.
Paradoxically, the underlying mathematical concepts are not always minimizing risk, as we can observe in the matter of personal or health care data and socio-technological practices like gathering and leaking of personal documents called “doxing” (Douglas 2016), the manipulation of material like in “deepfake” videos or fake news in general, nor do they diminish uncertainty. However, digital technologies driven by computer code do not only transform our relationship and perception of privacy and intimacy, they challenge us to also reconsider categories like labor, work or speech and action as conceptualized by Arendt (1958, 1964) and recently outlined by Cox and McLean (2012). While leaking data or the manipulation of a system are not new, practices utilizing computer code and media become a new quality in the digital age due to the tools and techniques available.
Based on the assumption that a better understanding of computational processes can further contribute to the understanding of the relations between speech and code, I want to discuss how the Arendtian concept of action and speech.
Computer code is not an entity that is being created like a book or a finite product. In this perspective computer code can be seen as both script and performance and it unfolds a special quality considering the fundamental idea of action and speech. This again is linked to different modes of (self-)expression and meaning production.
This outlined ambiguity gives computer code a special notion that can be linked to education, as digital architectures do not only confront a subject with uncertainty, they also suggest a high degree of empowerment that can be unleashed through tinkering and working with digital tools in uncertain environments. Exploring these spheres often involves an act of destabilizing the technological system itself. Writing code can not only be seen as code works but also as way for creative-aesthetical and political expression at the same time which, following Cox and McLean (2012), lies in the realm of code action. Coding as a way of (self-)expression can establish certainty and allow uncertainty at the same time.
The paper explores the relationship of labor, speech and action as conceptualized and theoretically established by Arendt considering a relatively new form of (self-)expression due coding practices. I want to address this issue in three steps. First, it will be discussed how labor, speech and action contribute to the human condition following Arendt. This offers an approach for the second step, to discuss the basic distinctions drawn by Arendt considering later works such as Virno (2004), Higgins (2010), as well as Cox and McLean (2012), to outline coding practices and how especially speech and action is shaped by the digital condition. The third and final step will discuss the impact on Education emerging with the change of Arendt’s distinctions considering coding as performative practice, which can both a creative and political expression at the same time.
Discussing the specific characteristics of speech and action in particular opens a broader view on the performative dimension of coding as practice. The complexity does not only lie in the act of coding or the execution of a script, which involves performativity in different ways, but rather in how ideas being inscribed into computer code through a specific programming language.
Arendt, Hannah (1998 ). The Human Condition; Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Arendt, Hannah (2000 ). “Labor, Work, Action” (1964). In The Portable Hannah Arendt, pp. 167-181. New York: Penguin. Beck, Ulrich (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. New Delhi: Sage. (Translated from the German Risikogesellschaft published in 1986). Cox, Geoff; McLean, Alex (2013). Speaking code. Coding as aesthetic and political expression. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press (Software studies). Douglas, D. M. (2016). Doxing: a conceptual analysis. Ethics and information technology, 18(3), 199-210. Giddens, Anthony (1990). The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity. Higgins, Chris (2010. Labour, Work, and Action: Arendt's Phenomenology of Practical Life. In: Journal of Philosophy of Education 44 (2-3), S. 275–300. Virno, Paolo (2004). A grammar of the multitude. For an analysis of contemporary forms of life. Los Angeles, Calif.: Semiotext(e) (Foreign agents series).
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