Figure/Ground Interview with Anthony Paul Smith

What effect has the information age and technology had on the university and on pedagogy?

I take a kind of Deleuzian approach to the question of technology and pedagogy. Very simply, too simply probably, one of the lessons of the metaphysics he and Guattari sketch out over their Capitalism and Schizophrenia volumes is that nothing is essentially going to be revolutionary or reactionary. I think that’s really true of information technology, where we are tempted to either celebrate as the new means of democratization or decry it as further eroding the place of the university in society. I can’t simply celebrate it, in part because my own teaching style is pretty traditional. I use a mix of lecture and discussion in-class, I organize my lecture with powerpoints only because my handwriting is so poor that I can’t effectively use the blackboard (the physical one in the classroom, not the software…). I’ve never found the use of message boards or blogs to work for my own pedagogy and I have seen an over reliance on bad internet sites for research with my current students that is really troubling, revealing a laziness when it comes to research that I don’t think was so easy to indulge before. Then of course there is the strange threat of the MOOCs that plenty of other people have talked about and know more about than I do. At the same time, I can’t decry it because I have personally benefited from the folding of time and space that these technologies allow for. I’ve done online lectures on Laruelle, met amazing people I likely would never have in the old school way of networking, benefit from the ease of access to literature the internet affords, and all that. For me it really was about class mobility. During my undergrad the internet allowed me to have a rich intellectual life even though I was also having to work 25-30 hours a week on top of full-time courses. Pedagogically I don’t see a ton of value in technology other than that folding of space, other than access, but it should be thought about very carefully alongside the aspects of the university we want to defend, keeping in mind that, like information technology, the university is itself a mix of reactionary elements and spaces of freedom.

Read the entire interview at Figure/Ground.

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