Home > Commentaries on TTC > We don’t need no thought control

We don’t need no thought control

In Episode 7: Dogme: The Technoids Stike Back, we are invited to smash the myth that Dogme=No technology. An interesting task indeed and one that has me tied up in knots as I do so – although it is likely that this has its prima causa in the mug of espresso coffee that is coursing through my body as I sit…bounce…and type.

One challenge that I see as possibly springing from this challenge is to find where Dogme ever claimed to be anti-technology. You may be a long time looking. There are a number of people who express caution about the dangers of technology, but as Dogme remains to be defined (until April 2012 when I hand in my dissertation), it is going to be mighty difficult to ascribe any prohibitions that are not to be found in the enchiridion (a word I have only just learned…bear with me).

If you search the Yahoogroup, you will find that technology gets 864 mentions. The first mention comes in Dogme post Number 2 by a subscriber who goes by the moniker Scott Thornbury. He doesn’t say much on the theme, only that there is a valid reason for bringing something called a “tape recorder” into the class. I googled “tape recorder” but am failing to get my head around the various descriptions. It seems to be some sort of primitive audio-capturing device, Jim.

By post 493, in keeping with the religious metaphors that Dogme thrives on, Tom Walton – hello Tom, if you ever read this- was “confessing” to being in charge of “new technologies”. He added that he didn’t see this in any way as being at odds with Dogme.

Many teachers had tried to persuade Damian of the benefits of a technologically-mediated education.

Then in Dogme 511, in a post headed “More on teacher ‘jizz'”, our Thornbury man is back again. The post sounds relevant to the theme at hand: technocrap. The post describes the colonisation of a leading UK primary school by IWBs. The poster takes delight in the fact that while the head of the school sees great imperial potential for the new technology, little Damian’s sole comment is about the “smudginess” of the boards.

By post #794, Mr Meddings, Dogme parent, steps in. He directs us to an interesting article in IATEFL Voices (‘Computers vs. teachers or
Computers plus Teachers’). Luke refers to the alternative of a computer-mediated learning experience as being one that is “less mechanical.” I find this very interesting. Luke was writing back in 2001 and this kind of technology was still seen as mechanical. I wonder how many of us view it that way now? Doesn’t it all seem much more…organic (in the biological sense of the term rather than the tree-hugging one)?

By August 21, 2001 technology had made it as a heading on the dogme list. The writer was Jane Arnold and expressed caution about rushing into the arms of the androids. Well, something like that anyway.

On 12 November 2001, the Dogme group was invited to describe itself. A poll was taken to answer the question, “What is Dogme?” One option was “Luddite (i.e. anti-technology”). Leaving aside that particular gloss of Luddite, let us move to the results. A wopping 2.47% thought that we should take our hammers to the machines.

And then the debate assumed its familiar guise. The technosceptics put forward the arguments about the false promises of technology. The technophiles put forward the arguments about moving with the times. Yadda-yadda-Yadda.

Thanks to Karenne, here is another opportunity to “sit weighing and weighing/[Our] responsible tristia.” The quotation from Seamus Heaney’s exquisite poem Exposure is apt indeed. In the poem, Heaney sits up one late December night in Wicklow. He’s waiting for a “once-in-a-lifetime portent”: the apparition of a comet that only comes by once every blue moon. One careless image has him agonising over the political situation north of the border and as he reflects, he misses the sodding comet. I hope I am not alone in seeing the analogy. Technology – by which we invariably mean digital technology- is not worth missing the comet for.

That said, I find the whole argument fascinating. Is dogme anti-techno? I suspect that dogme is anti- those things that  divorce people from the human touch of conversation-driven learning. Those things which alienate us. Those things that mediate between us and allow more distance. There is the counter argument that modern technology actually closes the distance and brings people together. But Dogme doesn’t seem to buy it unquestioningly.

The argument is that technology is more than a tool to be used by us; it is also a tool that is used on us. I don’t know about the others, but this is where my tristia come in. Of course, the internet can offer me so many things – and my life, my professional development, my classes would not be the same without it. But what does it ask in return? It asks for solitude. When we are together, it doesn’t want anyone else around to distract me. When we can’t be together, it wants me to take mementos of me with it – mementos that invariably require headphones or undivided attention. It encourages me to consume what others have produced. Sure, it enables me to produce as well, but in a way that precludes much meaningful interaction. In other words, whilst it offers me the world, it charges me my life. And as we move ever closer to the internet of things, this may never have been truer. In order to benefit from the internet of the future, we are told that we must share ever more information about ourselves. And, I suggest, it is at this level that dogme draws the line and says, “NO!”Because Dogme is about the people in the classroom, not the personae in the classroom.

In a wonderfully brief post, David Dodgson asked, “what better tool than an internet connected computer to bring authentic language into the classroom?” One imagines the Dogme grandfather sat in his chair, using the same words to lament the state of the modern world. In the modern world [shut up, Paul Weller!], people are subservient to the Technogod. In the past, our ancestors used the tools of “experience” and “mind” to bring their authentic language [whatever that might be] into the classroom. Now we can think of no better tool than the internet. We have squeezed a crowbar between the world and our direct mediation upon it and we have inserted Technology. And it has grown between us.

And there are many who say, “Yeah! But so what? C’mon! Think of the kids! This is the modern world!” [SHUT UP, PAUL WELLER!] And they are right. We might as well turn away from the teaching of English – which is at least as guilty as technology as being an evil associated with the business interests of some against the life issues of others. But technology is a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing for many of us. Who is most right? Dogme isn’t anti-technology, but should it be? I’ll give the last word to Scott who gave it back to Lars von Trier in 2000:

The intentions [of Dogme 95] are noble and it must then be up to the conscience of each individual how you approach the rules and whether you feel that you have abided to [sic] them.

Which, when you think about it, is not dissimilar to Paul Weller’s “Don’t have to explain myself to you/Don’t give two fucks about your review.” Go on then, Paul Weller!

More Dogme challenge responses at Karenne’s website (linked earlier)

  1. November 29, 2010 at 10:32

    Can’t wait for your dissertation.

  2. dingtonia
    November 29, 2010 at 10:36

    What a cracking post! I can say no more….


  3. dfogarty
    November 29, 2010 at 12:11

    David – you sound like my tutor…the dissertation was meant to be completed by 2007.

    Candy – cracking is one of my highest epithets. So thank you. You are a cracking commentator.

  4. December 2, 2010 at 20:05

    Brilliant! I am so glad you brought up the fact that dogme never claimed to be anti-technology! Some foxes were just put in amongst the chickens on that one!

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