educating selves in a tech addicted age.

jason chen, susan t. gardner


In this paper we argue that, if it is true that maximum self-development is better both for individuals and society, and if it is true that that self-development is being seriously curtailed by pervasive environmental tech forces, then clearly educational systems, since they are guardians of “developing” young humans, have a moral imperative to push back against forces that diminish the self. On the other hand, if it is not true that “more self is always better,” that perhaps “goodness of fit” between self and society is optimum, then education systems are justified in continuing to pay scant attention to the forces of self-development (or lack thereof). In line with Sherry Turkle’s (2011) argument that tech forces are diminishing the sort of reflective reasoning necessary for self-development, we will argue that since communicative interchange is necessary for self-development, and an ever-developing self is necessary for ever deeper and more meaningful dialogue (hence forming a dialectic), the fact that social media and other forms of tech connection stunts deep and meaningful interchange has serious implications. Specifically, we will argue that, in contemporary high-tech society (what we are calling Society 2.0), the dialectic between self and communication is going the “wrong” way; that genuine dialogue is becoming ever more rare, which in turn is resulting in “diminished-I’s,” which in turn is resulting in ever more complacency in the face of utterly superficial communicative interchange.  We will begin with an overview of what we mean by a “diminished-I,” and then follow by noting how social media, the reading vacuum, roboticism, crowd communication, and decreasing social capital are resulting in diminished-I’s. Since this is resulting in an “I-diminished” society, we will reflect on the question of whether those dialogical educational initiatives that promote self-development are, in fact, making dodos, i.e., making youngsters unfit for the environment in which they find themselves. Ultimately, we will argue that, if educators choose to fight back against the I-diminishing forces of Society 2.0, they need to take selves seriously and actively engage youngsters in dialogue with those with opposing viewpoints. Ultimately, youngsters in Society 2.0 will need all the assistance educators can muster to fight the addictive, literally mind-numbing forces of being “happily” “alone together,” and instead chose the riskier often unhappy-making option of diving into the truth-seeking process with varying coalitions of the willing. 


education and self-development; increasing dimensionality; dialogue and self-development; technology addiction.

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