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The False Promises of the Digital Revolution: How Computers Transform Education, Work, and International Development in Ways That Are Ecologically Unsustainable


reviewed by Peter McDermott - August 22, 2016

coverTitle: The False Promises of the Digital Revolution: How Computers Transform Education, Work, and International Development in Ways That Are Ecologically Unsustainable
Author(s): C. A. Bowers
Publisher: Peter Lang Publishing, New York
ISBN: 1433126125, Pages: 120, Year: 2014
Search for book at Amazon.com


If readers are searching for ideas to infuse technology into classroom teaching, they should not look to The False Promises of the Digital Revolution: How Computers Transform Education, Work, and International Development in Ways That Are Ecologically Unsustainable by C. A. Bowers. On the other hand, readers will find this book insightful and persuasive if they seek a progressive critique of the political, economic, and intellectual implications of new technologies in the world.


This book is critical in how Bowers believes technology contributes to environmental decline, global unemployment, capitalist profiteering, and loss of traditional ways of living and communicating. Regardless of whether one agrees with him or not, Bowers shines light on issues largely been ignored by technology’s proponents.


The text’s central premise is that technology presents a form of colonialism and exploitation that effectively silences local voices, ways of thinking, habits, and traditions. Bowers explains his book aims to help readers become aware of and critically consider technology’s negative effects. His text provides a critical perspective on how new technologies embody cultural, economic, and political oppression outside the Western world. Although the author admits that digital technologies have advantages, he contends that their destructive effects supersede the benefits and have been ignored and unexamined.


Readers should be aware that the author’s argument is theoretical rather than empirical and some of his claims are severe. For example, he suggests that technology contributes to global instability, environmental deterioration, and war. However, if readers are searching for a cohesive and persuasive essay about the deleterious effects of new technologies on everyday life, this is the book to satisfy their interests.


In Chapter One, Bowers explains he wrote The False Promises of the Digital Revolution to challenge the common assumption that new technologies advance our ways of living and quality of life. He argues that technological advancements guiding the world on a linear path of progress is a myth. Instead, the author believes that technological progress brings many destructive forces on people and their cultures in terms of decreased privacy, increased unemployment, heightened consumerism, and increased environmental pollution. Bowers does not deny there are benefits to technology but often its deleterious effects are neither acknowledged by society nor examined by educators. He believes new technologies are forms of colonialism easily eliminating local cultures and indigenous ways of knowing.


In Chapter Two, Bowers argues print and technology carry abstract, symbolic, and linguistic ways of thinking at the expense of other types of thought. Technology undermines cultural ways of knowing and changes children’s ways of thinking from extended concentration to brief focus and information scanning. Although proponents argue technology empowers individuals with its ability to collect, retrieve, and analyze data Bowers states that it undermines communities' ways of knowing. A key point of this chapter is the world needs wisdom more than data to guide itself through the 21st century.


In Chapter Three, Bowers questions the assumption constant technological change produces social and economic progress and whether the Western value of individualism explains success and failure. He explains technological progress benefits corporate capitalism more than local communities. The author explains ideas and events are better understood through an ecological model of interpretation recognizing the interrelationships of ideas and events rather than through the Western concept of individualism. Key differences between corporate and community centered capitalism are examined to show how technology rests decidedly with the corporate and for this reason Bowers questions technology’s widespread use in life. In this chapter, he emphasizes the importance of an ecological view of the world valuing the importance of community and interrelationship of local ideas rather than those of corporations and individuals.

 

In Chapter Four, Bowers is more specific about his thoughts pertaining to technology’s negative effects on the world. He believes technology accelerates global unemployment and exacerbates economic inequities existing between workers and owners. The author maintains technology (including conventional print and new technologies) contributes to abstract thinking and removes people from their local and cultural contexts. Bower explains technology is not neutral but adds to the corporate model of capitalism and exploits local communities and cultures.


In Chapter Five, Bowers further examines how technology contributes to privacy loss, cultural colonization, and an increase in terrorism throughout the world. Bowers argues technological advancement is a form of imperialism requiring other cultures to adopt Western ways of thinking, systems of government, and values of individualism and consumerism. Metaphorical language is widely used by technology enthusiasts and contributes to its widespread dissemination. The author argues technology undermines intergenerational communication within families and weakens local ways of communicating and interacting. These negative effects trigger resentment and resistance by minority groups throughout the world. Bowers identifies five effects of digital technologies contributing to the colonization of developing. For example, print and digital literacies are symbolic abstractions reinforcing Western emphasis on the individualism as opposed to community. On a similar note, the dominant value permeating all aspects of daily life is the importance of money.


In Chapter Six, Bowers presents two key points regarding knowledge: (a) it develops in an ecological context in which ideas must always be viewed in relationship to other ideas, behaviors, and issues and (b) knowledge is linguistically constructed and influenced by the metaphors and nouns used to convey its meanings. This is the only chapter where the author discusses classroom teaching and he asks educators to think of ways they can have their students critically examine the culturally transforming nature of technology. He offers many provocative questions to generate critical thought and discussion about technology’s effects on life (e.g., What is lost when intergenerational knowledge, skills, and relationships are no longer passed through face to face relationships? What are the cultural roots of privileging print over oral representations of experience?). This chapter emphasizes the ecological and constructivist nature of meaning rather than the West’s focus on individualism, symbolic thought, profit, and consumerism.


The book’s appendix examines the political and moral implications of online teaching in higher education. Bowers argues that online education will eliminate faculty positions, privilege print and abstract ways of thinking, and benefit universities at the expense of students, faculty, and knowledge.

 

It is unlikely that Bowers will persuade enthusiasts to reconsider their positions about technology’s positive impacts on everyday life. However, the author shares ideas that are important for all educators who are concerned about our world and the children who will inherit it whether one agrees with him or not. The False Promises of the Digital Revolution provides a critical voice about how technology is increasing global instability, advancing corporate profits, and contributing to the elimination of non-Western cultures and traditions. The book is a valuable read for graduate students and scholars concerned about the political, economic, and intellectual effects of digital technologies in today’s world.




Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: August 22, 2016
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 21609, Date Accessed: 10/17/2021 9:05:31 AM

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About the Author
  • Peter McDermott
    Pace University
    E-mail Author
    PETER McDERMOTT teaches courses in literacy education at Pace University’s School of Education. He has taught literacy in urban high schools and adult education programs, and for many years he co-directed an after-school literacy program in a public housing project. He is a former Fulbright Scholar to Bosnia-Herzegovina and a President of the New York State Reading Association (2012-2013). He taught with the International Literacy Association’s projects in Kazakhstan, Tanzania, and currently in Sierra Leone. His research interests pertain to urban education, international education, and arts integration. He has special interest in strategies for integrating digital literacies into classroom teaching. His recent publications appear in the International Journal of Educational Research, Reading Psychology, and the Educational Forum, as well as in regional and state journals.
 
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