ZembylasVrasidas-Globalization_and_ICTs.pdf

Posted: June 26th, 2021

Journal of Curriculum Studies ISSN 0022–0272 print/ISSN 1366–5839 online © 2005 Taylor & Francis Ltd
http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals

DOI: 10.1080/0022027032000190687

J. CURRICULUM STUDIES, 2005, VOL. 37, NO. 1, 65–83

Michalinos Zembylas is an associate professor of education at Intercollege, 46 Makedonitissas
Ave., Nicosia 1700, Cyprus; e-mail: [email protected], and an adjunct professor of teacher
education at Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA. He is interested in emotions in
teaching and learning, science and technology education, curriculum theory, and the
philosophy of education. His recent papers have appeared in Educational Theory, the Journal
of Research in Science Teaching, the International Journal of Science Education, and Teachers
College Record.
Charalambos Vrasidas is an associate professor of learning technologies at Intercollege,
Cyprus, and co-ordinator of research and evaluation at the Center for the Application of
Information Technologies, Western Illinois University, Macomb, USA. He is the co-editor of
the book series, ‘Current Perspectives on Applied Information Technologies’, and the
representative of Cyprus at the International Council of Educational Media.

Globalization, information and communication
technologies, and the prospect of a ‘global village’:
promises of inclusion or electronic colonization?

MICHALINOS ZEMBYLAS and
CHARALAMBOS VRASIDAS

This paper discusses the reciprocal relationships among globalization, information and
communication technologies (ICT), and the prospect of a ‘global village’. The current
metaphor of a ‘global village’ (regardless of physical access to ICT) is problematic, and can
be interpreted as a form of electronic colonization. However, through such concepts as
blurred identity, nomadism, and hybridity, a distinctly (post-modern) ICT landscape can be
redrawn in a way that accepts the global identity of the ICT, but denies the colonial erasure
associated with the global-village narrative. ICT, in themselves, cannot serve as an end in
education, but the demand for critical education involving ICT is pressing as the effects of
globalization are experienced. Three methods of promoting decolonizing criticality are
proposed: critical emotional literacy, collective witnessing, and collective intelligence.

Several social theorists have analysed the meaning of globalization and its
impact on society, individuals, and social relations. Some of its character-
istics include the dominance of a world capitalist economic system, the
increased use and reliance on new information and communication
technologies (ICT), the strengthening of transnational corporations and
organizations, the erosion of local cultures, values, and traditions, and the
emergence of a ‘global culture’ (Giddens 1990, Kellner 1998) within a
‘network society’ (Castells 1996). Kellner (2000, 2002) contends that the
key to understanding globalization ‘critically’ is to assess it both as a product
of technological developments as well as a process of global restructuring of
capitalism in which economic, technological, political, and cultural features
are intertwined.

TCUS Vol. 37 No. 1 Paper TCUS 100491 Revise Proofs 2/11/04 Genesis

66 MICHALINOS ZEMBYLAS AND CHARALAMBOS VRASIDAS

The vision of a networked society in which the peoples of the world are
all connected, communicating with one another and co-operating for the
common good, is popular and seductive. However, the educational and
political significance and desirability of ICT, as both a symbol and an aspect
of globalization, is based on a developed-world perspective (Lelliott et al.
2000). ‘The global-village narrative’, Hawisher and Selfe (2000a: 285–286)
suggest, ‘. . . simply will not work for much of the world . . . it is too
reductive, too western, too colonial in its conception’. The global-village
narrative is a modernist myth that presents cyberculture as culturally neutral
and equally approachable by all peoples; on the contrary, such a narrative,
by erasing cultural differences and national boundaries, can be seen as a
form of colonialism. ICT, the underlying theme in this myth, are both a
feature of globalization and the very condition of possibility for the process
of globalization (Lelliott et al. 2000).

Without access to ICT, however, many societies are in danger of further
isolation and exclusion from global development. Globalization and the use
of ICT open up opportunities for promoting democracy and prosperity in
poorer parts of the planet. ICT provide tools for disseminating information,
participating in decision-making, and improving environmental conditions,
gender equity, social justice, peace, and health (Lelliott et al. 2000).

Thus the dilemma: Without ICT access, many societies are in danger of
further isolation; but that very access creates new forms of marginalization
and colonization. What is the solution to this dilemma? In response, we
provide an overview of both sides of the dilemma, emphasizing that the
problems may not be as clear-cut as some maintain. We also show that, in a
combination of the concepts of blurred identity, nomadism, and hybridity, a
distinctly (post-modern) redrawing of the ICT landscape may be outlined—a
redrawing that recognizes the increasingly global identity of the ICT, but
denies the colonial erasure associated with the global-village narrative.

The metaphor of the ‘nomad’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1977, 1987)
provides an empowering conception of such a relationship because it shows
how ICT can be inclusive for marginalized people. A nomad is someone
constantly on the move, connecting with others, assuming heterogeneous
identities, and celebrating plurality, in contradiction to unitary models of
Western thought that exclude certain populations. Nomads learns to live
with the discomfort of uncertainty and multiplicity, and do not allow
themselves to collapse their identities into that of ‘global villagers’ who are
assumed to have identical and universal needs and desires. Analysing the
nomadic metaphor sheds light on such questions as: Who benefits most from
the growing application of ICT around the world? Who benefits least? What
are the implications of such inequities for teachers, their students, and the
general population? What is the nature of the power relations among people,
groups, and nations as ICT invade every part of society?

We contend that ICT, in themselves, cannot be promoted as an end in
education, but that the demand for critical education involving ICT is
pressing as the effects of globalization are experienced. In other words,
physical access to ICT is far from sufficient for critical access. We outline
three concepts for promoting such a critical education: critical emotional
literacy, collective witnessing, and collective intelligence.

PROMISES OF INCLUSION OR ELECTRONIC COLONIZATION? 67

It could be argued that the educational intervention we suggest herein is
simply another form of ‘colonizing’, however progressive in its intentions.
However, this paradox characterizes all educational interventions. Our
alternative may be justified by noting the purpose of the intervention: the
exploration of an ‘alternate criticality’ (Burbules and Berk 1999) that is the
opposite of the hegemonic and suggests that people think ‘differently’—in
other words become able to question and doubt even their own pre-
suppositions. This emphasis on criticality is part of the practice in which an
alternative may be located.

The global-village narrative: promises and perils

The promises and perils of ICT are tied to a major transformation in
modern times, globalization. Some of its characteristics include economic
factors (e.g. a rise of transnational corporations), political factors (e.g. a
loss of nation-state sovereignty and a weakening of the notion of the
‘citizen’), cultural factors (e.g. a dialectical tension between the local and
the global), and educational factors (e.g. new education agendas that
privilege particular policies for evaluation, financing, assessment, stan-
dards, teacher training, curriculum, instruction, and testing) (Burbules
and Torres 2000).

One feature that makes globalization possible, and which affects
education in economic, political, and cultural terms, is how easier
communication has made (for some, not for all) the flow of commodities,
capital, technology, ideas, forms of culture, and people across national
boundaries (Castells 1996). This flow of goods and capital is more apparent
in developed than developing countries, thus widening the gap between the
haves and have-nots. In particular, the flow of ICT—which should not be
viewed apart from the flow of other items—is creating new educational
spaces, what some call a ‘globalized and inter-connected education’ (Kellner
2000). As ICT make this globalized and inter-connected education possible,
the questions in education (related to learning, teaching, pedagogies,
relationships, and social issues) become more complex. It is not clear, for
example, how this globalized, ‘informationalist’ education (to use Castells’s
(1996) term) tackles equity and social justice. Yet, globalized inter-
connected education has the potential for improving many aspects of civil
society.

A networked society that spans the globe can serve to erase meaningless
geopolitical borders, eliminate racial, religious, and ethnic differences, and
bind people together regardless of race, ethnicity, or location. Negroponte
(1995: 230–231) concludes that ‘[A] new generation is emerging from the
digital landscape free of many of the old prejudices. . . . Digital technology
can be a natural force drawing people into greater world harmony’ within a
landscape where ‘we are bound to find new hope and dignity’. People in
Palau and Scotland, for example, regard the Internet as a space in which
they can express, share, and enrich their cultural values (Kitalong and
Kitalong 2000, Sloane and Johnstone 2000). ICT, therefore, offer oppor-
tunities otherwise unavailable to a large number of people. Burbules and

68 MICHALINOS ZEMBYLAS AND CHARALAMBOS VRASIDAS

Callister (2000: 280) argued that, in developing economies of Southeast
Asia,

access to higher education courses and programs online, and to the other
fruits of advanced technology, is regarded as a primary engine of growth, and
they are aggressively seeking out quality online educational opportunities from
whomever will provide them.

On the other hand, the often over-optimistic (and romantic) claims
about ICT and their use in the classroom are questionable in light of the
larger, exceedingly complex role of technology in society (Fabos and Young
1999). Educational policy ‘is driven everywhere by terrors of economic
globalization and pressures of commercialism’ (Blake and Standish 2000:
11). Hawisher and Selfe (2000b: 1–2) argue that:

According to this utopian and ethnocentric [global village] narrative,
sophisticated computer networks—manufactured by far-sighted scientists and
engineers educated within democratic and highly technological cultures—will
serve to connect the world’s peoples in a vast global community that
transcends current geopolitical borders.

Several scholars contend that people should be aware and sceptical of the
fact that ‘just as telecommunications technology is credited with promoting
multi-culturalism, it has also been blamed for increasing existing inequities
on a broader scale’ (Hawisher and Selfe 2000a: 283–284). Noble (1998:
269) maintains that educational efforts on behalf of equity, empowerment,
and access for all often serve to advance technological—in particular,
electronic—colonization:

Seductively aligned with [educational efforts on behalf of equity, empower-
ment and access for all], in rhetoric if not also in practice, is an array of
corporate promoters and technologists whose agendas, ultimately have less to
do with issues of equity or even of education, broadly conceived, than with
furthering technological development (and potential profit) through research
and development in the public arena, through the merchandising of hardware
and software, and through the reshaping of educational systems both to
facilitate their technological colonization and to ensure the training of reliable
cadre of adaptable ‘problem solvers’ and technicians. These agendas come
with an abundance of resources—both financial and political—that dwarf
those available to progressive educators unwilling to adorn their efforts with
technological or vocational trappings.

Electronic colonization occurs within discursive venues (on television, in
classrooms, books and articles, and in corporate settings), often without
anyone noticing, because the elements of the global-village narrative are so
familiar. In this narrative, while Westerners maintain the vision of linking
peoples around the world, they imagine themselves, not as simple members
of this electronically constituted village, but rather as discoverers of the
village, explorers of its remote corners, and even colonizers of its exotic
peoples (Selfe 1995).

This ‘technological utopia’ (Wresch 1996) has attracted many critics,
especially if one considers that the largest portion of the population of earth
does not have access to the Internet. As Deibert (1997) suggests, there are
deeper motives behind claims for the global character and importance of

PROMISES OF INCLUSION OR ELECTRONIC COLONIZATION? 69

ICT: ‘The global-village myth . . . provides a convenient and ideologically
effective way of making efforts to expand free-market economic develop-
ment, provide active support of fledging democratic political efforts, and
intervene militarily in the affairs of non-western countries’ (p. 9). And then
adds:

To citizens of other countries, however, the global-village myth is far from
culturally neutral and understandably much less appealing. The inhabitants of
countries traditionally identified as less technologically developed, for
example, may interpret the global expansion of the web within the historical
context of colonialism. . . . To citizens in these countries, the Web may seem
less a neutral and welcome medium for global communication than a
disturbing and unwelcome system for broadcasting western colonial culture
and values. (p. 9)

These issues pose complex problems, and reveal the unavoidable
dilemma concerning ICT in poor and developing countries: without access
to ICT struggling societies are in danger of further isolation, but that very
access creates new forms of exclusion and colonization. The question is
then: are there any alternatives to the global-village narrative?

We join Deibert (1997), Hawisher and Selfe (2000a, b), and others in
suggesting that there are alternative perspectives to the global-village
narrative, thus expressing our scepticism around the claims made about the
possibilities offered by the constitution of ‘a global village’. One such
alternative, that not only exposes some of the problematics raised above but
also promises some hope, is what we call the ‘nomadic narrative’, inspired by
Deleuze and Guatarri’s (1977, 1987) work on ‘nomadic thought’. We
analyse the meanings entailed in this narrative, and examine why it opens up
new possibilities for promoting critical education in the context of ICT. We
propose that a nomadic metaphor suggests an empowering way of analysing
human relationships with new technologies, because it describes how ICT
can be inclusive. Nevertheless, we believe that the deepest insights into how
criticality can be promoted in the context of ICT are still in front of us.
Whether such insights—however progressive they may be—will be ‘less’
colonizing is an open question that eventually will be answered only by
assessing the contribution this critical education makes to improving world
conditions (Burbules and Berk 1999).

Nomadic ICT practices

It has been four decades since McLuhan (1964: 358) pointed out that
people are ‘suddenly nomadic gatherers of knowledge, nomadic as never
before, informed as never before, free from fragmentary specialism as never
before—but also involved in the total social process as never before’.
Deleuze and Guattari (1977, 1987), in examining developments of new
spaces in global communication, described the changed perceptions and
political meanings of these spaces, considering them as ‘non-hierarchical’
and ‘nomadic’. In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia,
Deleuze and Guattari (1987) provide an alternative to ways of under-
standing ‘the global’. They describe nomadism in their metaphor of the

70 MICHALINOS ZEMBYLAS AND CHARALAMBOS VRASIDAS

‘rhizome’. A rhizome is different from roots and trees, they maintain,
because it connects any point to any other point, having multiple entryways,
and operates by variation and expansion. Its characteristics are connection,
heterogeneity, and multiplicity.

A nomad, like a rhizome, is not rooted in an ordered space and time, and
does not repose on an identity; instead, it rides difference. The nomad
knows no boundaries and wanders across diverse spaces. This description
contradicts the unitary, binary, and totalizing models of Western thought as
epitomized in the global-village narrative. In the latter narrative, there is a
constant pressure to eliminate the idiosyncratic or the personal, and to mute
questions about purpose, equity, and justice. In the nomadic narrative,
however, the idiosyncratic becomes a source of empowerment in a non-
hierarchical space defined solely by heterogeneity, connectivity, and
multiplicity.

Braidotti (1994), building on Deleuze and Guattari’s work, conceives
the nomadic as both a political project and a critical consciousness, an
attempt to ‘explore and legitimate political agency, while taking as historical
evidence the decline of metaphysically fixed, steady identities’ (p. 5).
Nomadism entails a constant state of ‘becoming’, which Braidotti refers to
as ‘as-if ’. The practice of ‘as-if ’, for Braidotti, is a ‘technique of strategic re-
location in order to rescue what we need of the past in order to trace paths
of transformation of our lives here and now’ (p. 6). Braidotti also
understands ‘as-if ’ as ‘the affirmation of fluid boundaries, a practice of the
intervals, of the interfaces, and the interstices’ (p. 6). For example, the
hypertext/hypermedia nature of the Internet allows users to move with
unprecedented ease from document to document, accessing images, text,
and sound, and to form new paths as they explore connections and co-
construct knowledge.

In addition, Braidotti (1994) is insistent that, for ‘as-if ’ to be useful, it
must be grounded in deliberate agency and lived experience. Her aim is to
ensure that agency and lived experience—a grounded subjectivity—are not
lost, as suggested by polemics of post-modernist ideas. On the contrary, as
she argues, post-modern subversions (e.g. repetition, parody, irony) ‘can be
politically empowering on the condition of being sustained by a critical
consciousness that aims at engendering transformations and changes’ (p. 7;
emphasis added). Promoting these subversions, for instance, in the context
of online communication opens new possibilities for initiating transforma-
tions, because these subversions expose the assumptions embedded in such
taken-for-granted questions as:

What do we want students to learn? How can we use new technologies? How
should we? Why should we? What will change when we do? Do we want those
changes? What do they mean for us, our students, society? What is fair? What
kind of society do we want to live in? And, perhaps ultimately, who do we want
to become? (Bruce 1999: 227)

Consequently, Braidotti’s emphasis on ‘critical consciousness’, and Bruce’s
concerns for thinking about taken-for-granted questions in new ways, direct
attention to the need for an alternative criticality that involves the ability to
move flexibly outside conventional thinking—that is, ‘imagining what it

PROMISES OF INCLUSION OR ELECTRONIC COLONIZATION? 71

might mean to think without some of the very things that make our (current)
thinking meaningful’ (Burbules and Berk 1999: 61). The perspective of
criticality as a practice, argue Burbules and Berk (1999), suggests that
criticality is not only an intellectual capacity but also a way of being and a
relation to others.

In using a nomadic metaphor, we point to the significance of using
multiple ways of learning and communicating. The nomad is someone who
learns to live with the discomfort of uncertainty and the complexity of
change. For example, the many opportunities offered by the Internet to
engage in criss-crossings of varieties of discourses that combine images, text,
and sound permit the nomad continually to re-define his or her identity
because he or she never acquires complete familiarity with one discourse—
discourses are constantly in shift. The nomad is ‘the kind of subject who has
relinquished all idea, desire, or nostalgia for fixity’ (Braidotti 1994: 22). This
empowers the nomad to deconstruct the stability of fixed identities and
develop a capacity for thoughtful flexibility and new kinds of knowledge.
Thus, the nomad becomes a ‘form of political resistance to hegemonic and
exclusionary views of subjectivity’ (p. 23).

What does the nomadic metaphor offer in reconceptualizing human
relationships with ICT? This metaphor is a helpful intersection of multi-
culturalism and post-modernism, both of which have critiqued the notion of
the unitary subject, albeit with different conclusions. Unlike the global-
village metaphor, the nomadic metaphor opens possibilities for constructing
and enacting new images of one’s self, afforded in part by the critical
application of ICT in education. By promoting nomadic thought and praxis,
these possibilities offer political choices and strategies to deal with exclusion
and homogeneity. These strategies include creating online learning commu-
nities for the needs and interests of individual learners built around their
talents and hopes, creating online conferences to meet the collective needs
of local neighbourhoods and regions, and promoting collaborations between
schools and businesses (locally and globally) in ways that expose margin-
alization and oppression.

An educator engendering the nomadic metaphor uses the Internet
critically; he or she does not lay claim to any kind of natural symbolic
hierarchy or identity, but rather translates experiences through multiple
discourses and identities. She knows that all knowledge is partial. These
understandings do not lead to anarchy or complete relativity because one
can incorporate multiplicity and hybridity without losing a capacity for
thoughtful evaluation. Burbules (1998: 109) notes that the ability in the
Internet to have multiple ‘links’ has a special role in realizing critical literacy,
and contains an emancipating potential because it encourages ‘new practices
of reading [and writing]: ones that might prove more hospitable to
alternative, non-traditional points of view and more inclusive of cultural
difference’. Yet, this is also problematic because the materials are created by
unknown persons whose reasons, values, biases, motivations, and credibility
are almost entirely beyond the user’s awareness (Burbules 1998). However,
a nomad is a critically literate learner who knows that the process of using
the Internet is one of undoing the illusory stability of fixed claims and
identities that mark others and one’s self socially and ethnically. This

72 MICHALINOS ZEMBYLAS AND CHARALAMBOS VRASIDAS

articulates a different perspective on the educational potential of cyberspace.
In cyberspace, as Gur-Ze’ev (2000: 213) explains:

. . . virtual communities are formed ‘spontaneously’, or arise by self-
determination, and constitute free individuals participating in uncensored,
chaotic, dialogical communication that crosses borders of disciplines, identi-
ties, cultures, and concepts of knowledge. It creates new worlds through and
within differences, and not, as in the modern concept of knowledge and inter-
subjectivity, through a drive to overcome or destroy differences. Spontaneity
and egalitarianism are conceived as overcoming socially constructed asymmet-
rical relations and distorted communication based on race, sex, ethnicity,
nationality and class.

On the other hand, cyberspace and the nomadic narrative have their
limitations. Gur-Ze’ev points out that in cyberspace power relations are
disguised. As he suggests, ‘cyberspace contends successfully with all
traditional attempts to eternalize, mystify, and de-mystify reality, and allows
a new kind of normalizing education’ (p. 220). We do not think that power
relations are completely disguised online. Several scholars have demon-
strated that gender and power issues are not easily hidden in online
environments (Turkle and Papert 1990, Hall 1996, Herring 1996). We agree
with Gur-Ze’ev (2000) that the possibility ‘for creating uncensored, centre-
less, virtual communities and dialogues with others, and for freely choosing
information, critical and innovative strategies, aims, and identities, look[s]
very dubious’ (p. 223). We share concerns that cyberspace reproduces social
inequalities between the haves and the have-nots, and that its constitutive
element of sameness clothed as openness to difference might be
problematic.

Therefore, it is important to acknowledge that engaging in the nomadic
narrative entails a contradictory mixture of emancipatory and oppressive
tendencies. Understanding cyberspace as an embodiment of such contra-
dictory tendencies and as a force of both homogenization and heterogeneity
is crucial to avoiding problematic assumptions about the use of ICT in
education. The often-resulting inequalities and injustices create challenges
for educators who want to use ICT in their teaching. Nevertheless, the
nomadic metaphor does offer a paradigm for constant becomingness in
cyberspace, a way out of normalizing conceptual and ethical systems
founded upon the ideas of centre, hierarchy, and linearity. This redrawing of
the ICT landscape admits an increasingly global identity, but denies the
colonial erasure associated with the global village as a means for serving
Western interests.

We underscore the need to develop a ‘criticality’ in the context of
globalization, education, and ICT that overcomes the one-sidedness and
ideological biases which permeate the conception of the global-village
narrative. To the colonizing potential of ICT, we point to a decolonizing
criticality in which oppositional individuals resist colonization and global-
ization to promote peace and social justice. Calling for this alternate kind of
criticality minimizes (but may never eliminate) the potential of importing
globally-shared cultural values and conceptions. In remaining open to
criticisms of colonization and globalization, criticality provides opportun-
ities for conversations. The fact that no intervention is absolutely watertight

PROMISES OF INCLUSION OR ELECTRONIC COLONIZATION? 73

does not diminish the importance of strategies that promote criticality in
education.

Strategies for promoting critical education

Developing new conceptualizations for using ICT in education to encourage
political resistance and change is not an easy task. ‘How can we build’,
Braidotti (1994: 99) asks, ‘a new kind of collectivity in differences?’. The
nomadic metaphor offers this ‘collectivity in differences’ because on the one
hand it embraces multiplicity and contingency at the level of the individual
development and, on the other hand, it promotes political collectivities that
challenge one’s cherished beliefs and taken-for-granted assumptions. This
metaphor is a starting point for thinking about specific components in using
the Internet in education as potentially critical and emancipatory. These
components are both critical/oppositional and positive/constructive. Such a
view does not assume that ‘critical’ literacy would (or should) necessarily
converge on any single understanding of the world; a crucial aspect of
criticality is a collectivity that does not erase difference and multiplicity. The
question then is: How can one account for a process of ‘becoming’ while
empowering the educator and student’s political agency in the context of
ICT-mediated education?

Although we acknowledge the limitations of the Internet, we agree with
Rice and Burbules (1992) that education for critical sensitivities and critical
literacy can be accomplished on the Internet. The key challenges for critical
education include how to analyse the transformations ICT are causing in
education, and how to devise conceptual tools and strategies to make use of
ICT that empower traditionally marginalized groups and individuals
struggling for justice and equity. We suggest …

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