Socio-ethical Implications of Technology

I was challenged by Katina Michael and her husband M.G.Michael during my presentation at AUPOV to consider how these technologies might have an impact on society, more specifically to reflect on my own learning journey as an educational technologist and to consider an ethical inquiry as researcher. As a result I coined a research question and delivered a research proposal soon after to the faculty of of Engineering and Information Sciences at the University of Wollongong detailing my interest in exploring how point-of-view technology might impact upon the education sector, vocational training and related policy frameworks. I also contacted a professional colleague, Professor Teemu Leinonen and gained confirmation that they would in agreement to be my co-supervisor from Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland.

At the time I considered this to be important as I understood from prior research that many forms of mobile technologies that pre-date body worn technologies were produced in Finland, namely Nokia. I knew instinctively that the research journey would have me scrambling down unknown life paths, meeting people all around the world who would challenge me, confront me and grow me. It was an almost immediate reaction with my fellow colleagues in the technology company of which I was a Director that I also sensed a reluctance to engage in activities that had a research basis, not a profit driven economic development activity.

The feeling we had as educational technologists at the time was that we felt or in some cases were told that we were on the bleeding edge of the use of that specific technology. Not only had we heavily invested in the research and development of the technology, but we had also contributed to a body of knowledge or research which was at very early stage in Australia in an educational context.  

One thing is for certain, at the time we were and I still believe this to be the case, the very few people actively pursuing the use of the body worn computers and especially the head worn camera for a pedagogical purpose in Australia or indeed the Asia Pacific. The use of this specific wearable technology in the education and training sector was still considered to be disruptive, confrontational, almost science fiction and largely a novelty by others not across this technology. 

We had many points of feedback from curious education and training settings suggesting that what we were pursuing could be understood at a fundamental level where from an expert centred perspective, an educator could not only demonstrate the physical skill such as changing a tyre or laying a brick with mortar but they could also narrate their skill understanding and provide video and audio authentication that was required. This for a learner meant they could produce their own recordings and make these available to assessor using an online platform. 

The whole discussion around distance education seemed to shift when the idea that a collaborative and participatory first-person-perspective repository of learner led resources was now possible using this hands free technology. Considering what this shift meant for learners forced me to reconsider where the demarcations for the descriptors we had coined for mobile technology were heading. 

When I asked learners what they thought the differences were between hand held or body worn technologies they were quick to say that these terms were neither useful nor true definitive as it was a matter of subjectivity of the individual and their own personal experience with a technology that defined how they referred to their technologies. Conversely, when I asked the same questions of adults across a range of personal and professional setting the response was that they considered a mobile phone to be both handheld and wearable, that wearable computing whilst sounding foreign better defined what the cell phone actually provided for a user. 

That decision to explore why I was fixated on technologies that captured visual memory and the switch to a research role almost immediately resulted in a slow but cataclysmic egoic collapse of what I held true, what I considered to be valuable and most notably a complete rebuild of my personality from ground, country, place and up. The shift to a researcher role meant that everything I was immersed in at the time as an avid educational technologist, as an information communication technology consultant was at question and that to interrogate and make meaning from our company activities put my ethical considerations into question.

I recall around this point in time finding myself at odds in conversation with many of my colleagues from the VET sector as I began to reflect on what the key differences were between that of the socio-technical aspect to body worn video technology in comparison to that of the socio-ethical paradigm. The whole experience and shift was almost immediate and the life changes that came about as a result have been profound and sustained.