In his talk at the Leeds Visual Methods Conference, Marcus Banks talked about what he called “slow research” and criticize the way “research timing” was dictated by grants, projects, publications and so forth. The book of Turkle, that I just read, would not be possible to be written for a single, fixed time. It required maturation, long weaving and time to be “cooked”.
Simulation and its discontents is an empirical, anecdotic and, I would even say “cute” history of the implementation of simulation technologies at the MIT (which is in many ways the “lab” of the cutting edge technology use in education). She talks about architects, civil engineers, physicist and chemists and how, in their different fields, they have developed an understanding, relationship and use of simulation technologies. Nevertheless, Turkle’s thoughts could be expanded to almost all technologies in knowing practices and it will definitely be interesting that some of the big gurus that are always talking about the new gadget, tool or platform, read this book and their own writing in a critical way. I found the book fascinating not only for what it shows me but for what it made me think about our own practices. I don´t think about me as be part of that group of “2.0 cool scientists” but I can´t help sometimes be myself and apologist of technologies. And mostly, I can´t imagine my own research without using so many of them. Turkle says: “The more powerful our tools become, the harder it is to imagine the world without them” (p. 8). So, she suggests that: “Professional life requires that one live with the tension of using technology and remembering to distrust it. (p. 10) and it seems that we have forgotten this quite often. At least it seems to me that we´re trying to catch the trendiest wave and be the first to name it (3.0, 4.0, 5.0, who gives more?) instead of stepping on the break and think about the use of current technologies and their possible “collateral damage” to our knowledge practices.
Turke, without these words, talks about the “engineering” of our tools and how we learn to trust them (very close to Labour’s work actually): “Students had no choice but to trust the simulations, which meant they had to trust the programmers who wrote the simulations. (p. 18). She interestingly gets to the same point all over her work (remember life on the screen and the Disneyland crocodiles?):
“Screen versions of reality will always leave something out, yet screen versions of reality may come to seem like reality itself. We accept them because they are compelling and present themselves as expressions of our most up- to-date tools. We accept them because we have them. They become practical because they are available. So, even when we have reason to doubt that screen realities are true, we are tempted to use them all the same.” (p. 17)
Great and easy reading that starts with a question and ends with an answer:
“We began with a question inspired by Louis I. Kahn: “What does simulation want?” We have seen what simulation seems to want— through our immersion, to propose itself as proxy for the real. (p. 80)