Learning: Digimodernism and Learning
“Did-ja-what?” I hear you asking. Digimodernism (digital modernism) is a term that describes “a new paradigm of authority and knowledge formed under the pressure of new technologies and contemporary social forces.” If you have colleagues who struggle to accept the notion of rapid eLearning authoring by subject matter experts, or who have a hard time seeing how social media, informal learning, and peer-to-peer learning can have a part in their instructional designs, you know people who are experiencing some of the turmoil that marks the rise of digimodernism.
However, while digimodernism may sound esoteric and academic, looking at the world from this perspective can help make sense of new approaches to learning and instructional design. In this article, I describe a few of these ideas, in the hope that you will find them useful in your practice. I also raise some questions that we need to be asking ourselves in this time of change.
(Before continuing, I feel I should add that “digimodernism” has nothing whatsoever to do with “digital learners,” “digital natives” or any other imaginary tribe.)
OK, what is digimodernism, and why should you care?
Alan Kirby is a writer and researcher in twentieth-century literature and culture. In the first paragraph above, I quoted his introduction to an article on the topic in Philosophy Now (see the References at the end of this article). Kirby coined “digimodernism” while searching for a way to summarize the effects of computerization. Kirby says the word “denotes the point at which digitization intersects with cultural and artistic forms.” He goes on to say that, “digimodernism is the label under which I trace the textual, cultural and artistic ripples which spread out from the explosion of digitization. Under its sign, I seek patterns in the most significant cultural shifts of the last decade or so, in such a way as to have predictive value.”
I believe that the readers of this magazine are caught up in one of those significant shifts. I believe that we will continue to be challenged by it for at least the next decade as our roles, working methods, theories, and even the value of what we do evolve and are transformed under the pressures of those new technologies and social forces.
This is not, as you can imagine, a simple topic, and I am not going to try to summarize it here. Again, see the References to find more of Kirby’s work and thought – it is worth reading. I am beginning to understand that what Kirby is saying can also help us to understand the changes in what we do in instructional design and the various activities that come under the name of learning.
If a brand is a promise, what is the promise of the brands eLearning, mLearning, social media, and the other technology-supported approaches to improving human performance? Perhaps it is to help people learn whatever they need to learn, when they need it, wherever they are, for as long as they want. Many professionals involved in learning and instructional design are excited by the cultural and communication effects of digitization, and want to experience this excitement in their work.
In fact, I believe Kirby’s analysis will help our dubious, uncertain (perhaps fearful) colleagues understand that the new paradigm of authority and knowledge does not mean the end of instructor-le…
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