As a result of my participation in one of the lines of the next FIET 2021 (Fòrum Internacional d’Educació i Tecnologia), I have the privilege to debate in a working group in which we are reflecting on the main challenges that the current times propose for the models of knowledge production.  Some years ago, I have the good fortune of being part of an identical group at FIET 2014, which produced a document that I think is worth reviewing The educational landscape of the digital age: Communication practices pushing (us) forward, and now the challenge is to take another look at the issue and try to evaluate and, if necessary, refresh that reflection.

In the first part of our individual work, we have been thinking individually about what we consider the main challenges facing knowledge creation in our times, and I would like to share with you my contribution, which is also linked to the last post of this blog.

Following the trend of almost unpredictable acceleration that we have seen over the last 20 years, the last 5 years have seen a huge change in the way knowledge is produced. While the changes appear to be mere consequences of traditional processes, the fact is that there are issues where the quantitative change (in terms of the number of people using it, in terms of the processing technology behind it) has brought about huge qualitative challenges. I would like to point out some of them:

  • The exposure of a huge percentage of the population to the effective and daily use of technologies has changed the way people approach the creation of diverse content, from changes in the way users approach the creation of digital content (the type of tools they use and the amount of media they handle),  to noticeable changes in the communication code (greater preponderance of videos, less “fear” of the camera, enrichment of conversations towards transmedia uses) or, in the case of more advanced users, the creation of more hybrid materials that combine mixed realities and are immensely loaded with meaning.
  • New narrative models enabled by mass-use tools, e.g. the case of content production in Twitter threads, Instagram reels or the case of TikTok with its remixes, and how this generates different possibilities for the simple organisation of these new narratives – see this example: https://twitter.com/KalhanR/status/1391083690051129353?s=20 ). This challenge also refers to the creation of very high quality “live” collaborative content on video streaming platforms such as Twitch (a good example of this are Twich’s broadcasts of political events, especially those related to the 2020 US elections) or audio platforms such as Discord (used by my some of the students on its podcast job), Clubhouse and Stereo.
  • From the point of view of literary uses, some changes in the production models of art: literature, cinema were already mentioned in the 2015 work in an almost anecdotal way (stories told in twitts, e.g.) but have been further explored in recent years (e.g. https://carlesbellver.net/contes/unicorns/ ). There is also a challenge that for the moment is only in the minority, but which directly refers to the production of digital figurative art (with certificates of authenticity linked to bitcoin-like blockchains) and which moves in its own market.
  • The advance of automation mechanisms and the processing speed of AI has also generated an immense amount of “fake” content (fake videos, automated texts) pose at least two complementary challenges:
    • The educational importance of critical thinking skills for the digital world with an emphasis not only on education and re-education programmes for children and schoolchildren but to somehow address the education and re-education of adults and older adults who find themselves completely lacking in thinking tools to face the new information scenario.
    • The profound rethinking of the type of content on which academic knowledge is based and the purpose of certain practices in the educational world. To focus the conversation, I am concerned, as I have already told you, about the relevance of the current format of literature review sections in school or academic papers, understood as part of training, in the face of the boom and the extraordinary success of tools such as https://smodin.me/, or the online companies that create academic papers, which are already having an impact on debates in large universities about the meaning of certain practices.
  • From a much more positive perspective, this increase in the speed of automation mechanisms has allowed tools that generate alternative content to the formats already created to improve enormously (the case of tools that generate automatic subtitles or simultaneous sound translation, or combined tools such as Blackboard’s Ally), broadening and deepening the possibilities of accessibility, which puts the focus back on human intervention and on raising awareness of the importance of accessibility not as an “extra possibility” but as an obligation in the production of knowledge.
  • I think one of the biggest challenges in terms of knowledge creation has to do with influence. The mechanisms by which certain power groups exert their influence on the content that is created and on people’s knowledge are becoming more and more subtle but more important. Understanding how these mechanisms work can be one of the great challenges in educating the influenced and in promoting certain sources of influence.
  • In these times of content creation, the challenge of making content creation teams visible is becoming increasingly important. Classical citation standards (surname only, first author “et al”) do not meet these standards.
  • The broadening of distribution channels to wider geographical spectrums and the decolonisation of discourses is a growing challenge.

I think there is a challenge that is perennial in this society of overabundance, the challenge of curating the content that is consumed and generating its own knowledge. One of the challenges is how to equip people with tools (technological and personal) that allow them to curate the content they want to consume in an efficient and ethically desirable way.

These are not simple issues and certainly far beyond the capacity of our personal efforts to respond to such important and complex challenges, but like everything else in the world, I think the first part is to recognise them and understand that they are not the only ones, not the most important ones, but they are there and they are part of our immediate future of human development with technology.

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