Imagining alternative agency in the digital society. Introduction to “Critical Technology education”.

Short thesis

Questions concerning how technology is shaping the conditions of agency are ignored in education. Critical Technology Education offers a way to better understand our technological environment. Its aim is to enable imagination of alternatives to what is currently offered to us in the form of different technologies and software-enabled environments.


Our western life is increasingly technologically mediated, but education is offering few tools to understand the new, often invisible, structures and the way they condition agency. This presentation offers an introduction to the concept of “Critical Technology Education” (CTE) which I have created in my doctoral research as a way to meet the educational demands of the digital society. I argue that we cannot understand central issues in education, such as agency and empowerment, without taking into account the code-based structural affordances. CTE suggests that instead of taking media and technological infrastructures as pre-given external matters, devices that are used or channels that convey information, attention should be shifted to looking at media and technology as active shapers and organisers of our perceptions and thinking.

The need for Critical Technology Education is argued by presenting results from two case studies of my doctoral research that underline the relevance of CTE. First, I will show what kind of technological future the European Union is drafting for us in their strategy document “A Digital Agenda for Europe” (2010). My analysis concentrates on the technotopian narrative created in the document and the narrow roles of agency offered to citizens. In the second example, I will argue based on a case study on how Facebook users and non-users negotiate their relationship to the platform as a technologically mediated space, that people tend to be indifferent towards how technology is shaping their everyday practices. This is partly due to people taking the automatic data collecting and selling as a normalized part of everyday life.

Both of these case studies end with the same conclusion: without a better understanding of our technological environment, people are left with few alternatives. To challenge the dominant constructions of agency by administration, technology industry and media, people need new perspectives. Thus, the aim of CTE is to enable members of the digital society to imagine and demand alternatives to what is currently offered to us in the form of different technologies and software-enabled environments, and most importantly, offer chances to regain agency and feel empowered.