The pharmakon of educational technology: the disruptive power of attention in education

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Is physical presence an essential aspect of a rich educational experience? Can forms of virtual encounter achieve engaged and sustained education? Technophiles and technophobes might agree that authentic personal engagement is educationally normative. They are more likely to disagree on how authentic engagement is best achieved. This article argues that educational thinking around digital pedagogy unhelpfully reinforces this polarising debate by failing to recognise that digitalisation is, as Stiegler has argued, pharmacological: both a poison and a cure. I suggest that Biesta’s critique of learnification can be applied to online learning, but that any such application does not sufficiently acknowledge the pharmacological nature of modern technology. While Stiegler has something important to contribute on the relation between technology, attention and education, I suggest his account is rather too bound up with critical theories of technology. In the end I turn to philosophers of religion, such as Eliade and Smith to suggest different ways of conceiving the role of attention in education that does set technologies up over/against the formation of attention essential to education.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-265
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in Philosophy and Education
Issue number3
Early online date29 Feb 2016
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2016


  • Biesta
  • Stiegler
  • Eliade
  • attention
  • technology


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