ICTs, media, education and everyday livings… some reflectionsJune 26, 2008
Let me start by saying that I do not know much about this event… But I do want to contribute to the debate with my reflections on this issue. This is neither the first nor last incident of this kind. Many more will follow in the future. I’m sure…
Today I received a news mail from the Danish magazine Folkeskolen (which means Primary School) containing an article about a male teacher (substitute) whose homepage and song called Adam and Eva (also referred to by media as the ‘bolle-sang’) has become central actors in relation to his teachings. To translate ‘bolle’ is difficult as it may both refer to the act of: making love, having sex and (vulg.) fucking.
In this comment I’m not concerned with the ‘essentials’ – the rights and wrongs, of this event. Too me, what occurred as interesting is the fact that ‘things’ like homepages and blogs which we do not regularly consider as active parts of our professional identities, sometimes become active parts of our professional identities whether we like it or not – and in ways we are not necessarily in control of.
Supposedly some of the teacher’s 6th grade students visited the teacher’s homepage and found the Adam and Eva song (made and performed by the teacher who presents himself as a both a journalist, singer and songwriter). The song (and maybe the homepage as well as the teacher) shocked some students and was by the school headmaster considered inappropriate to 6th graders, and thus the story (as represented by media) is that the teacher got ‘expelled from school’. The focus in various articles (e.g. see links to articles in Folkeskolen and Jyllandsposten below) is on whether the teacher led the students to the song during class (which students and headmaster claim), or whether the students found the song (according to the teacher).
There are several possibilities of how to engage in understanding the makings of this event. The media responses, the teacher’s homepage, the school… We can describe this as a singular easily delineated case that took place and may be explained in time-chronological order. This is what we conventionally do. We might provide several perspectives on the case, but the case has a real form.
Another possibility is to consider it an event multiple – a composite of multiple coexisting relationships and entanglements involving many variations of both human and non-human actors: teacher, students, school headmaster, journalists, homepage, song, morality, freedom of speech, the role of teachers, new media, appropriateness in school etc. All of which could be considered entities – actors, that take different part in making this ‘bolle-sang’ event. But none of which autonomously cause the event to happen. This approach would make the event ontologically multiple, because the event exist in many forms. It is an event that does not stay the same while we approach/see it differently. The event itself moves when we alter the sociomaterial relationships constituting the event. In other words, we may alter the contexts of knowledge that make up the event. When doing this, the event itself moves.
I’m not saying that we simply make up and socially construct the event differently. That would make it a matter of fiction. I’m not implying either that this is not a controversial issue. I’m suggestion that we acknowledge that ‘things’ become things through their sociomaterial entanglements with everyday livings. Thus, what makes a song a dirty, rude, or obscene song is not an inherent quality to the song itself.
We can of course consider this event as being caused/self-inflicted by ‘a bad’ song, teacher, and/or homepage. Each of which may be described as ‘essentially’ something. But I find this event much more interesting because it illustrates how we may also question the coexistences of ‘things ‘and their relationships – which we often naturalize and take for granted. What makes a song an appropriate song? How does Adam and Eva come into existence? How does ICTs and media take part in our everyday livings? Do ICTs and media carry certain potentials? Is this an example of the inherent qualities of technologies?
Surely, this is (among other) an example of a song coming into existence through it’s different entanglements with a lot of human actors, none of which – neither songwriter/teacher, students, headmaster etc. – could have been anticipated.
As I see it, we have several choices. We may relate to this song as being something in particular a priori. In this case we’ll most likely judge the songwriter as being essentially something in relation to his song.
One of the fantastic things that art teaches us is that we should not essentialize things in themselves. Relationships are made. Things become things through their everyday entanglements. We can imagine the ‘bolle-sang’ event to be a matter of ‘this is what happened’ because the song itself or the teacher’s homepage, and maybe even the teacher is inappropriate to school. We may also imagine that things are events – particular sociomaterial constructions – that come into existence through multiple entanglements of everyday living. Thus, both this teacher, his (no doubt) thought provoking song, and homepage, might take differently part in the everyday constructions that make schools schools. Instead of being expelled, he might become a much-needed resource for engaging in some of the central discussions that also primary schools need to engage with about the ways in which variations of media and ICTs on a daily basis become part of our everyday livings – also 6th graders’ everyday livings, for better and worse.
I must admit, that when viewed in isolation the song Adam and Eva is quite boundary crossing to me. However, when I study the other (song) texts on the teacher’s homepage and in relation to his blog, I get a different picture. Adam and Eva becomes part of several songs and other texts written by Niels Erik Kjeldsen. They coexist on his homepage and MySpace blog. He has written many interesting texts and it is quite a pitty if his writing only becomes identified with Adam and Eva.
When reading the different online articles about ‘bollesangen’, I wonder what makes a teacher record all his teaching activities on a dictaphone? According to the newspaper Jyllandsposten (see link to article below), the teacher did this to be able to document what went on in his teachings – just in case. That ought to make us all think!
We may judge this teacher on the face of all these articles and their different versions of what seems to be the case.
I hope that the so-called ‘bolle-sang’ event will become a constructive example of the multiple relationships to take into consideration when engaging in the making of identities in today’s societies. I’m sure that the teacher’s song as well as his homepage – their identities – have been enacted quite differently when entangled in relationships with Århus Songwriter Workshops (In Danish: Århus Sangskriverværksted) as well as Danish Songwriter Clubs (In Danish: Danske Sangskriverklubber) – in both of which Niels Erik Kjeldsen participates.
I see this event as a good example of the coexistence, interobjectivities as well as multiplicities of everyday livings. Rather than being concerned with the inherent qualities of things, we could be more interested in what makes things things in relation to the multiple everyday livings of the living world. This is what Latour, Strathern and other Actor-Network-Theory and Science & Technology Studies actors show us. Questioning the ontologies – identities and relationships – of our living world, could be the central virtue to foster in a world that involves many different forms of cohabitation.
Læs Niels Erik Kjeldsens egne overvejelser i hans interessante artikel “En god historie eller en sang” om begivenhedernes udvikling : http://www.nielserikkjeldsen.dk/setherfra/2008/txt/en_god_historie_eller_en_sang.htm
Jyllandspostens artikel “Lærer bag bollesang optog timer på bånd”: http://jp.dk/indland/aar/article1378564.ece
Folkeskolens artikel “Vikar: Jeg har ikke vist elever hen til min sang” : http://www.folkeskolen.dk/ObjectShow.aspx?ObjectId=53167
Ekstra Bladet “Vikar: Ingen ‘Liderlig-gris’ i skolen” (bemærk kommentarer): http://ekstrabladet.dk/nationen/article1025261.ece
Lyt til sangen Adam og Eva og andre af Niels Erik Kjeldsens sange via hans MySpace blog: http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=342276401
Læs sangteksten til Adam og Eva og andre af Niels Erik Kjeldsens sangtekster på hans hjemmeside: http://www.nielserikkjeldsen.dk/musik.ss.adam_og_eva.htm
Læs denne interessante kronik “Modkultur i klasseværelset”, skrevet af Estrid Sørensen. Kronikken handler om hvordan internettet i dag også tager del i at skabe relationer mellem lærere og elever: http://www.information.dk/160375
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