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Humanist Archives: Aug. 7, 2019, 6:17 a.m. Humanist 33.170 - effects of the digital classroom & words from Michel Serres

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 170.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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        Date: 2019-08-06 21:42:40+00:00
        From: Thomas Gloning 
        Subject: effects of the digital classroom / Serres, 'Petite Poucette' (2012)

> Those here who teach may take an interest in Tim Parks' "The Dying Art
> of Instruction in the Digital Classroom" (NYR Daily, New York Review of
> Books, 31 July). I hope you have something to say about it.

Thanks, Willard, for this. And please let me first express my
gratitude for your ongoing efforts to "make sure that the talking
continues". This list is a constant source of both information and
inspiration. Thank you!

As for the article by Tim Parks, I should like to mention a small book
by Michel Serres published in 2012 in French: "Petite Poucette", the
German translation was published with Suhrkamp bearing a somewhat more
programmatic title:

"Erfindet euch neu! Eine Liebeserklärung an die vernetzte Generation." (2013)

As far as I can see versions of the French text are available on
several places, e.g. here:


Serres says that the changes we experience are sort of a huge task in
one of the major revolutions of learning, education, society etc. in

Rather than thinking of retirement (Serres was indeed retired for many
years when he wrote the book as a grandfather inspired by the life of
two grandchildren), he said:

"Je voudrais avoir dix-­huit ans, l'âge de Petite Poucette et de Petit
Poucet, puisque tout est à refaire, puisque tout reste à inventer."

In order to illustrate this perspective I quote the "Envoi" of this
grandfather to his smartphone-using grandchildren and their generation:

Face à ces mutations, sans doute convient-il d'inventer
d'inimaginables nouveautés, hors les cadres désuets qui formatent
encore nos conduites, nos médias, nos projets noyés dans la société du
spectacle. Je vois nos institutions luire d'un éclat semblable à celui
des constellations dont les astronomes nous apprennent qu'elles sont
mortes depuis longtemps déjà.

Pourquoi ces nouveautés ne sont‐elles point advenues ? Je crains d'en
accuser les philosophes, dont je suis, gens qui ont pour vocation
d'anticiper le savoir et les pratiques à venir et qui ont, ce me
semble, failli à leur tâche. Engagés dans la politique au jour le
jour, ils n'entendirent pas venir le contemporain.

Si j'avais eu, en général, à croquer le portrait des adultes, dont je
suis, ce profil eût été moins flatteur. Je voudrais avoir dix-huit
ans, l'âge de Petite Poucette et de Petit Poucet, puisque tout est à
refaire, puisque tout reste à inventer.

Je souhaite que la vie me laisse assez de temps pour y travailler
encore, en compagnie de ces Petits, auxquels j'ai voué ma vie, parce
que je les ai toujours respectueusement aimés."

I know the Tim-Parks-Experience very well (students whatsapping while
they are supposed to listen, to take notes, to follow material on
slides or audio-visual examples etc.), but I also see that new tasks
come with the changes we are in.

Michel Serres passed away a few weeks ago, here you can see and hear
him talk about the subject at hand (2012):


All best,

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