For example, digital learning is often positioned as a transformatory educational experience. In this way, digital learning is portrayed as offering a reinvigoration of traditional means and modes of teaching. Only in a few instances throughout our analysis was digital learning presented as offering a distinct form of learning and teaching — more often than not by commercial actors. A less subtle portrayal of the futuristic possibilities of digital learning was provided by the Virtual Education Partnership. These examples aside, advertising more commonly reflected distinctly traditional notions of education and learning.
The accompanying text also locates the firm and the product within familiar educational contexts such as the DfES, testing and their national curriculum. In a similar manner, the marketing of the Heinemann Explore product was even more overt in its portrayal of traditional and established learning — presenting images of test-tubes, castles and river valleys to stress the curricular connotations of the software. The concept is that it will be an immersive world, a rich environment which will be different for different age groups, and which children will want to come to by choice.
Individually-centred digital learning is also seen as having collective benefits — most notably the democratisation of learning and the overcoming of barriers to participation and achievement. They go home to a Playstation and expect the same dynamism from a PC in school. Our products will help them experience that.
With a few notable exceptions see below , learners were consistently portrayed throughout the examined commercial texts as passive recipients of digital learning — usually turned out neatly in pristine school uniforms, working in classroom environments and often sat behind desktop computers.
Cartoon pictures of students in non-school clothing were occasionally used, but generally children were depicted in the traditional sense of the school student focused on learning the school curriculum. In the accompanying texts students were rarely, if ever, implied to be individualised learners. A rare example of advertising not centred around curricular or teacher matters was found in the advertisement for the Pip Online website authoring service see figure two.
This advert was distinctive in its presentation of learner-driven use of a digital learning resource. The text of the advertisement goes on to describe the product in terms of allowing children to assume responsibility for designing and producing class websites and subsequently learning through their creative endeavours:.
Ask the experts. Here care has been taken to position digital learning as a tool for teachers, or at least one with considerable benefits for teachers. Again, a distinct tension between the new and the old is apparent within these teacher-centred discourses. In some instances digital learning is presented as leading to enhanced and often new forms and modes of teaching.
As Charles Clarke outlined, digital learning should …. This altered state of teaching sometimes involves distinct changes in the roles of teachers and their students. This said, another set of discourses — often from the same political actors - presents a more conservative portrayal of teaching in the digital age.
Put simply, digital learning allows teachers to return to the craft of teaching:. Although learners were more than twice as likely as teachers to feature in the pictures used in the commercial advertising of digital learning resources, the text of these advertisements were predominantly concerned with teachers.
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The majority of this discourse drew upon traditional notions of teaching and teachers and sought to reassure potential purchasers and users of the seamless fit of digital learning with existing practice. In some cases digital learning was portrayed as a means of putting right what was wrong with traditional practice — be it matters of poor resourcing, examination attainment or student engagement. In this way digital learning was presented as offering a better, but not completely transformed, version of the classroom.
Indeed, many of these texts took great care to reassure teachers of their enhanced rather than usurped position in the digital learning scenario — with the traditional role of the teacher protected by digital learning rather than threatened. Other advertisements also presented digital learning as a means of correcting the perennial frustrations of using ICT in classroom practice.
One wider issue pervading the commercial discourse produced during later years of the Curriculum Online programme was the bureaucratic process of procuring digital learning resources. For example, digital learning is portrayed in some texts as a complete reassessment of educational practice but, on the other hand, as a set of benign tools which fit seamlessly into the daily drudgery of the classroom. Digital content is a familiar re-packaging of the traditional curriculum yet provides access to knowledge which is futuristic, exotic and endless.
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These tools allow teachers to exercise control over what students are learning yet emancipate the individual learner to do whatever they wish. Young learners are active and adept consumers of commercial technoculture yet reliant on the guidance and protection of adults. Guide and forager on behalf of the learner, facilitator of learning opportunities.
Table one. The discursive construction of digital didactics as continuation and challenge. Our analysis also highlights how digital learning has become party to a convergence of educational, economic, cultural and social policy concerns relating to issues such as social inclusion, modernisation of public institutions, and globalisation. Although inevitably coloured by the pragmatic and often contrary nature of commercial advertising, business manoeuvring and public policymaking, all of these official discourses surrounding digital learning exhibit a restrained and surprisingly conventional portrayal of technology — far more restrained than some of the academic commentary in the area.
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In this sense much of the prevailing discursive construction of digital learning in the UK can be seen as a straightforward continuation of the ways in which earlier generations of education technology such as the microcomputer and internet were shaped. In the initial stages of the discursive promotion of Digital Curriculum there is little sign of competition or rivalry between the technology of the classroom and the technology of the computer and internet with, if anything, the Digital Curriculum representing the normalising of digital technologies into pre-existing educational forms and practices.
In very few circumstances is there mention of an experience of knowledge beyond or outside the concerns of the National Curriculum. As Bolter and Grusin remind us, remediation is the formal analogue of the marketing strategy commonly known as repurposing, whereby a Disney film for example will spawn a vast array of product tie-ins, from amusement park rides to action figures to fast-food packages and clothing accessories.
These continuities notwithstanding, the discursive constructions of digital learning examined in the chapter do present some new and significant challenges which, it could be argued, reflect a noticeable recasting of UK educational technology. In many ways these challenges stem from the increased political, economic and commercial significance of digital content as compared to previous incarnations of educational technology.
Yet there is little sense that these changes are due to the technology of the time, but rather the wider educational and political climate of the time. Indeed, as a digital re presentation of what should be learnt in schools and how it should be learnt, digital learning content has also become embedded in a range of wider and well-rehearsed educational conflicts. For instance, long-running ideological conflicts such as the nature and form of the curriculum, the disciplining role the teacher, or the introduction of other experts into the classroom was apparent within some of the discursive constructions of digital learning.
This analysis can only serve as an initial exploration of the remediation of digital didactics and we will need to keep a close eye on the ways which the rhetorical concerns and conceits of UK policymakers, industrialists and educationalists shape the actual consumption of the digital curriculum in the classroom and the home. Yet, as it currently stands, we would argue that there is little to suggest that digital learning will become anything more than another under-achieving and ultimately disappointing phase of education technology.
In this sense, our concern with the currently limited and conservative discursive construction of digital didactics should lie not in the short-term political or commercial conflicts that it reflects but in the likely long-term impacts on educational practices and outcomes. As Moran-Ellis and Cooper , para. Thus the limited discursive constructions of digital didactics highlighted in this paper act to preserve education along their own confined lines — seeking to control and limit rather than represent the user Wajcman Based on the Tate Modern museum as a case study and the primary source of empirical evidence, my research demonstrates the appearance and evolution of this visitor-centered visit in and through Tate.
I show its origination and development by tracing the conceptual evolution of the visitor figure through implicit accounts of the visit associated with Tate Modern. Not only does my research show that this visitor-centered visit exists, it also demonstrates how this visit is generated by particular economic and socio-historical forces and museological changes that intertwine to shape the current cultural context in which this visit is manifested.
The movement began in Europe, most vividly manifesting itself in the policies of the supranational cultural organization the International Council of Museums ICOM , that in the s began a shift towards focusing on visitor education. While originating in an emphasis on the education of the visitor, the movement has more fundamentally reoriented the museum toward the visitor as its reason for being.
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As the movement developed it has encouraged recognition of the visitor as an individuated meaning-maker, whose interpretive faculties are integral to engaging intellectually with the work on display. More, under the auspices of the new museology, the visitor figure may no longer be considered a subject that has a universally common method of learning. Rather, learning has come to be seen as conditioned by differences in personal traits and socialization. The second key development, specific to the UK, is the application of cultural policies formulated by successive political regimes that stipulated certain goals for museums and certain procedures and methods for achieving these goals.
A value-for-money prescription levied under new public management also encouraged the use of outside consultants from the private sector to support important projects, and the formation of partnerships consisting of strategic sponsorships Power, Other initiatives such as management restructuring, the use of performance indicators, customer care programs, corporate image-making, and promotion became part of the professionalisation of museum practice Ross, Essentially the Tate organization was privatized, though it was still reliant on government funding.
These policies and legal enactments began to reshape Tate into a corporate, commercial concern, and in a correlated move visitors were imagined to be shareholders in this public entity Dewdney et al. However, a New Labour cultural policy that shifted focus onto access and privilege with the goal of providing culture for all prompted Tate to think seriously about issues of social inclusion and expanding participation, especially through the categories of ethnic diversity Dewdney et al, In , a newly christened Department of Culture, Media and Sport, DCMS , which under the previous administration had been called the Department of Heritage, undertook a comprehensive reconfiguration of cultural policy.
After a review of its policies, the DCMS formulated access standards and a code of practice, and required that museums, Tate included, devise access plans in order to receive funding Selwood, The range of tasks included in this broad remit include museum based education, economic regeneration of blighted communities, enhanced community self-determination and empowerment, increased political and social equality through addressing the attitudes and values of audiences, and augmenting access to culture through displays and events staged in museums Sandell, ; Gee, ; Gray, This broad set of objectives markedly expanded the criteria of service to the public than that which had been defined by a Conservative administration, and these goals presented Tate with a challenge.
This strategy married the idea of inclusive outreach and programming with the notion of an autonomous cultural consumer.
The avenues of access to this cultural reserve that Tate formulated are based on differentiating the visitor figure, recognizing the specific needs of the visitor, and crafting a personalized experience for him or her. The tools used by Tate to thus develop its audiences are the tools of marketing and branding.
The reports generated from these studies show that the visitor is primarily regarded as an autonomous bundle of consumptive needs that must be discovered and met for engagement to take place. The key marketing instrument presupposing this view of the visitor that is utilized by Tate, as well as other key institutions in the field including government agencies such as the Arts Council England, is audience segmentation. Thereafter Tate began an aggressive pursuit of further and varied marketing activities, including opening a shop in Selfridges, having branded beer supplied by Gruppo, and branded coffee by Coffee Republic.
Additionally, Tate has used outside celebrity designers to devise products for sale in its museum gift shops Stallabrass, This package features an out-of-focus Tate logo and a name without the preceding definitive article. This logo creates a coherent corporate identity, part of an overall branding strategy to draw consumers into relating to the institution as they would another person.
It aims to create loyalty on the part of consumers, and attach reputational value to Tate, by creating associations with something identifiable, relatable, and concrete. As these marketing strategies meet with increasing success, Tate has become further transformed into a symbolic cache of goods made available to self-directed visitors acting as culture consumers.
A personalized visit to Tate Modern is expressed in the populist discourse generated around the thematic displays, which were produced through the concerted action of interlocking programs, interpretation and marketing. Accounts given by art critics and journalists reveal that the visit associated with the thematic display arrangement promised the visitor amplified and expanded interaction with the museum object, and greater freedom in expressing intellectual agency by allowing visitors to make their own connections between and among the works hung without the typical art historical scaffolding.
Through this idealized visit Tate has become associated with the idea of democracy and anti-elitism, despite robust criticism that seeks to preserve the distinction between places of serious contemplation and arenas of entertainment. The promise that the Tate brand perhaps without full knowledge of its effects exploits to mitigate the critique of the museum as a place of trivial engagement and unserious, solipsistic participation is that the visitor is a self-realized meaning maker.
Within this experience economy circulates a neoliberal redefinition of participation in terms of consumption. This redefinition reinforces the view of the museum visitor as a consumer, and makes experience primarily a commodity—though the personalized visit is described in terms of democratic inclusion, heightened interaction with the art object, and innovative curatorial design featuring technologically innovative ways of extending the interpretive faculties of visitors.
Through these marketing schemes the visitor figure is further articulated, taking on simultaneous roles of consumer, producer, and collaborator, though in essence the visitor figure is an interactive consumer. Under the auspices of an experience economy the visitor is regarded as a consumer who hand-in-hand with the museum marketer creates an experience of customized meaning. The conceptualization of the visitor is demonstrably inflected by consumerism.
The problem with this is that museums now encourage a solipsistic experience in exhibitions and programs where the visitor eschews the intellectual intervention of the curator, thus decreasing the tension between information and narrative. This experience also obviates the intervention of common judgment. Undergirded by the notion of amplified agency for the visitor, these projects and curatorial schemes begin to make the museum a social space that is a means to exchange self-made experiences of individuated meaning.
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It is concluded that Tate exploits its position in the museum field as a particularly exciting brand. Its leadership as a brand allows it to hold in abeyance, that is without resolution, the complex, overlapping conceptions of the Tate Modern museum as interpretive, dialogic space, yet also a cache of public inheritance, an artistic business partner for corporations that seek to exchange economic capital for cultural capital, while also behaving as a corporate enterprise with plans for growth.