Another dot in the blogosphere?

Weaponised music and affordances

Posted on: July 23, 2021

Video source

It was from the video report above that I learnt that some police in the USA blast music from their phones if they do not want public recordings of their actions to go viral. 

How does this work? Algorithms of online platforms detect the music and automatically take the videos down for copyright infringement. This means that possible misbehaviours by police remain hidden. The police that use this strategy have effectively weaponised music. 

My takeaway is not about social or legal justice in the USA. For me, this is an example of a negotiated affordance of a technology. The music was designed to entertain, but it has been fashioned as a defensive weapon. 

Likewise in edtech, there are tools that were not designed specifically for education but were co-opted. Examples include Microsoft Office (for office productivity, duh) and Zoom (for remote work meetings). 

It is important to understand the difference between designed and negotiated affordances.  Using a tool as it was meant to be used is normally better than using it as unintended for another purpose or context. 

For example, keeping corporate secrets while documenting processes and products might explain why the Office suite was initially installed on each worker’s computer and collaboration was difficult. 

Elsewhere, however, more open collaboration was critical, and so sharing, co-creating, critiquing, and editing were desired by design. Cloud-based tools like Google Docs were designed with those features first instead of afterthoughts. 

You can use a single MS spreadsheet to co-plan an cross-border budget and you can use a Google document to share sensitive information between people. You can do that because the negotiated uses of the tools have become design afterthoughts. But you might not be using the tools optimally. 

Zoom is still a tool for corporate meetings. Despite its rise to prominence in the COVID age and the changes it has undergone, it is still not designed for schooling and education. It is designed more for transmission than for cooperation and collaboration. It is for the boardroom, not the classroom, but we have co-opted it and negotiated its use by limited our pedagogy.

Some tools are more secure and transmissive while others are more open and collaborative. Being able to to evaluate their affordances helps you determine what a tool is designed for and what you can negotiate its use for. 

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