Friday, December 3, 2010

electronic conscience

imageTexas Judge David Cabos has implemented the use of ankle bracelets to help reduce school truancy. Anna Maria Tremonte interviewed him in response to a program she aired on the rising truancy rate in Canadian schools. Finding effective solutions was the target of her investigation. The Judge issued some very interesting words about the use of the ankle tracking bracelets…

“It kinda serves as an electronic conscience as well” (17:35m)

Whole radio interview available here: (start listening at around 11:30)

Can a conscience be electronically induced? If it is possible to see the use of these electronic surveillance devices as a way of reinforcing important strategies of socialization (like going to school (regardless of the quality of schooling received)), what does that mean for the kind of mindful labour that Matthew Crawford and Wendell Berry advocate as important for virtuous engagement with the world? Can being mindful be transferred onto a device?

Here is Crawford…

“…modern science adopts an otherworldy ideal of how we come to know nature: through mental constructions that are more intellectually tractable than material reality, and in particular amenable to mathematical representation. Through such renderings we become masters of nature. Yet the kind of thinking that begins from idealizations such as the frictionless surface and the perfect vacuum sometimes fail us, because it isn’t sufficiently involved with the particulars.”


“…to be a good mechanic (or any other kind of person Crawford claims) you have to be constantly attentive to the possibility that you may be wrong.”

We need to, ”…perceive (the world) clearly, and this requires a kind of “un-selfing”. [A]nything which alters consciousness in the direction of unselfishness, objectivity, and realism is to be connected with virtue. [V]irtue is the attempt to pierce the veil of selfish consciousness and join the world as it really is.”

Crawford suggests that if we remain in the world of projections (via ‘modern science’)…

“We have to wonder, then, whether degraded work entails not just dumbing down but also a certain unintended moral education…There seems to be a vicious circle in which degraded work plays a pedagogical role, forming workers into material that is ill suited for anything but the over-determined world of careless labour.”

So then the irony of the ankle bracelet technology is that it is being used to help students get a better education when in fact my removing conscientious engagement with the world it may in fact being accomplishing quite the opposite effect?

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