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Becoming Technologically Literate

A fictional conversation between Albert Einstein and Marilyn Monroe is depicted in the movie Insignificance (1985), directed by Nicolas Roeg. It offers an example of a potential assemblage, an experimental and creative way to look at what might potentially have been actualized if these two characters from history were to have a conversation about the moon:

Einstein: If I were to tell you that the moon were made out of cheese—would you believe that?

Marilyn: Of course not.

Einstein: But now if I tell you it’s made out of sand?

Marilyn: Maybe . . .

Einstein: If I tell you, “I know for sure”?

Marilyn: Then I would believe you.

Einstein: So you know the moon is made of sand?

Marilyn: Yes.

Einstein: But it isn’t.

Marilyn: I only said I knew because you said you knew!

Einstein: I lied. Knowledge isn’t truth. It’s just mindless agreement. You agree with me, I agree with someone else, we all have knowledge. We haven’t come any closer to the truth of the moon. You can never understand anything by agreeing, by making definitions. Only by turning over the possibilities. That’s called thinking. If I say I know, I stop thinking. As long as I keep thinking, I come to understand. That way, I might approach some truth.

Marilyn: That’s the best conversation I ever had!

An actualized assemblage, the elements of which include you, the reader, this chapter, and this book have been changed by considering together a virtual or potential assemblage, one in which Einstein has a conversation with Monroe, as realized in the form of text (and a movie). If this affects you in any way, change has occurred, you have been affected and may go on, as part of another assemblage, to affect something else. You may be inspired to go and buy the movie or to change your perspective about the concept of knowledge, for example. Other things will, however, continue to affect you and you will continue to affect other things. Life, in this respect, is not a linear process with a beginning, a middle, and an end. We all start anything, including life itself, from somewhere in the middle. You do not begin to read this book without first knowing how to read. You do not end reading this book by knowing everything there is to know. You never become something, some final state. You continue becoming something other: you never become old, you are rather, always becoming other, becoming older, becoming younger, becoming wiser, becoming . . . There is no beginning, there is no end. There is only becoming.

In terms of technological literacy, one never becomes technologically literate; that would presuppose reaching a definable end state, the state of being technologically literate. It also presupposes a state that an individual human being achieves or does not achieve: a binary state. One cannot be almost technologically literate in conventional thinking; one either is or is not. Furthermore, it presupposes a fixed, determinable essential quality that identifies the conditions necessary in order to achieve a state of being technologically literate. The concept of technological literacy would require it to be universally definable, certifiable, and examinable under these circumstances. I want to argue that one can only ever be in a state of becoming technologically literate and that this can only be considered in terms of assemblage theory. In order to make this possible as a form of pedagogy, I want to introduce a concept that I will call “speculative multidimensional time-line thinking.”

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