Digital technology, human world making and the avoidance of learning

Alan Bainbridge


Despite the widespread application of digital technologies in higher education there is scant evidence to suggest that these have had a significant impact on student learning. A contemporary psychoanalytic model of teaching and learning is offered, which suggests this lack of impact may be the result of an unconscious avoidance with the difficult thinking human learning requires (Kahn and Hasbach, 2012). Anxiety is a component inherent within the process of education, as it continually threatens what is known about the self (Bainbridge and West, 2012). As such, effective human learning requires a ââ¬Ëholding environmentââ¬â¢, originating in the natural world, where anxieties can be managed (Winnicott, 1964). Paradoxically, digital technologies further separate humans from holding environments and possess an internal logic which leads to an ââ¬Ëuntenable violationââ¬â¢ (Glendinning, 1995). Consequently, to prevent teachers and learners being overwhelmed by anxiety, unconscious defences are mobilised to avoid difficult thinking. This results in the seductive influence for simplistic solutions to complex problems. Digital technologies therefore become fetishes as they assume power and value beyond their objective state (Berger, 1967; Marx, 1867). The power of the fetish is to confuse and deceive, and in the context of learning, digital technologies continue to enforce the separation of teachers and learners from relational holding environments. The role of the learning developer is to acknowledge the complex nature and difficult nature of education and to not remove the anxiety this creates.



Social construction, human learning, anxiety, defences, seduction

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ISSN: 1759-667X