Tweak: Biosocial Imaginations and Educational Futures

Lee, Nicholas Mark and Motzkau, Johanna Franziska (2013). Tweak: Biosocial Imaginations and Educational Futures. In: Selwyn, Neil and Facer, Kerry eds. The Politics of Education and Technology: Conflicts, Controversies, and Connections. Palgrave Macmillan’s Digital Education and Learning. New York: Palgrave McMillan, pp. 191–207.



Imaginative and practical links have long been drawn between children’s life processes and projected futures (Rose, 1989; Turmel, 2008). Many educational enterprises have attempted to take hold of the complexity of human maturation so as to bend it to chosen purposes, such as the promotion of literacy or increasing independence in learning. Thus, education can be seen as a set of practical “biosocial” activities (Lee & Motzkau, 2012) aimed at forging functional connections between life processes and socially preferred abilities and qualities. These activities have a defensible tendency to anticipate futures and to prefigure, and so limit and enable, children’s future behaviors, capabilities, and values. Such activities have both been guided by and have given rise to metaphors and narrative structures that try to frame and make sense of the complexity of the human condition. Consider the power of a phrase like “as the twig is bent, so the tree shall grow” in figuring children’s mental, physical, and moral development as targets of intervention, or the imagined adult careers that, as part of some children’s projected autobiographies, can motivate committed study. In the terms of this chapter, such metaphorical and narrative frames comprise “biosocial imaginations” (Lee & Motzkau, 2012). The key question addressed, therefore, is the increasing use of biotechnologies to achieve these preferred biosocial outcomes.

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