The emperor's new clothes: globalisation and le-learning in Higher Education

Sue Clegg, Alison Hudson, John Steel

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    103 Citations (Scopus)


    Two closely related and over-determining myths have shaped government inspired policy towards Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and education: the one is the irresistible power of globalisation, the other is the determining effect of technology. The result of both is to present the acceptance of e-learning throughout the education system as inevitable. The space left for practitioners in Higher Education is either to embrace the new media enthusiastically or to stand aside and watch its inevitable unfolding. In this paper we develop a critical stance towards the dominant discourse and suggest that the shape of new media in education can be, and is being contested. We argue against both technological determinism and the passive acceptance of the neo-liberal globalisation paradigm. No technologies are neutral. They are always the products of real historical social relations as well as the emergent technical capacities they provide. ICTs as artefacts and social processes are already inscribed with gendered assumptions and the accumulation strategies of their purveyors. Moreover, the conditions under which e-learning is being introduced into education are shaped by managerialist agendas. Placing pedagogy at the forefront is therefore to struggle over the terms and shape of the media adopted. We can see this at both the micro and macro level. Our paper exposes the emperor's new clothes while arguing that there is space for critical discourses that can more meaningfully engage with socially available technologies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)39-53
    Number of pages15
    JournalBritish Journal of Sociology of Education
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2003


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