Like Netflix, New College Software Seeks to Personalize Recommendations – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education

| October 14, 2010

Quote of the day:

It’s as if Blackboard is somebody with hippocampal damage, that has severe amnesia,” he said. “It’s never seen you before, other than knowing that you have an account in the system. The systems outside learn about you. But the systems typically in academia do not.

Robert S. Bramucci

via Like Netflix, New College Software Seeks to Personalize Recommendations – Wired Campus – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Aside from the challenge of thinking through both the value of such shifts, and the difficulty of translating from demographic and usage information to meaningful conclusions (the examples the article gives are quite trite), what is most striking about this quote is the way in which it not only equates software with a brain, but actually gets quite specific.

If there is a long tradition of talking about the brain in the technological terms of the day (pigeon holes, cameras, factories, storage facilities, computers, networks, etc.) we can also apparently turn this around, using the specificity of our understanding of the workings of the brain to talk about technology. This has already been operative, and no doubt unavoidable, in our imagining of what technology can do as a sort of surrogate self, but I don’t think I have ever seen it used quite this way before.

And of course, one can detect something of the utopian vision of educational technology that I have commented upon elsewhere. All we need is smart software, which in this case appears to mean, functioning like a non-impaired brain.

But like simplistic movies about “geniuses” the dream of smart software often exceeds the reality.