DIGITAL POVERTY AND VET can vet learners afford to learn online?

Is there such a thing as ‘digital poverty’ and if so, what does it look like for VET learners?

Narrative inquiry into the learning of VET professionals in a social media environment.

Problematic nature of social media as a source of professional, vocational identity, especially for learners.

Blurred boundary between the professional and the personal in online environments.

Strong mandate for VET educators to learn how to traverse these boundaries safely and effecitvely (Novakovich et al. 2017) and to teach others to do likewise.

Sites of symbolic violence and suffering?

Time-pressured learners adopt "a task oriented information habitus ... in which waste avoidance is their primary role" (2009, p. 492).

Compare with learners who are unencumbered by the same spatial-temporal urgencies and are, therefore, more inclined to reap the benefits of a playful, open and explorative disposition towards online participation - skhole.

“The most startling fact about postmodernity is its total acceptance of ephemerality, fragmentation, discontinuity, and the chaotic that characterised modernity. But postmodernism responds to the fact of that in a very particular way. It does not try to transcend it, counteract it, or even to define the "eternal and immutable" elements that lie within it as does modernism. Postmodernism swims, even wallows, in the fragmentary and the chaotic currents of change as if that is all there is.” (Harvey 1990, p. 44)
Paranoia, fragmentation, hyperreality, metafiction and intertextuality.


They froze, hoping that the wet black cage of branches overhead would hide them. The growl of the airship faded and then rose again, circling. "Shrike can see us," whispered Hester, staring up at the blind, white fog. "I can feel him watching us..."

"No, no," Tom insisted. "If we can't see the airship, how can he see us? It stands to reason..."

But high overhead the Resurrected Man tunes his eyes to ultra-red and switches on his heat sensor and sees two glowing human shapes amid the soft grey static of the trees. "TAKE ME CLOSER," he orders. (Reeve 2001, p. 139)

The hatch opens and Shrike stalks out. His green eyes sweep from side to side until he finds what he is looking for. A rag of white fabric from a torn shirt, soggy with rain, half buried in mud. "HESTER SHAW WAS HERE," he tells the Out-Country at large, and begins sniffing for her scent. (Reeve 2001, p. 81)

Cheryl: Was there anything about the whole experience that you found surprising?

Grace: I think the level of guilt I felt at downloading everything that everybody put on there and having a read of it, because they'd taken time to find it and put it on there to share, then I'd download it and read it and think, "Yes, I need this, this is really useful!" But there was that level of guilt for not posting anything back again for a bit of a reciprocal arrangement, so I think that's what took me by surprise, especially when it has that little box on the right hand side to say who's downloading and who's read things. So you can track what people have done as well. So people would know I'd done it. And then I wasn't commenting back on them.

What should he do now? The next train went at seven; if he were to catch that he would have to rush like mad and the collection of samples was still not packed, and he did not at all feel particularly fresh and lively. And even if he did catch the train he would not avoid his boss’s anger as the office assistant would have been there to see the five o’clock train go, he would have put in his report about Gregor’s not being there a long time ago. The office assistant was the boss’s man, spineless, and with no understanding. What about if he reported sick? But that would be extremely strained and suspicious as in fifteen years of service Gregor had never once yet been ill. His boss would certainly come round with the doctor from the medical insurance company, accuse his parents of having a lazy son, and accept the doctor’s recommendation not to make any claim as the doctor believed that no-one was ever ill but that many were workshy. And what’s more, would he have been entirely wrong in this case? Gregor did in fact, apart from excessive sleepiness after sleeping for so long, feel completely well and even felt much hungrier than usual.

Cheryl: Oh, I'd never thought of the Recent Activity Log like that!

Grace: Yes. So I'd maybe 'like' it or say, "Thanks." But that would be it. But it was a feeling of, "I should be giving something back here and everybody can see that I'm not."

Cheryl: So a desire to contribute and at the same time a fear of contributing and a guilt about not contributing? What did we put you through, Grace? It's dreadful isn't it? [NERVOUS LAUGHTER] I made you suffer. It's really awful.

Grace: [LAUGHTER] Yes.

..so I think, yes, the highest board on the swimming pool would be what I would liken it to.


The time would not pass. Somebody was playing with the clocks, and not only with the electric clocks but the wind-up kind, too. The second hand on my watch would twitch once, and a year would pass, and then it would twitch again. There was nothing I could do about it. As an Earthling, I had to believe whatever the clocks said – and calendars. (Vonnegut 1969, p. 26)

'essentially mosaics made up of a whole bunch of tiny little chips...and each chip is a joke' (Vonnegut & Allen, 2003, p. 91).

I find it very difficult when the trail ... it's like a whole... so you're having to jump, "Oh, what was it that person said?" and having to go all the way back up to read it. You know, it's not always easy to follow the train of thought, especially when you then get somebody popping in and it pops in between the middle of it. And you're thinking "Well, what's that doing there?" It's different people's thoughts and you can't follow it. You think, "What's that got to do with that?" And that I find that very difficult. I don't work that way and so visually I find it very confusing and if that happens then I just switch off.

I didn't know how to deal with it at first but in the end I really enjoyed it and I found it useful as well just as a way to keep interested and to follow the lines of various ideas – just what other people were saying and chipping in with all the time – and how things we said before were dug up for us to think about again.

It's reading my collection of books, though that makes me a happy person as well. I love books. I don't want them electronically. I don't want them. I want the book. So my bookshelf is growing! But that makes me... it's kind of a contentment. I like that physical paper in my hand. It's mine and I can pick it up and read it as and when I want.

I just get bored really quickly, I'll talk at cross purposes just to keep people on their toes, I don't find conversations hard to keep up with ... even if they take on many strands.


"In point of fact there might have been no Lolita at all, had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea" (Nabokov 1955, p. 9).

The first post that I did [PAUSE] was, like you know, when I blog, yeah? And you know that was fine. And then when people came back and then started asking me questions about it, I'm then, "Arghh! Oh, no! What's going on here?" You know I didn't expect that, you know. "That's just my thoughts. There you go!" You know and that kind of threw me a bit and so [PAUSE] I was trying to formulate my answers and I found that, "Ooh, what do I do?"


The fallible storyteller who at times assumes all the omniscience of the traditional narrator but at others deliberately debunks this omniscience.

"As things developed, [Oedipa] was to have all manner of revelations" (p.20)

"She may have fallen asleep once or twice" (p.42).

I think I asked the group what they were thinking about language games and which aspects might be interesting... Cheryl you responded then added a video. Molly thought it was interesting how it got back to fish and Rachel thought it was all confusing. As my initial question had broken down and an attempt at discussing in some deeper sense had seemingly failed, I responded by discussing broader themes as a way of easing my sadness at a lack of conversation. I do this in face-to-face conversations a lot as well. I don't really think the medium has too much to do with it in all honesty, other than the fact that it makes my initial question just hang in the air for longer. It might feel like waving to someone at the start of the day and they don't notice, so you sit there all day with your hand up – only in that way does the medium do anything, it adds to an increase in isolation.


You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes. (Wachowski and Wachowski 1999, The Matrix)

"Hyperreality tricks consciousness into detaching from any real emotional engagement, instead opting for artificial simulation, and endless reproductions of fundamentally empty appearance" (Idalovichi 2014, p. 640).

We could write a short story about 'What happened when they invented the Facebook 'dislike' button. Would this make communities more fragile? ... Or would people decide not to use them ... as much as people don't go around sticking their middle finger up at people every five minutes?

The postmodern ability to navigate this kind of paranoia-inducing, fragmented, intertextual, metafictional, hyperreal, social media performance and profit from participating is congruent with Laura Robinson's (2009) concept of skholè; a playful disposition to online participation that allows people to relax and embrace fragmentation and ephemerality as if that is all there is.

The modern dispositions of Grace and Ava, typify a "taste for the necessary" (2009, p. 492), which I’m arguing is a kind if digital poverty

...whereas Jack, Rachel, Molly and I were more likely to engage in skholè. Ironically, according to this interpretation, a lack of concern with the learning goals of the online activities helps one to achieve them.

'It's good isn't it? It's like all little bits. It's like a sweet at the bottom of my bag.'

Digital poverty, then, is the absence of such capital.

What should we do about it?

Reynolds, C. (forthcoming), Understanding social media learning through postmodern literature in Jarvis. C and Gouthro, P. Education with Fiction Media. Imagination, Engagement and Empathy in Learning. Palgrave Macmillan.

Harvey, D. (1990). The condition of postmodernity: an enquiry into the origins of cultural change. Oxford [England]; Cambridge, Mass., USA: Blackwell.