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Technological utopia, dystopia and ambivalence: Teaching with social media at a South African university


British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 46, Number 3, ISSN 0007-1013 e-ISSN 0007-1013 Publisher: Wiley


The discourse of social media adoption in higher education has often been funnelled through utopian and dystopian perspectives, which are polarised but determinist theorisations of human engagement with educational technologies. Consequently, these determinist approaches have obscured a broadened grasp of the situated, socially constructed nature of human interaction with educational technologies and failed to explain ambivalent positions of technology adoption. To contest the innate determinism embodied in the aforementioned technological views, this paper draws on technological ambivalence to unravel the complex, multiple possibilities in pragmatic use of technology—including the double-bound relationship between human agency and educational technology. A phenomenological approach that draws on self-narratives of the use of social media by Computer Science and Informatics educators at a South African university is employed to unravel how their perceptions of social media shaped and informed their pragmatic instructional uses of these technologies. Findings suggest that the sharp contrasting experiences of collaborative engagement, enactment of decentralised power and democratic expression in social media coexist recursively with the disempowering, dependence-ridden and distractive effects of these technologies. This technological divergence is further compounded by ambivalent views that neither celebrate the unrealistic hopes of social media nor grossly protest against the debilitating effects of these technologies. This view foregrounds the social embeddedness of technology and its potentially multiple, contradictory effects. The implications of these findings include the need for educators to consider social conditions of technology use, the alignment of such conditions with innovative social media-enhanced pedagogical models and the use of proven models to demonstrate the educational potential of social media technologies.


Rambe, P. & Nel, L. (2015). Technological utopia, dystopia and ambivalence: Teaching with social media at a South African university. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(3), 629-648. Wiley. Retrieved April 9, 2020 from .