CFA: Machines and Mechanization in the History of Education: Devices, Myths, and Processes

La revue Jahrbuch für Historische Bildungsforschung, Vol. 20 (2014) (Yearbook for History of Education) lance un appel à contribution sur le thème “Machines and Mechanization in the History of Education: Devices, Myths, and Processes“, sous la direction de Christian Kassung et Marcelo Caruso

Machines have a life of their own: They have power units, and they are programmed to perform certain tasks. The more autonomously they act, the more radically they question the line between nature and culture. This is why they are so ambivalent: both fascinating and disturbing. The fascination of machines is closely connected to their growing sophistication and the extension and transformation of their applications. At the same time, however,  this also poses a threat to human autonomy,  for the existence  of machines  always defines man in technical terms as well.

When Wolfgang Hochheimer, a Professor at the now dissolved Berlin teachers college, argued for the extensive use of teaching machines in the 1960s, he referred to a colleague who contended that those machines helped to achieve democracy,  which was one of the central ends of education at that time, much better than in the past.
Moreover,  Hochheimer  argued  that  teaching  machines  were “consistently  patient”  and  “consistently open”  towards   everybody –  from  “highly   educated”   to  “underdeveloped”   individuals (W.  Hochheimer, “Erziehung durch Maschinen?”, in: Der Spiegel 30/1963, 24 July 1963). In the context of unconditional democratization during the post-­-WW II era, the promise and the threat of machines culminated in the fallibility of the  teacher: “Every  teacher  who  can  be replaced  by a machine  deserves  to be
replaced,”  Ken  Komoski argued (“Lehrautomaten.  Der Tod des Paukers”, in: Der Spiegel 29/1961, 12 July 1961). Back then, Komoski was a  machine  programmer  from  the  circle  around  Burrhus Frederic  Skinner.  He  later  became  a  professor  at Columbia University and a UNESCO consultant. Since 1967, he has been running the Educational Products Information  Exchange,  substantially supported  by private foundations.  In the heat of these post-­-war debates one often forgot or ignored the fact that machines  of various kinds had been used for conveying  knowledge already since antiquity and that, more broadly, they had already always been used as “extensions of man.”

As machines have increasingly been permeating modern societies, it is hardly possible anymore to draw a clear line between  technology  and nature.  At the same  time,  in the course  of the institutionalization  of modern education,  a  growing  aversion against  the  world  of  machines  and  mechanization   has  been taking  roots. Machines are soulless, the argument goes, when it comes to pedagogic relationships, for real education begins where  unpedagogical  drill  always  ends:  with  man.  However,  in the  21st  century,  “man”  as  such  possibly  does not  exist  anymore:  Current  communicative  environments  and  the proliferation  of  “artificial  life”  –  cf.  the socializing effects  of  tamagotchis  or  Japanese  nursing  homes  replacing human  beings  with  robots  –  have intensified the question of the place of machines in education and socialization.

The Jahrbuch für Historische Bildungsforschung dedicates its 20th volume to machines and mechanization in the history of education. This concerns, on the one hand, “interfaces” of human beings and increasingly complex networks  of machines,  objects and media. On the other hand, it also concerns  education  towards machine-­- adapted  values  and  representations  or socialization “for  a life  in the  context  of technical  constructing  and organizing”  (von  Hermann  &  Velminski,  Maschinentheorien  /
Theoriemaschinen.  Frankfurt  am  Main,  2012,  p. 12). Against this backdrop, articles may tackle not only questions of how to teach the artes mechanicae as well as the evolution of these teaching modes. Rather, drawing on analyses of machines and machine-­-inspired ways of thinking,  they may also problematize  the implicit  knowledge  of things, concepts  of social transformation, pedagogic semantics, agency in educational processes as well as the historical materiality of individual devices.

Deadline for proposals: 31 August 2013
Notification of acceptance / rejection of proposals by 30 September
2013 Deadline for articles: 15 March 2014

Please e-­-mail  your proposal to Prof. Dr. Marcelo Caruso, Humboldt-­-Universität  zu Berlin: marcelo.caruso[ at] hu-­

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