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22 JUNE 2012

pedagogic discourse and practice: strong and weak classification

"The concept of classification is at the heart of Bernstein's theory of pedagogic discourse and practice. Classification refers to 'the degree of boundary maintenance between contents' (Bernstein 1973a, p. 205; 1973b, p. 88) and is concerned with the insulation or boundaries between curricular categories (areas of knowledge and subjects). Strong classification refers to a curriculum that is highly differentiated and separated into traditional subjects; weak classification refers to a curriculum that is integrated and in which the boundaries between subjects are fragile."

(Alan R. Sadovnik, 2001)

Prospects: the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXXI, no. 4, December 2001, p. 687–703. UNESCO: International Bureau of Education, 2001

TAGS

Alan Sadovnik • areas of knowledge and subjects • Basil Bernsteinboundaries • boundaries between curricular categories • boundaries between subjects are fragile • boundary maintenance • classification and framing • classification and framing rules • code theory • collection codes • communication codes • control • curricular categories • curricular change • curriculumcurriculum development • degree of boundary maintenance between contents • disciplinary model • educational practices • educational transmission • Emile Durkheimfreedom • highly differentiated • inclusive education • insulation • integrated • integrated curriculum • integrated curriculum codes • invisible • legitimate message • mechanical solidaritymodern societyorganic solidarityorganisation of knowledgepedagogic discoursepedagogic practicepedagogic practicespedagogyprofanerules of communicationsacredschooling • separated • social classstrong classification • strong framing • strongly classified curriculum • theory of pedagogic discourse and practice • traditional society • traditional subjects • transmission of knowledgeUNESCOweak classification • weak framing • weakly classified curriculum

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
31 MAY 2011

Eli Pariser: beware online 'filter bubbles'

"Mark Zuckerberg, a journalist was asking him a question about the news feed. And the journalist was asking him, 'Why is this so important?' And Zuckerberg said, 'A squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.' And I want to talk about what a Web based on that idea of relevance might look like.

So when I was growing up in a really rural area in Maine, the Internet meant something very different to me. It meant a connection to the world. It meant something that would connect us all together. And I was sure that it was going to be great for democracy and for our society. But there's this shift in how information is flowing online, and it's invisible. And if we don't pay attention to it, it could be a real problem. So I first noticed this in a place I spend a lot of time –– my Facebook page. I'm progressive, politically –– big surprise –– but I've always gone out of my way to meet conservatives. I like hearing what they're thinking about; I like seeing what they link to; I like learning a thing or two. And so I was surprised when I noticed one day that the conservatives had disappeared from my Facebook feed. And what it turned out was going on was that Facebook was looking at which links I clicked on, and it was noticing that, actually, I was clicking more on my liberal friends' links than on my conservative friends' links. And without consulting me about it, it had edited them out. They disappeared.

So Facebook isn't the only place that's doing this kind of invisible, algorithmic editing of the Web. Google's doing it too. If I search for something, and you search for something, even right now at the very same time, we may get very different search results. Even if you're logged out, one engineer told me, there are 57 signals that Google looks at –– everything from what kind of computer you're on to what kind of browser you're using to where you're located –– that it uses to personally tailor your query results. Think about it for a second: there is no standard Google anymore. And you know, the funny thing about this is that it's hard to see. You can't see how different your search results are from anyone else's.

But a couple of weeks ago, I asked a bunch of friends to Google 'Egypt' and to send me screen shots of what they got. So here's my friend Scott's screen shot. And here's my friend Daniel's screen shot. When you put them side–by–side, you don't even have to read the links to see how different these two pages are. But when you do read the links, it's really quite remarkable. Daniel didn't get anything about the protests in Egypt at all in his first page of Google results. Scott's results were full of them. And this was the big story of the day at that time. That's how different these results are becoming.

So it's not just Google and Facebook either. This is something that's sweeping the Web. There are a whole host of companies that are doing this kind of personalization. Yahoo News, the biggest news site on the Internet, is now personalized –– different people get different things. Huffington Post, the Washington Post, the New York Times –– all flirting with personalization in various ways. And this moves us very quickly toward a world in which the Internet is showing us what it thinks we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see. As Eric Schmidt said, 'It will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them.'

So I do think this is a problem. And I think, if you take all of these filters together, you take all these algorithms, you get what I call a filter bubble. And your filter bubble is your own personal unique universe of information that you live in online. And what's in your filter bubble depends on who you are, and it depends on what you do. But the thing is that you don't decide what gets in. And more importantly, you don't actually see what gets edited out. So one of the problems with the filter bubble was discovered by some researchers at Netflix. And they were looking at the Netflix queues, and they noticed something kind of funny that a lot of us probably have noticed, which is there are some movies that just sort of zip right up and out to our houses. They enter the queue, they just zip right out. So 'Iron Man' zips right out, and 'Waiting for Superman' can wait for a really long time.

What they discovered was that in our Netflix queues there's this epic struggle going on between our future aspirational selves and our more impulsive present selves. You know we all want to be someone who has watched 'Rashomon,' but right now we want to watch 'Ace Ventura' for the fourth time. (Laughter) So the best editing gives us a bit of both. It gives us a little bit of Justin Bieber and a little bit of Afghanistan. It gives us some information vegetables, it gives us some information dessert. And the challenge with these kinds of algorithmic filters, these personalized filters, is that, because they're mainly looking at what you click on first, it can throw off that balance. And instead of a balanced information diet, you can end up surrounded by information junk food.

What this suggests is actually that we may have the story about the Internet wrong. In a broadcast society –– this is how the founding mythology goes –– in a broadcast society, there were these gatekeepers, the editors, and they controlled the flows of information. And along came the Internet and it swept them out of the way, and it allowed all of us to connect together, and it was awesome. But that's not actually what's happening right now. What we're seeing is more of a passing of the torch from human gatekeepers to algorithmic ones. And the thing is that the algorithms don't yet have the kind of embedded ethics that the editors did. So if algorithms are going to curate the world for us, if they're going to decide what we get to see and what we don't get to see, then we need to make sure that they're not just keyed to relevance. We need to make sure that they also show us things that are uncomfortable or challenging or important –– this is what TED does –– other points of view.

And the thing is we've actually been here before as a society. In 1915, it's not like newspapers were sweating a lot about their civic responsibilities. Then people noticed that they were doing something really important. That, in fact, you couldn't have a functioning democracy if citizens didn't get a good flow of information. That the newspapers were critical, because they were acting as the filter, and then journalistic ethics developed. It wasn't perfect, but it got us through the last century. And so now, we're kind of back in 1915 on the Web. And we need the new gatekeepers to encode that kind of responsibility into the code that they're writing.

I know that there are a lot of people here from Facebook and from Google –– Larry and Sergey –– people who have helped build the Web as it is, and I'm grateful for that. But we really need you to make sure that these algorithms have encoded in them a sense of the public life, a sense of civic responsibility. We need you to make sure that they're transparent enough that we can see what the rules are that determine what gets through our filters. And we need you to give us some control, so that we can decide what gets through and what doesn't. Because I think we really need the Internet to be that thing that we all dreamed of it being. We need it to connect us all together. We need it to introduce us to new ideas and new people and different perspectives. And it's not going to do that if it leaves us all isolated in a Web of one."

(Eli Pariser, TED.com)

Fig.1 recorded at TED2011, March 2011, in Long Beach, CA. duration: 9:05

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TAGS

57 signals • algorithmic editing • algorithmic filters • algorithmic gatekeepers • authorised voiceauthorship • balanced information diet • broadcast society • challenging consensus • civic responsibilities • civic responsibility • content editors • curate the world for us • demassificationdemocracydifferent perspectivesecho chamberEgyptEli Pariser • embedded ethics • Eric SchmidtFacebookfilterfilter bubbles • gatekeeper • Google IncHuffington Post • human gatekeepers • information dessert • information flows • information junk food • insular • insular communitiesinsulationisolated in a Web of one • journalistic ethics • Mark ZuckerbergNetflixnew ideas • new people • New York Timesno single standard • personal unique universe of information • personalisation • personalised filters • query results tailoring • relevancesearchsilotailoredTED Talksthe self • uncomfortable • Washington Post • Yahoo News

CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
10 APRIL 2011

Classification and framing in pedagogic discourse and practice

"The concept of classification is at the heart of Bernstein's theory of pedagogic discourse and practice. Classification refers to 'the degree of boundary maintenance between contents' (Bernstein 1973a, p. 205; 1973b, p. 88) and is concerned with the insulation or boundaries between curricular categories (areas of knowledge and subjects). Strong classification refers to a curriculum that is highly differentiated and separated into traditional subjects; weak classification refers to a curriculum that is integrated and in which the boundaries between subjects are fragile.

Using the concept of classification, Bernstein outlined two types of curriculum codes: collection and integrated codes. The first refers to a strongly classified curriculum; the latter, to a weakly classified curriculum. In keeping with his Durkheimian project, Bernstein analyzed the way in which the shift from collection to integrated curriculum codes represents the evolution from mechanical to organic solidarity (or from traditional to modern society), with curricular change marking the movement from the sacred to the profane.

Whereas classification is concerned with the organization of knowledge into curriculum, framing is related to the transmission of knowledge through pedagogic practices. Framing refers to the location of control over the rules of communication and, according to Bernstein (1990), 'if classification regulates the voice of a category then framing regulates the form of its legitimate message' (p. 100). Furthermore, 'frame refers to the degree of control teacher and pupil possess over the selection, organization, pacing and timing of the knowledge transmitted and received in the pedagogical relationship' (1973b, p. 88). Therefore, strong framing refers to a limited degree of options between teacher and students; weak framing implies more freedom.

Bernstein developed this approach into a systematic analysis of pedagogic discourse and practices. First, he outlined a theory of pedagogic rules that examined the 'intrinsic features which constitute and distinguish the specialized form of communication realized by the pedagogic discourse of education' (Bernstein, 1990, p. 165). Second, he related his theory of pedagogic discourse to a social–class base and applied it to the ongoing development of different educational practices (Bernstein, 1990, p. 63–93).

The concept of code was central to Bernstein's sociology. From the outset of its use in his work on language (restricted and elaborated codes), code refers to a 'regulative principle which underlies various message systems, especially curriculum and pedagogy' (Atkinson, 1985, p. 136). Curriculum and pedagogy are considered message systems, and with a third system, evaluation, they constitute the structure and processes of school knowledge, transmission and practice. As Bernstein (1973b) noted: 'Curriculum defines what counts as valid knowledge, pedagogy defines what counts as valid transmission of knowledge, and evaluation defines what counts as a valid realization of the knowledge on the part of the taught' (p. 85). Thus, his theory of education must be understood in terms of the concepts of classification, framing and evaluation, and their relationship to the structural aspects of his sociological project.

Following this earlier work on curriculum and pedagogic practice was a detailed analysis of pedagogic discourse that presented a complex analysis of the recontextualization of knowledge through the pedagogic device (see Bernstein, 1990). Bernstein's work on pedagogic discourse was concerned with the production, distribution and reproduction of official knowledge and how this knowledge is related to structurally determined power relations. What is critical is that Bernstein was concerned with more than the description of the production and transmission of knowledge; he was concerned with its consequences for different groups.

Bernstein's analysis of pedagogic practice looked at the process and content of what occurs inside schools. His theory of pedagogic practice examined a series of rules considered both how these rules affect the content to be transmitted and, perhaps more important, how they 'act selectively on those who can successfully acquire it.' From an analysis of these rules, Bernstein examined 'the social class assumptions and consequences of forms of pedagogic practice' (Bernstein, 1990, p. 63). Finally, he applied this theory to conservative/traditional versus progressive/child centred) practices. He differentiated between a pedagogic practice that is dependent on the economic market–that emphasizes vocational education–and another that is independent and autonomous of the market–that is legitimated by the autonomy of knowledge. Bernstein concluded that both, despite their claims to the contrary, would not eliminate the reproduction of class inequalities. Through a consideration of the inner workings of the types of educational practice, Bernstein contributed to a greater understanding of how schools reproduce what they are ideologically committed to eradicating–social–class advantages in schooling and society.

Bernstein's analysis of the social–class assumptions of pedagogic discourse and practice is the foundation for linking microeducational processes to the macrosociological levels of social structure and class and power relations. His thesis was that there are significant differences in the social–class assumptions of visible and invisible pedagogy and despite these differences there may indeed be similar outcomes, especially in the reproduction of power and symbolic control. Thus, from his early work on code theory to the more recent works in Class, codes and control, volumes 4 and 5 on pedagogic discourse, (1990, p. 165–218) and on pedagogic practices (1990; 1996), Bernstein's project sought to link microprocesses (language, transmission, and pedagogy) to macroforms–to how cultural and educational codes and the content and process of education are related to social class and power relations."

(Alan R. Sadovnik, 2001)

Prospects: English [2] French [3] Spainish [4] the quarterly review of comparative education (Paris, UNESCO: International Bureau of Education), vol. XXXI, no. 4, December 2001, p. 687–703. UNESCO: International Bureau of Education, 2001

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CONTRIBUTOR

Simon Perkins
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