Debates at the level of public policy concerning the economic value a digitized cultural heritage, information prowess as a weapon in trade wars and national databases as the fantasy of a common language that will overcome the divisions of an increasingly multicultural culture may seem far removed from pedagogical uses of infotech. In fact these questions and difficulties are implied within our classroom practices, the administrative policies of the institutions of which we are a part, and the national assumptions concerning education that drive those policies. Running throughout these debates at both national and local levels are the alchemical assumptions that surround the discourse of infotech.
The question is: what can we do to counter the new alchemy and the distributive and nationalist logic that informs discourse of and about infotech and the impact of this discourse upon our own classrooms? Friend argues that we need to sponsor the creation of "democratic public forums, where ethical discussion occurs among a heterogeneous public, with specific representation given to oppressed cultures and groups" (561). Such a forum should allow for the possibility of consensus but also difference of opinion, it should be an arena that ensures access for various groups, and should not be geared toward a single goal or course of action that will be valid for all but should exist to enable discussion about a variety of solutions.
This description looks a lot like the characterization of the world of infotech by some of its more uncritical enthusiasts, but has the virtue of recognizing that equality of access and an equal weighting given to people's input is not something that arises automatically but has to be created and/or supplemented wherever possible. We must keep in mind that the virtual world is not better than the material one which we inhabit, it is merely different. For example, although infotech may seem to offer a solution to the problem of access for diverse groups when the problem is understood solely in terms of physical space, the question of electronic access is no less problematic.
Before we can begin to realize the potential of infotech we as teachers have to address ourselves to these issues at the level of the interrelation of machine, classroom, institution, and the sociocultural domain of all of these. At the level of the machine one thing is clear: merely introducing computers and the Internet into the classroom or developing courses that discuss Internet procedures is not enough.xxxvii
Selfe and Selfe note that at the moment "most teachers of composition studies at the collegiate level are educated to deal with technology not as critics but as users--if, indeed they are educated to deal with it at all. Few programs that educate college-level teachers of composition, for example, require students to take course-work in technology studies" (496). The result is "relatively conservative teaching strategies in connection with technology and relatively little room for reflection on these strategies" (496). We need to step away from the euphoric instrumentalism that characterizes so much of the rhetoric of infotech at the moment and analyze the intersection of classroom practices, institutional and national discourses. This will involve, as Selfe and Selfe suggest, a more intense examination of "the politics of the interface," the political assumptions that are embodied in the structure of the software and hardware that we use. It will also involve considerably more research into the early history of the infotech, in particular of the links between the sciences and the defense industry, and an examination of why these links have consistently been glossed over by educators exploring infotech.