The webinar today started with a slide saying “We are now engaged in a grand scheme to augment, amplify, enhance and extend the relationship and communications between all beings and all objects”. At first, this statement was resonating a lot with my posthumanist approach as acknowledging the presence of objects among us; however, I had the sense that the rest of the talk was (re)making these same objects (for example, platforms and various applications) transparent and, hence, unproblematized or, at worst, only celebrated for the good they can generate.

However, Science and Technology Studies (STS) have widely pointed out that objects do have affordances (Gibson, 1979) and, although not determining actions, the material (in this case, read “digital”) surroundings frame our possibilities (or impossibilities) for action. In the general enthusiasm about digitalization and the possibilities it can generate (and they are many), the new grand narrative (Lyotard, 1979) forgets the impossibilities and, with them, all those that are affected by them.

For example, during the webinar, we have been reminded how the COVID emergency fostered a massive use of digital tools on a planetary scale. This is obviously true but I’m not comfortable in thinking that the COVID pandemic has boosted a much-needed change that, finally, opened the door to many and made education more accessible. Actually, what the COVID pandemic did was to amplify inequalities, first of all in terms of accessibility to infrastructures that make possible having an internet connection stable enough to actively participate in an online course without crashing every other minute (with the sense of shame that this can cause). (I have published here a contribution on the pandemic as an infrastructural crisis, although in that article I was focused on health care).

In my native country, the national territory is not evenly infrastructured and, indeed, during the lockdown, there was a huge preoccupation for students’ education, especially in areas less developed in terms of access to communication infrastructure. In certain areas, we cannot really take for granted the availability of the entire technological apparatus that online education requires. Then the question could be: with that in mind, can we still assume an equation between digitalization (in education) and democratization (of education)?

Feminist scholars, especially in the journal Gender, Work and Organization that I have the honour and the pleasure of being an Associate Editor of – have immediately spotted the risks of an exacerbation of exclusion during the pandemic with special regard to the consequences due to the erasure of the boundary between public and private life both in working and educational settings. I remember an Australian colleague problematizing the embarrassment of some students in showing their domestic environment when required to turn on the camera because their computer was not allowing them to use any artificial background (also my Mac is so old to not allow me this trick). We cannot really take for granted that there is always “a room of one’s own” to quote Virginia Woolf.

These are basic things, mundane aspects that, however, do make a difference in one’s own life and experience of education.

Should we then be more cautious and think that beyond the screen there is a complexity that sometimes is not sufficiently articulated when introducing digitalization in education?

To develop digital literacies, we should – I would say – make sure that everybody enjoys the same conditions and, alas, this seems not possible. I still believe in the magic of human relationships in the classroom as the agora and as the safe democratic space and place where everything can happen and, if useful, be mediated by technologies but by making them accessible to each and every one.


Gibson, James (1979). The Ecological Approach to Perception. London: Haughton Mifflin

Lyotard, Jean-Francois (1979). La Condition postmoderne: rapport sur the savoir. Les Edition de Minuit.

(Photo credits: Philipp Katzenberger

Beyond the screen, before digital literacies