Postdigital Humans

Maggi Savin-Baden

It is clear that there are many diverse understandings, definitions, and stances about the term postdigital. For many authors ‘postdigital’ is not temporal, it is not ‘after’ digital, rather it is a critical inquiry into the state of the digital world. Yet the postdigital should be seen as a stance which merges the old and the new, it is not seen as an event or temporal position, rather it is a critical perspective, a philosophy, that can be summarized as a collection of stances in the following intersecting positions. The postdigital then is not just about positions or spaces inhabited just for a time, it is essentially ungraspable.

This ungraspability relates to the way in which structures, political systems. cultures, languages, and technologies differ and change. Yet in many ways such changes are somewhat static in the university sector. Fuller asks: What difference does university make if everything produces knowledge or is in the business of knowledge production? His stance is Humboldtian. He argues for the importance of the lecture and suggests that many academics today do not really understand its premise or the important synergy between research and teaching. The university is not just about passing on knowledge. It is about the exploration of wisdom and knowledge. Online lectures recorded and repeated are merely about knowledge production, not about exploration and dissent.

Liquid Curricula

The advent of the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in shifting much learning online yet the tendency of the administrators to run most universities and make pedagogical decisions on behalf of the academics put boundaries around this. The result has not been recognition of the need for liquid learning, but rather the creation of something ordered and online in particular ways. Liquid curricula are defined here as curricula that focus on students’ and tutors’ stances and personal identities, and provide opportunities to design modules and lessons in open and flexible ways.

In practice this means that universities need to stretch beyond open courseware and closed virtual learning environments. Instead learning would need to be created around a constellation of uncertainties, such as negotiated assessment, and open and flexible learning intentions. Liquid learning spaces are open, flexible and contested, spaces in which both learning and learners are always on the move. Movement in such curricula is not towards a given trajectory. Instead there is a sense of displacement of notions of time and place, so that curricula are delineated with and through the staff and students, and they are defined by the creators of the space(s).

Postdigital Learning

Connected-mobile media technologies are currently transforming the experience and expectations of students’ engagement with knowledges, learning and technologies and universities are facing this shift in the form of students tethered to their mobiles. Learning at university is now just one (amongst many) sources of information and learning, which students engage with on a daily basis – and we therefore have to compete for their attention. This in turn means that traditional modes of teaching (broadcasting) educational content – via the lecture-seminar-tutorial model are no longer adequate. Liquid learning and disruptive media (networked-connected-digital) enable and indeed encourage collaboration and the co-creation of content, which breach the walls of the classroom but remain relatively untapped.  What we really require is postdigital learning.

Postdigital Humans: Transitions, Transformation and Transcendence

The first book in the Postdigital Science and Education book series, Postdigital Humans: Transitions, Transformation and Transcendence, is written by a group of innovative authors sharing their ideas and reflections. What is common across all chapter is the concerns about how we manage the postdigital future and in particular deal with and indeed take on surveillance capitalism and seek to avert the possibly, or even inevitability of the marketized diminishment of the human.

What this book illustrates is that the development and use of postdigital humans is occurring rapidly, but often in unexpected ways and spaces. The chapters explore approaches to developing and using postdigital humans and the impact they are having on a postdigital world. This book presents current research and practices at a time when education is changing rapidly with digital, technological advances. In particular, it outlines the major challenges faced by today’s employers, developers, teachers, researchers, priests and philosophers such as the possibility for using postdigital humans for teaching, training and practice.

The first section of the book begins with an exploration of the ideas and concepts associated with postdigital humans. The second section of the book provides both a practical and philosophical stance toward the use of postdigital humans in education. The final section of the book explores the overlapping constructs of philosophy, ethics and religion. Postdigital Humans: Transitions, Transformation and Transcendence brings together concerns over agency, the wider complex ecology of techno-capitalist relations, notions of individual self-determination and ways in which humanity needs to come to understand and act in the postdigital world.

Maggi Savin-Baden is Professor of Education at the University of Worcester and has researched and evaluated staff and student experience of learning for over 20 years and gained funding in this area (Leverhulme Trust, JISC, Higher Education Academy, MoD). She has a strong publication record of over 60 research publications and 18 books which reflect her research interests on the impact of innovative learning, digital afterlife, cyber-influence, pedagogical agents, qualitative research methods, and problem-based learning. In her spare time, she runs, bakes, climbs and attempts triathlons.


  1. Dear Colleagues and friends, I will be retiring from UCL IOE. Please change my email address to [email protected]

    I look forward to continuing to receive your emails and participating in your events.

    With gratitude, Arthur ________________________________


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