A question that comes to mind when reading Foucault’s “Truth and Power” and Giddens’ “Agency, Structure” is how does the participant in power structures willingly consent to a structure that has no subject? The simple idea that comes to mind is blind allegiance: willingly involving oneself in a system of ideas that seems to have no controlling agent. Foucault seems to think that this subject is hidden within historicism (117) while Giddens sees this absence of subject as important for our structured social system (66), but what is most intriguing about the necessity of the subject being withdrawn from social systems is that this breeds transformation of structures through a seemingly malleable social structure. Though ideology can be oppressive when the subject is elusive, the opposite can be true: ideology can then be diffused. Our blind allegiance can easily change allegiance.
A transformative belief in social structures appears to be a hopeful belief towards change and improvement, and yet Giddens’ discourse on the recursive nature of social structures does not give me great hope. Do we really have agency in these structures? Giddens is certain that we have the free will to act in structures, and yet he outlines a system that is socially recursive and interdependent.
The relate the social structures Foucault and Giddens discuss to teaching with technology in the fact that the agency that technology gives to both the teacher and student in a pedagogical setting is transformative, recursive, and constraining. For many technologies are aimed at being a transformative structure: a liberating social space that teachers drool over because they see students ‘open up’ in their expressions. However, these new social structures, developed through chat rooms, online gaming, and multimedia composition, are still built within the larger superstructure of society that is governed by, as Foucault states, power and truth. As Foucault describes the ‘specific’ intellectual, he envisions one who seeks to transform social spaces while being aware of the constraints of the power that controls new technologies. That is the hope of the teacher using technology in his or her classroom.
But, once again, are we afraid of being wowed by the technology and blindly forgetting the power that operates the technology? Does the subject disappear because we are not looking intently enough for it?