In 2004, during the second international ePortfolio conference (La Rochelle, France) a group of participants agreed to launch a campaign on the theme ePortfolio for all! Their objective was “by 2010, every citizen will have an ePortfolio!” 10 years later, despite a growing number of ePortfolio initiatives worldwide, we are still very far from achieving this goal.
This text is an attempt at exploring why the global adoption of Open Badges is likely to succeed and how it might feedback into ePortfolio technologies and practices. For that purpose, in the perspective of the genesis of technological objects, I draw a parallel with the evolution of computer technology from the early generation of computers to the advent of integrated circuits and computer chips (CPU, central processing units). The emergence of Open Badges will be analysed as a result of the evolution of ePortfolios, their concrétisation (reification). ePortfolios are more abstract, Open badges more concrete as the result of an individuation process.
While the genesis of technological objects and the process of individuation has been described with talent by philosophers like Gilbert Simondon and Bernard Stiegler, this post simply aims at inviting the members of the ePortfolio community to reflect on their practices and the possible futures for ePortfolio technologies.
On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects
In Du mode d’existence des objets techniques (On the Mode of Existence of Technical Objects, 1958) Gilbert Simondon describes the concrétisation of technical objects as the ability of objects to become more autonomous, self-regulated, in relation to the associated milieu in which they operate. This process has a corollary, abstraction, which is when an object becomes more dependent on its associated milieu, as is the case with a number of genetically modified organisms — e.g. induced sterility in order to control the crop market, regulations, etc.