This is not a post about ChatGPT but agenda setting
Since I am currently often asked about my opinion about ChatGPT I want to share why I do not write about ChatGPT.
The discussion about ChatGPT (Generative Pretrained Transformer) is at least as annoying as the Wordle wave that has hit my social media channels some years ago. Although we can put both examples under the category of “language games” (maybe in a different sense as Wittgenstein has described them) we can learn some more lessons about the public and partially scientific discourse of ChatGPT compared to the word game.
First of all, a lot of what I read are superficial reflections which seem to forget that AI in education is not a novelty. If you want to learn about the history of these kind of systems I can recommend recent work by Mike Sharples (Sharples, 2022) and bis book “Story Machines” (Sharples & y Pérez, 2022). If you want to announce the next revolution, read this first.
Second, it would be good if users are becoming aware that they are becoming potential co-designers by their input and that feedback on the quality of answers or serious shortcomings is helping to improve the model and in the end the product which will most probably be commercial. It is by the way a special flavour that people are advocating rigorously for open and free learning material and that OER is the only solution for education and do not see the paradox that they are contributing to the promotion of a prototype of what will most probably become a commercial product and competitor for the most used search engine (Microsoft has announced to invest 10 billion US $ into the company behind it, it costs around 3 Million US $ to run the prototype). It is of course absolutely valid if researchers and teachers are “going with the flow” and show their involvement in the so called “hot topics” in educational technology. The problem is, that this discourse is pushing away the real hot topics in education: Access to education, quality of education and inclusion of non-standard learners into educational systems. The problem with these topics is that they are not newsworthy and you cannot play with it. It is so pervasively know that these are very demanding issue for education that nobody will be regarded as being “innovative” or “future oriented” in discussing these topics.
This leads me to my lesson learned from the current discussion on ChatGPT: We can see the appearance and public but also scientific reaction to it as a special case of agenda setting or agenda melding. While agenda setting theory (McCombs, Shaw, & Weaver, 2014) focuses on how (mass) media select topics and transmit them to the public with political or economical objectives in mind, agenda melding refers to the process by which members of the public chose and blend media agendas to fit their individual preferences. By firing the discourse on ChatGPT the educational community is actively pushing the agenda of companies with a commercial agenda and we should reflect if this is fitting to our individual preferences.
McCombs, M. E., Shaw, D. L., & Weaver, D. H. (2014). New directions in agenda-setting theory and research. Mass communication and society, 17(6), 781-802.
Sharples, M. (2022). Automated essay writing: an AIED opinion. International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education, 32(4), 1119-1126.
Sharples, M., & y Pérez, R. P. (2022). Story Machines: How Computers Have Become Creative Writers. Routledge.