John Hopkins on Sat, 18 Apr 1998 08:23:48 +0200 (MET DST)

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Re: <nettime> Digital Diploma Mills [part 2 of 2]

Well, Diana, that was an interesting posting, a little depressing, but also
clearly posited the development of yet another polarizing axis of the
so-called liberal left against the OPPRESSOR (which happens at the same
time to be the signatory of their monthly paycheck). Another axis along
which leads to a frozen  inaction against an opponent that has no real

Speaking as a free-agent teacher with over a decade of teaching experience
in 20-plus Scandinavian, US, and European higher education institutions, I
find much of the commentary in David Noble's to be in line with my
experience on the ground, especially in the US, where the market has openly
and without any real enemies assumed most social, cultural, (of course,
political, and economic) roles...  Europe is not far behind, although the
economic war being waged at this very moment is not in their favor...

I would make two observations, though, in response to this well-documented
article aside from the compulsory *so, what else is new?*.  (they are
generalizations intended to open commentary, there are ALWAYS exceptions to
these generalizations)

The first is that the stance taken by the writer appears to be a
retrenchment of a tired defense of academia/academic freedom as it was
visualized in the 60's (and at other times) which simply is worn out, used
up (by time and the historical process of institutionalization).  I have
never seen a more ineffective group of people who are definitely NOT in
need of the protections afforded by academic tenure than the professors who
now are enjoying unprecedented payscales in return for miniscule teaching
efforts.  Granted they are swimming in institutionalized and mediated
interaction with each other at a level that is stultifying -- but  THAT is
the prime reason for a competitive economic upgrade to be necessary and

(i.e., the fastest growing (read, most profitable) university is the
University of Phoenix, which has campuses in several states, boasts a
student body of, I believe, over 100,000 students, and is a private
corporation hiring teachers when they are needed (from the private sector

When was the last time you read about a professor who actually used the
position of protected tenure to make an ethical stand or a political point?
Many simply use the position of tenure to guarantee a secure and stable
economic life, and to insure an insular form of cultural hegemony which
extends no cultural limits, and transgresses no social laws.  I am not
promoting the welcoming of the oppressive academic techno-progress as
outlined in the article, but in some sense, the academic establishment --
including the faculty, have been asking for change by dint of the very
stagnation and cultural disconnection that has taken place in the last 15
years in academia.

The second point -- in dwelling on the defense of the academic status-quo
(which, granted, in the wholesale market-ization of the culture and
education sector, is deplorable), there is embedded some of the knee-jerk
reactionary attitudes of the 80's.  During the 80's many artists (in the
US) routinely made art about what Ronald Reagan & cohorts did.  Nothing
more reactionary than that!  What about showing a new way of being; the
artist/educator being an example not of puppet-twitch cultural thermometry,
but the maker of a new way of being, the creator of a new social model.
>From this point of view -- which is not a Utopian promotion -- teachers and
students might construct new spaces for open dialogue (decidedly not
discourse, but DIALOGUE) within the still-open realms of communications
(technology).  One can sit and bemoan technological institutionalization of
academia, but why, when we have the chance to activate the educational
process, must we dwell in the reactionary past?  Why not occupy what spaces
that are available (and there are ALWAYS some available, unless all
speaking is banned).  I find students in every school I teach in are eager
to learn something that they can use in LIFE, which tells me that the
educational system is disconnected and lacking AND NEED OF IMPROVEMENT!

(If it is now impossible to do something new and to improve things, then
what is the point of discourse? or of education? or of life?)

And, in the end, we all know that, yes, technology can be used for
oppressive control, but, really, is it THAT EFFECTIVE?  Does the control
really WORK?  When there is so much control information coming in, what
does the UNiversity Administration do about it?  Hire more monkeys to file
it? Which just further clogs up that machine, making it inoperable, and
presenting free thinkers the option of starting up newer (and by nature,
not just by engineering standards) more efficient systems of education and
human interaction...  It is possible, through dialogue, to stay many steps
ahead of the oppressor, simply by not naming IT too much (wasting time by
acting/speaking in opposition) and instead go on ones way with vigor...

Again, I have found students in most (all!) schools are hungry and
desparate to learn things that they can use in their LIVES, and this tells
me that * relevance* in academia is not about something alive, but rather
something that is codified and structured and just plain reified!  When we
as educators can provide living stories, and can listen to and hear the
stories of the the students, then the polar roles of educator and educated
take on new and highly variable forms.  The ideas of Paolo Friere, in his
excellent book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, map out some alternative
structures or situations where the educator and educated each each and
every participant in the process...  And the possibilities offered by the
existence of the internet/networking technology in general can be used to
further this process (maybe no more or less than other mediums), but there
IS POSSIBILITY...  Is it possible to be positive? and to wield what tools
are available.  I think so, I believe so, and my students tell me so!

CHeers (flaming)

John Hopkins, Tech-no-mad artist and educator back on the road in Tornio,
Finland  -- teaching at the Southern Lapland College of Art and Media

the travelog at
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