Educational technology and the war on public education


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I'm presenting at the University of Lincoln's Centre for Educational Research and Development conference on Thursday June 7. I'll be speaking about Educational technology and the war on public education.

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Educational technology and the war on public education

  1. 1. Educational technology and the war on public education Doing and Undoing Academic Labour, University of Lincoln, 7 June 2012 Dr Richard Hall [@hallymk1,]
  2. 2. Act I: technology, alienation and neoliberal enclosure
  3. 3. The locus of alienation is no longer the isolated object,nor the distribution of products and tools, but “thepersonified conditions of production” as a whole. Inthese conditions, as we shall see, the worker isalienated(2)from the objects produced,(3)from the means of production (i.e. the tools andinstruments through which production is carried out),and(4)from the process of objectification itself, because heor she finds that his or her practical life activity stunts,abuses, and undermines itself. Wendling, A. E. 2009. Karl Marx on Technology and Alienation. London: Palgrave Macmillan, p. 17.
  4. 4. Alienation is the precise and correctly appliedword for describing the major social problemin Britain today… it is the cry of men who feelthemselves the victims of blind economicforces beyond their control. It’s the frustrationof ordinary people excluded from theprocesses of decision making.Trades Unionist Jimmy Reid, elected Rector of the University of Glasgow, in his Rectoral Address of 1972.
  5. 5. The work-ins of the 1970s: techniques and tools3.Labour discipline: wages; attacks on unionisation;productivity agreements; mergers.4.A move from strikes to occupations, especially inhighly organised industries/centres.5.UCS in occupation for months: labour controlsshipyards; sets an example; spatial co-ordination ofvarious groups.6.Issues: consensus vs co-option; labour’s controlof spaces; gender/ethnicity; reproduction of control;workers’ co-operatives set up.
  6. 6. Work-ins reflect/refract the edufactory collective’stechniques and tools for reinventing highereducation as higher learning: • general assemblies as democratic process; • militant research strategies; • research/teaching/labour in public.
  7. 7. The crisis is our university!A Manifesto of the Transnational Struggles Against the Financial (i.e.State-Private) UniversityThesis #5: The opposite of university cuts is not money to the existingacademic power, but claiming funds for autonomous education and theself-organization of knowledge production.Thesis #9: The opposite of the corporate university is not thestate/public university, but the common university. The Knowledge Liberation Front (2011).
  8. 8. [Technology] is a high level system thataffects the way humans interact with theworld. This means that one technology inmost cases can comprise numerousartefacts and be applied in many differentsituations. It needs to be associated with avision that embodies specific views ofhumans and their role in the world. Ikonen et al., 2010, pp. 3-4 []
  9. 9. • The University is enclosed inside a systemic, historical crisis of capitalism.• Capital is enclosing historically-developed, public/social value through commodification and coercion [TINA].• Within the University, educational technology is a critical site of struggle.
  10. 10. Under the Global Agreement on Trade inServices, all aspects of education and educationservices are subject to global trade. The result isthe global marketing of schooling from primaryschool through higher education.Schools, education management organizations,tutoring services, teacher training, tests, curriculaonline classes, and franchises of brandeduniversities are now part of a global educationmarket. (Lipman, P. 2009:
  11. 11. Education markets are one facet of the neoliberalstrategy to manage the structural crisis ofcapitalism by opening the public sector to capitalaccumulation. The roughly $2.5 trillion globalmarket in education is a rich new arena forcapital investment. (Lipman, P. 2009:
  12. 12. Technology is used to alienate and enclose academic labour inside hegemonic, fiscal “realities”.• Public-private partnerships: services; re-engineering; applications; outsourcing; consultancy.• Discourses of efficiency/productivity to be rooted: analytics; big data; reduced circulation time; changes in production; workload monitoring.• Legitimation of R&D: value-for-money; commercial efficiency; business process re-engineering (c.f. European Vision 2020; HEFCE 2012).• Moral depreciation and constant innovation/value-creation: Postone’s treadmill logic.
  13. 13. Act II: polyarchy andtechnology as kettle
  14. 14. Polyarchy• An elitist form of democracy manageable in a modern society.• Normalising what can be fought for in terms of organisation and governance.• Universal, transhistorical norms make it unacceptable to argue for other forms of value or organisation.• It is no longer possible to address the structural dominance of elites within capitalism, or the limited procedural definitions of democracy/participation/power. Alienation and political enclosure reinforced technologically.
  15. 15. The Shock Doctrine: ‘control by imposing economic shock therapy’.• structural re-adjustment: competition and coercion (internationalisation/distance learning)• a tightening/quickening of the dominant economically- driven, anti-humanist ideology (student-as-consumer; HE- as-commodity)• the transfer of state/public assets to the private sector (efficiency; consultancy; outsourced services)• the privatisation of state enterprises/elements in the name of consumer choice, economic efficiency or sustainability (state-subsidised privatisation)Klein, N. (2007). The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Metropolitan Books: New York
  16. 16. 1. Networks of power and affinity, that enable the re- production of ‘geographies of social relationships’.2. Networks form shifting assemblages of activity and relationships that reinforce hegemonic power.3. Transnational activist networks consisting of: i. academics and think tanks; ii. policy-makers and administrators; iii. finance capital and private equity funds; iv. media corporations and publishers; v. philanthropists/hedge-funds interested in corporate social responsibility etc.. aim to regulate the state for enterprise and the market. Ball, S. 2011. Global Education Inc. BUT c.f. Neary, 2012 and Davies, 2011, critique network governance.
  17. 17. HEFCE:
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  19. 19. JISC-Announce: what is legitimised?5 March 2012: The case studies are examples of howinstitutions working in an open way can enjoy cost savings, abetter student experience and make resources easier to find.1 March 2012: A new tool launched by Cardiff University’sinformation services directorate and JISC allows people toassess the popularity and use of e-resources so they continueto deliver value for money.24 Feb 2012: JISC online webinars help your organisationbecome more efficient and effective.3 Feb 2012: "This report provides further evidence about thevalue and impact of the resources and discovery systems whichUK academic libraries make available."
  20. 20. JISC-Announce: what is legitimised?4 April 2012: how smart use of technology can helpuniversities minimise the expense of outreach and reacha range of prospective students at very low cost.19 April 2012: Case studies on The Troubles: We areable to share our respective knowledge, skills andresources for the ‘common good’ of British creativity,ingenuity and economic growth.1 May 2012: increasing open access to research articleswill have direct financial and practical benefits for the UKas a whole, benefits that are especially valuable in a timeof austerity.
  21. 21. HEA, Strategic Plan 2012-16:
  22. 22. The Treasury position, on shared services:2.186 VAT: providers of education – TheGovernment will review the VAT exemption forproviders of education, in particular at universitydegree level, to ensure that commercialuniversities are treated fairly. (Finance Bill2013) HM Treasury (2012)
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  24. 24. The Treasury position, on technology and researcha new £100 million fund to supportinvestment in major new university researchfacilities, including through additionalprovisions. The fund will allocate its firstbids in 2012–13 and will attract additionalco-investment from the private sector HM Treasury (2012)
  25. 25. “Almost every field of employment now depends ontechnology. From radio, to television, computers and theinternet, each new technological advance has changed ourworld and changed us too.“But there is one notable exception. Education has barelychanged. Our school system has not prepared children forthis new world. Millions have left school over the pastdecade without even the basics they need for a decent job.“And the current curriculum cannot prepare British studentsto work at the very forefront of technological change.”Michael Gove at British Educational and Training Technology showcase:
  26. 26. Act III, Scene 1: militarisation “at the very forefront of technological change”
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  33. 33. See also:• hacking competitions, education departments and national security:;• the use by Universities of drones, with connections between U.S. military, academic research, defence contractors:;• public/private partnerships in the UK that focus upon wireless video surveillance:;• the deep connections between the military and research inside UK universities:; and• the disconnect between our activist promotion of technologies that are apparently transformative in the global North at the expense of their implication in war in the global South, like the Raspberry Pi: HUGTBC.
  34. 34. Act III, Scene 2: control “at the very forefront of technological change”
  35. 35. A re-focusing of technology-in-universities aroundservices that define student-as-consumer:3.selling student services, based on commodifying thestudent lifecycle; analytics;; and6.increased marketing beyond North America/WesternEurope. Do we critique, question, take issue with the broaderpolitics of our educational investment? Gartner, 2011, on Blackboard acquisition:
  36. 36. See also the uncritical implementation of the following.• Mobile learning [in spite of human/labour rights abuses];• Direct university/industry partnerships:• Implementing communications solutions like MS Lync that enable surveillance/enclosure:• The coming fetishisation of learning analytics and data- mining:
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  38. 38. Advertizing and online profiling practices are the opiate ofthe masses in the age of digitally-networked corporate-militarism (the present stage of capitalism)... a massmediated Opium War (and often literal war) distracts themasses from awareness that we have already long sincearrived at the techno-scientific level to provide securityand equity and hence universal emancipation for all,distracting us endlessly instead into internecine strugglesover pseudo-needs and pseudo-strivings that leave theobsolete bloodsoaked hierarchies enjoyed by eliteincumbents in place, and so seduces us into ongoingcollaboration with the terms of our own exploitation. Carrico, D. 2012. The Unbearable Stasis of "Accelerating Change“.
  39. 39. Act IV: against coercionHow might knowledge about academic labour be connected to efforts to humanise knowledge production and learning within and beyond the university?
  40. 40. On technologies for occupation or work-ins Occupation/work-ins are painted as extremism Yet there is a raft of them Many with educational or outreach agendas That give voice through communiques And there are radical educational alternatives as works in progressAnd worker/student movements in social centres and beyond And in knowledge liberation and hacking the social factory
  41. 41. It took both time and experience before the workpeoplelearned to distinguish between machinery and itsemployment by capital and to direct their attacks, notagainst the material instruments of production, butagainst the mode in which they are used. Marx, K. 2004. Capital Volume 1, p. 554.Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing withNature, the process of production by which he sustainshis life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formationof his social relations, and of the mental conceptions thatflow from them. Marx, K. 2004. Capital Volume 1, p. 493.
  42. 42. “only in association with others has each individualthe means of cultivating his talents in all directions.Only in a community therefore is personal freedompossible... In a genuine community individuals gaintheir freedom in and through their association”Bottomore, T.B., and M. Rubel, M. 1974. Karl Marx: Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy. London: Penguin.
  43. 43. for a critique of the consumption andproduction of technology;for processes of dissent, occupation,protest and refusal, and pushing back;for the courage we share in re-imaginingand re-producing something different;for the abolition of alienated labour.
  44. 44. “At the heart of it all is a new sociologicaltype: the graduate with no future”. Mason, P. 2011. 20 reasons why it is kicking off everywhere:
  45. 45. Educational technology and the war on public education is licensed underaCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.