Presentations about the assault on public education

I’m presenting two linked papers on higher education/the assault on public education in the UK.  I’ll blog what I plan to say here, and link to my slideshare.

The first presentation is at Brighton’s Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics, at their conference, ‘The Problem of “Dirty Hands” in UK Universities‘.

Title: Educational technology and the war on public education

Abstract: This paper will discuss the ways in which educational technologies reflect and amplify the commodification of the University as a set of spaces and practices, and how technological determinism and narratives of technology-as-progress reinforce academic complicity in the processes of marketisation and enclosure of higher education. Such complicity is determined by the uncritical manner in which educational technology is procured and deployed inside Universities, and the ways in which that deployment further commodifies our educational experiences.

Thus, state-subsidised capitalism, revealed through the engagement of private technology providers, outsourced solutions, the enclosure of the web through locked-down technologies, and consultancy in educational technology, will be related to critiques of the neoliberal assault on the idea of the University. In uncovering this relationship, the power that academics have in defining how they can operate in the University, and the place of technology in that struggle, is important. Thus, in suggesting strategies for academic agency or activism, the paper will highlight how using open technologies in public might help to re-inscribe a different set of possibilities upon the University.

This might be viewed as a crack in the Coalition’s assault on education as a public good. At issue is whether students and teachers are able to recapture educational technologies in order to dissolve the symbolic power of the University into the actual, existing reality of protest and to develop alternatives. This might be seen as an attempt by capital to enter, control and enclose what has previously been seen as open source or as the terrain previously set-out and negotiated by hacktivists. However, it does open up a space for academic activists working with programmers and educationalists to challenge the dominant logic of how we construct and re-produce our educational worlds as commonly-defined, social goods, against state-subsidised capitalism and proletarianised work. We might then consider how to re-engage our actions and the technologies we deploy asymmetrically; to refuse and push-back against marketisation, to realise the possibilities of the hacker ethic, and to use technology to describe more social forms of value.

The second is at the Discourse, Power and Resistance: Impact conference, at the University of Plymouth. I will base my talk on this slideshare presentation.

Title: In, Against and Beyond the Neoliberal University

Abstract: This paper will briefly discuss the political possibilities for academic activism in the face of the shock doctrine, or neoliberal responses to socio-economic and environmental disruption, in the UK. The paper will argue that academic activism and occupation offer sanctuaries in which critiques of the idea of higher education can develop. It will be argued that they offer possibilities for academics and students, contributing as scholars to a shared process, to be against the foreclosure of the idea of higher education by the twin pedagogies of debt and the kettle. This process offers spaces in which such scholars can re-conceptualise and negate the alienation of their labour as capitalist work inside the academy. In the face of global disruptions in social access to both historic capitals and liquid energy resources, a radical critique of capitalist social relations inside the University holds the possibility of moving beyond this neoliberal foreclosure, towards revolutionary transformation enabled through processes of self-creation and praxis. It is intended that this brief paper will take 15 minutes and offer 20 minutes for discussion of possibilities for scholars to stand inside the neoliberal University, to be against its enclosure of the possibilities for higher learning, and to move beyond its foreclosure of resilient futures.


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