The moment that is ‘the coronavirus’ distends as slow disasters do. We ‘non-essential workers’ wait and weigh the space between us. As we do our best to fill our bubbles with meals, news updates, Zooms, walks, and worries, invisibilities coalesce in the corners of our eyes:
A virus that leaps from bats to pangolins to people—from mouths to hands to faces
A ‘market’ that delivers some their food and others their ventilators
‘Essential workers’ (who keep us non-essentials alive)
‘Social distance’ and ‘self-isolation’
‘The new normal.’
The ‘new normal’ we see is the Prime Minister addressing us daily from the TV, messages proclaiming ‘This is a Covid-19 announcement…‚’ police crawling by, people queuing for supplies (though we have pinot and pesto, there is no toilet paper or flour). It is polite penury. But because the sun is out and we can get about, things do not seem too bad. We are dreaming the futureless now of the overdeveloped world. […]
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The practice of taking hand-written notes in lectures has been rediscovered recently because of several studies on its learning efficacy in the mainstream media. Students are enjoined to ditch their laptops and return to pen and paper. Such arguments presuppose that notes are taken in order to be revisited after the lecture. Learning is seen to happen only after the event. We argue instead that student’s note-taking is an educational practice worthy in itself as a way to relate to the live event of the lecture. We adopt a phenomenological approach inspired by Vilem Flusser’s phenomenology of gestures, which assumes that a gesture like note-taking is always an event of thinking with media in which a certain freedom is expressed. But Flusser’s description of note- taking focusses on the individual note-taker. What about students’ note- taking in a lecture hall as a collective gesture? Nietzsche considered note-taking ‘mechanical,’ as if students were automatons who mind- lessly transcribed a verbal flow, while Benjamin considered it an inaes- thetic gesture: at best, boring; at worst, ‘painful to watch.’ In contrast, we argue that the educational potentiality of note-taking—or better, note-making—can be grasped only if we account for its mediaticity (as writing that displaces the voice), together with but distinct from its pol- itical potentiality as a collective mediality (as a ‘means without end’). Note-taking enables us to see how collective thinking emerges in the lecture, a kind of thinking that belongs neither to the lecturer nor the student, but emerges in the relation of attention established between the lecturer, students and their object of thought.
PhEmaterialist thinking and practices can help us grapple with growing educational complexities, enabling strategies to resist and create alternatives to the patterns of injustice occurring across the world, from burgeoning ethno-nationalist and neo-fascist political movements, to rising global poverty levels, to massive population displacements, to environmental degradation, to toxic internet movements grounded in misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia (Strom & Martin, 2017a).
Even when they are dangerous / examine the heart of those machines you hate / before you discard them —Audre Lorde
Within the colonizing university also exists a decolonizing education.Occupying the same space and time are the colonizer’s territories and institutions and colonized time, but also Indigenous land and life before and beyond occupation.Colonial schools are machines running on desires for a colonizer’s future and, paradoxically, desires for Indigenous futures. In this respect, paraphrasing the words of Linda Tuhiwai-Smith, the present of schoolis permeable to the time now (colonization), the time before that (precolonial), and the time beyond of all of that (decolonial). Regardless of its colonial structure, becauseschool is an assemblage of machines and not a monolithic institution, its machinery is always being subverted toward decolonizing purposes.The bits of machinery that make up a decolonizing university are driven by decolonial desires, with decolonizing dreamers who are subversively part of the machinery and part machine themselves. These subversive beings wreck, scavenge, retool, and reassemble the colonizing university into decolonizing contraptions. They are scyborgs with a decolonizing desire. You might choose to be one of them.
Hoo-ee, this is one fistful of revolution you are holding in your hand right now. This is a live transmission from the wrecking crew. They are dynamiting the campus accumulation machine and sharing the video. They’re publishing inflammatory infographics and launching manifestos from the occupation. This is the full cookbook. Don’t read it. Unless you can handle the truth.
A bunch of us wrote something for ephemera on a game we used to help players understand the university game (link):
Academics, students and other workers in the university are expected to play the ‘university game’ – which includes the playful work of protest and published critique. If there is already engagement with play-as-critique in the NLU, here we aim to explore play-as-agency. Play-as-agency relies on making room for a certain play, or ‘give’, in academic and administrative processes in the NLU, in order to reveal what the university might otherwise be. This play allows for both the collective re-imagination and reconstruction of the rules of the university and ‘playful’ participation in university gatherings (meetings; courses and classes; orientation and training sessions, and so on). In particular, we ask about the value of games in the university, what games can tell us about the values of the university, and how the rules of the university game might be changed by playing it differently.
A new article by Stephen and me in Educational Philosophy and Theory:
The university today finds itself in a global state of emergency, at once financial, military and ecological. Teaching must assume this emergency as premise and responsibility: it must consider the grounds of the classroom, both figurative and literal, and generate emergent lines of inquiry that address the pressing global and local situation. For us, that means that teaching must take the university’s grounds of supposedly universal knowledge to be constitutively unstable and to require a reflexive teaching method that puts in question disciplinary fields and discursive modalities of knowledge. And it must take in the physical grounds of the university too—because local space is increasingly articulated by technocapital interests that are fully implicated in this global state of emergency. Thus, we do not seek stability amidst such turbulence, but rather a seismotic overturning of the grounds of the university or, rather, a returning to its ground, through the deepened sense of purpose and place that ‘teaching the emergency’ provides.
An article by Niki Harré, Barbara M Grant, Kirsten Locke and myself on academic activism in the Australian Universities’ Review (September 2017):
We offer here a metaphor of the university as an ‘infinite game’ in which we bring to life insight, imagination, and radical inclusion; and resist the ‘finite games’ that can lead us astray. We suggest that keeping the infinite game alive within universities is a much-needed form of academic activism. We offer four vignettes that explore this further: our responsibility to be ‘critic and conscience of society’ and how that responsibility must also turn inwards onto our own institution, the dilemmas of being a woman with leadership responsibilities in an institution that proudly shows off its ‘top girls’, the opportunities we have as teachers to ‘teach the university’ and be taught by our students, and the contradictions we face as activist scholars in our relentlessly audited research personas. We draw on the infinite/finite game metaphor, our own affective experiences as tenured academics, and feminist critiques.
Writing in the academy is almost always about making a claim, or ‘case’, based on evidence, as one does in court: its rhetoric is forensic (L. forensis ‘in open court, public’, from forum), in Aristotle’s sense. Just as forensic rhetoric takes as a given the laws of the polis and is directed at persuading a judge (Aristotle 1991: 80-82), academic writing assumes a set of rules (one must be sincere, demonstrate one’s argument using evidence, and obey a certain decorum) and is written to persuade an assessor, namely a teacher or peer. And, since the Harvard ‘forensic system’ of essay writing in the late 1870s (Russell 2002: 51-63), it has often been taught in the language of forensic rhetoric: in particular, the apocryphal ‘rhetorical triangle’ of persuasion by ethos, logos and pathos (Booth 1963; Kinneavy 1971) and the informal logic of the enthymeme (Toulmin 1958). At its best, academic writing provides a forum to animate and air ideas. As such, it is amenable to what Eyal Weizman calls forensis: ‘a critical practice’ that ‘interrogate[s] the relation between … fields and forums’ (Weizman 2014: 9; compare Braidotti 2013 on the ‘forensic turn’). For Weizman, a field is a ‘contested object or site [of investigation]’ and a forum is ‘the place where the results of an investigation are presented and contested’ (Ibid.). Where forensics allows objects like bodies, weapons and scenes to ‘speak’, forensis can give voice to sites like academic architecture (Sturm and Turner 2011), forms (McLean and Hoskin 1998) or even essays. Here I explore the academic essay as a forensic site, ‘an entry-point from which to reconstruct larger processes, events and social relations, conjunctions of actors and practices, structures and technologies’ of the academy (Weizman 2014: 18-19). The academic essay is at once a report on research, an argument, a fractal structure, a means of assessment and, as this essay will argue, an exemplar of and exercise in performativity (Sturm 2012).
E-learning is not just a learning and teaching innovation; it also signals a shift in human cognition and communication. The lexicon of e-learning borrows from the barren lexicon of information science: of users, usage and usability, or of information-seeking and affordances. Deep e-learning requires a more fecund idiom, a new myth: of the digital agora, an e-learning ‘trading zone’. Here we reflect on the process of shaping an electronic version of our generic doctoral skills sessions, during which it occurred to us that, to match the benefits of interactivity in face-to-face teaching and learning and to be transformative of academic subjectivity, e-learning must be truly performative, rather than merely informative; e-learners (and e-teachers too) must enact the skills they hope to learn (or teach).