Hacking in the University: Contesting the Valorisation of Academic Labour

In this article I argue for a different way of understanding the emergence of hacker culture. In doing so, I outline an account of ‘the university’ as an institution that provided the material and subsequent intellectual conditions that early hackers were drawn to and in which they worked. I argue that hacking was originally a form of academic labour that emerged out of the intensification and valorisation of scientific research within the institutional context of the university. The reproduction of hacking as a form of academic labour took place over many decades as academics and their institutions shifted from an ideal of unproductive, communal science to a more productive, entrepreneurial approach to the production of knowledge.  As such, I view hacking as a peculiar, historically situated form of labour that arose out of the contradictions of the academy: vocation vs. profession; teaching vs. research; basic vs. applied research; research vs. development; private vs. public; war vs. peace; institutional autonomy vs. state dependence; scientific communalism vs. intellectual property.

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Open education. Common(s), commonism and the new common wealth

With Mike Neary

Open Education, and specifically the Open Education Resources movement, seeks to provide universal access to knowledge, undermining the historical enclosure and increasing privatisation of the public education system. An important aspect of this movement is a reinvigoration of the concept of ‘the commons’. The paper examines this aspiration by submitting the implicit theoretical assumptions of Open Education and the underlying notion of ‘the commons’ to the test of critical political economy. The paper acknowledges the radical possibility of the idea of ‘the commons’, but argues that its radical potentiality can be undermined by a preoccupation with ‘the freedom of things rather than with the freedom of labour’. The paper presents an interpretation of ‘the commons’ based on the concept of ‘living knowledge’ and ‘autonomous institutionality’ (Roggero, 2011), and offers the Social Science Centre in the UK, as an example of an ‘institution of the common’. The paper concludes by arguing the most radical revision of the concept of ‘the common’ involves a fundamental reappraisal of what constitutes social or common wealth.

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Questioning Technology in the Development of a Resilient Higher Education

With Richard Hall

This article considers the impact that peak oil and climate change may have on the future of higher education. In particular, it questions the role of technology in supporting the provision of a higher education which is resilient to a scenario both of energy depletion and the need to adapt to the effects of global warming. One emerging area of interest from this future scenario might be the role of technology in addressing more complex learning futures, and more especially in facilitating individual and social resilience, or the ability to manage and overcome disruption. However, the extent to which higher education practitioners can utilise technology to this end is framed by their approaches to the curriculum, and the sociocultural practices within which they are located. The authors discuss how open education might enable learners to engage with uncertainty through social action within a form of higher education that is more resilient to economic, environmental and energy-related disruptions. It asks whether more open higher education can be (re)claimed by users and communities within specific contexts and curricula, in order to engage with an increasingly uncertain world.

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