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I thoroughly agree with this comment from Francois Ewald in an interview on November 3rd in Los Angeles Review of books

I have the feeling that we are living through a much more radical transformation at the moment than in May 1968 or even after the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall. For 70 years we have commented and critiqued the order established after World War II. But this page is about to be turned, and a new world is opening up that we don’t yet understand. We are confronted with the social question anew. The question of responsibility will be negotiated once more, and in a way that will be as important as the transformation that I described in L’état providence.

At present. one has a sense of living through a period of ambient chaos and experimentation as people try to sort this out – experiments with a new ‘sharing economy’ (uber, air bnb), experiments with new forms of hyper surveillance, and a return to authoritarian managerialism and sovereign rule in many workplaces in the Western world. All of these with new globalised technological affordances which make the enforcement of these practices much more ruthlessly effective. To add to this, experimentation with new political forms – the so-called post-truth society of Trump and Brexit, the painful death pangs of the idea of the university and the counter-conducts of Wikileaks and others.

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The Least Important Things: Dr Who At Fifty, An Essay By Taylor Parkes on The Quietus in November 21st, 2013

A really excellent article about Doctor Who and its history which I thoroughly agree with. I have cited a few of Taylor’s observations that I find particularly salient and added my own rants in to the mix. I will begin with a couple of statements that sum up my own strongest beefs with New Who.

The’old Doctor Who is inextricably tied, like generosity and human decency, a sense of endless possibility. […]

‘Unlike most mass-market sci-fi, old Doctor Who would rarely resort to soppiness or sanctimony; there was no need. But it was righteous all right. Just below the surface you’ll find pretty much everything that’s good about humanity, everything worth preserving from the latter half of the 20th century, with its half-forgotten ideas about equality and compassion. This is a programme about tolerance, morality, humanism and nonconformism, about the balance between responsibility and individualism… a programme about escape. It’s a celebration of the outsider, the trickster; a jibe at authoritarianism, militarism, patriotism and the cult of violence (all those sci-fi heroes with their ray-guns and their military titles, all those superheroes thumping people – Tom Baker used to call them “boneheads”).’

Further to this, Parkes comments on the well-worn and tedious complaints from people about how bad the old special effects were. This shows an irritating lack of imagination on their part, in my not so humble opinion. You’re not meant to believe the dodgy special effects are real. You go along for the ride with the story and use your imagination.

Here’s a fact too often forgotten: you were never actually meant to look at a washing-up liquid bottle sprayed silver and confuse it with a real spaceship. Rather, you were meant to understand that this was a representation of a spaceship, to tell you that the following scene was going to be set on a spaceship. It’s probably impossible to get back to that way of thinking now, and if you ask me that’s a bit of a shame. If someone flips you a 50 pence piece and says “there’s your visual effects budget, mate” you’d better make sure that your story is good. If, on the other hand, CGI has dropped in price to the point where you can remake Jurassic Park on your mobile, there’s suddenly a strong temptation to slack, to think “sod it” and just make ‘Dinosaurs On A Spaceship’.

Another effect access to cheap CGI effects has – which I think is also a problem with the whole superhero genre – is that it is simply too easy to create alternative worlds and new realities. One thing I really liked about the old Doctor Who was that so many invasions and other events happened on earth that only a very small coterie knew about, while the rest of the everyday world went about its business.

I am particularly keen on the whole notion of there being secret worlds within the everyday, existing quietly alongside our ordinary. It is a world of secret possibilities always offering the prospect of a creative extension of our currently perceived reality. There is always the chance that things are happening around you that you just had not imagined were there. It provides a form of hope that there are limits to and exteriors which escape the soulless and burnt out world of neoliberal servitude governed by the necessity of earning one’s keep in a brutally regulated and conformist environment, policed by a ‘community of fear’ as Jacques Ranciere describes it.

Parkes also comments on the music.

The battle scene at the end of episode four, in which men dressed as giant wasps swing back and forth on Kirby wires past two-dimensional scenery and a badly-painted backcloth may look like one of Ed Wood’s fever dreams, but soundtracked with electronic bleeps and the music of Les Structures Sonores, it is at least very intense television.

That unearthly electronic music, which prised open so many millions of minds, instead of this tacky orchestral gloop; it’s striking, too, how much silence there was in old Doctor Who, something that’s now entirely forbidden, which is why, however hard it tries, New Who can never be tense.

This alludes to another major issue I have with new Who. Gone is the experimental electronica of the old series and we are left with the frenetically intrusive orchestral music of Murray Gold, which combined with the rapidly edited visuals and constant over emoting without ever taking the time out for a thoughtful conversation makes for exhausting and tedious watching.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable article and a pleasure to see that there are others out there who feel the same frustrations with the current offerings, whilst at the same time recognising that the old series wasn’t high art and was by no by means without its (sometimes major) flaws.

Louise Katz, Feeding Greedy Corpses: the rhetorical power of Corpspeak and Zombilingo in higher education, and suggested countermagics to foil the intentions of the living dead, Borderlands, 15 (1), 2016

Full PDF available

Some very interesting ideas in this article.

According to Richard Kearney, the imagination also owns an ethical role: it is through everyday imaginative projections that we create a ‘liveable world’ (2008 pp. 36-37). Kearney cites Patocka’s claim that ‘the ethical imagination … is a matter of spiritual struggle which refuses the tyranny of things as they are out of commitment to the Idea that things can be other than they are’ (2008 p. 42). Imagination is an essential and formidable force to deploy when challenging the fantasies upon which world-shaping social, economic or political ideologies are constructed. (p. 17)

Yancey Orr, Raymond Orr, The Death of Socrates Managerialism, metrics and bureaucratisation in universities, Australian Universities Review, vol. 58, no. 2 September 2016

Neoliberalism exults the ability of unregulated markets to optimise human relations. Yet, as David Graeber has recently illustrated, it is paradoxically built on rigorous systems of rules, metrics and managers. The potential transition to a market-based tuition and researchfunding model for higher education in Australia has, not surprisingly, been preceded by managerialism, metrics and bureaucratisation (rendered hereafter as ‘MMB’) in the internal functioning of universities in the last decade. This article explores the effects of MMB on the lives of academics, the education of students, and the culture and functioning of universities. By examining some of the labour activities of academics, work scheduling and time use, we demonstrate that MMB reduces the efficiency and quality of academic teaching, research and administration. Even more worrying, by qualitatively assessing the language, values and logic increasingly present in the academic culture of higher education in Australia, we show that MMB does not simply fail to improve universities or accurately assess academic achievement, it replaces the core values of education with hollow bureaucratic instrumentalism.

Keywords: bureaucratisation, managerialism, metrics, transvaluation of values

Alison Mountz et al. For Slow Scholarship: A Feminist Politics of Resistance through Collective Action in the Neoliberal University, ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 2015, 14(4), 1235 – 1259

Abstract
The neoliberal university requires high productivity in compressed time frames. Though the neoliberal transformation of the university is well documented, the isolating effects and embodied work conditions of such increasing demands are too rarely discussed. In this article, we develop a feminist ethics of care that challenges these working conditions. Our politics foreground collective action and the contention that good scholarship requires time to think, write, read, research, analyze, edit, organize, and resist the growing administrative and professional demands that disrupt these crucial processes of intellectual growth and personal freedom. This collectively written article explores alternatives to the fast-paced, metric-oriented neoliberal university through a slow-moving conversation on ways to slow down and claim time for slow scholarship and collective action informed by feminist politics. We examine temporal regimes of the neoliberal university and their embodied effects. We then consider strategies for slowing scholarship with the objective of contributing to the slow scholarship movement. This slowing down represents both a commitment to good scholarship, teaching, and service and a collective feminist ethics of care that challenges the accelerated time and elitism of the neoliberal university. Above all, we argue in favor of the slow scholarship movement and contribute some resistance strategies that foreground collaborative, collective, communal ways forward.

Keywords: slow scholarship, neoliberal university, resistance, collective action,
feminism

Academic Irregularities

Corporate culture has no place in academia says Olof Hallonsten in his report for Nature on the medical scandal at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. This involved allegations of fraud against Paolo Macchiarini which may have resulted in patient deaths  .

It appears that university leaders chose to overturn established procedures and overlook external evaluations of Professor Macchiarini’s work, preferring to prioritise reputation and avoidance of scandal. As Hallonsten points out, this sort of behaviour by senior managers of universities, although tiresomely familiar, conflicts strongly with academic values of peer review and close scrutiny of claims which are designed to protect those hard-won personal and institutional reputations for research integrity. Unfortunately, too many university managers have confused university reputation with accumulated capital, not with solid scholarship and ethics.

The episode at Karolinska has led the president of the Supreme Administrative Court in Sweden to conclude that: “There is now an…

View original post 776 more words

A number of interesting articles on current conditions in the university have been published. To keep a record of these and to disseminate them to others I will be posting the titles and abstracts on this blog.

Academic freedom is currently under threat – not just in the countries one would expect it to be but also in the so-called ‘free Western world’. The threats don’t come from traditional repressive political ideologies but are generated in the name of efficiency and cost savings and utilitarian ideas of direct university industry links and ‘impact’.

I post anything that has Foucault content on my Foucault News blog, but will post items without Foucault content on this blog.

Ann Martin-Sardesai, Helen Irvine, Stuart Tooley & James Guthrie, Government research evaluations and academic freedom: a UK and Australian comparison, Higher Education Research & Development, 2016

http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07294360.2016.1208156

ABSTRACT
Performance management systems have been an inevitable consequence of the development of government research evaluations (GREs) of university research, and have also inevitably affected the working life of academics. The aim of this paper is to track the development of GREs over the past 25 years, by critically evaluating their adoption in the UK and Australian higher education sector and their contribution to the commodification of academic labour, and to highlight the resultant tensions between GREs and academic freedom. The paper employs a literature-based analysis, relying on publicly available policy documents and academic studies over the period 1985–2010. GREs are a global phenomenon emanating from new public management reforms and while assessments of university research have been welcomed, they have attracted critique based on their design, the manner in which they have been applied, and the unintended consequences of their implementation on academic freedom in particular. Consistent with international research on the impact of GREs, Australian research assessments appear to be undoing the academic freedom that is central to successful research. Further empirical research on the impact of GREs on academics is urgently needed.

KEYWORDS: Academic freedom, academics, Australian higher education sector, excellence in research for Australia, government research evaluation, research excellence framework,