21st Century Learning (via Jajuna)

Via Jajuna.

The video seems to be a testament to the notion that if you just put a few sappy piano chords behind images of sad faced children you can pretty much rally people to any cause no matter the content. Here we have the now standard cliche that children must be prepared to become “global 21st century learners”. This goal is somewhat nebulous. However, the overarching meaning circulates around a variety of other cliches that almost all have their basis in workforce discipline. Why must students become global 21st century learners? The answer, no matter how it is dressed up in nice sounding jargon about connectivity or creativity, always seems to come back to economic competition. Education is thus reduced to a chess piece in a global labor war between American kids and India and China. Who are the internal villains in this war? The teachers. How do we win? Through technology, of course. Our educational dilemmas can be solved if we just get those anachronistic teachers and their professional knowledge and stupid books out of the way and “empower” kids to push around text and video on their Ipods. Then we can then give them a test and if they get most of the answers “right” then we will know that they have done something that we can call learning.

Read the rest.

Ambitious – Pirate Party to the Sky!

In a move that roughly parallels global capitalism’s quest for domain over the heavens since the late 1950s, Pirate Parties are now suggesting taking to the sky via balloon or satellite as a means of ensuring access to culture without the hindrances of territorial law. Basically a hi-tech, sci-fi redux of the British pirate radio pioneers of the 1960s. Here, here, here, and here.

Capital is driven to expand as it seeks ever more opportunities to intensify surplus value. In the last 200 years we have seen it expand from regional mercantilism, through colonialism, the expansion of the factory, and recently into globalised trade and manufacturing. It also took to the sky in the late 1950s as the “space race” was cast in terms of the cold war between “free” markets and state socialism. In a palpable sense, it was surmised that whoever got into space first would thus prove the superiority of their economic system. The Soviets got there first, followed soon after by the Americans. It is of no small significance that the purpose to which space was put was principally that of communication. And for years we have taken for granted that a) space is no longer contested, reinforced by international scientific cooperation aboard MIR and the ISS and (b) that it is there solely to be put to use by the ever expanding needs of capital, reinforced by the now current fascination with private citizens funding their own space exploration, by renewed dreams of space tourism, and tellingly by continued threats to the public funding of NASA.

It is within this scenario that those who are concerned with cultural freedom and intensified legal restrictions on the reuse of cultural work are now speculating on the use of space for goals that resist those of capital, at least at the level of IP. I think it’s also of some significance that resistance to intellectual property law – to be sure a law of the abstract and ethereal – is in this case literally taken to the ether. It’s also suggestive of the long history of space as the domain of the imagination, “out there” where anything is possible. Space is the place of dreams. In this way, it is refreshing to see discussion that takes place in the realm of speculation and the imagination rather than in the often dry and procedural arena of copyright law and international trade negotiations.

Park Forest Police are the RIAA’s Repressive State Apparatus

Louis Althusser wrote “The State Apparatus, which defines the State as a force of repressive execution and intervention ‘in the interests of the ruling classes’ in the class struggle conducted by the bourgeoisie and its allies against the proletariat, is quite certainly the State, and quite certainly defines its basic ‘function’.”  The “Repressive State Apparatus” was made up of organisations and institutions that “function by violence-at least ultimately (since repression, e.g. administrative repression, may take non-physical forms),” such as the police, the army, courts, etc.  According to Althusser, their non-violent corollary is to be found in the “Ideological State Apparatus”, those “realities which present themselves to the immediate observer in the form of distinct and specialized institutions”, that is, the educational system, the media, legal systems, religious systems, etc.; in other words, the means through which we are taught and come to identify with the dominant ideology.

Has there been a clearer articulation of the work of repressive and ideological state apparatuses in relation to contemporary concerns over media piracy than what recently happened in the Chicago suburb of Park Forest, IL?  On August 30 “Police arrested another alleged CD/DVD pirate last week during a traffic stop.”  In the inventory search of the car, officers found CDs and DVDs with handwritten labels, which prompted them to contact the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).  The RIAA is among the many media industry lobby groups responsible for spreading the notion that sharing media is not only illegal, but downright immoral.  The charges against the driver, who was pulled over for speeding, now include two that are related to copyright infringement thanks to a further search of his house.

So, the ideological work of the RIAA in creating a public “awareness” of piracy as evil has certainly done its work on the cops in Park Forest who, upon seeing the handwritten labels “naturally” noted this as a criminal activity and sought counsel from the very group who in part help construct their understanding of the phenomenon in the first place.  Torrentfreak notes that “They might be searching iPods next.”  The success of the RIAA’s propaganda also seemed to work on the man who was arrested in as much as his first reaction was to deny that the infringing materials were his, offering instead that they belonged to “a friend.” (Who, upon questioning, also denied knowledge of the materials – some friend.)

It makes us question who is really calling the shots here. The police are clearly, in this case, representing the interests of a coprorate music industry, and are not working in the interests of the citizenry, who have demonstrated time and again the desire to share and copy music.  Especially given the recent criminal charges brought agains Alan Ellis, the former OiNK admin, and the four OiNK uploaders in the UK, perhaps we also need to ask: Do we need another force to keep the public safe from the long arm of the corporate media industry?

Perhaps this could have the unintended effect of making all “pirates” drive slower, while allowing those dutiful citizens who have purchased their music legitmately to drive as fast as they want!

Full stories at Torrentfreak and at the Park Forest “enews” site.  It also appears that the Park Forest police do this thing fairly often.

Read Louis Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses.”


I wonder, could this be the future of essay abstracts?

My thesis proposal, expressed as a word cloud.

Created at wordle.net

Teh Broken Interwebs

My web host decided to upgrade their servers without telling anyone first and as a result I was without my primary email account for the last five days. Honestly, I had to start rerouting to people to my (gasp!) gmail account, an account that I was trying to hold in secret until the end of the world when the only things left are google services and everyone has been googlefied.  I never thought that I would be so agitated at having to go without my main email, I guess it just shows what an integral part of my daily communicative actions email has become.  To top it all off, there were some troubles with the class website for the class I am teaching this summer.  The Interwebs are conspiring against me.

In other news, I am once again back in Halifax teaching the history of popular music course “The Rock’n’Roll Era and Beyond”.  The first week of classes is almost over and, as I expected, it has already been so much fun.  I just get a huge kick out of teaching.  It also helps that I have the privelege of teaching this particular course, I have been living with this music all my life, the only real difference is I get to talk about it at length with an interested group of students (and get paid for it!).

Today was one of those amazing Halifax days where one wakes up in a literal fog.  I couldn’t see three feet out of my window, such was the thickness of the fog over the penninsula.  And then, as suddenly as it had come late last night, the fog disappeared and I could see straight out of window across to Dartmouth.

Some links to lift the fog off the web a little:

  • Claire works for cookthink now, and also has a good article up on blogcritics.
  • danah boyd keeps putting out amazing stuff on social networking.
  • It appears that Condoleeza Rice was, not surprisingly, involved in some pretty shady dealings with Chevron and Iraq.
  • Tony Blair is stepping down, Gordon Brown likely to repalce him.  I don’t know what to think – Bush’s lap-dog is gone, which is good, but Gordon Brown is a pretty scary character too, responsible for many of the “administrative” (er…surveillance) aspects of contemporary British daily life. I also hate the whole “Prime-minister in waiting” bullshit. What does it say about democracy when we start assuming who will lead a country, and when the mainstream media simply fuels the “inevitability” by focussing on this one potential leader?