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<nettime> edu-factory 2.0
clod esc on Fri, 7 Dec 2007 15:14:53 +0100 (CET)


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<nettime> edu-factory 2.0


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edu-factory 2.0


Prospectus for Second Round of edu-factory discussion

25 Nov 2007 - 28 Feb 2008

The first round of discussion on the edu-factory list showed that, despite
the many differences between universities and countries, it is possible to
identify a global trend and common experiences in the world of the
university. These stem from the pervasiveness of the market and the
processes of corporatisation that universities in many parts of the world
are undergoing. But they also involve the struggles and movements that have
contested academic borders as well as wider power structures, claiming the
free circulation of knowledge and practicing alternative forms of knowledge
production.

The emergence of the university as an important actor in the global economy
is thus marked by a constitutive tension. In this conflictual field, it is
easy to fall back on a nostalgic attitude that longs for the reconstruction
of the ivory towers that were once the privileged seats of national
cultures. It is also possible, however, to interrogate the processes of
production of subjectivity in the new 'knowledge factories' with neither
nostalgia nor apologies for the present. Needless to say, edu-factory has
taken this second path.

The first round of discussion focused on the processes of corporatisation,
the transnational dimension of the contemporary university, and forms of
resistance and conflict in the production of knowledge. On this basis, we
propose to focus the next three months of discussion on two new axes of
discussion.

The first is the question of hierarchy. Today the university is one of many
actors ? private and public, formal and informal ? within a complex and
rapidly changing market for knowledge and education. Academic institutions
have begun to think of themselves as competitors against others in this
market. In many countries, universities are positioned in league tables,
constructed through ever more calibrated ways of quantifying performance and
the quality of knowledge. Not only this, but individual offices and
departments within institutions are also compelled to compete, vying for
students or research funds, and, in some cases, contracting services such as
teaching space or information technology expertise to each other.
Furthermore, academics, students and other university workers come to see
themselves as entrepreneurial subjects, engaged in race to excel or just
survive and often adopting a corporate attitude that makes them insensitive
to how the changes in their workplaces relate to those in the wider economy.

Today the value-form of knowledge is related not so much to its quality but
to the ways in which it positions those who produce or acquire it in the
labour market. This is why, in the next round of discussion, we propose to
focus on the struggles surrounding access to the university. Today, these
struggles involve those filters and gate keeping functions that actualise
the processes of hierarchisation and control the mobility of students
insofar as they are the bearers of labour power. These filters and gate
keeping functions range from quasi-feudal systems of patronage (still
embodied in conventions such as the letter of recommendation) to
standardized tests like the GRE (based on cognitivist assumptions about
reasoning and analytical skills that do not apply equally to all social
groups). To this we must add the filtering of students by regular systems of
grading, streaming and school assignment as well as the control of
international student mobility through foreign language tests and complex
systems of border policing. These technologies of hierarchisation operate
across the global spectrum of education, establishing the line that
separates literacy from illiteracy as well as those that divide unskilled
from semi-skilled and skilled labour. Undoubtedly these processes of
hierarchisation intersect with lines of race, class and gender. But entry to
the university no longer occurs through the classical dialectic of
inclusion-exclusion, but rather through devices of differential inclusion.
As it transforms itself into a hub for the accumulation of human and social
capital, attracting brains within the global competition for talent, the
university becomes one of many nodes for the regulation, control and
disqualification of labour power.
There is also a disciplinary division of labour in the university, which, on
the one hand, embodies the classic conflict of the faculties, but, on the
other, produces transdisciplinary sites where the hierarchisation of labour
takes on new complexities. One of the grounds of this division is language,
which, whether enforced as language of instruction or mandated as language
of publication, oscillates between serving as the sacred vessel of a unique
culture and as a mere tool of communication in a networked economy
increasingly driven by linguistic relations. What is exploitation today?
What are the new paradigms for the command of labour power? To respond to
these questions it is necessary to approach the contemporary division and
hierarchisation of labour not as presuppositions, but as results, or
effects, of the relations we want to investigate.

The second axis of discussion involves the central question about which the
edu-factory project turns: how to construct an autonomous university? In the
first cycle of discussion there were productive confrontations between
different experiences of auto-education and experimental colleges in
Argentina, Italy, India and North America. With their multiple strategies,
these experiments converge in the search for lines of flight and immediate
practices of resistance and conflict within the university.
We propose to continue this line of investigation in the second round of
edu-factory discussion, focussing this time not merely on single experiences
of auto-education but on how to link them into a transnational organised
network. It is envisioned that many of the contributions in this second axis
of discussion will be collectively written, exploring the potentiality for
the invention of new institutional forms that trouble divisions of both
labour and discipline. We also hope to organise an event in the northern
summer of 2008 to allow some of the contributors to this discussion to
gather for face-to-face encounters.

Hierarchisation and multiple forms of resistance, the construction of
autonomous institutions and the breaking of processes of governance and
control: these are the themes, or better the challenges, we would like to
confront in the coming round of discussion. We also think it is impossible
to discuss the construction of a global autonomous university without
considering problems that only seem technical at first sight: from the
question of the use of information technologies and open source software to
the access to funds necessary to realise such a project. It is thus
necessary that these questions form part of the debate in a way that doesn't
confine them to an unjustifiably separate dimension but which also avoids
the drift of the conversation into merely technical matters. This should
allow the list to take the form of a cooperative project composed of
multiple and heterogeneous subjectivities, just as the conflicts in the
production of knowledge on the borders of the global university are
themselves multiple and heterogeneous.


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