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<nettime> Tech Knowledge Revue: Digital Diploma Mills
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<nettime> Tech Knowledge Revue: Digital Diploma Mills


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Date: Tue, 2 Jun 1998 13:55:36 -0400
From: Stephen Talbott <stevet {AT} MERLIN.ALBANY.NET>
To: NETFUTURE {AT} INFOSERV.NLC-BNC.CA


                                NETFUTURE

                   Technology and Human Responsibility

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Issue #72       Copyright 1998 Bridge Communications          June 2, 1998
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
             Editor:  Stephen L. Talbott (stevet {AT} oreilly.com)

          On the Web: http://www.oreilly.com/~stevet/netfuture/
    You may redistribute this newsletter for noncommercial purposes.

CONTENTS:

*** Editor's Note

*** Quotes and Provocations
       Next: Pigs That Fly?
       Ties That Bind

Departments

*** Tech Knowledge Revue (Langdon Winner)
       Report from the Digital Diploma Mills Conference

*** Announcements and Resources
       Media, Democracy, and the Public Sphere
       The Global Problematique

*** Who Said That?

*** About this newsletter


                  --------------------------------------
                  What People Are Saying about NETFUTURE
                  --------------------------------------

              "I use issues of NETFUTURE in a course I teach
            in our administrator preparation program.  I think
          it is a terrific resource, and a great eye-opener for
             my students, who when they think of computers in
            schools tend to think uncritically.  They are sure
         that they must get more kids in front of more computers.
           I spend a lot of time in the course getting them to
               think about why they would want to do that."

                    (For the identity of the speaker,
                       see "Who Said That?" below.)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
*** Editor's Note (10 lines)

With this issue Langdon Winner inaugurates his column, Tech Knowledge
Revue.  It's a lengthy inauguration, but well worth reading for its
clear-eyed look at the forces promising (or threatening) to dismantle
higher education as we know it.  Professor Winner carries you into the
midst of the passionate deliberations at the recent "Digital Diploma
Mills" conference.

SLT

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
*** Quotes and Provocations (144 lines)


Next: Pigs That Fly?
--------------------

Andrew Kimbrell, founder of the International Center for Technology
Assessment in Washington, D.C., describes one of the "classic" experiments
in genetic engineering this way:

   Dr. Vernon Pursel inserted the human growth gene in a pig.  Pursel
   hoped to create giant pigs that would be major meat producers.  The
   problem was that though the human growth gene was in every cell of the
   pig's body it did not act in the manner the scientists expected.
   Instead of making the pig larger it made it squat, cross-eyed, bow-
   legged, smaller than an average pig, with huge bone mass, a truly
   wretched product of science without ethics.  Pursel tried to find a
   silver lining in his experiment gone wrong by claiming that the pig was
   leaner.  Pursel's argument was that people are worried about
   cholesterol, so maybe we can sell this as lean pig.  Did he really
   think the public was ready for pork chops with human genes?

That pig strikes me as a good metaphor for the constructions of the
Information Age.  The prevailing notion is that we have this massive
collection of information -- exemplified by several hundred thousand
snippets of human genetic code -- which we can merrily pass from one
database to another, inserting this piece here and that piece there.

But there is no such thing as an "objective piece of information".  Like a
word in a sentence, a bit of information *means* a particular thing only
within a given context.  Pursel's pig symbolizes the kind of result you
get when you ignore context and try to build things from the bottom up --
that is, when you start with the reduced products of your sophisticated
analyses, forgetting what it was you were analyzing in the first place.

Context in the present case means, to begin with, the pig itself.  Pursel
was willing to see fragments of DNA -- and even lean pork chops -- but did
not care to see the pig.  Such is the technological mindset we now trust
to re-engineer the human being.

Exactly the same trust is at work wherever information is glorified as the
decisive form of capital, the basis for problem-solving, and the
fundamental ingredient of all knowledge.

(Kimbrell's remark, incidentally, occurs in a remarkable new book from the
Sierra Club, called *Turning Away from Technology*, edited by Stephanie
Mills.  I hope to review it in the near future.)


Ties That Bind
--------------

At the nursing home where my wife works there is an old man -- an
Alzheimer's patient -- who wears an electronic bracelet.  An irrepressible
sort, he freely wanders the halls from morning to evening.  While his
whimsical and unpredictable journeying occasionally leads him off-limits,
no one worries about this; his passage through a forbidden door
automatically triggers an alarm, whereupon a staffer routinely sets the
fellow upon a new course.

The gains in safety and convenience seem obvious.  Of course, as most
people realize, there are also risks.  What happens when the bracelet or
alarm system fails?  Or when the patient figures out, accidentally or
otherwise, how to neutralize the bracelet?  Suddenly the staff's habit of
ignoring him poses an extraordinary danger.  The recent satellite failure,
with its unhappy consequences for various emergency communication systems,
illustrated some of the chain reactions that can occur in the wake of a
technical failure.

Wherever the dangers of technology are acknowledged, this is the sort of
thing that usually gets mentioned.  Many such problems come under the
heading, "technical glitches", and the mind-numbing range of possibilities
is covered superbly in Peter Neumann's online RISKS forum.

As most NETFUTURE readers know, my own penchant is to deal with a
different class of risks:  those showing up when the technology performs
exactly as hoped.  For example, do those wrist bracelets, by increasing
the "efficiency" of the nursing home operation, make it an even more
inhuman terror for aging folks than it already is?  (Do family members or
neighbors or staff members ever take that old man *through* the forbidden
doors and outside, where he can experience grass, tree, and sun for a few
minutes?  Or, now that he is so well watched after by technology, do they
increasingly forget him?)

As important as our dogged pursuit of technical glitches is and will
remain, I don't think the "what can go wrong?" school of technology
criticism will carry us very far against the most crucial issues of our
day.  After all, for every technical glitch there is a technical fix.  And
while the more alert among us may rightly point out that the fix poses its
own risk of new glitches, perhaps even making the problem worse, the fact
is that the technological arms race between glitch and fix seems to give
us a balance of risk and benefit that society is happy to accept.  The
death rate on our highways may be high (we probably wouldn't tolerate if
it were instead the result of a foreign war) but ... well, do you really
expect me to give up my ease of travel from here to there?

It will, then, be difficult to cultivate a more sober public attitude
toward technology merely by pointing to glitches, however pervasive.  The
challenges I am most concerned about, on the other hand, arise not when
something goes wrong, but when everything goes right.  These challenges
can be shown to grow more acute with every successful fix and with every
new, more sophisticated generation of devices.

When the bracelet functions so well that it becomes a prison shackle or an
isolation cell; when we can travel the globe so conveniently and safely
that we unthinkingly abstract ourselves from place and community; when the
new, improved voice recognition system enables us to reduce ever more
meaningful aspects of human exchange to dialog with telephone answering
systems -- these are the times I worry most.  (For an elaboration of this
point, see "Is Technological Improvement What we Want?" in NF #38, #40,
and #48.)

Finally, do not think there is a neat symmetry between the risks and the
benefits of technology, as I have framed them here.  The subtleties of
risk-benefit analysis notwithstanding, not all risks and benefits can be
weighed in the same balance.  The bracelet, by offering safety and
convenience, does not elevate our humanity; but the bracelet we allow to
become a shackle helps to destroy our humanity.

That's the way it is with technology.  The real benefits we stand to gain
-- the ones that truly elevate us -- always result from our *overcoming*
technology rather than yielding to its invitations.  It requires a
wrenching inner effort to make that bracelet an occasion for *more* humane
and loving attention rather than less.  We gain from technology by
learning how to work against its pull -- a gain of inestimable value,
essential for our future.

The deepest risks of technology, on the other hand, are realized without
effort on our part.  In fact, this lack of inner effort is itself the
realization of the risk.  It is the disappearance of ourselves -- the loss
of the power and will to struggle against technology toward higher ends
(higher, for example, than convenience).

We can be positive about technology, in other words, only by being
negative about it.  Look at contemporary discussions of technology and you
will almost invariably find that one or the other side of this paradox is
overlooked.  The most common denial of the paradox consists of the attempt
to weigh all of technology's pluses and minuses in the same balance.  This
is to forget that we must stand *above* technology, and that what we gain
through our mastery of it (or lose through our failure of mastery) is of
an entirely different order from any supposed goods (or ills) the
technology offers in its own right.

SLT

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*** Report from the Digital Diploma Mills Conference (372 lines)

>From Langdon Winner <winner {AT} rpi.edu>

                                                      TECH KNOWLEDGE REVUE
                                                        1.1   June 2, 1998

It was billed as "a second look at information technology and higher
education," a gathering of students, professors, administrators, and union
leaders concerned about the effects of computer-based learning in our
colleges and universities.  Organized by historian and social critic David
Noble, the conference on "Digital Diploma Mills?" took place in late April
at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, and featured some of the
most intense, personally moving discussions I have ever heard in a
scholarly setting.  While descriptions and diagnoses ranged across a broad
spectrum, there was a widely shared sense that a crisis in higher
education is now at hand.

At one level the question had to do with how well the new media of
computerized instruction compare to conventional, classroom-centered
methods of teaching.  As students connect to new networks of "distance
learning," what exactly are they getting?  How does their experience
compare to that gained on traditional college campuses?

Almost all speakers at the conference took care to recognize that there
are some definite advantages in what the new technologies and digital
institutions offer.  Several professors described ingenious attempts to
use the Internet and Web in their teaching, for example, a seminar in
global political economy that links teachers and students across several
continents. Many acknowledged that, for great numbers of students today,
sources of electronic information and occasions for on-line instruction
are actually superior to what would have been available to them otherwise.
Especially for non-traditional learners -- those who have jobs and
families and want to return to college to expand their learning and earn
new credentials -- computerized settings offer varieties of access and
flexibility that traditional campuses do not provide.  This is no small
accomplishment.


Weighing the Costs
------------------

Enthusiasm about the success stories, however, was countered by reports
that distance learning is often a counterfeit of education, replacing well
recognized essentials of teaching with glitzy software and shoddy
pedagogy.  Most sobering in this regard was the conference keynote,
"Absence Makes the Heart Grow Colder," by Mary Burgan, General Secretary
of the American Association of University Professors.  Burgan argued that
the methods of distance learning often lead teachers "to abandon our
students to their own devices at exactly that stage in their learning when
they most need guidance, exhortation and demanding critique from us."  She
noted that distance instruction tends to amplify some of the worst habits
of today's students:  an inability to concentrate in a sustained way, a
tendency to read uncritically and a willingness to believe that one
interpretation of a text or topic is just as good as the next.

Particularly troubling, Burgan observed, is the way that computerized
methods sever personal bonds between students and teachers.  Speaking of
participants in her own classes, she noted that "their intellectual
difficulties are very personal," often tied to troubles with family,
friends, lovers, substance abuse and the like.  It is difficult enough to
spot these problems in direct, face-to-face classroom encounters.  If
teaching increasingly takes place in the abstract realms of cyberspace,
will teachers be able to respond to students' highly individual needs?

Burgan's thoughts gave focus to a dispute that erupted repeatedly during
the gathering:  how to weigh the benefits and costs of on-line learning.
For some vocal techno-optimists in the crowd, the central promise seemed
to be that of "content."  Content, they explained, is the crucial
substance of any field of knowledge -- physics, math, history, etc. --
such that it can be "delivered" through a set of institutions, practices
and technical equipment.  Content plus delivery equals "access."  From
this standpoint, computerized education looks like a godsend.  As Casey
Green, Director of Campus Computing for the Claremont Colleges, exclaimed
about the new technology,

   This stuff is great.  This stuff is fantastic.  This stuff is
   wonderful.  This stuff offers tremendous opportunities for me as a
   scholar ... and tremendous opportunities for engagement for me and my
   students focused on the issue of content:  what we teach, what we bring
   into the classroom and what we bring into the syllabus.

Some in the group, however, balked at the enthusiasm over "content",
wondering whether coming generations of students were fated to be taught
by machines rather than living human beings.  Mary Burgan acknowledged
that knowledge of a certain complexion can be transferred via the new
media.  But she asked, "What happens to people who get their knowledge and
then don't have to interact with other people in other settings?"
Throughout the discussions there was a gnawing sense that even the most
exquisite applications of distance learning run roughshod over crucial,
social dimensions of learning.


Gathering Forces of Change
--------------------------

As the debate continued, it became clear that the pros and cons about the
computer and Net were just the tip of an iceberg, one that the Titanic of
higher education seems destined to ram.  Enormous economic, demographic
and political forces are gathering in ways that now promise (or is it
threaten?) to transform higher education from top to bottom.  How
education is offered, by whom, for what audience, at what cost, and with
what consequences for society -- all of that, conference participants
agreed, is up for grabs.

Among the most powerful forces are those in the corporate sector that see
education as a huge, largely untapped market for new goods and services.
If one totals all the money spent on education and training in every
setting and every institution, public and private, in the United States
each year, the amount comes to perhaps $600 billion.  Several speakers
pointed to the expanding reach of corporate innovations aimed at capturing
markets that traditional colleges and universities now serve.  New firms,
the University of Phoenix and the Home Education Network, for example,
have already taken a substantial bite of the growing market for distance
learning and look forward to huge profits in the future.  As the emerging
Wal-Mart in this field, the University of Phoenix has some 31,000 students
enrolled.

Meanwhile, conventional institutions are scrambling to find a role,
sometimes renting their reputations and even some of their faculty to
cyberspace business concerns.  Rick Worthington, professor of public
policy at Pomona College, called attention to the controversial link
between U.C.L.A. and the strictly for-profit Home Education Network.  "Why
would this firm be interested in the university?" he asked.  "The reason
is clear:  U.C.L.A. is a good brand!"

Another arrangement between business and the university that drew
considerable fire was the California Education Technology Initiative, a
sweetheart deal announced in December 1997, linking the entire California
State University system to a consortium of information technology firms --
Fujitsu, Hughes, Electronics, GTE and, of course, Microsoft in the group
first announced.  The plan involves a $300 million upgrade of the CSU
digital "backbone" and the transfer of the $80 million a year that CSU
budgets for computing services to the new CETI monopoly.

University administrators see the plan as a convenient way to improve
information technology services within the college system.  But students
and faculty at the Harvey Mudd conference blasted the scheme as a
corruption of the fundamental purposes of a public university, renaming it
the "Corporate Education Takeover Initiative."  Several speakers voiced
fears that CETI corporate partners would begin to control the content of
courses, reducing professors to a distinctly secondary role.  One faculty
member from a CSU campus reported that in the original CETI contract,
professors were expected to become members of an active sales force,
hawking products of the corporate partners to the 365,000 students on
CSU's twenty-two campuses.

[It's worth noting that as campus protests about CETI roiled this spring,
Microsoft and Hughes Electronics withdrew from the negotiations.
University officials remain hopeful that a deal of some kind can be worked
out.]


Social Pressures and the Educational Paradox
--------------------------------------------

The background for commercial innovations like CETI can be found in social
pressures rapidly building in American society. First is a huge
demographic bubble in which growing numbers of college age and returning
students seek higher education, placing tremendous stress on existing
institutions.  At the same time state governments, facing tax revolts from
angry voters, are far from eager to spend the funds needed to build new
campuses and hire permanent faculty.  The situation was depicted most
vividly by Lev Gonick, University Dean for Academic Computing at
California Polytechnic University, Pomona.

   We are facing `Tidal Wave II' -- an additional 110,000 to 125,000
   students in the next fifteen years.  That represents building an
   institution the size of Cal Poly Pomona with 20,000 students every year
   for the next seven years.  That's not going to happen.  The brick and
   mortar solution is not going to happen.

What is going to happen, Gonick made clear, is that public universities
will look for ways to stretch their present campus facilities and
faculties through the use of digital communications.

Whether or not this strategy will work was hotly debated.  Several who
spoke on the economics of information technology noted with bemusement
that universities rushing to the game are largely clueless about how much
the new equipment and services will actually cost.  "I.T. is as much
marketing phenomenon as it is scholarly tool," educational policy analyst
Christopher Oberg observed.  "It is as much about keeping up with the
Joneses as it is about keeping up with research."  Even the notion that
information technologies bring increased efficiency seems suspect.  There
now appears to be an "education paradox" at least as puzzling as the
"productivity paradox" oft-reported in the business literature.  As Oberg
put it, "In the literature searches I've done and research reviews I've
conducted, I cannot find a single claim that I.T. has delivered an equal
learning product at a reduced cost."

David Noble chimed in on this point, recalling that his studies of
industrial automation two decades ago had reached similar conclusions.  In
fact, the managers and engineers he talked to simply did not want to talk
about matters of cost, efficiency and profit that ostensibly motivated
them.  "We hear all the time about the bottom line ... cost effectiveness,
austerity.  The reality is otherwise.  Trying to identify gains in
productivity or economic gains -- the results are always ambiguous and
quite contrary to the assumptions."  Studies of supposed "gains from the
introduction of computers in the service sector," he added, "have thus far
yielded no gains in productivity .... Now all of this is coming to the
universities."

Many in the room called attention to another feature of the brave new
academic economy -- increasing reliance on a corps of contingent workers,
the tens of thousands of poorly paid "adjunct" professors, "Roads
Scholars" if you will, who now teach a growing share of courses offered on
American campuses.  Nearly 50% of all college classes nationwide are
taught by non-tenure track, part-time teachers, a source of increasing
distress among students and faculty alike.

Ann-Marie Feenberg, Associate Dean at the University of Redlands, called
attention to one disturbing aspect of this trend:  the de-professionaliza-
tion of a whole generation of scholars.  "We see our junior colleagues
becoming independent contractors," she lamented.  As members of the new
generation of PhDs move from one part-time slot to another, it is all but
impossible for them to build coherent careers in teaching, research and
collegial relations.

This result, of course, has little to do with computers or high speed
networks as such.  But as the use of temporary academic workers spreads,
the idea of building new "wired universities" around them is a temptation
that academic administrators and entrepreneurs find difficult to resist.
Welcome to the global economy and its lean, flexible, just-in-time work
places.  These days I often hear unemployed PhDs say how thankful they are
for the $3,500 fee they receive for doing occasional, on-line courses.  As
they adapt to this new regime, deplorable conditions are accepted as
normal.


Who Controls Education?
-----------------------

A spark of humor on these dreary trends was injected by Christine
Maitland, Coordinator of Higher Education for the National Education
Association, who sketched several fantasies of campuses of the future.
One of them, McCollege, yellow arches and all, would offer a complete line
of drive-through, fast-consumption educational products including "The Big
Degree."  A special attraction of "Wired U," would be occasional
performances by "The Three Tenures," the last three tenured professors on
the planet.  On the walls of her projected E.M.O. -- Education Maintenance
Organization -- were signs reading:  "Truth is the best commodity,"
"Scholarship means dollarship," and "Money in the bank is the best
tenure."

Maitland's point, however, was a serious one.  Whether they realize it or
not, college teachers are now involved in a fierce struggle over the
control of the curriculum.  The increasing use of technology in higher
education raises persistent questions about what the curriculum will
include and who decides.  "It is the faculty that are the best judges of
the content and quality of courses in their discipline," she insisted.
With a "knowledge explosion" under way in all areas of learning, the idea
that software developers can simply package lectures and lessons and pump
them through digital pipes year after year is an illusion.  Such knowledge
would have a limited shelf-life.  Hence, the best strategy is to allow
those active in various fields of learning to oversee changes in the
substance of courses.

Maitland cited the example of the University of Maine, which attempted to
institute distance education without including faculty in curriculum
planning.  Faculty fought back, eventually forcing the chancellor to
resign.  "The union won the right to have faculty review of distance
education courses.  There is now some very good distance education offered
by the University of Maine and it is controlled by the faculty."

This does not mean that college teachers should see themselves as
protectors of traditional sinecures.  Indeed, many at the meeting saw the
true challenge of information technology as that of democratizing
education, transforming deeply entrenched structures of prestige and
privilege.  Phil Agre, professor of communication at UCSD, observed that
the very ideal of liberal education has long presupposed a distance
between the educated person and the rest of society.  A possible benefit
of distance learning might be to overcome this distance.  "The model of
liberal education depended on a kind of leisure that our students mostly
don't have and do not expect to have and can't identify with."  Agre
called for "a positive, democratic vision of what a liberal education is,"
one that would draw upon the power of digital technologies as an occasion
for progressive social change.

Andrew Feenberg, professor of philosophy at San Diego State University,
chided college teachers for missing the boat on exactly this challenge.
"University faculties have not been willing to address non-traditional
learners.  Because they haven't, those learners have been addressed by
entrepreneurs and administrators who have created a whole parallel
education system which they now control."  In contrast to the kinds of
high-cost pedagogy that now produce de-skilling and automation in
education, Feenberg described some time-tested, inexpensive forms of
computer-centered learning that bring students and teachers together
around projects of shared inquiry.  But he admitted that few have been
willing to move forward with these approaches.


And What about the Students?
----------------------------

As the conference wound to a conclusion, voices strangely absent from most
discussions about technology and education announced themselves
forcefully.  A panel of students from the Claremont colleges and CSU
system wondered openly how agendas for the corporatization,
commercialization, and technological transformation in their learning
environments had been launched without anyone bothering to ask them about
their needs.  While they appreciated the advantages that email and on-line
information could provide, they were incensed at the mind-numbing
foolishness that computer and media-centered presentations often involve.

"We don't want edutainment," Maria Quintero exclaimed.  "What we want is
people to inspire or infuriate us."  In a rambling monologue worthy of a
stand up comic, Evan Blumberg described a fellow he'd noticed in a campus
computer lab, one who would stare into his cathode ray tube for days on
end, oblivious to the passage of time, the need for food or drink and the
presence of people sitting right next to him.  "Because these labs have no
windows, you can't tell whether it's day or night.  They're a lot like the
casinos in Las Vegas.  I think I know who `the house' is."

Another of the students, Julia Baker, spoke as a leader of the revolt
against CETI in the California State University system.  Ms. Baker pointed
to the destruction of the partnership between students and professors that
systems of distance learning sometimes entail.  Suggesting that the
problem was ultimately one of corporate domination of education rather
than technology itself, she announced that a "revolution in consciousness"
is on the horizon, one quite different from the educational revolution
corporate managers and university bean counters have in mind, an uprising
that would bring students to renew their commitment to social justice and
ecological principles.  "When the revolt arrives," she asked, "will the
faculty stand with us?"

The event ended with no firm resolve other than a firm desire to keep the
conversation moving.  Evidently, there will be a second "Digital Diploma
Mills" gathering in Wisconsin this fall.  If it's anything like the first
one, it will be well worth the journey to Madison.


A Two-tiered Educational System?
--------------------------------

I came away from the conference with several firm impressions:

** The extent of corporate penetration of higher education is even greater
than I'd previously known and is spreading fast.

** State legislatures would now rather invest in digital bandwidth than
spend money on conventional settings for teaching and learning.

** Most faculty of college and universities now seem unaware of or
indifferent to changes slated for their ways of working in the years
ahead.

** If professors ever do begin to squawk about the erosion of their
scholarly autonomy, the general public probably won't care.

** In the coming decade, higher education seems likely to split into two
distinctly different sectors:  (1) two hundred or so institutions that
deliver high quality, face-to-face teaching for those slated to become
social elites; (2) several thousand semi-campus, semi-cyberspace, hybrid
organizations -- colleges, universities and business firms -- ready to
pump instruction and credentials to a flexible global workforce.

** The goal of shaping information technology to democratize education is
highly appealing, but there are, at present, no strong, well-organized
forces promoting that end.

** I plan to advise my sons to avoid college teaching as a profession,
unless any of them demonstrates a taste for protracted conflict.

             *   *   *   *   *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Tech Knowledge Revue is produced at the Chatham Center for Advanced Study,
P.O. Box 215, North Chatham, NY 12132.  Langdon Winner can be reached at:
winner {AT} rpi.edu and at his Web page:  http://www.rpi.edu/~winner .

Copyright Langdon Winner 1998.  Distributed as part of NETFUTURE:
http://www.oreilly.com/~stevet/netfuture/.  You may redistribute this
article for noncommercial purposes, with this notice attached.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
*** Announcements and Resources (110 lines)


Media, Democracy, and the Public Sphere
---------------------------------------

NETFUTURE reader Bob Jacobson passes along an announcement for the UDC '98
conference in San Francisco, June 11 - 14.  Sponsored by the Union for
Democratic Communications (UDC), the conference will be hosted by the
University of San Francisco.  The theme is "Media, Democracy, and the
Public Sphere".

The UDC encourages (by its own advertisement) "critical perspectives in
communication theory, media production and the study of popular culture".
It brings together "media producers, researchers, policy makers, and
grassroots communications activists".

   The UDC calls for critical academics and media activists,
   practitioners, and producers to address issues that might include: the
   notion of the "public interest," the role of public media systems in
   the creation of a democratic public sphere; the role of media policy in
   helping or hindering democracy; the role of media in (trans)national
   democratization processes; the dissemination of radical claims through
   alternative community and mainstream media; the ways in which the
   everyday media practices of the public help or hinder the creation of a
   democratic public sphere; the education of media workers in the
   interest of democracy, and the utilization of information technologies
   for and against democracy.

The conference schedule is extensive and impressive.  You can check it out
at http://www.udc.org/.


The Global Problematique
------------------------

Some of you may be interested in the periodic "Literature Notes on the
Global Problematique" by NETFUTURE reader John McRuer.  The postings are
sponsored by the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome.  In them,
McRuer usefully digests material from newspapers, books, and articles.

McRuer describes his undertaking this way:

   The problematique presents a long list of interacting symptoms of
   labyrinthine complexity:  Global warming, ozone depletion, anxiety
   about the global food prognosis, population growth, global carrying
   capacity, deforestation, declining biodiversity, collapse of fish
   stocks, air and water pollution, threats to wildlife, so called
   overconsumption, accumulating garbage, undisposed nuclear waste,
   aquifer depletion, poverty, environmental refugees, globalization of
   the economy, and a wide range of resulting political conflicts
   including growing corporate power, water rights, transboundary
   pollution, fish wars, transportation gridlock, NIMBY (Not in My Back
   Yard), carbon taxes, voluntary simplicity, and "full cost accounting".
   On a more esoteric level the problematique has generated growing
   academic tensions concerning the paradigm of economics, the nature and
   future of technology, the legitimacy of long-term global simulations,
   the implications of growing complexity in human interactions, the
   influence of the media on cultural change, and the underlying drivers
   of ecological decline.

   In most cases the notes I post are a series of bullets which condense
   the content of an item down to its essentials, often with brief
   comments from my own analysis.  They are aimed at an audience
   consisting of informed generalists and specialists whose fields are
   influenced by a broad range of external factors with roots in
   ecological change.


To subscribe, send a note to mcruer {AT} golden.net asking to be added to the
list.

Among the previous postings (which I imagine you can still obtain), McRuer
lists these:

*   Avery in Bailey:  Saving the Planet with Pesticides: Increasing Food
    Supplies While Preserving the Earth's Biodiversity.

*   Bright:  Bioinvasions.

*   Brown:  The Acceleration of History.

*   Calvin, William  H:  The Great Climate Flip-Flop. *Atlantic Monthly*.

*   Campbell, Collin J; Jean H Laherre:  The End of Cheap Oil. *Scientific
    American*.

*   Crook, Clive:  The Future of the State. *Economist*.

*   *Economist*:  Genetic Engineering: The Year of the Triffids.

*   Harris:  World Agricultural Futures: Regional Sustainability and
    Ecological Limits.

*   Kane:  Sustainable Industries.

*   Moore in Bailey:  The Coming Age of Abundance.

*   Platt: Infectious Diseases.

*   Princen:  Environmental NGOs: Carving Out a New Niche.

*   Roodman:  Harnessing the Market.

*   Sachs:  Human Rights & Environmental Justice.

*   Sedjo in Baily:  Forests: Conflicting Signals.

*   Vaillancourt:  The Green Movement and Globalization.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------
*** Who Said That? (25 lines)

Bill McInerney is a professor of educational administration in Purdue
University's School of Education, where he teaches courses on technology
and planning.  He previously spent seventeen years as a teacher and
administrator in secondary and middle schools.  Music, he says, has always
been central to his life, and, with an appealing technological
backwardness, he enjoys collecting vinyl records.

McInerney teaches a course on "Information Systems in Education", whose
description and fascinating reading list you will find at
http://www.soe.purdue.edu/fac/bmcinern/teaching.html.  He co-teaches a
second course (Topics in Educational Restructuring) wholly online.  In his
introduction to the latter course, he cites this remark by J. F.
Covaleskie:

   When I talk about resistance, I do not mean to suggest that ... reforms
   are actively opposed.  They rarely are.  Quite the contrary, they are
   often enthusiastically embraced by teachers and administrators alike.
   For this reason, the ability of the system to resist efforts to change
   it is an interesting phenomenon.  As such reforms diffuse through the
   system they tend to become less reforms as they are modified to conform
   to the systemic demands for efficiency.

SLT

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
*** About this newsletter (36 lines)

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