[iDC] Re(2): REFRESH! conference, some impressions (panelism + powerpoint)

Anna Munster A.Munster at unsw.edu.au
Sun Oct 23 21:17:10 EDT 2005

This is an interesting thread and although I wasn't at Refresh I've had so
many discussions about it on lists since, I feel like I was there! Perhaps
that has been the most productive part of the conference. This goes right
to Jon's point about the potential of new techno-social formations to
bring about change - ie it wasn't the conference and its panels etc that
are carrying out the intellectual work - its the networks and list

However, I do want to alos add some points to the propositions and
statements Jon has made:

> Marxism and Feminism were revolutionary
> discourses that nevertheless failed to change the way history and other
> academic disciplines "do business."

To some extent this is true although I do think thta at the height of
their discursive influence (1970-80s) both paradigms were seriously
engaged in praxis within educational institutions. perhaps we tend to
think of these kind of changes as thoroughly institutionalised now but
various elements of the ways in which tertiary institutions governed
(certainly in Australia) were markedly changed by both Marxism and
Feminism - student unionism, acknowledgement of sexual harrassment in the
classroom etc.

I think the issue is that the institutional forces of the university
sector are extremely powerful and very resistant to change. Hence new
discourses, paradigms and technologies are always at risk of being
co-opted and recuperated. Hence your next point:

> I think new media hold out the promise to topple these behavioral
> hierarchies, rather than merely change the subjects taught according to
> them. Whether this effort succeeds I think has a lot to do with whether we
> as a group of scholars and activists
> point out the hypocrisy of preaching decentralization from PowerPoint
> slides or closed-access journals.

the power lies less in the technologies themselves and more in the ability
to continue to sustain them both inside and outside the academy. By this,
I mean, and I'm sure this is what you are also referrring to, Jon, that we
have to fight to keep the potential of new media technologies open to the
networks and relations outside the institution. Unfortunately universities
already attempt to co-opt this fight by forcing us to "link up with
industry". And the problem is that we do this often unconsciously by
simply using the easiest available software, for instance.
The other issue that arises for a number of people in the Australian
context is that we now have IT depts. in universities who refuse to
support nonstandardized (read - we didn't just pay $millions for that
software) software in teaching contexts. This makes it diffocult to use
open source etc

I am wondering if this is the same in the US?


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