[iDC] Introduction

Stephen Downes stephen at downes.ca
Sat Sep 27 14:03:20 UTC 2014

As I posted on Ello,

So accepting VC money needs it needs a revenue stream. That was probably
going to happen with or without VC funding.

The usual (read: evil) ways of funding service like this are (a)
advertising, and (b) selling user data (the two are, of course, linked).

So - what are alternative non-evil ways of raising revenies? The obvious one
seems to me to change user fees. But to successfully charge user fees, you
need to build a subscriber base and value-add. Hence the free access.

It's not the sort of thing they can say up front - who would sign up if they
knew they would be dinged? But it is, ultimately, a model that works for
many services.

-- Stephen

p.s. Ted Byfield, do you have a blog or just a Twitter feed?

-----Original Message-----
From: idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net [mailto:idc-bounces at mailman.thing.net]
On Behalf Of t byfield
Sent: September-26-14 12:57 PM
To: idc at mailman.thing.net
Subject: Re: [iDC] Introduction

On 22 Sep 2014, at 16:31, Trebor Scholz wrote:

> And Ted, #DL14 will, in fact, address the situation of adjunct faculty 
> and many other things that are dismally wrong within the Academy.

Silly me -- I forgot to introduce myself.

I just left the New School faculty after eleven years there, where my
'service' (what a wretched word) culminated, if you like, in co-chairing the
university's faculty senate. In that role, I pushed through some pretty
strong changes, including:

	(1) establishing precedents for direct faculty participation in the
highest-level administrative committees;

	(2) a mandatory mechanism guaranteeing that concerns shared by a
small but defined groups of across divisional faculties must be recorded
into the senate minutes (which are public);

	(3) empowering the senate to convene open 'working groups,' not just
closed committees dominated by political appointments;

	(4) prototyping a faculty-wide consultation system for
policy-development processes; and

	(5) reorganizing pivotal faculty governance bodies in ways that are
responsive to faculty and student concerns rather than abstract domains
(e.g., 'learning environments' rather than 'infrastructure').

Educratic stuff, to be sure, but they make up key parts of the 'toolchain'
faculties will need to define an autonomous *collective* voice within the
institution as such rather than individualistic approaches to *staying at*
the institution. Now we'll see if the New School's faculties are canny
enough to use them.

But the reason I did these things wasn't, as Trebor suggested in
faculty-centric terms, "the situation of adjunct faculty and many other
things that are dismally wrong within the Academy" (Marcel Mauss: "that
signpost of ignorance: 'miscellaneous'"). Instead I saw over the years how
rising educational costs were taking a growing toll on *students*, both
transactional (tuition, fees) and collateral (living in the NYC area). Their
precarity was becoming too real: accelerating displacement (lost in
derogatory noise about 'hipsters'), problematic substance use (not just
'performance-enhancing'), alternative incomes (factor in gender), labor
exploitation laundered as 'internships,' and so on. And for the most part
these were privileged students. For many students (and
faculty) who aren't so privileged, higher ed is becoming, as Joyce put it,
the old sow that eats her farrow.

These issues shape the vitality, coherence, and 'sustainability' of
education more than many of the measures that administrators focus on. 
Conventional analytical frameworks mask many of them -- often out of fear
for liability or 'reputation,' or because the data isn't available (e.g,
'career prospects' for children of graying parents or 'internationals'
forced to their home countries for visa reasons, etc). 
Administrative 'best practices' -- which, as Benjamin Ginsberg put it in
_The Fall of the Faculty_, is often a bureaucratic euphemism for plagiarism
-- aren't suited to addressing problems like these. Faculty and students
need to recognize that they're allies in the project of shifting priorities
in the academy. That will require real faculty 'leadership,' understood not
as career milestones and millstones but as an activism measured in real

But that kind of infra-institutional critique is very limited, so I've also
tried to build things 'outside,' notably:

* I co-founded the Open Syllabus Project, a research network dedicated to
collecting, it's hoped, *every syllabus in US higher ed*. The OSP's goal is
to create a sort of 'openstreetmap' of what happens behind the promotional
brochures that form the walls of educational black boxes at every level. It
sees *everyone* -- prospective students, current students, faculty,
administrators, policy and regulatory actors, independent and 'organic'
intellectuals alike -- as researchers who can benefit from and contribute to
this resource. And toward that end it's building an empirical foundation for
self-defined communities of inquiry. It's *open*, so check it out.

* I co-wrote a book with Gary Hall, Pauline Van Mourik Broekman, Shaun
Hides, and Simon Worthington, _Open Education: A Study in Disruption_. 
It should be out in the next few weeks. 

Before academia sucked me in and spat me out, I did lots of other
things: editing books (for Zone, the New Press, Pantheon/Schocken, Serpent's
Tail, and DIA among many others), some consulting for foundations, digging
into early internet governance structures (mainly ICANN when it was still a
fresh tragicomedy), and more. It's a pleasure to escape from the zoo (or
maybe bestiary?) and return to my natural habitat.

Some of you may know the <nettime> mailing list, which is one of the first
mailing list (maybe *the* first) dedicated to critical internet culture.
I've been co-moderating that for the last sixteen years. It'll turn twenty
years old next year, and we're thinking about having another meeting, like
we used to -- hopefully late next summer, and *maybe*
**maybe** ***maybe*** in Bucharest. But that'd be oriented toward what and
where and how critical internet culture (if such a thing is even
possible) is happening now, not some god-awful revival tour. Or maybe it'll
just be a summer camp for the kids of activists, theorists, and artists,
with parentcare facilities -- housing, food, and fun activities. Pencil that
in if you're interested. 

twit: @tbfld
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