December 1, 2011: Lecture: Another University is Possible. Lecture presentation by Trebor Scholz

Thursday, December 1, 2011
6:30 pm

Another University is Possible. A lecture presentation by Trebor Scholz

Lecture by Trebor Scholz – Another University is Possible.Today, universities are ever more exposed to the unforgiving logic of the profit imperative. The cost of education is rising and students seeking a formal degree are increasingly caught in a "debt trap." More and more people wish to gain access to higher education but over the next decade, learning institutions will simply not be able to accommodate them. For-profits like the Apollo Group and Kaplan, supported by enormous sums of public money, are part of a rapidly growing sector of the education industry, largely aiming to offer a stripped, low-cost version of education that often more closely resembles training.

The combination of educational and technological changes provides a stark incentive for students to step outside the academy to meet their learning goals. This talk explores the changing locales for learning, from libraries, after school programs, and museums to abandoned barbershops. Some Do-It-Yourself learning projects, mostly small and temporary, include Edu-Factory, The Public School, P2P U, and The University of the People.

The Do-It-Yourself approach to education cuts as easily to the right as it does to the left. Some projects explore democratic access to knowledge and foster alternative, peer-to-peer revenue models but there are also countless ventures that offer an increasingly individualized and consumerist understanding of the value of education.

Deinstitutionalized, self-directed learning, of course, is not new. In 1915, one of the founders of The New School, John Dewey, emphasized that education does not only take place in schools and that it ought to prepare learners for democratic citizenship. Austrian philosopher Ivan Illich wanted to de-school society following his belief that students learn without and often despite their teachers. Or, think of Jacques Rancière's notion of emancipated learning and Joseph Beuys' concept of the social sculpture. Both aim to create situations in which all learners actively engage with each other and the teacher, think in more complex ways, gain better judgment, become more principled and curious, and lead distinctive and productive lives.

Today, the 1970s model of the free, anti-institutional "university" meets new learning opportunities provided by digital media. Since 2001, MIT, Rice University and many others have released educational resources online and, in this world of informational plenty, instructors have been learning how to mobilize these "open resources."

Institutions of higher learning have changed far more slowly than the modes of participatory learning offered by the Internet. Davidson and Goldberg argue that in our schools too little has changed in terms of how we teach, where we teach, what we teach, who teaches, who administers and who services.

This talk asks what kind of insertions, rearrangements and revamping within existing institutional frameworks we can imagine? Schools should acknowledge the opportunities created by the confluence of mobile technologies, the World Wide Web, film, video games, TV, comics, and software while, of course, not sliding into techno-utopianism, acknowledging recurring challenges. The future of learning will not be solely determined by digital culture but by the re-organization of power relationships and institutional protocols. Digital media, however, can play a pivotal role in this process of transformation. Scholz organized the New School's conference series The Politics of Digital Culture, which recently included "MobilityShifts: An International Future of Learning Summit." His forthcoming monograph with Polity offers a history of the Social Web and its Orwellian economies. In 2011, he co-authored From Mobile Playgrounds to Sweatshop City (with Laura Y. Liu).

Trebor Scholz is the editor of two collections of essays, Learning Through Digital Media (iDC, 2011) and a volume on digital labor (Routledge, 2012). He co-edited the Situated Technologies series of 9 books and The Art of Free Cooperation (Autonomedia, 2007). Recent book chapters include "Facebook as Playground and Factory," "Points of Control," and "Cheaper by the Dozen. An Introduction to Crowdsourcing." Scholz has spoken at 150 conferences internationally. He also founded the Institute for Distributed Creativity that is widely known for its online discussions of critical network culture. Dr. Scholz holds a grant from the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. He chaired seven major conferences and co-chaired the Digital Media and Learning conference in Los Angeles in 2011.

Department of Performance Studies
721 Broadway, 6th Floor (studio)
New York, NY 10003

Event is free, photo ID required.