Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Florian Schneider's (Extended) Footnotes On Education

Robert Greco tweeted me a link to one of the most outstanding contemporary readings on the situation in education I have seen in a long time. Florian Schneider's (Extended) Footnotes On Education.

Referring to early rejections of institutionalised education in the 60s and 70s, and how they have successfully infiltrated and perhaps laid the seeds for undermining the institutions:
Those who realized that it had become pointless to reproduce the gestures of their masters did not only understand that there was nothing left to learn from, within, or against the institutions; they decided to take an interest in precisely the disciplining character of those institutions, the confinement of knowledge and subjectivities, the exclusion of differing and deviant forms of knowledge production.
Establishing deschooled ideas where:
...learning could suddenly take place anywhere: in the streets, in bars or clubs, in self-organized seminars, in the office spaces of so-called social movements, in soccer stadiums, through subcultural fanzines, in squatted houses or even science shops (“Wissenschaftsläden” as they were called in German).
Today, I am noticing a lot more work like this, including:

Although many of these are exciting, they are still only consequential...
Today’s crisis of the educational system, with all its consequent phenomena, can also be understood as a result of the refusal to be subjugated by the command of an educational system that represents the fading paradigm of industrial capitalism.
Ultimately, the network is the great destabliser/enabler..
The advent of digital technologies and deregulated networks triggered a long-overdue process of deinstitutionalization and deregulation that from today’s standpoint appears to be irreversible. This process was based on a fatal promise: self-organized access to knowledge, independent of any further mediation other than that of the medium itself.
BUT!... and this is the risk in relation to the MOOCs and independent teaching...
As soon as learning becomes an exclusively private concern, the primary goal of what is by then a required self-education is to demonstrate and perform the permanent availability of the self in real time rather than just perform discipline in a system of spatial control. It becomes necessary to continuously perform “selves”: not as mirror-images that reproduce the gestures of a master, but as self-managed profiles, animated images of a self that needs to be multiplied infinitely in order to satisfy the insatiable demand for omnipresence that renders possible the very idea of control.
And the institutions and corporations stand to profit from this approaching twilight, again with the MOOCs...
Today it seems that institutions and ekstitutions [networked learning environments] correspond to complementary rather than antagonistic modalities. What once appeared a challenge to the traditional educational framework, turns out in the current situation to be a correlate that compensates for the deficits of institutional frameworks that are gradually losing their conceits.
Nevertheless, there is an urgent need to develop experimental formats for generating findings that bring forward a process of “self-valorization” of knowledge that jumps across the pitfalls of the contemporary self.
Florian goes on to rightly criticise standardised (Taylorised, and ultimately commoditised) understanding of knowledge and competency. The same model of assessment and accreditation that I have based my approach to open educational development on! Florian argues that breaking everything down into assessable units drives all skills and knowledge into discrete assessable items that plays into the commodification of learning, and further disenfranchises independent learning.

Florian then all-too-briefly proposes an alternative, which in many ways IS what the MOOCs - especially DS106 is doing when it throws structure to the wind and organises simply a happening..
Not as a conclusion, but rather as a very preliminary proposal, one of these formats thought to resist the sliding scales of neo-Taylorism in the creative industries could be entitled “virtual studio.” In the first instance, the studio has striking associations with both the workplace in creative industries and the permanent need for self-organized studies.
Furthermore, this distinction is supported by the very notion of the “working” mode; it asserts the unfinished character of the studies undertaken, which culminates in an otherwise precluded appreciation for the aleatory essence of both working and studying.
Florian's final (and I think more convincing) proposal is in relation to more collaborative spaces as a stronger act of resistance, which might be why I'm so attracted to Wikiversity.. I dunno...
In that respect, collaborations are a practical way of reading the division of labor against the grain, and may turn out to be a way of swimming against the current of an enforced and blatantly absurd measurability of immaterial labor. Only in collaborative environments is it possible to embrace the infinitesimality of what is essentially beyond measure. The outcome of a collaboration is rampant, unforeseeable, and always unexpected. Sometimes it may not turn out nicely, it may even be harsh, but one thing is for sure: it cannot be calculated, it has to be imagined.

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