Open Access: HEFCE, REF2020 and the Threat to Academic Freedom

5 12 2012

Excellent post on Open Access and for-profit publishing debates.

The Disorder Of Things

This is the text of a document prepared by Meera and me on Article Processing Charges as currently understood and the serious risks we think they pose to academic freedom and funding, broadly understood (previous discussed by severalcontributors toour openaccess series). It is also available as a pdf, and we encourage academics to think carefully about the issues foregrounded, and to act accordingly.

Applegarth Press


  • The Government is pushing academic publishing to a ‘pay-to-say’ model in order to achieve open access to publicly funded research
  • This ‘gold’ route to open access, which levies Article Processing Charges (as proposed in the Finch Report and taken up by RCUK and HEFCE) poses a major problem for academics in the UK:
    • It threatens academic freedom through pressures on institutions to distribute scarce APC resources and to judge work by standards other than peer review
    • It threatens research funding by…

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Binders full of Baudrillard: Are internet memes today’s Disneyland?

29 10 2012

 In 1981, Baudrillard wrote that “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real.” Last week in my History of Consumer Society and Mass Media class we read Baudrillard’s now famous text Simulacra and Simulations. We focused in on key arguments through a game of ‘’Dense Postmodern Theory Pictionary” that asked students to try and sketch out central arguments in the text. Among the excerpts we looked at was Baudrillard’s discussion of Disneyland and ‘third order simulation,’ as well as this passage on what would happen if you tried to perform a fake hold-up:

“Go and organize a fake hold up. Be sure to check that your weapons are harmless, and take the most trustworthy hostage, so that no life is in danger (otherwise you risk committing an offence). Demand ransom, and arrange it so that the operation creates the greatest commotion possible. In brief, stay close to the “truth”, so as to test the reaction of the apparatus to a perfect simulation. But you won’t succeed: the web of art)ficial signs will be inextricably mixed up with real elements (a police officer will really shoot on sight; a bank customer will faint and die of a heart attack; they will really turn the phoney ransom over to you).”

We also talked about Baudrillard’s idea that Watergate “did not exist.” For Baudrillard, political scandal is a performance, a distraction, a simulation.

Today the notion of US presidential debates as infotainment seems like old news. This generation of university students are so accustomed to shiny screens and politicians’ rehearsed sound bytes, that if a debate unfolded without bold blue and red backgrounds, and wasn’t embedded in hours of repetitive, dramatized ‘news’ commentary, things would seem very strange.

As debate number 2 aired live on American television, the performance seemed fairly similar to the years gone before, albeit with more tweeting and the highly touted ‘first female host in 20 years’. But then something new happened. Veronica De Souza, a social media manager recently made redundant, put her increased cognitive surplus into internet creativity, as many do, starting the tumblr  This did not happen when the debate ended, but rather instants after Romney uttered those words, that will stick to him now through the rest of the campaign like toilet paper super glued to his shoe.

amazon binder ad

Hours after the tumblr went live, amazon ads followed suit. Within 24hrs of the debate hundreds of reviews of Avery Binders had been logged, along with thousands of comments, likes, and review ratings, as well as mass re-circulation through other social media, even making it onto prime time news.

This was simulacra, simulations gold. It was the kind of timing media and politics lecturers dream of.

Here was an opportunity to watch the internet world of election humour unfold in meme upon meme of mashups, an orgy of intertextuality. Within hours the tumblr was a densely packed archive of references invoking memories of childhood stationary, 80s film history, cult television, previous presidents and chart topping pop songs. It was an time capsule of the past, a flash of the present, a dreamworld of fan-fiction instagrams.

So I wanted to know: What would Baudrillard say? And I knew exactly who to ask.

In the sprit of social media, it was time to crowd source the classroom. We began by breaking the issue apart. First, what would Baudrillard say of the US presidential elections generally? Of voting? Of US Democracy? From there we could get closer to the question of how he might make these memes.

Well I guided the class through Baudrillard on elections, I left it to them to tell me what to make of the debate and its emergent memes. I hadn’t thought it through yet, waiting for the moment to make sense things together that the classroom can offer up.

According to Rutgers University Course 512:391:04, this is what Baudrillard might say:

The debate is a fake hold up. These two men dressed in suits, powdered in make-up, speak in well-rehearsed slogans made up of political sounding words. Yet while the debate may be fake, its outcome has real effects. We are the hostages in this election hold up.

And these binders, they are our new Disneyland. A bit of play, some fantasy that keeps us smiling and giggling. An amusement so hyper-real it makes the debate seem real. But we are meme-ing away in the desert .

plaque from entrance to Disneyland

Problemshares and other #digitaltrans formations

22 06 2012

I just got back from attending the fourth and final workshop on collaborative learning from the Community-powered Digital Transformation project run by David Gauntlett and colleagues at the University of Westminister, with partners from Tate, British Library and a number of other cultural institutions in and around London. 

There seemed to be particular interest and attention to questions around integrating online and offline participation, project sustainability, and generating incentives for content co-creation. There was also a focus on how we think of ourselves in terms of digital skills and expertise. What’s the line between ‘expert’ and ‘enthusiast’ — do we even need to draw one? Do terms like ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’ really capture what it means to embody and practice digital engagements? 


skillshare by harrydrawspictures

While we certainly raised more questions than came up with answers, what I took away from the workshop was the need for collaboration and greater sharing between academia, museums, archives and other cultural institutions. While we often harp on about skillshares, we also need problemshares–spaces where we share what didn’t work, places where we can show off our best failures.

In tune with this, I was really impressed with the honesty and openness about vulnerabilities, failures and challenges that presenters and participants shared at the workshop. To learn from each other we have to show our projects ‘warts and all.’ This was thanks, in part, to project partner Anastasia Kavada who brought her experience and expertise in facilitation and collective learning to the workshops, guiding small group break out sessions and highlighting that the form in which we share and collaborate, shapes the atmosphere and the quality of the content we co-create.  

Collaborative Learning: Challenges and Best Practices

4 05 2012

Yesterday’s Collaborative Learning workshop, sponsored by the HEA, brought together HE teachers from Winchester, Bournemouth, Birmingham, University College Falmouth and University of Huddersfield. Below are some of the shared challenges and best practices that emerged across our presentations and discussions.

challenges in collaborative teaching and learning

collaborative learning best practices

Exploring Collaborative Learning In Media Studies Programmes

11 04 2012

I am presenting at this one day seminar alongside academic staff from different higher education institutions across the UK. We are convening to discuss the benefits and problems in collaborative learning, how social media – and other technologies and practices – can be used and to share good practice in facilitating collaborative teaching and learning in undergraduate media studies programmes.

The event will be a hosted by the School of Media and Film at the University of Winchester. A full programme is available.