The Network University In Formation

Machine Room = Discourse Network

My overall contention is that the network university has emerged out of the modern “university in ruins” (Readings 1996) to become a “network enterprise” (Castells 2010) that shapes the “internal outside” that is the “unassimilated background” of our academic professions (Moten & Harney 2004). When it comes to academic being-there, technics, and time, I take the academic form of life as a “repetitive life” (Sloterjdijk 2012). Media have always been extensions of our scholarly practices and yet, after the ‘digital turn,’ our embodied engagement and practice of reading and writing the world is not what it used to be. Due to technological convergence, the academy’s lost monopoly over knowledge, and the overlap between education and business, I take up Liu (2004) proposal that we become “ethical hackers” of knowledge work.

In these neoliberal times, due to corporatization, commercialization, managerialism and bureaucratisation, the problem of the public university has been framed as a “crisis. To go beyond economism–the network university’s form and role are embedded in an economic crisis that it responds to connecting techno-science with techno-capital–I argue that we must make a detour through media theory and history. The media theorist Mark Hansen has proposed that new media can be regarded as “new” in a new way: media do not only store experience, they also mediate the conditions of mediation” (2010, 81). From his viewpoint, we are in the midst of mediatic regime change.” Digital media and their networks have become necessary to the everyday functioning of the public university, circuits of knowledge, and the faculty and student’s worldly engagement. A critique of the network university that is sensitive to moments of danger should not imply a return to technological determinism in the politics of online education, because, as Feenberg (2007) notes, the design and development of technology is social and political. On the one hand, the Internet is still being reinvented (Feenberg & Friesen 2011). On the other hand, the university has become a complete media system (Kittler 2004) and the academic world has been mediatized (Hepp 2013). As the metaphor of computing shifts from the “web” to the “cloud,” faculty seem to be less empowered to intervene through their community of practice, faculty governance, unions or professional associations.

The massification and informationalization of the university has transformed not only the content of teaching and research but also disciplinary processes of knowledge production and the technological form of academic life and culture. The integration and normalization of ICT’s raises many questions about academic work, ownership of content, scholarly communication, and teaching. As other scholars have already explored, digital reproduction presents new possibilities for new practices of scholarly communication (Borgman 2007) as well as open access research and scholarship (Hall 2008). At the same time, there is experimentation with technologies, modes of interaction and models of pedagogy. Scholarly communication is still in between codes and the scene of pedagogy is a blended reality of the physical and the virtual.

We need a new kind of inquiry to talk about the network digital media-based university, especially when our knowledge work is mediated by software and interfaces. My project aims to capture the network university in transition, that is, as a question of institutional transformation. Information technology strategy can be understood as a mode of institutional development that fuses technological and organizational change. At the same time, we need to dig deeper into the mediating implications of new media. Digital media shift the relational ecology between the faculty and the student body. In regards to teaching and understanding, there is the problem is identifying a new medium with a particular type of practice such as pedagogy. Recent attention to the use of ’social media’ in higher education has tended to neglect the problem of subjectification.