Latest...

The Uberfication of the University (Open access Forerunners series version available here; as of April 4 2017 an interactive Manifold series version is available here.)

Públicos Fantasma - La Naturaleza Política Del Libro - La Red (Mexico: Taller de Ediciones Económicas, 2016) - new book, co-authored with Andrew Murphie, Janneke Adema and Alessandro Ludovico. 

'Posthumanities: The Dark Side of "The Dark Side of the Digital"' (with Janneke Adema), in Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, eds, Disrupting the Humanities: Towards Posthumanities, Journal of Electronic PublishingVol. 9, No.2, Winter, 2016.

'Pirate Philosophy And Post-Capitalism: A Conversation With Gary Hall', by Mark Carrigan, The Sociological Imagination, December 8, 2016.

Open Access

Most of Gary's work is freely available to read and download either here in Media Gifts or in Coventry University's online repository CURVE here 

performative project Janneke Adema has put together, based on our ‘The Political Nature of the Book: On Artists’ Books and Radical Open Access’ article for New Formations, Number 78, Summer, 2013. 

'What Does Academia.edu's Success Mean for Open Access: The Data-Driven World of Search Engines and Social Networking', Ctrl-Z: New Media Philosophy, no.5, 2015.

Radical Open Access network

Monday
Oct172016

Writing, Medium, Machine: Modern Technographies - new OA book from Open Humanities

We're delighted to announce the first book in Open Humanities Press' new Technographies series, which is edited by Steven Connor, James Purdon and David Trotter.

Writing, Medium, Machine: Modern Technographies, edited by Sean Pryor and David Trotter, is a collection of thirteen essays by leading scholars which explores the mutual determination of forms of writing and forms of technology in modern literature. The essays unfold from a variety of historical and theoretical perspectives the proposition that literature is not less but more mechanical than other forms of writing: a transfigurative ideal machine.

Contributors: Ruth Abbott, John Attridge, Kasia Boddy, Mark Byron, Beci Carver, Steven Connor, Esther Leslie, Robbie Moore, Julian Murphet, James Purdon, Sean Pryor, Paul Sheehan, Kristen Treen.

 

Please consider ordering a copy for your university library to help support radical open access.

Monday
Oct102016

Open Research Workshop, Goldsmiths, University of London

Open research is much more than open access. It is about all aspects of the research process open to all possible interested parties. It involves innovative approaches to communicating, researching and sharing outputs. It is about accessability, inclusivity, citizen science, public engagement, radical transparency, reproducibility, data sharing, social media and more. Supported by the British Academy, this Open Research Workshop aims to inspire and educate researchers across all disciplines on how to benefit from opening up their research. Attendance is free, with free lunch, a free wine reception and great prizes to be won. 

 

Keynotes (10 AM - 1 PM)

The morning session will feature short keynotes from champions of open research, including:

Jo Barratt – Project manager of Open Knowledge Foundation Frictionless Data project

Mark Carrigan – Sociologist & author of the book Social Media for Academics

Sophia Collins – Founder of the Nappy Science Gang, a citizen science project that changed NHS policy.

Gary Hall – Founder of the Open Humanities Press & author of Digitize this book (2008), Pirate Philosophy (2016) & The Uberfication of the University (2016)

Simon Makin - Former neuroscientist turned science journalist who writes for Nature, Scientific American & New Scientist.

& others to be confirmed 

Hackathon (1 PM - 5 PM)

The afternoon session will be organised as a “hackathon”. Keynote speakers and other experts will run hands-on workshops on a range of practical topics and be available to provide 1-on-1 advice.  

Working in teams or individually attendees have 4 hours to take concrete steps to make their own research more open. Ideas include sharing a dataset, setting up a research blog or project website, planning an engagement project, pitching a news article, or creating a video biography or a podcast.

There are prizes for everyone who gives a presentation or uploads a project idea to conference website and several grand prizes for the judges’ and audience’s favourite ideas. 

Presentations, prizes and wine reception (5 PM - 7 PM)

Judging panel chaired by Professor Nigel Vincent FBA, former British Academy Vice President for Research & HE Policy

Part of Open Access Week, 2016

Wednesday
Sep212016

The Uberfication of the University: Interview with Inside Higher Education

The following is an interview by Scott Jashchik of Inside Higher Education, following the publication of my new book, The Uberfication of the University (Minnesota UP, 2016). For anyone who wants one, an open acess version of the book is also available here.

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How much do Uber, Airbnb and other elements of the "sharing economy" explain the state of higher education? Quite a lot, according to Gary Hall, professor of media and performing arts at Coventry University, in Britain. He outlines his views in The Uberfication of the University, a short book (55 pages) published as part of the University of Minnesota Press Forerunners series on new ideas. Hall responded via email to questions about his book.

Q: Many of the trends you reference (reliance on adjuncts who lack job security, state disinvestment in higher education) predate Uber and the sharing economy. How do such trends relate to the sharing economy?

A: You’re right, many of the trends I refer to in The Uberfication of the University did not originate with the corporate sharing economy. I’m thinking here of those predatory and parasitical practices whereby we are increasingly being transformed into atomized, precarious individuals operating in an environment in which we’re being gradually divested of employment rights, public services and a social safety net. They include the outsourcing of work to independent contractors, freelancers and temps in order to circumvent labor laws that set minimum standards. Such trends are of course present in many other areas of the economy and society. (A recent inquiry by the government’s business select committee into working practices at Britain's largest sporting retailer, Sports Direct, likens them to those of a "Victorian workhouse.")

What I’m interested in is how neoliberalism has not become unviable after the financial crash of 2008, but has actually intensified in many respects. The reason for focusing on the emergence of the for-profit sharing economy over this period is because it’s one of the places where the implications for workers of such an intensification are today most apparent. We could even go so far as to categorize this change in terms of a transition to an übercapitalist society. Übercapitalist, in that this historically specific version of neoliberalism, whereby social democracy, the welfare state and public sector (i.e., universities, hospitals, prisons, the police, armed forces, postal service) are either weakened, cut back or dismantled so as to allow for the enlargement of the market and further generation of profit, is seemingly ever more powerful; and that Uber, a technology firm that enables passengers to use an app on their smartphones to hail a taxi, ride share or private car, provides one of the most characteristic and frequently cited examples of this intensified form of free market capitalism.

Uber has thus been held up by Fortune magazine as “emblematic of the dynamic, thoroughly modern global corporation,” and as possessing the archetypal business model for the 21st century, having become a “global brand largely on the strength of its intellectual property and without a need to manufacture anything or maintain many fixed assets.” And, to be sure, the fact that the prefix “über” means “advanced,” “irresistible,” “higher,” “superior,” “more powerful,” does enable it to capture something of the intensification of neoliberalism in the years following the crash of 2008 as we move further and further away from postwar ideas of democratic capitalist economies that are centrally planned and balanced by national governments.

At the same time I’m aware there’s a risk of overkill at the moment, with everything from housing to health care apparently in the process of being überfied -- to the extent it’s become something of a dad joke. However, my association of these trends with a business that, contrary to many predictions, could actually turn out to have quite a limited lifespan (say, if there’s a widespread introduction of driverless cars owned and controlled by another company, such as Google or Tesla), is designed to render my use of the terms “überfication” and “übercapitalism” much less grandiose and bombastic -- and certainly more speculative and teasing -- than similar-sounding theories, such as “supercapitalism,” “hypercapitalism” and “neurocapitalism.”

Q: Proponents of the sharing economy say that it gives the power (and cash) to the individual Uber driver, Airbnb proprietor, etc. Why have adjuncts not had this experience? Is there any way to make the sharing economy work for them?

A: It’s important to be aware that the information and data management companies of the sharing economy are not all the same. Each has its own particular ways of operating and organizing itself. More and more of those who are laboring for Airbnb by renting out space in their homes are increasingly well-funded professionals who own multiple properties …. It is not possible for such professionals to create profitable businesses opportunities in quite the same way by owning and driving multiple vehicles for Uber. Moreover, for all that the technology firm stresses its drivers have the potential to earn more than regular cab drivers, many of Uber’s “independent contractors” have been found to be working for less than the minimum wage.

Of course, driving for Uber may offer more control over the number of hours worked and when. It may thus be a form of microentrepreneurship that is particularly attractive to students, the old and those with child-care responsibilities. However, such flexibility has to be put into context: as I show in the book, freelancers in the corporate sharing economy still have to operate according to the conditions set by their respective platform’s owners. It is also the owners who decide on pricing and wage levels, work allocation, and preferred user and laborer profiles. And of course it’s the owners who take the lion’s share of the profits, resulting in former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich describing this economic model as less of a sharing economy and more of a "share-the-scraps economy."

Adjuncts have not yet had this experience because the sharing economy business model has not yet been introduced into higher education to any significant extent. However, if for me übercapitalism can be understood as a regime of subjectification designed to produce a specific form of self-disciplining subjectivity -- namely that of individuals who function as if they are their own freelance microenterprises -- then we can say that elements of überfication are appearing in higher education. For example, just as Uber’s “surveillance capitalism” uses finely grained data to acquire deep knowledge of consumer behavior, so many higher education institutions already collect large amounts of data on student grades, attendance, library use, movements around campus and participation in online learning forums and virtual learning environments.

JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) in the United Kingdom is even involved in hosting a national learning analytics service, which will collate data from a learning records “warehouse” and use this information to help understand which methods of teaching work best, and highlight when students are experiencing difficulties. Yet one of the features of this JISC national learning analytics scheme also concerns:

  • The development of an app for mobile devices that will allow students to track their own progress and, if they wish, the progress of their peers.
  • A screenshot of the app shows a Facebook-style newsfeed displaying how one student might have spent seven hours in the library over three days, while another might have spent six hours in the lab in a single day, and another might be in the top 10 percent of their class for an assignment.

It is just this kind of performance monitoring, rating and surveillance, enabled by the development of mobile phones and apps, that I’m referring to when I say that übercapitalism is in the process of transforming us all into self-preoccupied, hypercompetitive microentrepreneurs of our own selves and lives.

Q: In higher education, do the professors who land research grants or launch spin-off businesses fit the theory of the entrepreneurial individual of the sharing economy?

A: In The Birth of Biopolitics, Michel Foucault writes of the neoliberal “homo oeconomicus [economic man] as entrepreneur of himself, being for himself his own capital, being for himself his own producer, being for himself the source of [his] earnings.” I would say that those professors who land research grants and launch spin-off businesses are perhaps closer to being entrepreneurs in this sense. What I’m referring to in relation to übercapitalism and the sharing economy is an intensification of this state of affairs whereby we are encouraged to become atomized individuals who develop our personalities as brands and endeavor to generate social, public and professional value by acting as both a microentrepreneur and microentrepreneur of our own selves and lives.

In the context of higher education, think more in terms of those subjectivizing features that are used by Academia.edu and other academic social networks to help users develop their profiles as “personal brands” in order to emphasize their individual difference and specialness: the kind of thing academics have to do more and more in a competitive market both to get jobs and to hang on to them. I have in mind such features as real-name policies, personal pictures and biographies, not to mention Academia.edu’s analytics dashboards and quantifying deep analytics.

Moreover, the mode of production is shifting more and more from publishing texts intermittently in centralized entities such as journals and even websites, to the generation of a high-volume, fast-paced flow of content over a range of dispersed media -- Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WhatsApp, Snapchat. Transforming their identities into a recognizable personal brand, often by using humor, lifestyle, controversy, the cultivation of celebrity and other means of gaining attention may therefore be one of the main ways left for authors to manage perceptions of their work, and to prevent it from being merely a series of atomized texts that are posted online and then reblogged, shared and reused by others in a manner that challenges traditional notions of authorship, originality and copyright.

Given the way in which many higher education institutions, in the face of increasing market competition, are already using YouTube, Instagram and Twitter to reach both current and prospective students, there is even the possibility that in order to be able to teach and research in the future, some academics may have to sell their whole way of life, just as many celebrities are now charging subscribers a few dollars a month to access their own, personally branded, app-based mobile media channels. By cutting out the intermediaries of the “old media” in this way (book publishers, press, TV, magazines), these celebrities are providing their fans with “direct” access to their “real” lives by detailing their carefully curated fitness and lifestyle tips, the superfoods they eat, as well as offering advice on clothing, hair and makeup, and highlighting the glamorous people they know and exotic places they travel to, all as an extension of their brands and personalities. It is not so much the products celebrities are marketing and selling with these channels, then, as their own selves. They are their own jobs.

You would be forgiven for thinking this is hyperbole. Yet the University of Salford in Britain is already reported to have “two profiles on the dating app Tinder, encouraging school leavers to ‘start a lasting relationship with us this September’ and to ‘swipe right to find the course of your dreams.’”

Q: Many young people seem to embrace parts of the sharing economy -- even as some of them complain about lack of resources for higher education. What do you make of that?

A: As I say, the greater degree of autonomy and flexibility offered by many instances of the sharing economy may suit some people. However, übercapitalism is about more than the way we work. It acts even on those elements of life that used to be beyond the control of the corporation: our sociability, our personalities. Companies such as Uber and Airbnb are concerned not just with what we do but with who we are, in other wordsThis is why I argue that affirmatively disrupting übercapitalism will mean affirmatively disrupting the microentrepreneurs of our own selves and lives we are becoming. This applies to the ways in which we work, act and think as teachers and researchers, including how we create, publish and disseminate our work.

Q: What do you believe higher education should do to resist the "überfication of the university"?

A: The second part of my project focuses on data commonism (which is distinct from both platform cooperativism and venture communism). I’m going to be arguing that universities should adopt a CopyFarLeft approach in order to construct an information and data commons with which to disrupt the disrupters of übercapitalism and the corporate sharing economy. At the moment universities act as fairly mediocre businesses, for all they are under pressure from neoliberal national and regional governments to adopt the values and practices of for-profit corporations in the belief that doing so makes them more effective and efficient. When it comes to research, for example, they clearly have a “product” the corporate sector is keen to exploit commercially. And universities are being encouraged by governments worldwide to make this product freely available to businesses on an open-access, open-knowledge, open-data basis for precisely this purpose.

Yet at the same time universities are being pushed to act as for-profit businesses in other aspects of their operation in order to compensate for the withdrawal of public funding at the hands of the very same neoliberal governments. In this respect, CopyFarLeft represents a strategic way for universities to adopt a far more “businesslike” approach toward the knowledge and research they generate (and to stop using public funding to provide free information, data and labor for parasitical for-profit businesses such as Academia.edu and LinkedIn). CopyFarLeft does so by allowing universities to insist that any for-profit business wishing to privatize, commercialize and commodify their research must pay a decent price for it (rather than getting it cheaply or indeed for free as is all too frequently the case now), while also ensuring this research and data remains openly available and free to use in the public sphere.

Adopting such a CopyFarLeft approach could thus enable universities to affirmatively disrupt those privately owned for-profit companies such Academia.edu that have a business model resting on their ability to parasitically trade off publicly funded education, research and labor. This model will provide universities with a means to render themselves far less vulnerable to disruption at the hands of both neoliberal governments and any future higher education equivalent of Uber or Airbnb.

Wednesday
Aug102016

J. Hillis Miller, Literature Matters - new book from OHP

Open Humanities Press is delighted to announce our first dual-language edition: a new collection of essays by OHP's first Editorial board member and long-time mentor:
  

J. Hillis Miller, Literature Matters 

Why and to what end should we read, teach, and occupy our time with literary and/or cultural studies? A new collection of essays edited by Monika Reif-Hülser. 

J. Hillis Miller, Lektüren-Interventionen 

Warum und wozu Literaturwissenschaft, oder im erweiterten Sinne ‚Kulturwissenschaft? Zusammengestellt, eingeleitet und übersetzt von Monika Reif-Hülser. 

Freely available for download at http://www.openhumanitiespress.org

 

Friday
Jul222016

Response to Pirate Philosophy, Experimental Publishing and Beta-Testing the Future

 

(The text below is my response to Roger Malina's review of Pirate Philosophy'Pirate Philosophy, Experimental Publishing and Beta-Testing the Future', July 10, 2016. The full text of Malina's review, along with the corresponding discussion and my response, can be found on his website here.) 

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Dear Roger, 

Many thanks for such a perceptive – and generous – engagement with Pirate Philosophy. I read your review in Venice, where I was visiting the Architecture Biennale. But I also had an opportunity to see an interesting exhibition at the Gallerie dell’Accademia on the invention of both the concept of publishing and the modern book. ‘Aldo Manuzio. Il rinascimento di Venezia’ positions Renaissance Venice as the Silicon Valley of its age due to its role as the international capital of print (1). Yet Venice was a doubly fitting place to read your post as of course it’s a city built on water that has no fixed or stable boundaries. It’s interesting to bear in mind that European publishing – which, as a technology and as a process, has always been liquid rather than having only become so with the advent of the digital age – itself emerged from an inherently fluid environment. 

I’m going to respond to the issues you raise in separate posts containing some of the thoughts that were triggered as I read your review. That way I can do so in a correspondingly ‘brief, non-comprehensive’ fashion. 

So, I guess the first question is, why have I written a book, Pirate Philosophy, that ‘rails against the academic system that privileges the book and monograph form published via academic or commercial publishers’, and yet published it with just such a press, MIT? 

Well, versions of most of the material that makes up Pirate Philosophy are already available open access. This material can be found on my website as pre-prints, as part of my Open Humanities Notebook (2), and on the websites of some the journals in which versions of particular chapters were first published (3). Given that much of the work is already available in other places and in other forms, the question then becomes more: why did Ialso publish this material as a conventional print book with a traditional academic press? 

The last conventional print monograph I wrote was Digitize This Book! which came out with Minnesota in 2008. Since then I’ve published all sorts of free, libre, open access books and texts – some of them indeed in open, collaborative, collective and anonymous forms of theorizing (4). But as the comments that were made about Pirate Philosophy on Twitter a few weeks ago bear witness (5), people still respond (in the form of tweets, blog posts and reviews, for example) more to material published as a conventional print book with a traditional academic or commercial press. And so if my ambition is to challenge the way we work and think as theorists and philosophers with regard to concepts such as the individualized named author, the sovereign proprietorial subject, originality, the book, and copyright, then it looks like I still do have to publish in ‘conventional’ ways now and again. 

At this point I’d like to take a cue from your idea that ‘in the process of reading you accept to have the author change you the reader through the act of reading… since this contributes to creating the community of practice.’ I want to do so in order to raise a question for us as a community of readers in turn, as I think you’re absolutely right here: the community has to take some responsibility for this situation. My question for the community is this: why are we still so focused on privileging ideas of ‘the book’, even when material is already freely and openly available (just not in a bound, linear, sequential, print-on-paper form that has been published by a traditional academic press)? In other words, is it my practices as an ‘author’ that need to change, or our practices as a community of readers / scholars? 

As for Pirate Philosophy, it endeavours to move beyond ideas of open and closed access, legal and illegal modes of publication, even the human and nonhuman, the ‘I’ and the ‘we’, as a way of engaging with our scholarly practices and the technologies involved in them – while also avoiding, as you rightly observe, any positions of moral or political purity. 

Best, Gary 

References: 

1) http://www.gallerieaccademia.org/exhibitions-and-events/current/aldo-manuzio-il-rinascimento-di-venezia/?lang=en.

2) http://garyhall.squarespace.com/journal.

3) See here for one example: http://www.radicalphilosophy.com/commentary/pirate-radical-philosophy-2. 

 

4) This material and/or the relevant links can be found on my website: http://www.garyhall.info/

5) https://twitter.com/BiellaColeman/status/733025063637819392;