Talk: the Idea of a Digital University, David Berry, 12 June 4-5.30PM

12 June, 4-5.30pm, Faculty of Education, 184 Hills Rd., Donald Macintyre Building, Room 2S3 (second floor)

In this talk, I set out to examine the ways in which the university, as an idea, was discussed, written about and actively debated over a long period of history.  I aim to develop a set of critical research questions and problematics in relation to the university, and also to reassemble a set of concepts for thinking about the university in a digital age. When and why the question of the “idea of a university” becomes important? Are there particular historical patterns or social conflicts that generate the conditions for the questioning of the university? Why has the university become such an important site of criticism today?

I also think it is important to ask who it is that is thinking about the idea of a university in each period, as this is, I think, another important aspect to explain both the specificity of the questioning, but also the kinds of answers that are generated in each historical period. Lastly, I want to highlight that asking the question of the idea of the university is important for another reason, and that is that it brings to the fore moments when the university itself is under contestation, whether by the academics and staff that inhabit it, by the state, or from other social forces that may create the conditions for the university’s radical reconfiguration.

David M. Berry is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex, Visiting Fellow at CRASSH and Wolfson College, Cambridge, and an associate member of the Faculty of History, University of Oxford.

His most recent books were Critical Theory and the Digital and Digital Humanities: Knowledge and Critique in a Digital Age (with Anders Fagerjord).

All are welcome. The Faculty of Education is about 15′ cycle and 30′ walk from Central Cambridge, and 10′ from Cambridge train station.

Donald Macintyre Building is fully accessible.

For questions about the seminar, contact Jana Bacevic (jb906@cam.ac.uk).

 

Call: Moral Machines: Ethics and Politics of the Digital World

This symposium might be of interest to those within our cluster who took part in the platform capitalism reading group:

 

CALL FOR PAPERS:

MORAL MACHINES? THE ETHICS AND POLITICS OF THE DIGITAL WORLD

6-8 March 2019, Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki

With confirmed keynotes from N. Katherine Hayles (Duke University, USA) and Bernard Stiegler (IRI: Institut de Recherche et d’Innovation at the Centre Pompidou de Paris)

As our visible and invisible social reality is getting increasingly digital, the question of the ethical, moral and political consequences of digitalization is ever more pressing. Such issue is too complex to be met only with instinctive digiphilia or digiphobia. No technology is just a tool, all technologies mark their users and environments. Digital technologies, however, mark them much more intimately than any previous ones have done since they promise to think in our place – so that they do not only enhance the homo sapiens’ most distinctive feature but also relieve them from it. We entrust computers with more and more functions, and their help is indeed invaluable especially in science and technology. Some fear or dream that in the end, they become so invaluable that a huge Artificial Intelligence or Singularity will take control of the whole affair that humans deal with so messily.

The symposium “Moral Machines? The Ethics and Politics of the Digital World” welcomes contributions addressing the various aspects of the contemporary digital world. We are especially interested in the idea that despite everything they can do, the machines do not really think, at least not like us. So, what is thinking in the digital world? How does the digital machine “think”? Our both confirmed keynote speakers, N. Katherine Hayles and Bernard Stiegler, have approached these fundamental questions in their work, and one of our aims within this symposium is to bring their approaches together for a lively discussion. Hayles has shown that, for a long time, computers were built with the assumption that they imitate human thought – while in fact, the machine’s capability of non-embodied and non-conscious cognition sets it apart from everything we call thinking. For his part, Bernard Stiegler has shown how technics in general and digital technologies in particular are specific forms of memory that is externalized and made public – and that, at the same time, becomes very different from and alien to individual human consciousness.

We are seeking submissions from scholars studying different aspects of these issues. Prominent work is done in many fields ranging from philosophy and literary studies to political science and sociology, not forgetting the wide umbrella of digital humanities. We hope that the symposium can bring together researchers from multiple fields and thus address the ethics and politics of the digital world in an interdisciplinary and inspiring setting. In addition to the keynotes, our confirmed participants already include Erich Hörl, Fréderic Neyrat and François Sebbah, for instance.

We encourage approaching our possible list of topics (see below) from numerous angles, from philosophical and theoretical to more practical ones. For example, the topics could be approached from the viewpoint of how they have been addressed within the realm of fiction, journalism, law or politics, and how these discourses possibly frame or reflect our understanding of the digital world.

The possible list of topics, here assembled under three main headings, includes but is not limited to:

  • Thinking in the digital world:
  • What kind of materiality conditions the digital cognition?
  • How does nonhuman and nonconscious digital world differ from the embodied human thought?
  • How do the digital technologies function as technologies of memory and thought
  • What kind of consequences might their usage in this capacity have in the long run?
  • The morality of machines:
  • Is a moral machine possible?
  • Have thinking machines made invalid the old argument according to which a technology is only as truthful and moral as its human user? Or can truthfulness and morals be programmed (as the constructors of self-driving cars apparently try to do)?
  • How is war affected by new technologies?
  • The ways of controlling and manipulating the digital world:
  • Can and should the digital world be politically controlled, as digital technologies are efficient means of both emancipation and manipulation?
  • How can we control our digital traces and data gathered of us?
  • On what assumptions are the national and global systems (e.g., financial system, global commerce, national systems of administration, health and defense) designed and do we trust them?
  • What does it mean that public space is increasingly administered by technical equipment made by very few private companies whose copyrights are secret?

“Moral Machines? The Ethics and Politics of the Digital World” is a symposium organized by two research fellows, Susanna Lindberg and Hanna-Riikka Roine at the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies, University of Helsinki. The symposium is free of charge, and there will also be a public evening programme with artists engaging the digital world. Our aim is to bring together researchers from all fields addressing the many issues and problems of the digitalization of our social reality, and possibly contribute towards the creation of a research network. It is also possible that some of the papers will be invited to be further developed for publication either in a special journal issue or an edited book.

The papers to be presented will be selected based on abstracts which should not exceed 300 words (plus references). Add a bio note (max. 150 words) that includes your affiliation and email address. Name your file [firstname lastname] and submit it as a pdf. If you which to propose a panel of 3-4 papers, include a description of the panel (max. 300 words), papers (max. 200 words each), and bio notes (max. 150 words each).

Please submit your proposal to moralmachines2019@gmail.com by 31 August 2018. Decisions on the proposals will be made by 31 October 2018.

For further information about the symposium, feel free to contact the organizers Susanna Lindberg (susanna.e.lindberg@gmail.com) and Hanna-Riikka Roine (hanna.roine@helsinki.fi).

The symposium web site: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/moralmachines/.

Critique and Agency in the Accelerated Academy

June 8th, 12pm to 2pm, DMB 2S4
Faculty of Education, Hills Road, Cambridge

In the fifth event in the Accelerated Academy series, the Cultural Politics and Global Justice cluster at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Education hosts an afternoon seminar on critique and agency in the accelerated academy. How is temporality changing within the academy? What does this mean for our capacity to individually and collectively shape our working lives? Is there still space for critique within an academy where time pressure has become the norm?

  • Time present and academic futures – Jana Bacevic (Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge)
  • On Critical University StudiesAlison Wood (CRASSH, University of Cambridge)
  • The Coming of the Venture AcademicFilip Vostal (Institute of Philosophy of the Czech Academy of Sciences)

Each speaker will talk for around 20 minutes, with time for questions. We will then open out for a broader discussion of the themes raised during the talks. For information about the Accelerated Academy project, see the website or special section of the LSE Impact Blog.

What educators need to know about global trade deals

Educators don’t normally have ‘trade negotiations’ on their radar as something that they must be informed about. Terms like ‘trade in education services’, ‘cross-border supply’, ‘national treatment’, ‘stand-still’, ‘negative list’ and ‘ratchet’ – to name just a few that are used in negotiating international trade and investment deals – are strange interlopers into the world of education. Yet education is a sector now included in a raft of trade and investment negotiations and agreements either underway or recently concluded and awaiting ratification. This report explores the wider economic, political and social conditions, development agendas, combinations of actors, and regulatory instruments, which together have challenged the idea of, and conditions for, education as a public service and a human right by locking in a market and profit-based framing of education in trade deals.

Download the report from Susan Robertson here.

The University in a Connected World

Our convenor Susan Robertson was interviewed by CGTN while taking part in the World University Presidents Symposium held last week in Beijing. Susan reflected on the university in a connected world and the possibilities which platforms offer for rethinking its operations:

Susan Robertson, a professor of education at the University of Cambridge, who has taken part in MOOCs, found that one of the most characteristic challenges in online teaching stems from the sheer number of participants and the rich sources of relevant reading materials that they can access on the Internet.

“This made me think, ‘Oh my goodness: MOOC is teaching thousands of students at a time’,” the professor told CGTN on the sidelines of the World University Presidents Symposium held last week in Beijing. “I did a huge amount of work, maybe more work than it took for my normal class that I might teach.”

See here for the full article and video interview.