Landing : Athabascau University

Bob Hanke

Last updated March 31, 2013 - 1:25pm by Mark A. McCutcheon

Bob Hanke, Lecturer in Communications, York U

“The Network University in Transition”

Abstract: Drawing upon Castells, Liu, Kittler, Negri and Weber among others, my broader project examines how the network university has emerged out of the “university in ruins” (Readings 1996). Readings described how University of Excellence displaced the University of Culture’s cultivation of citizen-subjects within the liberal nation-state. He recognized the cash nexus of the post-historical, capitalist bureaucratic university was coming to the fore and that computerization was altering the technological context of writing, publication, and reading. Today, the acquisition of knowledge cannot be disassociated from the digital nexus.

To trace how digital media and their networks “mediate the conditions of mediation” (Hansen 2010:81) is to attend to the materiality of “discourse networks” that allows culture to “select, store and process relevant data” (Kittler 1990). Developments in the storage and retrieval of information have led to new practices of scholarly communication (Borgman 2007) and facilitated the growth of administrative networks for “information and image control, surveillance, and unidirectional communication, edicts and coercive demands on actors lower down (McCarthy, Patton, Kim & Monje 2009: 48). Policy experts have declared the entire Ontario public university sector unsustainable (Clark, Moran, Skolnik & Trick 2009) while corporatization, credentialism and edu-technologies have been lowering higher education across Canada (Côte & Allahar 2011). One way the chronically underfunded, research-intensive university ‘breaks even’ is by “delivering labour in the mode of information” (Bousquet 2008: 60).

In the context of this symposium on Identity, Agency and the Digital Nexus, I contend that the digital nexus – the relation between digital technology and techniques – have been instrumental to the transmutation of the university. I begin by laying out the idea of networks and the duality of network processes. I proceed by suggesting that university can be conceptualized as a network enterprise that shapes the “internal outside” that is the “unassimilated background” of academic professions (Moten & Harney 2004). I go on to argue that information technology (IT) strategy can be understand as a mode of development that fuses technological and organizational change. The mid-1990s switch from main frames to client-server networks created an IT infrastructure that was decentralized but too heterogeneous to fit the mold of a “comprehensive university. ” Another technics of organization would be tried. In the late 1990s, the boundary between “administrative” and “academic” computing was broached. By the mid-1990s, a “utilities-oriented” infrastructure was combined with “service-oriented” applications. By the late 1990s, “The discussion around IT is becoming increasingly about managing the University, not just managing IT” (2009 York IT Strategy). During this period, IT professionals acted as technological intermediaries between IT industry vendors and their “clients” – administrators, faculty, staff and students. The development of centralized distributed networks affords both networked faculty performativity and hierarchal operativity.


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