[iDC] (re)Introducing...

Alexander Halavais halavais at gmail.com
Wed Sep 23 02:40:53 UTC 2009


Thanks to Trebor being patient with me in getting an introduction
up--actually a reintroduction, as I think I've been on the iDC list
for quite a while now.

My name is Alex, and I lack the discipline to remain on one topic for
very long. I've recently had a short book published by Polity Press
called Search Engine Society, which looks at the Search Engine as a
way of naturalizing the structures of power on and off the web. Pretty
basic stuff really, and from what I have seen so far, nothing that
surprising to the crowd here. I'm continually interested in the ways
in which social media are deployed and the ways in which they shape
the way we think, interact, and name.

You are supposed to "write what you know," but I end up thinking a lot
about the things we think we know but tend to take for granted. This
means thinking a lot about what we do as scholars. I consider
"scholarship" to be located on a continuum of learning, from babies
figuring out how to walk to researchers working in universities. That
continuity is in many ways enforced by similarities of context, and in
other ways quite artificially disconnected. It seems strange that you
have to pass through years of bureaucratic constraints to full tenured
professor before you are permitted to return to the unbridled
exploration torn away from you in elementary school, if not earlier.

More to the point, schooling is intended to form citizens and
consumers. There has long been different forms of resistance to the
factory school, and that seems to be surging in the US these days. The
alternatives make up a curious mix. I'm sure none of you have missed
recent articles in the popular press celebrating the idea of the $99
undergraduate course. The factory model is being challenged on one
side by a networked form of unschooling, a recognition that learning
takes place far more frequently outside of the strictures of the
school day, and has been wedged into "recess." On the other side is a
challenge from a networked form of capital, atomizing learning into
priceable outcomes. Both are laying claim to play.

I would be excited to talk with you in our meeting about what happens
when play wins over the factory school. What does Club Penguin portend
for recess? When we are graded for our play? When play itself it
treated as an uncritically liberating ideal?

- Alex

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// Alexander C. Halavais, ciberflâneur
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