Protect #NetNeutrality — stop the #InternetSlowdown

courtesy of OpenMedia.ca

courtesy of OpenMedia.ca

Today is the #InternetSlowdown, a day of concerted action to oppose Big Telecom’s attempts to stratify Internet service into slower and faster lanes – in other words, to parcel the open Internet into a bunch of shitty cable-service packages.
Add your voice to the growing chorus of support for net neutrality and opposition to a tiered Internet, via organizations like Open Media:

Big Telecom conglomerates are about to force many of your favourite websites into an Internet slow lane, making them buffer sporadically, and return errors.
The clock is ticking: Key decision-makers are about to make a landmark ruling on this Internet slowdown3 – join the crucial day of action now. Add your voice!

To learn more about net neutrality, why it’s important, and why it’s in danger, start with this discussion by comedian John Oliver, who helpfully redefines “net neutrality” as “preventing cable company fuckery”:

New Fronts in the Copyfight: new research series in the OA journal DSCN

I’m pleased to announce the launch of New Fronts in the Copyfight: Multidisciplinary Directions in Critical Copyright Studies, a peer-reviewed series of research articles on intellectual property and the digital milieu, which I am guest-editing for Canada’s open-access, digital humanities journal, Digital Studies/Le Champ Numérique (DSCN).

The series opens with an introduction, “Copyright concerns all academics,” that argues for greater knowledge of copyright and intellectual property among Canadian academics.

The first two articles in the series are now available:

1) “Pornographers and Pirates: Intellectual Property and Netporn” by SSHRC-winning Brock MA student Sarah Mann.

“As netporn businesses struggle for control over porn distribution and consumption, they facilitate their own survival by generating new sexual, social and economic norms. These norms mediate between the “pirate” culture promised by technology and the culture industry’s interest in legitimising and entrenching intellectual property rights.”

2) “The Rise, Fall, and Rise of ACTA?” by Athabasca U political scientist Jay Smith.

“This paper argues that the spirit of ACTA may live on in a host of other trade agreements currently being negotiated. That is, ACTA, or even more restrictive versions of it, could be imposed through the back door at least upon weaker states through bilateral agreements with the United States and the European Union.”

Further articles are in the works, and will be announced as they become available. The series hopes to take advantage of DSCN’s open access digital format in order to promote greater critical awareness of copyright and IP issues among academics, students, and the public.

Frankenstein as a figure of globalization

“Frankenstein as a figure of globalization in Canada’s postcolonial popular culture,” an article I published in Continuum 25.5 (2011), is now available for Open Access, via Athabasca U’s institutional repository. The abstract and downloadable PDF (post-print full text, but not publisher’s version) are available at http://hdl.handle.net/2149/3450.

Applying the popular ‘technological’ interpretation of Frankenstein to the problematic of globalization, these Canadian films [Videodrome, Possible Worlds, The Corporation] criticize the corporate institution, borrowing from Shelley’s story and its popular progeny to comment, with self-reflexive irony, on communication media and their instrumentality to globalization, its hegemonic naturalization, and the ‘imperialist aspirations’ of transnational conglomerates.

Research presentation on the absence of unions from science fiction

My AU colleague in labour studies, Bob Barnetson, and I had the opportunity about a month ago to attend the Popular Culture Association of Canada’s conference, to present our research on the absence of unions from science fiction. Barnetson has posted a copy of that presentation at his blog, for open peer review, as we turn to developing and expanding our research for publication.

McCutcheon, Mark A. and Bob Barnetson. “No Future for Labour? On the Absence of Unions from Science Fiction.” Popular Culture Association of Canada conference, Mount Royal U, Calgary, 20 May 2014. http://albertalabour.blogspot.ca/2014/05/presentation-no-future-for-labour-on.html

Science fiction TV and partisan politics

I’ve made an accidental observation while searching for images to use in a slideshow for an upcoming conference talk.
A Google image search for “the borg” shows results that include several images of the US president Barack Obama as a member of the Borg. E.g.:

Sample remixed image of Obama as the Borg


But a Google image search for “cylons” shows results that include images of Mitt Romney and John McCain (and to a lesser extent Sarah Palin). E.g.:

Sample image of Romney that refers to Cylons


It’s a strangely consistent polarization of two major Hollywood science fiction franchises, each used as instruments of partisan political satire: for reasons that may deserve closer analysis, right-leaning audiences on the right appear to be appropriating the Borg to satirize Obama, and centre-leaning audiences appear to be appropriating the Cylons to satirize Republicans.

Link

Academic service in the corporatizing university

Here’s a Facebook discussion I had with some friends and colleagues about academic service. I thought it might warrant a wider audience.

The discussion started when I shared a blog post on “Overcoming Post-Tenure Paralysis.”

Me (quoting the post): “Believe it or not, the biggest threat to midcareer professional success is often too many service commitments.”
Uh, damn right I believe it.

Friend: The more government services are cut, the more “volunteer opportunities” are created. The present fascist government would like nothing more than for the 99% to give up political affiliations and actions entirely because we are too busy with “service commitments”. Volunteer less, and protest more. Join a political party. Choose a candidate in the next election and become active in their campaign. (I know I’m preaching to the converted here, Mark, but hitting “like” seemed insufficient this time)

Me: the related story inside the increasingly corporatized university is that the professoriate is asked (or pressured) to do both more and less service: more service to protect collegial governance from corporate-style management, and, in the process, to shoulder governance work the administration should take responsibility for; and yet also less service, in committee work and related commitments that comprise “consultaganda,” giving the barest veneer of legitimacy to the administration’s decisions that it really doesn’t want to genuinely consult about. the documented inflation of senior management roles in universities does not then spell less service for faculty, but more: it becomes busywork to justify administrators’ similarly inflated salaries (thus too is documented) and – coming to my point here – it keeps critical scholars and teachers like me from doing the critical research and teaching that are themselves vital forms of political action.

Friend: Hear hear!

APO colleague: The buzz word I got fed for my job”academic effectiveness”. The moment you start trying to measure whatever the hell that is, you’ve forgotten what the hell a University is there for in the first place.

Contingent academic colleague: …so the tenure track do all this ‘service’, get course releases, then sessionals are paid next to nothing to teach the courses but can’t do research or service work so they also stagnate…. seems like the only people who get mid career success are the admins, what do they do again?

Me: How’s this for a telling symptom? The new issue of University Affairs, which is a national platform for university & college administrators, has a “career advice” article for post-tenure professors – and the advice is, literally, Service, Service, Service, and Service:

http://www.universityaffairs.ca/now-that–i-have-tenure-whats-next.aspx

Contingent academic colleague: I found a niche that doesn’t involve tenure or service, but it took ten years and some serious soul searching… now I teach 50% of the time and work for publishers for the other half, but it’s all on my terms so I’m actually very happy. Decent income, no committees!

Faculty Association staff member: Some ‘service’ work is often downloading work management should be doing and more often doing work that gives the appearance of faculty involvement in decision making. Look for that pesky word ‘recommend’.

Tenured academic colleague: Consultaganda. Just the word I’ve been looking for.

Note: Credit for the “Consultaganda” coinage goes to AU labour studies prof Bob Barnetson.