Tag Archives: protest

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New Research Article: Anti-Olympic Protest and the British Library

Back in October I was asked by Gill Ridgley from the British Library to contribute a short article relating to social media and the Olympic Games for their special-issue website for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The article “Occupying the Olympic Games: Resisting 2012” has now been published on (a newly prepared) section on anti-olympic protests on the British Library site. It’s good to see that these issues are now being included in the debate, especially in terms of ‘academic/research’ legacy from London 2012 – making a distinction between protest and resistance and the terrorist attack rhetoric. There is a list of resources and further reading on the site if you are interested in looking further issues relating to the critique of the Olympic industry.

The direct link to my article is here [.pdf] and I will be presenting an extended version of this paper at the Sport and Politics Association Sports Politics, Media and Identity conference in Southampton on the 24th of February.

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Countering the Olympics: Reflections from Saturday’s meeting.

One of the winner’s from the Anti-Olympics Poster Competition

Preamble: Before I begin, I’ve written quite a lot about the use of citizen media as a activism tool around the Games – and published a paper on alternatives (including critiques of those alternatives) to the mainstream media for the International Olympic Academy – this is essence of my PhD thesis, that I’m hoping to ‘give back’ to those communities that I’ve taken from over the past 2.5 years through active participation towards facilitating an ‘recognised’ national citizen media network during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. My role as an early-career academic who needs to complete such a project in line with the current rhetoric of higher education and research is in tension between my role as somebody who who has personally become quite outspoken and publically critical of the Olympic movement in a personal capacity. How these roles fit together, I don’t know, but I feel that it is worth declaring agendas before I offer suggestions for potential mobilisation is important for me and allows for others to decide on my position. Regardless, if I say I love or hate the Olympic Games, I can’t help but feel as if I am somewhat moving into a space where I know too much about it to ignore it in an objective, non-political way that some instances of PhD research encourages.

With 6 months to go until the London 2012 Olympic Games begin, Saturday spelled a crucial stage in organising a coherent resistance towards the forthcoming Olympiad. With over 100 people present, ranging from local communities who have been devastated by the impact of the Games on their doorstep over the last 6.5 years to professional NGOs who’s stance is not to be ‘anti-olympic’ but instead using the media awareness and role of the corporate sponsors to draw attention to wider issues at stake. For some, this was the first time that they had met others who were critiquing the games as well. For me, it was a case of putting names to faces of those who I have been following on twitter, or engaging with via email or networked sites. It was clear to me, that through the presentation of ideas and themes, as well as individual campaigns directly or indirectly associated with the Olympic industry, that this was a useful and targeted space to understand what has been done already and what still needs to be achieved in the next 200 days.

Having spent time in Vancouver in 2010, this meeting brought back a lot of memories. Albeit, I wasn’t there in the planning stages – when those who put together the plans for alternative and independent media spaces originally had the idea to work in the realms of citizen journalism to cover alternative narratives of the games. However, it can be tracked in some cases through documentaries such as With Glowing Hearts, blog posts and youtube videos on the run up to 2010. Vancouver was the first Olympic Games to have pre-arranged independent media space(s) ahead of the games beginning – and was situated right in the blip where the IOC weren’t au fait with the notion of widely adopted social media platforms such as twitter and facebook, because up until that point, they felt as if they possessed the control to internet monitor and squash any radical intervention at play. The official twwitter facebook and flickr page was set up DURING the Vancouver Games – now you couldn’t imagine a brand such as the 5 rings ever not having a social media presence.

With 2012, the IOC and LOCOG are all over it. There has been heavy investment to make sure that they at least try to ‘get’ social media, which is evident with their social media for games maker policy (lulz.) But, seriously, the online media will play a big part in the narrative of the games – especially when you have accredited media such as the BBC encouraging recruitment for their own ‘community reporter‘ programs, corporate sponsors such as BT supporting their own team of ‘storytellers‘ and many cultural olympiad programs (including partly #media2012 the project I’m coordinating, in a way) rolling with the citizen journalism angle. There is a reason why citizen media will be ‘sexy’ during the Olympics, as we’ve now reached the point where the act of using social media is far from radical, can be coerced back into the system and radical media alternatives will remain radical and therefore unattractive to the mainstream media.

Kevin Blowe’s account of this weekend hit this concern and theme right on the head, and emphasises the importance of working with and as media in order to try and not only to use the Olympics as a tool to raise awareness of causes, but also to prevent and fight for causes and against the effects of the Olympic shock doctrine on how it transforms bylaws, public space and the rhetoric and acceptance of private security which coming thick and fast in the aftermath of the shock eviction of critical spaces such as the Bank of Ideas early this morning.

So what do we do?

Well, in my capacity of #media2012 coordinator, I know that we are working hard to find and secure a physical space to host an independent media centre during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics Games. It will probably be in partnership with somebody else already doing something in this area – as it will take more than providing a space to get it up and running. We are trying to do this across the country, across the ‘official’ 13 olympic region (according to LOCOG) such as in spaces like Weymouth which is a venue city and suffering from the same privatisation as London – but also in arts and cultural spaces who tend to be a good space to provide facilities such as power, computer access and food/drink. I would hope that such spaces could provide a facility to cover, report and engage with activists and ‘mainstream media’ a like.

I’m also aware that there are other politics involved, it is partly an academic project (hence my involvement), some spaces are funded directly by cultural olympiad, the arts council, legacy trusts, NGOs etc. This will not be ideal for some, many, but I’m all for the principle of in, against and beyond and ensuring that as many voices are heard, not sanitized, accepted approaches. In my personal capacity, I want to help and actively seek out a space where these stories of resistance have a chance to be heard by others, that we can help other cities who might be in discussion about hosting the games to reject them, or to pass on the legacy of protest to the next Olympic site – or even other mega event sites such as the Commonwealth Games, happening back home for me.

This is going to be an ongoing discussion for me – but if you are interested in a critique of the Olympic Games and not aware of sites such as GamesMonitor, then that is the first place I would recommend as not only a resource but a place to contribute and add to as a ongoing documentation of the next 6 months and beyond.

Importantly, we should be capturing as much of these conversations as we can. Below is a playlist of videos that I recorded during Saturday’s event (apology for the bad sound, mobile phone quality) and follow this link for a

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Occupying the Olympics: What can be done? (From @tentcityuni) #occupy2012

It was timely to hold a session at the Tent City University within the Occupy London camp on the notion of occupying the Olympics a day prior to the Independent reporting that the government are looking to ban demonstrations during the games next year. It emphasised completely what is going to happen, and what will happen, as the government cannot afford to allow for the games to fail (both financially, politically and internationally) – they will move the (*cringe for sports-related metaphor*) goalposts, whatever they are currently, to ensure that when the eye of the (carefully briefed and paying-customers) world’s media is upon London next summer, there will be conflict-free games and tailored soft power and sponsorship messages to be viewed.

They will not fail. They will do what they can to make sure they don’t fail. Even if it involves state brutality of citizens and changes to long-standing bylaws such as the right to protest and  squatters rights (see Barcelona 1992) It doesn’t come to much surprise, considering they’ve been displacing communities in East London for the last 6 and half years (it takes 7 years to ‘prepare’ for an Olympiad) – and had put in the ‘planning permission’ to do so, long before the winning bid for 2012 were announced in Singapore 2005.

You see, it’s simple things contained within bidding document files (see gamesbids.com for archive.) that can highlight this in advance – 7-10 years in advance, BEFORE your city bids for the games. Figures such as having to show to the IOC that the city can provide over 170,000 hotel beds for visiting fans, are one of the reasons why those who reside in the poorest part of Vancouver were evicted by their landlords from their lower-cost bedsits so they could be renovated and turned into boutique hotels, so that vistors had a place to stay and Vancouver saw the highest level of homelessness during one set period (watch the documentary ‘Five Ring Circus‘ to learn more)

Occupy the Olympics

Photo by @aral

After a skype call with Olympic critic and activist Helen Lenskyj (who have wrote some excellent books on resisting the Olympic Industry) whilst I was at Occupy Nottingham on Friday, she left me thinking about the privatisation of public space and the contrast of the Occupy movement. You see, every ‘public’ mass event you go to (fireworks, the fair, football, carnivals, the royal wedding) gives authorities the opportunity to move in on your civil liberties, it sticks a fence around it and uses security to make you feel ‘safe’ – when in fact, what it is doing is reducing the amount of space where you can actually call it public. For instance, try taking a photograph in your local shopping mall, it won’t be long before you get asked to leave or accused on being a terrorist - that is a perfect example of the local authorities outsourcing land to private companies to manage. As a participant at Occupy Nottingham told me on Friday, the occupations reclaim and raise awareness to the fact that these spaces, are in fact, being occupied by the corporations - not the people. And the Olympics is the biggest, and the baddest, example of this. I’ve met too many people in the last 2.5 years who have lost their home, their communities for the benefits of a 17 day sporting competition. This is the social and political context I am going to work within for my thesis – and probably the hardest thing I have to write, as I do not want to treat these experiences as throw away data for the REF or some other academic medal. The politics is personal.

Olympic Movement/Industry

What differs the Olympic Games from other mega events of its nature is three-fold – the first, the Olympic charter, the second, its historical context – and the third, Olympic education (the device that I’ve experienced first hand) The fact that they refer to themselves as a ‘movement’ hints at what the charter might contain, it aspires, it claims and it suggests that the Olympics provides a blueprint for living. The movement is governed by an Olympic charter, explicitly laying out the philosophical concept of ‘olympism’ – a way of life. When I was at the International Olympic Academy in September, I wrote about the three assumptions that were being made on my behalf, when discussing the Olympic Charter as document for research:

“1) That we all think that sport is a morally good thing. That is bonds us across communities and it should be considered as something as powerful as saying it is a ‘human right’. The act of sport is a human right.

2) That we see the idea of Olympic education as being a force to carry the message of sport and to help build an understanding that sport is a human right. All people of the world should hear this message and the best way to do this is through education.

3) That through participating in an olympic education program, we are are all advocates for the olympic education movement and will return to our country to spread the universal messages of Olympism. This is why we are here.”

Now I’ve stepped out of that world, and had the time to critically reflect on those experiences, I’m still gravely concerned about what follows such idealistic claims about society, or indeed, the notion that an ideology can be institutionalised through a device such as sport. You see, sport is a sacred cow – it is very rarely critiqued, it is probably one of the last bastians of the 20th century that hasn’t been ripped through the apparent public accountability machine of the mainstream media (or even academia) for the way that it acts. I mean, for the media, even if you aren’t paying for the rights to broadcast the Olympics games, to challenge the sports machine could potentially lose you a quarter of your daily news (and the access that goes along with it.) Furthermore, sport is still very much a television broadcast that remains unfragmented – think about the way football gathers people in spaces, or how big events disrupt existing programming. It very much has to be watched live. Similarly, there are very few academics who find themselves studying the Olympic Games when they detest organised sport and everything that goes with it. There a lot of tensions that come into play – and that could be one of the reasons why sport is a good hiding place for corporations such as McDonalds and CocaCola, corporations that don’t have an ethical bone in their system.

But if you align with an organisation that comes prepackaged with its own philosophy, a philosophy that promotes a healthy body and healthy mind, that also requires a hell of a lot of money before it will part with those ideas (and more importantly, its symbolic ritual, it’s only product essentially) then you know that you are not only going to reach global audiences, you are going to have a better chance of looking and sounding more ethical. The perfect relationship. And that perfect relationship is detailed within the Olympic charter – directly after the bit about friendship, peace and solidarity.

The history of the Olympics

Another factor of distraction is the history of the games, tied up closing to the history of ancient Greece (where relics from 2000 years ago shown the rich greeks enjoyed their stadiums, plays and temples) and where the industry was conceived at the turn of the 20th century by Pierre de Coubertin, a entrepreneur that played on the notion of beauty, religion and sport to introduce the modern Olympic games to the “masses.” I could go on, but if you want to read about the link between resistance and the Olympics, right back to the first modern games in Athens 1896, download @currybet’s brief history of Olympic dissent. The reason why I’m mentioning this is to relate to the political and social context of the games origins – think end of 19th century, imperialism, europe-centric governance, military influence (I’m sure there are historians out there who can tell a better story about this than me, I’m the new media person, remember!)

Olympic Education

And finally, the thing that separates the Olympics from say, the World cup? The Olympics comes packages with an element of Olympic education. There are Olympic education centres all over the place (I live 1 mile away from Loughborough University, it is reeking of Olympic studies) – but also, rather than simply research centres at universities all around the world, you’ve the Olympic games in school – worldwide. The London Games were sold on the aspect of youth (and much of the legacy claims are about just that) and if you keep an eye out for it, you’ll see things like “Get Set” which is the official link between compulsory education and LOCOG. The Olympic movement is embedded in the curriculum, I’m sure if you are of a certain age, you’ll remember the exposure to previous games yourself, in fact – before I took on this topic as a PhD, I had never encountered the Olympics in any other way apart from watching it during the summer holidays. Because it is what you do. Why do you think the IOC want Olympic education in schools? I can’t help but think that it is all related – especially when I encountered G4S at the Podium Further and Higher Education Conference back in February and they asked me advice on using social media to encourage college kids to apply for security jobs during London 2012 (!)

What can be done?

From the discussion at the tent city university on Saturday, we talked about if the Olympics can be occupied next summer – something that somebody on Twitter declared would be a huge stunt that would result in public uproar. Correct. It would. But it also raises questions about what occupy means and who is occupying who. What can I advise – based on what I’ve seen, read and learned over the last two years?

Looking to past games

What is happening in the UK is not in isolation. It doesn’t take much digging around to realise that every games that have came before have came complete with their own set of challenge on the local, national and international scale. Something that the Olympics, in its current format of every 2 years, is good at is being about to neutralise resistance or to distract from a citizen-reclaimed legacy. Think about how a school term works with the student movement, time and organisation of time is good way of killing momentum towards a cause. As we approach each Olympics, we start to care more as it approaches our lens – but it has taken 7 years to get to this stage. Think about the people living on its doorstep, think about the laws that need to be changed to allow the games to happen, think about where the budgets are going and use the Olympics as a mechanism to critique the rest of the government’s strategy. You can do this better if you look at what has happened before. There are some accessible books that you can read, all available on gamesmonitor’s reading list.

Media responsibility

Credit to @aral via instagram

It was ironic that Jon Snow came into my session, right at the moment when we was discussing media responsibility and the games. You see, the media have no responsibility to report critically on the games. If you look at research on media events (Dayan and Katz, 1994) even the most critical of journalists (erm-hm) are suspected in critique around events of this nature. Do not expect them to tell your story. Even if they do, they are in the pocket of the event. They need that access. So they will spin it to suit the general frame. You must tell your own.

Citizen Media and the Games

That why citizen media, social media and independent journalists are your friends – and why no story is too small to be captured. You see, there is one thing that LOCOG and the government can’t control in terms of the Olympic narrative (and what is remembered) is the digital footprint that is left behind. They can evict the Occupy London camp, but the digital trail will tell us more than the statues that were discovered around ancient Greece. You had to win a race to be remembered, to be immortalised, but as long as there are GPS satellites in the sky, data that we leave behind could be the answer to decentralising the narrative around megaevents (read Capalan, 2010 for more.)

Staying safe

Returning to the independent article to conclude, the government and LOCOG are expecting resistance. They are bigger and more aggressive than you can ever imagine. If you take them head on, they will come down on you like a ton of bricks. We’ve seen it with the royal wedding earlier this year, preemptive arrests and threats of rubber bullets and water cannons (sparked from the response to August riots) – you need to and must stay safe. Know your rights, read load about what has happened before and be clever about how you subvert the games. As Chris Shaw advises (Prof. at University of British Columbia, member of the NOGAMES network – and author of the five ring circus, Vancouver’s story) the best way to stop the games is to stop them before you ‘win’ them, when they have been awarded, there is no going back (unless you are Denver 1976, the only games where the citizens stopped it happening) They will do whatever it takes to make sure it goes ahead. The best you can do is to stay safe and make sure that whatever you do this time can be passed on to the next city – a legacy of protest and resistance.

 

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Presentation at the International Olympic Academy: Harnessing the Twitter Olympics

If you’ve been following on twitter, you’ll know that I’ve been studying at the postgraduate session at the International Olympic Academy in Greece (near Ancient Olympia) since the start of September. Each week is based on a core set of themes (ancient history, sports management and sociology etc), with rotating visiting professors from differing background and related participant presentations (that were used to apply for the academy).

This week, during philosophy and ethics week, I delivered my own paper on the twitter olympics, looking at the use of new media from Vancouver to London (but touching more on protest, resistance and activism). I wrote this paper last year, but the session was cancelled due to financial problems, so I’ve been looking at this area for a while now. I am glad that I’ve *finally* presented this topic and I can begin to move on to other ideas more formally.

The full paper below (which will be formally published as part of the IOA’s conference proceedings) – as well as the slides and a audio recording of the presentation, synced along the slides.

Hack, Disrupt, Occupy: Some thoughts on what I presented/ranted at #platpol11

I have to admit that I did not know what I was going to say prior to the event. I tend to react to what is being said, which makes me glad that I am presenting near the end of the schedule. To begin I need to talk about my own position as a researcher in order to understand how I have came to this position around the idea of networked politics OR as a researcher in a space where I am a active node in the network. I am concerned about space and how space is considered within the process of being human and the hows and the whys in which we interact with each other. My connections and my routes that I take as a researcher is based on the connections and the offline activities that I participate within. So to understand the context in which I exist within is probably the most important thing in increasing and disseminating my ideas around this space. Blogging (or free writing) or tweeting or letting the inner monologue run wild are a ways that I work out the idea around this area, my work and how I work conflicts with the structures of universities expectations and institutional hierarchies. Similarly, the process of listening to a personalized experience, therefore a twitter feed is a space that cannot be replicated or understood in the same way by anybody else. Although we can see networks, and visualize them with data, we cannot see or experience what that individual is experiencing through that data. We can argue that we are doing it right or we are doing it wrong. We can only speculate.

This is why I am approaching this as somebody has been nourished by the theory and critique that I have been exposed to over the last couple of days at the Platform Politics conference. It has been a worthwhile experience and I am grateful for Joss and Jussi for inviting me to speak – as this was really meant to be a poster. And I don’t know *how* I would be able to convey my work and my workings out on a piece of A0 paper. Not unless it was a picture of a coffee lol

My PhD research is around pre-approved events, situated in a time and space that cannot be changed, therefore everything else has to move for it. Therefore, the purpose and the space of the University in the context of my work plays on my mind throughout the process which should be a structured, linear process of research questions and research results – and within a set time-frame, dictated by funding factors and approval from committees and management, positions in league tables and my own ability to pull in money to support my own research interests (and to cover bills). Similarly, for me to be here [in front of an audience], situated within this space, as a lone voice to many, has political implications and troubles me some what. In fact, I don’t know what it means for me to be in Cambridge. I found myself wandering the streets with a new friend (who I met from my twitter network) until 1am trying to work out what “cambridge” is and what could be done to disrupt the pre-prescribed history of the space. I find myself working within similar external spaces in the same way that my ‘research subjects’ seek hope to find alternatives. I’m involved in cooperative education spaces, much like Michel Bauwen’s philosophy behind the P2P foundation, and I feel that I must *be* within this space, without necessarily knowing the whys behind that justification. Therefore, my paper should be seen as a story or a narrative towards something more, or perhaps an example of where much of the ideas discussed over the timeframe of the conference can be applied, rather than something of theoretical, philosophical or empirical. 

In the context of the Olympic research, the media event theory grounds the analysis of the phenomenon in historical theory (Dayan & Katz, 1994: 35). They are now so big that it is no question that it wont happen, instead it is more how it will go about happening and what messages will be transformed through the media of the Olympics (Dayan, 2008: 392) . Furthermore, the Olympics (and other media events) are used by the media to signify change or transformation. The journalists and broadcast media who cover these events are not inclined to say anything critical or indeed, analytical about the event as they must convey the privilege of being invited to cover the event – if it wasn’t them, it would be another media company that gains access. To be honest, reading about this from a book written in 1994 (having approached my work from a new media background – a story of freedom, alternative democracies.) it surprised me that we still see this in 2011.  I mean, look at the recent display of power displayed through the royal wedding, a media scale of this scale cannot be disrupted. So what can you do?

For me, the Olympics is not about sport. And I guess most people who are at this event can be easily convinced by this idea as well. What I present normally depends on how much pre-ample I need to give about the Olympic Games within the group I am speaking to. It is a powerful brand. It is one of the largest brands in the world, recognised on a global scale and interpreted on a local level. It separates its self from other sporting events because it comes with its own philosophy of Olympism. This philosophy concerns notions such as solidarity, friendship and respect (you get the picture) - which means that everything the Olympic Movement does is apparently done in the name of ‘equality’ (pick a value. any value.) It is hard to knock an event that cares. Or at least that might be what their Olympic Program (TOP)may think (that’s the corporate sponsors by the way.

This makes the phenomena a extra special place to assess as a media scholar. When the media organisations such as NBC which pays 53% of all broadcast revenue, and are suspended in critical analysis (like they ever were in the first place.) what can we make of a institution that can guarantee a location for their event seven years in advance of opening ceremony, securing their message and history in 14 years chunks? What does it say about the society that we live in. These events do not exist in a political vacuum – it might sound nice to talk about solidarity and respect and friendship, but do we feel so cuddly when large groups of people are being displaced from their communities and pots of money for public services are sidelined on behave of a little bit of support. Not to mention how those who challenge, occupy or disrupt that space are treated outside of the media frame. The pre-emptive arrests and removal of facebook groups ahead of the royal wedding should give us an indication of what we might expect during the Games times. That is, if we know where to look…

Similarly, the experiences of being ‘within’ an Olympic city during games time is an opportunity to expose some of these inequalities or alternative perspectives. There are times of great extremity – and make for an environment where particular instances can emerge, where they might not be able to emerge during other circumstances. It is difficult to behave as it if it s ‘business as usual’ and there is nothing usual about a mega event of this nature. It still surprises me how little it took to wipe the surface of the sport and to find something much more interesting and much more frightening under the layer of PR and media coverage.

Yet, to research activism, without encountering the feeling what it means to be active and to be political when what you might uncover has a transformative effect about how you think about the world is something worthy of a headfuck. You are within an area, and therefore a network where the politics that you assess and debate are happening at the very same time, and quite rapidly within your own system. It is impossible to remain outside of it as to be outside of is to never understand what motivates somebody to participate within these online spaces, the hope that people might feel where their messages might get out their to a wider ‘audience’ than their own communities or the optimism subscribed to being able to take a platform and use it in a way that is not often considered to be ‘correct.’

This last year might be the last year where we might be able to discuss this openly. This year might be the last time where we will be able to have these conversations as part of an official stream relating to higher education institutions in the united kingdom. Certainly, having discovered today that I am currently enrolled at the “worst university in Britain” according to the Guardian league tables (something the university hasn’t subscribed to in the past- since becoming UWS) it only makes me wish to use that position to fight harder. My three themes to address will involve hacking, disrupting and occupying – because that is what my research ‘subjects’ might do and the only way to give credit to the spaces and communities in which I study is to learn from them. Would I be allowed to do this at a University that was looking to maintain it’s position as ‘something’ on a list of ‘nothings’ – probably not.

Where I am now has came to me only through being at University and for somebody seeing that I had potential to take on a PhD. I fear, I know, that we might not be able to retain that motivation – and perhaps I will fight a losing battle if it is against filling out my postgraduate ‘satisfaction’ survey (should PhD leave you feeling ‘satisfied’ like a good meal? At least it leaves you a strange form of curious/angry/angsty/anti-social – and I prefer that to ‘satisfied’) or using my PGCert in Higher Education coursework as an excuse to write critical essays about standardisation in the classroom. I would be more depressed if I was to simply tick the boxes. Education should make you feel excited/nervous/angry. 

So, what I suggest, and you don’t have to listen to me, I am just a PhD student – one which will graduate into a space where I have no choice but to support the corruption and decay of the university if I am to exist here in the next 18 months. If I am to be here, I need to have places where I can feel like I can have this conversation, this debate, not feel that I should be ground down into submission. That is why I will stand by my colleagues on the picket line, despite having no permanent contract to speak of, but I will not leave academia when I finish my PhD because one the best ways to fight it (so I hear) is to occupy it from the inside. What I do next? I have no idea. I’m ill and should be in bed. :-) (Although now I have a reading list as long as my to-do list so better get cracking…)

 

 

Free education with every hot drink. @thirduniversity

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Last week I got to do a bit of travelling around – beginning with a trip to Lincoln to meet Mike Neary, Joss Winn and David Young from the University of Lincoln who are working towards setting up the Social Science Centre within the city. The social science centre aims to be run as a not-for-profit cooperative educational space where it will offer courses taught and assessed at the same level as mainstream courses currently available.

It’ll take place in Lincoln itself I’d been following the activities in Lincoln for a while now (as well as being signed up to their mailing list) so it was really exciting to head over and be part of the discussions. I’m definitely up for getting involved (hopefully a bit of teaching, bit of research, bit of web stuff) and already helping out with getting the centre’s ‘infrastructure’ up and running ahead of activities in the near future.

I love the idea of coming up with alternatives, especially when there is potential for the university to become a dark, depressing place in the coming years. I’m blogged about my feelings about how my own teaching/PhD environment may/will be affected (although, it’s taken me a while to get used to ‘being here’ in the first place.). I feel like they are closing the shutters down on the generations behind me, like I’m in a transitional phase myself – everything I think I know about doing a PhD is not “the norm” and it will be rare to take on a research topic such as mine without footing the (heavy) cost. Before I go off topic, I read these this great analysis this week about how the cuts in higher education affect the research student. For instance, I’m in two minds about filling out the postgraduate survey – the questions are bizarre (especially when I deliberately subvert location and format – although completing a pretty standard 80000 word thesis) , but I know if I don’t do it, my institution will suffer from it. It’s statistics by blackmail. Nevertheless, the act of questioning everything still has its place and question it I will (they must be so sick of me…)

With the UCU strikes on Thursday (all HE and FE institutions across in the country) and the imminent TUC march on the 26th March, I’ve been thinking about where I would like to be during this time. Not entirely happy with the system as it stands (although it’s certainly not as bad as it is going to get quite rapidly post-2012) I decided that I would support any action that offered an alternative. That alternative will be Leicester’s Third University – a floating and autonomous space where education will be offered with every hot drink. I’ll be speaking at it about citizen media campaigns on the day (between 12-4, coffee republic, granby st) (adapted from #mc539 – the joys of open course planning) and educating the filthy masses in filthy media studies (soon to be a luxury for those who can afford it.)

Yeah – so that’s it, hopefully see you there.