1. Rohit Talwar, futurologist and CEO of Fast Future Research, quoted in Nicola Slawson, “Today’s Pupils ‘Could Still Be Working at 100,’” Guardian, October 7, 2015, 5.
2. Higher education is not the only place where neoliberalism is, for the moment, being resisted. There are those who place faith in the ability of the unions to form a counterhegemonic block, while in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service and the BBC are still publicly owned institutions delivering much-valued public services—although the latter is more in the position of holding back the tide than actively resisting, being even more of an establishment institution than the university in some respects, many of its governors, managers, and employees having the same ideas about politics, business, and the world as conservative neoliberals.
3. “YouGov research reveals that the most desired jobs in Britain are not what you might expect; they are not even the most reliably well paid ones. . . . Being an author is the number one most desired job in Britain. Not only would the most people like to be one (60%), the smallest percentage would not like to be one (32%). The only other jobs preferred by a majority are equally as bookish: librarian (54%) and academic (51%).” Will Dahlgreen, “Bookish Britain: Literary Jobs Are the Most Desirable,” YouGov UK, February 15, 2015, https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/02/15/bookish-britain-academic-jobs-are-most-desired/.
The Sharing Economy
1. PA Consulting Group, Lagging Behind: Are UK Universities Falling Behind in the Global Innovation Race?, June 18, 2015, http://www.paconsulting.com/our-thinking/higher-education-report-2015/#here.
2. John Gill, “Losing Our Place in the Vanguard?,” Times Higher Education, June 18, 2015, 5, https://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/opinion/losing-our-place-vanguard.
3. Evgeny Morozov, “What You Whistle in the Shower: How Much for Your Data?,” Le Monde Diplomatique, English edition, August 2014, posted on the nettime mailing list by Patrice Riemens, August 24, 2014, https://email@example.com/msg02769.html.
4. See Sebastian Olma, “Never Mind the Sharing Economy: Here’s Platform Capitalism,” Institute of Network Cultures, October 16, 2014, http://networkcultures.org/mycreativity/2014/10/16/never-mind-the-sharing-economy-heres-platform-capitalism/; Yochai Benkler, “Challenges of the Shared Economy,” World Economic Forum, February 24, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBF-GFDaCpE.
5. Mike Bulajewski, “The Cult of Sharing,” Mrteacup: A Blog of Philosophical Reflections and Speculations, August 5, 2014, http://www.mrteacup.org/post/the-cult-of-sharing.html.
6. “Support for the Sharing Economy,” in H. M. Treasury, Budget 2015, section 1.193, https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/416330/47881_Budget_2015_Web_Accessible.pdf.
1. Olma, “Never Mind the Sharing Economy.” See also Sascha Lobo, “Die Mensch-Maschine: Auf dem Weg in die Dumpinghölle,” Der Spiegel, September 3, 2014, http://www.spiegel.de/netzwelt/netzpolitik/sascha-lobo-sharing-economy-wie-bei-uber-ist-plattform-kapitalismus-a-989584.html. For more on the politics of platforms, see the “Platform Politics” issue of Culture Machine 13 (2014), http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/issue/view/25.
2. Whereas 42 percent of the U.K. population lived in a council house in 1979, today that number is less than 8 percent.
3. Brian Chesky, interview by Rik Kirkland in “The Future of Airbnb in Cities,” McKinsey & Company, November 2014, http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/Travel_Transportation/The_future_of_Airbnb_in_cities?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth-1411. It is worth noting that Chesky’s last point is not strictly correct: more often than not, you need to have an asset—be it property, a car, or time—to be in a position to “share.”
5. What is more, like many neoliberal businesses, these information and data management intermediaries continue to have a parasitical relationship with the state at the same time as they argue against it and its regulation. For example, while Chesky argues for the modernization—which in this context is nearly always a code word for neoliberalization—of “outdated” state legislation and laws that restrict what is possible when a person acts like a brand, he nevertheless goes on to acknowledge of Airbnb that “the reason it’s grown so fast is, unlike traditional businesses, we don’t have to pour concrete. The infrastructure and the investment was already made by cities a generation ago. And so all of a sudden, all you needed was the internet.” Ibid. It is an Internet, one might add, which was itself the product of state funding for research, education, and technological development, namely, that behind CERN.
6. “How We Use Our Smartphones Twice as Much As We Think,” Lancaster University, October 29, 2015, http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/news/articles/2015/how-we-use-our-smartphones-twice-as-much-as-we-think/; Sally Andrews, David A. Ellis, Heather Shaw, and Lukasz Piwek, “Beyond Self-Report: Tools to Compare Estimated and Real-World Smartphone Use,” PLoS One, October 28, 2015, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0139004.
7. McKenzie Wark, “Digital Labor and the Anthropocene,” DIS Magazine, http://dismagazine.com/disillusioned/discussion-disillusioned/70983/mckenzie-wark-digital-labor-and-the-anthropocene/.
8. My thanks to Kathleen Fitzpatrick for this last point.
9. Moira McGregor, Barry Brown, and Mareike Glöss, “Disrupting the Cab: Uber, Ridesharing, and the Taxi Industry,” Journal of Peer Production, no. 6 (January 2015), http://peerproduction.net/issues/issue-6-disruption-and-the-law/essays/disrupting-the-cab-uber-ridesharing-and-the-taxi-industry/.
12. As we shall see in what follows, it is a state of affairs that also threatens to take us beyond even the level of potential disruption associated with what we might call the Warwick University–Teach Higher model of higher education. In this model, it is universities, not learners, who are purchasing casualized teaching services from intermediaries such as Teach Higher on behalf of students as consumers. It is also universities in this model that, with the encouragement of for-profit corporation education providers such as Pearson, are “unbundling” their different functions to be able to contract each of them out separately to agencies with the aim of using competition to improve efficiency. My thanks to John Holmwood for reminding me of the importance of this Warwick University–Teach Higher model to any account of the future of higher education.
1. Goldie Blumenstyk, “How LinkedIn’s Latest Move May Matter to Colleges,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 17, 2015, http://chronicle.com/article/How-LinkedIn-s-Latest-Move/229441/. Although Blumenstyk does not discuss the sharing economy, the speculative scenario that follows was inspired in part by this article’s reflections on some of the possible implications for higher education of LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda.com.
3. For one (uncritical) account of how the technology—including mobile apps, online assessments, and a blockchain system for recording all aspects of each transaction—already exists to make such an HE platform a reality, see “Uber-U Is Already Here,” May 6, 2016, http://teachonline.ca/tools-trends/exploring-future-education/uber-u-already-here. For more on Academia.edu, see Gary Hall, “What Does Academia.edu’s Success Mean for Open Access: The Data-Driven World of Search Engines and Social Networking,” Ctrl-Z: New Media Philosophy 5 (2015), http://www.ctrl-z.net.au/journal/?slug=issue-5, and Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, eds., Really, We’re Helping to Build This . . . Business: The Academia.edu Files (London: Open Humanities Press, 2016), http://liquidbooks.pbworks.com/w/page/11135951/FrontPage.
4. Alessandro Gandini reports that “a recent survey conducted by the Freelancers Union in partnership with Elance-oDesk, a major digital marketplace for contractors and freelancers worldwide, shows how 53 million Americans were generating some or their entire income earned in 2013 from freelancing, making up 34% of the entire American workforce.” Alessandro Gandini, “Digital Work: Self-Branding and Social Capital in the Freelance Knowledge Economy,” Marketing Theory, October 1, 2015.
5. Peter Norvig, speaking to Tim O’Reilly, quoted in Tim O’Reilly, “A Few Thoughts on the Nexus One,” Radar, January 5, 2010, http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/01/the-nexus-one-vs-iphone.html.
6. Peter Thiel, “Competition Is for Losers,” Wall Street Journal, September 12, 2014, http://www.wsj.com/articles/peter-thiel-competition-is-for-losers-1410535536.
7. See Mary O’Hara, “‘I Feel Guilty Spending My Money on Food. That’s How Low My Income Is,’” Guardian, November 17, 2015, 40.
8. University and College Union, Precarious Work in Higher Education: A Snapshot of Insecure Contracts and Institutional Attitudes, April 14, 2016, https://www.ucu.org.uk/media/7995/Precarious-work-in-higher-education-a-snapshot-of-insecure-contracts-and-institutional-attitudes-Apr-16/pdf/ucu_precariouscontract_hereport_apr16.pdf.
9. University and College Union, Making Ends Meet: The Human Cost of Casualisation in Post-Secondary Education, May 21, 2015, http://www.ucu.org.uk/media/7279/Making-ends-meet---the-human-cost-of-casualisation-in-post-secondary-education-May-15/pdf/ucu_makingendsmeet_may15.pdf.
The Reputation Economy
1. Of course, these markets only appear to be unregulated and underregulated by the state. The state still defines the rules and limits of the market, protecting private property, financial assets, and so forth.
2. “The Week in Higher Education,” Times Higher Education, July 13, 2015, 4.
3. Sarah Brouillette, Literature and the Creative Economy (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2014), 207. For another—albeit perhaps extreme—example of a system of this kind in operation, see the account of life working at Amazon provided in Jodi Kantor and David Streitfeld, “Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace,” New York Times, August 15, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/16/technology/inside-amazon-wrestling-big-ideas-in-a-bruising-workplace.html?_r=1.
4. Angela McRobbie, “Women’s Working Lives in the Managerial University and the Pernicious Effects of the ‘Normal’ Academic Career,” London School of Economics and Political Science: The Impact Blog, September 3, 2015, http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/impactofsocialsciences/2015/09/03/womens-working-lives-in-the-managerial-university/.
5. Lest there be any confusion, I want to make it clear that none of this is to suggest professors should not care about their students or the quality of their teaching. As will become evident later, my point is rather to highlight the antipedagogical nature of this kind of neoliberal audit culture.
6. “I Didn’t Have Enough Facebook Friends to Prove to Airbnb I Was Real,” Guardian, November 14, 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/money/blog/2014/nov/14/airbnb-wont-let-book-room-facebook-friends. The woman in question kept her name off the article as she was understandably reluctant to broadcast her “official friendlessness” over the Internet.
7. Michael Fertik, The Reputation Economy (London: Piatkus, 2015), 172.
8. Ibid., 16.
10. The workload is increased by the fact that each platform caters to a different community and uses different tools to produce its ratings and scores. Each platform therefore requires the adoption of a slightly different approach when it comes to reputation management and the performance of sociality.
11. Actually, the academic equivalent of cat pictures may be . . . cat pictures. See both the hashtag #academicswithcats and the Academia Obscura blog’s Academic Cats Hall of Fame, http://www.academiaobscura.com/academic-cats-hall-of-fame/.
The Microentrepreneur of the Self
1. See Mario Tronti, “The Strategy of Refusal,” Libcom (blog), July 23, 2005, http://libcom.org/library/strategy-refusal-mario-tronti; Slavoj Žižek, In Defense of Lost Causes (London: Verso, 2009).
2. Derek Sayer, “One Scholar’s Crusade against the REF,” Times Higher Education, December 11, 2014, http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/feature-one-scholars-crusade-against-the-ref/2017405.fullarticle.
3. John Holmwood, speaking at the Radical Open Access conference, Coventry University, June 15–16, 2015, http://disruptivemedia.org.uk/radical-open-access-conference/. Video recordings of all the talks from the Radical Open Access conference are available at https://archive.org/details/@disruptive_media.
4. In The Birth of Biopolitics, Foucault writes of the neoliberal “homo oeconomicus as entrepreneur of himself, being for himself his own capital, being for himself his own producer, being for himself the source of [his] earnings.” Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–79 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 226. My use of the term microentrepreneur of the self here is thus a repurposing of Foucault’s neoliberal homo oeconomicus, adapted to the context of postwelfare capitalism and the corporate sharing economy. The term microentrepreneur of the self is also a play on his concept of “technologies of the self,” the general framework of which is very different from the “traditional philosophical questions,” for Foucault. It is concerned not with “What is the world? What is man? What is truth? What is knowledge? How can we know something?” but with “What are we in our actuality?” Michel Foucault, “The Political Technology of Individuals,” in Power: Essential Works of Foucault 1954–1984, vol. 3, ed. James D. Faubion (London: Penguin, 2002), 403. See also Michel Foucault, “Technologies of the Self,” in Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault, ed. L. H. Martin, H. Gutman, and P. H. Hutton, 16–49 (London: Tavistock, 1988).
5. Jonathan Sapsed, Roberto Camerani, Monica Masucci, Mylene Petermann, and Megha Rajguru, with Phil Jones, Brighton Fuse 2: Freelancers in the Creative Digital IT Economy, January 2015, http://www.brightonfuse.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/brighton_fuse2_online.pdf. For an interesting discussion of this research, see David Garcia, “Reframing the Creative Question,” February 26, 2015, http://www.nettime.org/.
6. John Holmwood, “Papering Over the Cracks: The Coming White Paper and the Dismantling of Higher Education,” Campaign for the Public University (blog), April 25, 2016, http://publicuniversity.org.uk/2016/04/25/papering-over-the-cracks-the-green-paper-and-the-stratification-of-higher-education.
7. Diane Reay, “From Academic Freedom to Academic Capitalism,” Discover Society (blog), February 15, 2015, http://discoversociety.org/2014/02/15/on-the-frontline-from-academic-freedom-to-academic-capitalism/.
8. Brouillette, Literature and the Creative Economy, 207.
9. This is an updated version of facts first presented in George Monbiot, “These Men Would’ve Stopped Darwin,” Guardian, May 11, 2009, http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2009/may/11/science-research-business; see also Reay, “From Academic Freedom to Academic Capitalism.”
1. Stevphen Shukaitis, “Toward an Insurrection of the Published? Ten Thoughts on Ticks and Comrades,” European Institute for Progressive Cultural Polices, June 2014, http://eipcp.net/transversal/0614/shukaitis/en.
2. For example, “one group of researchers estimates the number of UK-qualified PhDs who do not obtain a permanent academic job within three years is close to 80%, based on a survey of 2505 researchers who had received their PhD in 2010.” Sam Moore, “The Practical and Theoretical Foundations for a New Ecosystem of Open-Access Publishing for the Humanities” (PhD thesis, King’s College, London, forthcoming), referring to “Some Hard Numbers,” Hortensii (blog), January 1, 2015, https://hortensii.wordpress.com/2015/01/01/some-hard-numbers/.
3. Eileen Joy, “A Time for Radical Hope: Freedom, Responsibility, Publishing, and Building New Publics,” In the Middle (blog), November 19, 2013, http://www.inthemedievalmiddle.com/2013/11/a-time-for-radical-hope-freedom.html#sthash.s5ZcU46o.dpuf. For more on the para-academic, see Alex Wardrop and Deborah Withers, eds., The Para-Academic Handbook (Bristol, U.K.: HammerOn Press, 2014).
4. Brouillette, Literature and the Creative Economy, 207.
5. I put “radical press” in quotation marks because, although the content of what Zero Books publishes may be radical, its business model is not. This is something that one of its founders, Tariq Goddard, emphasized to me in the question-and-answer session that followed his presentation at the November 2014 Post-Digital Scholar conference in Leuphana, Germany (https://hybridpublishing.org/postdigital-scholar-conference/). Meanwhile, Eileen Joy, who is the editor of another para-academic press, Punctum Books, has summed up the somewhat contradictory nature of Zero Books’s philosophy as follows: “while Zero Books, indeed, offers a particularly electric and eclectic list of reasonably-priced, shorter-form books (Slime Dynamics, Nuclear Futurism, and Levitate the Primate are just a few samples of their bracing titles), they do not offer any of their publications in open-access form. Thus, their desire for a reinvigorated and non-bland, non-consensual sphere of public intellectual debate is still somewhat in the shadow of the multinational corporations (such as Amazon.com, to which all of their book pages link) that their mission statement scorns.” Eileen Joy, “All in a Jurnal’s Work: A BABEL Wayzgoose,” Punctum Books (blog), February 15, 2013, http://punctumbooks.com/blog/all-in-a-jurnals-work-a-babel-wayzgoose. Zero Books thus illustrates how even that produced by those edgy nonconformists who inhabit the less obviously controlled interstices of the formal institutional and corporate domains can serve as potential material for capitalist exploitation, and how capital can count on a supply of this material, even while refusing to finance its production by providing secure employment in the higher education and creative industries sectors.
Does this explain why a number of established academics who are employed full time in a traditional university are also publishing with Zero? The appeal has to do not just with the degree of intellectual freedom and quick turnaround time Zero Books offers but also with the fact that Zero Books is different in the sense many academics want—having an air of edginess and nonconformism about it—but not so very different that publishing with Zero will actually challenge these academics and the way they live, work, and think (in terms of copyright, IP, fixity, the finished object, etc.).
6. Details of the publishing process of Zero Books are available on its website, http://www.zero-books.net/publishing-process.html, and that of John Hunt Publishing, https://www.johnhuntpublishing.com/jhp-publishing-process.html. All proposals submitted get several very short Reader Reports for which authors are not charged, while all manuscripts accepted for publication receive a “light edit.” Anything more than that is optional and charged for. This includes “a longer, 500–1000 word evaluation” of the proposal, a “more detailed evaluation of the manuscript, with suggestions for improvement, 3000–5000 words,” and a “heavy edit” to enforce the style manual and correct typos, spelling, grammar, and general punctuation mistakes.
1. http://www.zero-books.net/about-us.html, accessed July 19, 2015. This figure has since been reduced. At the time of this writing (July 3, 2016), the Zero Books website claims that only approximately 10 percent of its titles are subsidized by authors.
2. See Giulia Zaniol’s solo exhibition and public forum parodying celebrity art and luxury branding, Brand Art Sensation: A Mass Debate, Gallery Different, London, June 9–13, 2015, http://www.zaniol.com/eminent.
4. Indeed, Bauwens and Kostakis go so far as to quote Mike Bulajewski’s description of Kickstarter, in particular, as “the very definition of parasitic capitalism,” in that it is actually a “sophisticated web hosting provider which charges ‘60 times the actual cost of providing a service by skimming a percentage off financial transactions.’” Michael Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis, Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy (London: Palgrave Pivot, 2014).
1. Jean-François Lyotard, “The Tomb of the Intellectual,” in Jean-François Lyotard: Political Writings (London: UCL Press, 2003), 3.
3. Ibid., 5. “Experimenter” is the term Geoffrey Bennington suggests on the grounds that it “avoids the Christian overtones of ‘creator.’” Bennington, Lyotard: Writing the Event (Manchester, U.K.: Manchester University Press, 1988), 6.
4. Lyotard, “Tomb of the Intellectual,” 4.
5. Ibid., 7, 4.
6. Clayton M. Christensen, The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Business School Press, 1997), xx.
7. Ibid., xix.
8. Clayton M. Christensen, Michael E. Raynor, and Rory McDonald, “What Is Disruptive Innovation?,” Harvard Business Review, December 2015, https://hbr.org/2015/12/what-is-disruptive-innovation.
11. Roberto Esposito, The Third Person: Politics of Life and Philosophy of the Impersonal (London: Polity, 2012), 18. Esposito writes, “Life, one might say, is a biological stratum that, for Foucault, is never coextensive with subjectivity because it is always caught in a dual, simultaneous process of subjection and subjectification: it is the space that power lays siege to without ever managing to occupy it fully” (18). A further articulation of an affirmative approach to disruption can be found in Pauline Van Mourik Broekman, Gary Hall, Ted Byfield, Shaun Hides, and Simon Worthington, Open Education: A Study in Disruption (London: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2014).
12. See Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848, in Marx/Engels Selected Works, vol. 1 (Moscow: Progress, 1969), available as Manifesto of the Communist Party by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Marxists Internet Archive, 16, http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1848/communist-manifesto. For more on this point, see Gary Hall, Pirate Philosophy: For a Digital Posthumanities (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2016).
2. In Meeting the Universe Halfway, Karen Barad writes, “The agential realist approach that I offer eschews representationalism and advances a performative understanding of technoscientific and other naturalcultural practices, including different kinds of knowledge-making practices. According to agential realism, knowing, thinking, measuring, theorizing, and observing are material practices of intra-acting within and as part of the world.” Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2007), 90–91. In this respect, Barad prefers the notion of intra-action to that of interaction, seeing the latter as presuming “the prior existence of independent entities/relata.” Karen Barad, “Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 28, no. 3 (2003): 815. As such, she considers intra-action to represent “a profound conceptual shift” (815). Similarly, for her, the move toward performative alternatives to representationalism shifts the focus from questions of correspondence between descriptions and reality (e.g., do they mirror nature or culture?) to matters of “practices/doings/actions” (802).
3. See Media Gifts, http://garyhall.squarespace.com/about/; the Liquid Books series, http://liquidbooks.pbwiki.com/; Liquid Theory TV, http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/354/358; Photomediations Machine, http://photomediationsmachine.net; and Photomediations: An Open Book, http://www.photomediationsopenbook.net/.