restricted access Chapter 5: IT, Again: How to Build an Ethical Virtual Institution
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c h a p t e r 5 IT, Again: How to Build an Ethical Virtual Institution Gary Hall ‘‘IT, Again’’ arises out of a long-standing engagement on my part with questions of digitization. Fittingly for a text composed and concerned with what, for shorthand (and for reasons that will soon become clear), I will call information technologies (IT), this essay is woven out of the links and connections between a number of nodal points of interest: capitalist neoliberal economics, the knowledge economy, deconstructive pragmatics, papercentrism, the crisis in tenure and publishing, the academic gift economy , ethics, politics, disciplinarity, judgment, cognition, and the institution of the university. ‘‘IT, Again’’ is experimenting with these points and issues in the sense Samuel Weber has given to the term ‘‘experimenting,’’ whereby ‘‘the present participle involves a movement that is first of all, repetitive, second of all, never conclusive or contained, third, on-going and futural, and fourth and finally, actual and immediate.’’1 My reading of Weber’s work here does not therefore aim to come ‘‘full circle to produce a concept of itself,’’ but rather ‘‘doubles up into a language that can no longer be assigned to a single, authoritative speaker or to a reliable, truthful voice.’’2 In other words, I will not be attempting to capture the ‘‘meaning’’ of Weber’s work in this chapter; nor to engage polemically with other interpretations of it; nor even to produce a ‘‘deconstructive’’ reading that shows how Weber’s texts put forward irreconcilable positions PAGE 116 116 ................. 16645$ $CH5 10-10-07 15:01:16 PS 117 IT, Again: How to Build an Ethical Virtual Institution that are different from, and in many ways opposed to, those they are generally portrayed, or portray themselves, as espousing. I will rather be experimenting , by analysis and performance, with the way in which Weber’s own ‘‘concepts . . . operate in a singular situation’’—in this case, that of the development and institution of a cultural studies open access electronic archive . It is with a certain ‘‘deconstructive pragmatics’’ arising out of Weber’s ideas on how to (re)think the institution of the contemporary university that this chapter will be experimenting in particular. Weber’s writings will thus be treated much as he himself treats those of Jacques Derrida and Paul de Man: as texts ‘‘whose import only is accessible to a reading that moves [them] elsewhere’’—not least through the notions of repetition, iteration and iterability Weber discusses in a number of books and articles, among them his own early essay, ‘‘It.’’ Experimenting with the University: Weber on Instituting the Institution What kind of ‘‘experimenting’’ with the institution of the university can be undertaken in the current politico-economic climate, in which the forces of capitalist neoliberal economics are increasingly transforming higher education into an extension of business? Rather than propose a return to the kind of paternalistic and class-bound ideas associated with Matthew Arnold and John Henry Cardinal Newman that previously dominated the university—ideas that view it in terms of an elite cultural training and the reproduction of a national culture, with all the hierarchies and exclusions around differences of class, race, gender, ethnicity, and so forth that those terms imply—I want to raise the following question: ‘‘How can we think the university otherwise?’’ This is more than a casual or even ‘‘theoretical’’ (in the more usual sense of the term) query. For all the complaints about the marketization of the higher-education system, their inability to articulate an effective ‘‘alternative’’ vision for the future of the university appears to have left the majority of academics and institutions with very few options as far as resisting or even redirecting such changes is concerned. It is with ways of answering this question—how is it possible to think the university otherwise, beyond the neoliberal and elite cultural models?—that I have been experimenting for some time now. Weber’s work on institutions and institutionalization has been instrumental for me in this process. PAGE 117 ................. 16645$ $CH5 10-10-07 15:01:16 PS 118 Gary Hall In what remains his most influential book, Institution and Interpretation, Weber shows how institutionalization can be construed rather differently from the way in which it has traditionally been conceived. ‘‘The dominant tendency,’’ he writes, following the work of René Lourau, ‘‘has been to reduce the concept to only one of its elements: the maintenance of the status quo, and thereby to eliminate the dynamic, transformative aspect...


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Subject Headings

  • Weber, Samuel, 1940- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Deconstruction.
  • Psychoanalysis and literature.
  • Criticism -- History -- 20th century.
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