Friday, March 24, 2017

Vectors of virus.

"Mais qu'est ce que ça veut dire, la peste? C'est la vie, voilà tout."

Albert Camus. La Peste.

"Mais pour parler de tous et à tous, il faut parler de ce que tous connaissent et de la réalité qui nous est commune. La mer, les pluies, le besoin, le désir, la lutte contre la mort, voilà ce qui nous réunit tous."

Albert Camus. 

Discours de la réception du prix Nobel 1957

"I'm a rat." 

I said to the teacher between classes.

It had suddenly occurred to me that I had identified my role.

It is an image that has crossed my mind over the past few days.

I get into places where I shouldn't.

I am a carrier of  viruses.

There are positive viruses, there are negative viruses.

Those judgements depend on your values.

A virus is value neutral. 

(I write that and then I find the idea strangely troubling.)

For better and for worse the internet is a vector of infection.

Elections are vulnerable to viral fake news carried by simulacra of recognised media.

Education systems are vulnerable to global means of measurement and thereby corporate exploitation.

Societies at threatened by dangerous ideologies.

Capitalism for example, infiltrates every aspect of our lives, our food, our beliefs, our leisure, our sex lives.

Powerful images of domination, sky-scrapers, souped up tanks, fine robes, freedom to roam, to build, to convert, to massacre, to save, to escape, midas-gain, fame, groupies, harems, monastic harmony, respect, heroism, glory, promises of eternal life in paradise feed on fantasies and fears of individual and communities alike.

Is it any wonder that the title of Deleuze and Guattari's seminal work was:

A thousand plateaux: Capitalism and Schizophrenia.

"There is no escaping the bloody rhizomes." He mutters...with resignation.

It is in this context that I am trying to make my way as a witness, as a carrier of values, as an educator.

Stateless, homeless, paperless...

I have been thinking about my role within my institution in a cross-disciplinary service that works with teachers and students across boundaries.

I have been thinking of how people who are stateless, transient, nomadic, struggle for the freedom to to roam or just to survive.


I think back to concepts of "freedom of movement" of "freedom of speech" , of "freedom of ideas" and then think back to  "explorers" and ensuing colonies.  

I think of a recent post:

Great explorations 

I think of how white men carried viruses that wiped out indigenous peoples:

The Impact of European Diseases on Native Americans. .

I think of this systemic racism which names the others "underdeveloped" and which underpins "our freedom".

Stateless, homeless, paperless...

Is it any wonder that Gypsies, Jews, immigrants, refugees, merchants (pirates?), have always been viewed with suspicion and yet have been vectors of trade, innovation, culture, and life?

What are the derogatory terms that have been used to talk of these people recently?




People who are in between the lines are alive, kicking, and, it seems, dangerous to the status quo.

What the hell is democracy if it is not vibrant, debated, fluid?

"Give me your tired, your poor, 
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Emma Lazarus.

What the hell is education  or learning if it is bounded by discipline(s)?

Freedom of movement is once again being restricted, walls are going up, old discourses are being mongered.

Nationalistic, patriotic, jingoistic, militaristic memes are being trotted out.

If ever there was a time for education rather than drilling or training it is now.

It feels like we are in the final death throes of a colonial body that has its arteries hardening.

In between...

And yet to move forward in my institution, in my community, I am compelled to use the language of those in power.

I am reminded of all the invisible work which goes on in homes and at work of those who feel a moral responsibility (often traditionally women) who are taken for granted, or for a ride.

I am reminded of all the invisible (to those in privilege) sacrifices which are made by people afar.

I glance up an instant to the ASUS branding on the PC I am using to write this.

To what relationships are we complicit?

Far from view, far from the heart, far from our minds.

The irony is that the only way I will ever get to speak with those people afar is via this PC.

The internet is both the plague and a potential remedy it seems.

How would I be so infected with the reflections of those friends of mine who live afar, who live in contexts where there barriers to their movement are for ever more rigorous/absurd, without these means to connect?


I am reminded of a piece written by Maha Bali and Kate Bowles:

On both sides: networked learning in a world of walls.

I fall upon a quote that Maha and Kate use at the beginning of the article:

For when you cross a border, you are not only affirming its permeability, but also changing the landscape on both sides. ~ Lina Mounzer

And then this one:

"The only way to make borders meaningless is to keep insisting on crossing them: like a refugee, without papers, without waiting to be given permission, without regard for what might be waiting on the other side. For when you cross a border, you are not only affirming its permeability, but also changing the landscape on both sides. You cross carrying what you can carry, you cross bearing witness, you cross knowing that you are damageable, that you are mortal and finite, but that language is memory, and memory lives on." Lina Mounzer

And they finish their article with:

"This time of walls and travel bans demands conviction and ingenuity from critical digital educators concerned with gestures of openness and hospitality. To change the landscape on both sides of the walls that are being built to keep us apart, we need to show up and collaborate wherever we can."

Maha Bali and Kate Bowles.

Criss-crossing borders.

As I look towards OER and VConnecting session, as I look towards my work with CLAVIER and my own boundary breaking within my institution, I am convinced of the value of this open infection that I carry from colleagues who are afar but who touch me greatly in my everyday work.

After yesterdays conversations with my colleagues in France and Finland about our roles and possibilities of collaboration across the frontiers of our institutions, I sat down to collate and to reflect on parallel conversations about pedagogy in higher education that I had on Twitter the same day with people who help me think and give me courage to continue crossing the lines...

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