Welcome to #SocialDiss and the cyborg university

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Welcome to another installment of my #SocialDiss project, where I’m posting drafts and reflections related to my dissertation on different platforms for public review.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 2 My dissertation “Software of the Oppressed: Reprogramming the Invisible Discipline” argues that higher education has an exciting opportunity to democratize the production and use of digital technology. It explores explores what I call the “cyborg university,” or the university as an institution whose diverse activities are mediated through software. It situates the cyborg university within a broader software status quo, or the dominant ways in which software and software companies are implemented in everyday life and their subsequent political and social effects.  

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Using a Freirian framework, I will argue this software status quo has oppressive qualities in that it supports the production of passive users, or users who are unable to collectively understand and transform software code for their own interests. I will further argue that the university inadvertently normalizes and strengthens the software status quo through what I call its “invisible discipline,” or the conditioning of its community—particularly students, but also faculty—to have little expectation of being able to understand or modify the code of the software programs used to carry out their university activities.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Through an examination of the historical emergence of different sites of the cyborg university—ranging from the inclusion of computers within writing instruction, the development of broader instructional technology, the rise of the digital humanities, and the development of digital pedagogy—I will attempt to show ways in which the invisible discipline came into being and was normalized while practitioners in these areas focused on other aspects of software that were of more direct interest to their specific types of research or teaching.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 1 After demonstrating both the emergence, structure, and the continued persistence of the invisible discipline, I will then point to projects, initiatives, and scholarly work within each of these sites that challenge the invisible discipline and demonstrate the exciting promise of a university culture that supports a more radically democratic and participatory understanding of the role of the university community in the production of software. I will conclude by using Christopher Kelty’s study of “recursive publics” to suggest that ‘reprogramming’ the invisible discipline will require developing social mechanisms that enable and incentivize students, faculty, and the academic community to participate in the ongoing design and governance of the software they use in everyday university life.  

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 For more information on #SocialDiss, see my post “Announcing #SocialDiss: Transforming the Dissertation into Networked Knowledge Production” on HASTAC and “SocialDiss Recap: The Delightful Crowd in the Margins.” 

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