Two years ago, with my long-time collaborator, artist Ethan Gould, I wrote an essay about the future of higher education called “BEYOND U (TM): The organism that therefore the academy is.” It is now published, locked behind a paywall. This is the abstract:
Inspired by theory-fiction and weird philosophical readings of contemporary culture such as Rem Koolhaas’s lyrical ‘Junkspace,’ we consider the central metaphor by which contemporary administrators, educators and students understand higher education – school as business – and offer an alternative model from biology: school as slime mold, a blind, decentralized network organism. In constructing our new metaphorical regime, we look into the roots of the word ‘education,’ the changing interactions among universities (qua brands) and students (qua consumers) such as the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs) and university franchises, and the potentially beneficial role of the para-academic (the ‘unofficial excess or extension of the academic’). We ultimately note that the situation is not hopeless because the same tools that allow capitalists to turn ‘an education’ into a commodity are, for learners and teachers, new means of generating meaningful connections, serious play and lively communities.