Jim Groom brings a new term into being in a recent post — edupunk.

There’s a couple reasons why I find the term useful, but the most important is that it captures the cultural revulsion many of us feel with the appropriation of the Learning 2.0 movement by corporations such as Blackboard. Learning 2.0, like punk, is a DIY movement. Like punk it favors technical accessibility over grand design.

And to people like us, Learning 2.0, if it is to remain relevant, must not be relegated to the dustbin of “features” or “products”. It’s neither a product or a process, but a way of approaching things, of which products are only one of the results.

Yet all the 2.0 formulations — Classroom 2.0, Learning 2.0, and even Web 2.0 itself — work against this very notion that what we are chasing here is not product, but style. What does the 2.0 version number symbolize if not a shrink-wrapped box or set of features?

What began as a clever pun has outlived its usefulness to us. We’ve known that for a while, but as companies begin to reduce the social web to a set of ingredients in their products — we have to go further than whether product x allows trackbacks or not.

“Edupunk” gets us there — with its implication of technical accessibility, a DIY ethic, quick and dirty over grand design, and a suspicion of corporate appropriation it hits a lot of the right notes.

The wrong notes it hits are mainly historical — because of course punk had surprisingly little social impact — and it’s worth remembering the same attitudes that kept it pure relegated it to being a tribal phenomenon rather than a broad cultural movement. Punk culture valued its exile from the mainstream. We want to change the world.

That inevitiably leads to a lot of compromises. But when we stray too far into the world of enterprise software, three-month timelines and eight page budgets — when we have to concede the assessment system will likely be a centralized corporate affair — on days like that, maybe edupunk is the cassette we throw into the tape deck on the way home, the tape that reminds us loudly of who we are, in three chords or less.

It’s obviously late here … thoughts?

21 thoughts on “Edupunk

  1. Mike,

    I am so glad you did the havy theoretical lifting here. You are spot on. Ideas of accessibility versus grand design are key. As are questions of piracy, copyright, power, control, and capital. This is a brilliant frame for why EDUPUNK might make some sense, and in fact be necessary.

    The term came out of an IM chat I had with Brian Lamb, and he immediately recognized the value of such a term. I just decided to go nuts and run with it, and seeing you pick up here gives me a spark of hope that a number of folks may feel similarly about the crisis of Web 2.0 as a tool and technical challenge rather than a cultural (dare I say amatuer artisitic) movement that destabilizes some deep-seated notions of education.

    BlackBoard latest iteration suggests how good so many folks have been at preaching the power of Web 2.0 tools, but like you say, the idea of web 2.0 has itself become something less useful than a meme, it has become a checklist of features:

    As yu say so well:

    What began as a clever pun [Web 2.0] has outlived its usefulness to us. We’ve known that for a while, but as companies begin to reduce the social web to a set of ingredients in their products — we have to go further than whether product x allows trackbacks or not.

    We do have to go further than that, for it is in our hands right now to shape the possibilities for a relatively new field that seems to constantly have to re-invent itself. Why can;t we have opinions, ideas, and beliefs about what educational should look like?

    For me, the best way at this is a space to experiment, create, and imagine –so EDUPUNK will materialize not so much as a resource as a kind of zine that affords people space to speak their mind creatively, and experiment and innovate beyond the corporate mold. That could be a next step for EDUGLU, one I have already talked with Brian Lamb and Tom Woodward about, and it is time to up this up to anyone interested.

    We were imagining themed ideas that people create to, like Tom’s idea of a Piracy themed site inspired by the spirit of EDUPUNK you define here where people riff on a theme in educational technology, for example Piracy or copyright or fear or power or what? Well, the limit is our imagination, it it is the imagination that will frame the future, not the cowtowing complacency of corporate toadies.

    Your warning of where punk went wrong, and how that might happen here is beautifully stated, and I think there is always the possibility (I won;t say inevitability) of things being co-opting or spoiled, but damn it, why the fuck won’t we fight what we all know is the death of the creative space we have been laboring to create and cultivate for not nearly long enough.

    You are so EDUPUNK 🙂

  2. A zine. I know this is crazy — but to prove a point, what if the zine had a physical version, at least for a subset of content? Is that an absolute waste?

    Because I have this vision of a real, honest to god vision of a xeroxed zine (in addition to a web available one) something physical, something mailed out — something to hold in your hands to remind you that people did this — actively fought broadcast culture when it was much more a pain in the ass.

    And also to remind us that it is about the technology — but mostly because the punk attitude is exploratory — people forget that only a short hop into the British scene Sheffield was producing bands like the Human League — bands that played no instruments at all.

    I’m going on — but my point about the zine I guess is that it can be edupunk without being web 2.0 — and it shows its about the general orientation towards technology, and not about specific technology…

    In other news, you probably want to look at Steampunk Magazine as a model, or possible influence:

    And if you haven’t seen it, see Made in Sheffield:

  3. @Jim — There’s a fascinating history there with London v. Sheffield. You can imagine it as if there was not a rivalry between west coast and east coast punk here, but if the rivalry had been between the lower east side and Newark.

    OK, maybe that’s overstatement. But there’s more than a little snobbery in Rotten’s comment (and as I’m sure you know, Rotten’s PIL veered much more toward the Sheffield part of the equation (this is not a love soooongg…). So it’s an interesting quote in that way as well.

    Put Made in Sheffield into your Netflix though, ASAP. It will really blow your mind.

  4. A bit late to the party. I love the term Edupunk for its indeterminedness and potential for spawning new things and disrupting or even destroying the boundaries of our comfort zones. Who will be the first to register

    And of course, I blogged about it: asking the question what ‘edugigs’, ‘edusquats’ and ‘educommunes’ would look like.

  5. Mike–

    I thought of the physical zine idea when I read that, too…

    But why bother printing and mailing?
    Put it up on the web as a pdf. With directions: Print, fold, staple. To paraphrase MR&R, “Print Your Own ****ing Zine.”

    What could be more DIY than that?
    Being mindful of the digital divide, as well as the ease of archiving paper, it’d be wise to provide printed copies upon request, but why should that be the default mechanism?

    Get people into DIY habits, and you’ve made a lasting impact.

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