Next Wednesday I’ll be doing a presentation at the ACCS conference titled “Is Less More? What The Wire Has to Teach Us About Institutional IT” wherein I use clips from David Simon’s brilliant series The Wire to examine the lie that is “Do more with less” in institutions generally, but higher ed specifically. Keep in mind the theme of the conference is “Doing more with less.” The idea for this presentation comes from the first episode of Season 5 titled “More with Less,” and I’ll actually be starting with the following scene wherein the managers at the Baltimore Sun newspaper frame the changing mediascape and the corporate/institutional response to the situation by announcing buyouts, cutbacks, layoffs, and the necessity to do “more with less”—despite operating at a profit.
The entire fifth season is framed by Bunk’s classic quote from the opening sequence of episode 1 of Season 5:
The bigger the lie, the more they believe
Fact is, as David Simon notes in several interviews that “despite being an oft-repeated command to dying institutions, the ability to do more with less is an inherent impossibility.” And herein lies the crux of my argument, we cannot effectively do more with less, rather we need to re-think our relationships as thinkers, learners, and teachers apart from the institutions rather than within them. This does not necessarily mean breaking away from these institutions all together because for the time being the are feeding some of us, but rather to act between and amongst a number of individuals at these various educational institutions throughout Virginia to build a larger network of resources, connections, and a real grass roots sharing of resources to start thinking and acting on how educational technology may allow us to re-imagine, or simply circumvent, the economic and political trappings of institutions.
In short, it is a call to cooperatively create a hub of activity happening at the various campuses around Virginia that we jointly support and cultivate a community of teaching and learning that is distributed, premised on people not infrastructure, and helps us collaboratively imagine what the power of a system of higher education connected through nodes of individuals first, rather than institutions, might ultimately look like.
I’ll actually lay out a design I have in mind for this in another post to come shortly, but in the mean time I’ll end with Captain “Bunny” Colvin, whose inspired speech about no more lying about the state of our institutions and what they serve to re-enforce—“learning for their world not ours,” “they see right through us” and we can’t continue lying about doing more with less. And not only less money and resources, but the lesser vision education more generally has provided us with. It’s time to imagine a world outside of that—and while I’ll probably get much the same reaction Bunny does, it seems to me something worth presenting and pushing for.
This is half-baked, but useful as I try and put this one together. More to come soon, and any ideas to make this stronger would be greatly appreciated.