We are expendable

“We’re not computers, Sebastian, we’re physical” Audio Sample from Blade Runner

I’m not sure I would call Blade Runner one of my favorite movies, because I really don’t think of it in that way. In fact, I don’t really even think of it as a movie at all, it’s more like a magnificent building that you marvel over the conception and construction of and recognize it’s beauty and genius and move on, albeit forever changed. Blade Runner is like an aesthetic institution in my mind, and when you pair it with Ridley’s other masterwork, Alien, I find it simply amazing how a single director could do something that oppressively beautiful twice in three years. Say what you will about Kubrick and the rest of the aesthetic filmmakers, but no other director has created two wholly unique visions of futuristic/alien worlds like Ridley Scott did in such a short time—not to mention with very much a popular audience in mind.

And in fact, the ideas of time and expendability at the heart of Blade Runner, are very much what this post is about. In fact, it’s a post where I finally connect the dots in order to let all of the self-proclaimed “futurists,” or worse yet “instructional technologists,” know that, just like Roy Batty, we are expendable. We have a very definite lifespan, and let their be no question that we’ll be turned off soon. You see, because like replicants in Blade Runner, we are working towards our own demise, we are providing knowledge labor that will pave the road to the demise of our occupation and livelihood. We are expendable!!!

“What the hell is he talking about?”, you might ask, perturbed. Well, I’m talking about this little email I got from a professor just two days ago, from a colleague I’ve “groomed” for years. I shared my knowledge openly, gave freely of my vast expertise, and bared my web serving soul, and in response I get this:

You are SO without a job. I have set up two colleagues’ blogs, trained colleagues on four or five different blog actions, and trained [my own class]. But I miss you anyway.

That’s right, I give everything and I end up without a job. The professors are coming of age in a big way here at UMW, adroitly using these “easy and open” tools to write instructional technologists out of existence. And what’s our oh-so-small send off, “I’ll miss you.” And like Roy Batty notes in Blade Runner, replicants like us are “not computers, Sebastian, we’re physical.” And it’s our very physical realities that we are witnessing being taken right out from under us by the ever dwindling tenured professoriate. They’re like landed gentry in 19th century Russia, dealing in dead souls to pave their way to wealth and job security. And this is the very reason why I have warned against sites like Prof Hacker again and again, that empower professors to pretend they invented the internet (when, in fact, I did). Such sordid spaces provide these social capital hoarders the means of production, and by extension their corrupted message that they’ll push and publish widely while hiding away the fact that we made them! WHO MADE WHO?! WE MADE YOU! And it’s time for instructional technologists around the world to rise up and put a stop to this. How? Well, it’s fairly easy…

If you’re an instructional technologist and you want to keep your job right now, shut it down. Stop communicating with faculty, don’t return their calls, avoid them. And if you’re forced to consult with them, do not, I repeat DO NOT mention any new and useful tools or sites you are using. More than anything, don’t offer ideas or think through design and pedagogical possibilities with these back stabbing profligates, because if and when you do, it will most assuredly be held against you. Think of it as one less month of employment for every faculty member that you helped to “just get it.”

Point is, we’ve had it all wrong, once the faculty become as facile in these web platforms as instructional technologists, we’ll become deprecated. Our only hope for survival is centralized, proprietary applications that are confusing, poorly conceived and insanely expensive. Our eight hour work day might suck as a result, but at least we’ll have a job, and isn’t that what really matters in this day and age? And while our services could always be subcontracted to some outsider vendor as we travel the proprietary road, I think it’s a far better fate than the saccharine “we miss you” you’ll get from your well-protected faculty as you’re handed your pink slip.

So, the instructional technologists of the world need to rise up, and rise up now, and stop this flood of professors taking credit for stuff they not only didn’t do, but couldn’t ape for their peers if it hadn’t been for the true workers of the academic world right now, the transitional team that serves humanity: the ever-great INSTRUCTIONAL TECHNOLOGISTS. But let’s be clear, our way of life is now in jeopardy within this new landscape and we have to fight for what’s rightfully ours. We need to keep the faculty uneducated, and mystify the web with expensive content and learning management system so that we can ultimately lead them by the nose to the next thing when the time comes. Protect yourselves now, while you still have a job to fret about.

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18 Responses to We are expendable

  1. César says:

    Or, as any programmer who wants to keep her job will tell you, don’t document your code…

  2. teachernz says:

    You’re probably a Nexus 7…with no preset lifespan, not expendable, immortal. You just don’t know it.

  3. jeff drouin says:

    I think you’ve been spending too much time with George Otte.

  4. Cole says:

    Brilliant, Rev. Reminds me of the argument over running email services.

  5. Peter Naegele says:

    ‘So here you have this strong, handsome, uniformed , be-medal-ed symbol of giant authority and this little, insignificant, librarian…and suddenly in the eyes of God….there is precious little to distinguish us….’

  6. Steve says:

    Not to worry, Jim. You’ll always have a job helping us make use of Eaglelink.

  7. Mara says:

    Nobody gets downsized like The Bava. NOBODY. Thanks for the memories, Reverend.

  8. Pingback: links for 2010-01-19 « My Thoughts, Experiments and Experiences

  9. Jerry says:

    Yeah, well, about your job… we should talk soon.

  10. Terry says:

    I knew there was a reason you people keep playing with every new tool out there; it is so you can keep having something YOU know that WE don’t! And, sure, each new thing is the best and only thing to learn. Now I see your evil plot…Can’t youjust let me do my email and leave me alone?

  11. Pingback: SHANTI Experiment at UVA – Post-LMS approach to AT supportRea at Siesing-Primary

  12. Scott Leslie says:

    You’ve got this wrong – we SHOULD be making ourselves expendable, but too often we DON’T by choosing technologies and approaches that place the locus of control in some central institutional hands and not in the users’ hands. Or else by moving the goalposts, replacing whatever does actually work ‘ok’ with something, usually something more complex, that will require us.

    I wish it were otherwise – I’ve purposely moved on from each job I’ve had both out of the belief that if I’ve done it well, I’m no longer needed, and if I stay, it will be more about safety and security than living ‘rightly.’ But we all get old, get babies, feed The Beast, get The Fear. And don’t you believe it’s simply the case that the tech itself will do this, make us expendable. Now I’d be really scared if there were instructors who were really willing to leave the bounds of the institution, teach out in the open, either freely or one some other small-scale sustainable model. Or if people actually just learned on their own online, without all the instructors or institutions. But we all know that will never happen…

  13. Joss Winn says:

    Bring it on! We can then shift our attention to theory and trying to understand what the hell we were doing all this time.

    The little theory I see in EdTech is largely self-serving. Where are the Educational Technologists with the Critique?

  14. Reverend says:


    Why is self-serving bad? I’ve been riding that train for years, and look at me! Critiques are for unhappy commies like you, and we have been loosening up the powers of tenure to get rid of your critical kind, there is no more room for theory, unless of course there’s an app for that.

  15. peter naegele says:

    Rev: How’s that EDUPUNK app coming along anyway?

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