One Belt – One Road – One World – Digitisation of Life as Chinese Lifestyle?

It is never an easy thing: dedication of some work – doesn’t it propose also agreement?
I do not know if and in which way Elmar would have agreed with what I presented – yesterday he passed away and we, critical thinkers with a genuine interest in progressive scientific work – progressive by way of contributing to progress of societal development so we will never know exactly. One thing we do know – the obituary of the scientific committee of attac [German] clearly states it:

ELMAR ALTVATER DIED

It talks about him as an

Inspiring critique of the capitalist economy

This he truly was – as such he encourages me to dedicate the presentation to him: as quest to me and to the students to take up this challenge of critical thinking.

The abstract of the presentation which is recorded here
may give some insight into what you can expect from the lecture — and hopefully you still will be surprised and inspired.
Living in China means as well getting used to a highly advanced level of internet-penetration in large parts of daily life. Often this is perceived as contradicting prevailing traditional ‘life styles’ and attitudes. At first glance this has not much to do with the future of social policy, or does it? – Social policy faces the difficult task of bringing an institutional system and ‘life worlds’ together. With globalisation and digitisation there is an additional challenge: the reference to the nation state and standard forms of labour are increasingly loosing or changing their role, or at least changing it. Is there any common ground for small island nations like Ireland and unimaginable countries like China?
Annunci

time … appreciation …. value of values

… or
How academia today undermines knowledge and beauty.
“In his youth Albert Einstein spent a year loafing aimlessly. You don’t get anywhere by not ‘wasting’ time – something, unfortunately, which the parents of teenagers tend frequently to forget. He was in Pavia. He had joined his family having abandoned his studies in Germany, unable to endure the rigours of his high school there. It was the beginning of the twentieth century, and in Italy the beginning of its industrial revolution. His father, an engineer, was installing the first electrical power plants in the Paduan plains. Albert was reading Kant and attending occasional lectures at the University of Pavia: for pleasure, without being registered there or having to think about exams. It is thus that serious scientists are made.”
….
“Finally, in November 1915, he committed to print an article giving the complete solution: a new theory of gravity, which he called ‘The General Theory of Relativity’, his masterpiece and the ‘most beautiful of theories’, according to the great Russian physicist Lev Landau.
There are absolute masterpieces which move us intensely: Mozart’s Requiem; Homer’s Odyssey; the Sistine Chapel; King Lear. To fully appreciate their brilliance may require a long apprenticeship, but the reward is sheer beauty – and not only this, but the opening of our eyes to a new perspective upon the world. Einstein’s jewel, the general theory of relativity, is a masterpiece of this order.”
From Carlo Rovelli. “Seven Brief Lessons on Physics” – with regards to those who have a huge share of responsibility for irresponsibility

the market and … power versus respect and dignity

Musings from earlier this year – and in a way probably a foretaste of the future. From a mail I sent to a former student [well, I say former while my Chinese students don’t stop seeing me as their 老师:

Thanks for the mail, 刘嘉颖,
yesterday I submitted the reference. I think there is a general problem with these submissions, only very few universities showing respect. It is all set up to suit the universities, not the applicants. If they send a mail to he BU-mail they get an auto reply, asking them to resend the mail the esosc-mail which they do not do. I perceive this as disrespecting your interest of taking really care of your application. There are other things: the mail was marked as SPAM because an oeverload of graphs, depersonalisation of addressing the message, silly questionnaires and forms which, if submitted by a student as ’sample for how to design a questionnaire’, would result in ‘failed’ … – Well, all this is a simple economic issue

Image ref: Alex Slobodkin Getty Images/iStockphoto; from: http://fortune.com/2015/07/01/behind-the-rise-of-indian-students-at-top-u-s-universities/

* if accepted you will pay fees

* if you do not succeed for instance because a reference is missing they still have enough ‘paying customers’ = students who play fees

* they ask academics to help THEM, the university, with the assessment, and we do it for free – it seems as we would do it for you, the student – and in some way it is true; but economically we work free for those universities – imagine one alternative: they would employ external assessors? Would they work for free?

May be even they would – there are ways to make such jobs ‘attractive’ – one could beat them with a note in the CV: External Assessor of …university.

That these procedures of universities upset me more then it probably should has exactly this reason: universities of this kind, money making machines that live on the back of others, without respecting even basic rules of market relations are just one example of an endless number of today’s mal-practice businesses, though they babble about dignity, social responsibility etc. It is the same irresponsible behavior as the behaviour of an airline that ‘allows’ people with a licence as pilot to join as co-pilot, without paying them – as those pilots do not have any proper alternative, they accept it because they need a certain number of hours per year to maintain the license. Many other things could and should be mentioned, in academia the tenured positions are becoming further reduced, people like myself working on ‘occassional jobs’, doing so without social insurance etc.. And it also undermines the ability and capacity of universities to offer proper education as in some universities even for teaching obligatory courses there are only ‘casual lecturers employed. [I am not sure anymore, I think at the university of Vienna ca 40 percent of teaching staff is not-permanent]  – You may see many issues I was talking about in the economics classes: about the invalidity of the law of supply and demand, the laws of the market being laws of power and not of free choice, contracts not realy about what they formally suggest to be, and also the externalisation of cost and even the production functions, here in terms of a change of the function due to the wrong basis for the calculation: part of the work is not included into the calculation. And it goes on as at the end it is of utmost relevance on the micro- and the macro level. Just think briefly about issues of taxation. …

So, end of the lecture 😉 ….

 And possibly the end of a string of posts on this topic, which could be drawn together under the heading
 Not sure, if this is the complete list of related posts, at least some:
 .
 It remains to be added that some universities that I contacted directly with complains, came back to me, asking for apologies, and exact information to consider changes of the procedures, also opening them for a more personal way of assessment. Though all this is often and seems to be a waste of energy … – perhaps it worth to move on, of course in the best case it is not just a matter of private initiative but a collective move and protest against the fall of higher education.

elementary knowledge for university admin staff

OPEN LETTER

I regret and feel very sorry: I would have expected that staff working in academic institutions – while we are writing the date of

Il giorno 20/mar/2018, alle ore 04:54,

apparently have to write

• Email submissions: We regret we are unable to accept references emailed to us

It is all about elementary knowledge, back to the real blackboard

Yes, I would have presumed the ability to deal with simple information technologies instead of uploading the burden on academics who surely have other and better things to do.

It is a commonly known problem though: specifically qualified staff not knowing about basics.
Feel free to contact one of my former students – they are surely most obliging and willing to help – and they do not even charge you such tremendous fees as universities like yours do. — I know, reading such things is frightening – as everything ugly is frightening if we see it in a mirror, feeling helpless especially if we are aware that we are acting as string puppets, being danced [yes, I hope for you that you don’t feel as dancer yourself] on others who are even weaker. – In any case, if YOU do not read it others will.
Positive thinking allows me to say that you fortunately are yourself worried about the low standards — otherwise you would not regret.
My recommendation: have a look if Warwick university offers offers some courses like
* basic IT-skills
* the problems of externalisation of cost: they multiplay and at some stage they return to the originator.
More positive thinking even: some universities came back to me, asked for apologies and promised changes. Unfortunately, after they asked for help and advice, they turned down my offer to support them further for a minor fee.
Sincerely worried – poor souls you are, a long way to academic standards [well, you remember E.P. Thompson? Top academics like him had been forced out …, history does to repeat, but lack of honesty and commitment apparently does …
Peter Herrmann
PS: Surprising for me is that a huge number of colleagues – students, administrators, academics – and surely most of the common people, using their common sense do agree .. and swallow.

Squalidness of a System – Gravediggers of Dreams – Murderers of Humanism

… which is all a continuation of the entries on boxing and the attempt to open the box and various other blogposts and you may have a look at
Sure, one may say it is not a great deal, all the advantages of the digital world will of course also be there to make universities a better world and even help to open the doors to these still somewhat sacred halls of humanism, Western education strongly claiming this tradition as still guiding principle, proudly showing the two Humboldt’s, sitting in front of the main building
[https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Wilhelm_von_Humboldt_Denkmal_-_Humboldt_Universität_zu_Berlin.jpg]
[https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Alexander_von_Humboldt_Denkmal_-_Humboldt_Universität_zu_Berlin.jpg]
Admittedly – oh vanity – it had been an delightfully exhilarating feeling when entering the building for [one of?] my first public presentations, passing the busts and insignia of the many ‘great forefather’ – and the few mothers mentioned. Being able to say ‘my forefathers’ allowed me to redefine my strange orphanage, knowing that it was indeed about moving on and moving up and stumbling through the academic world – witnessing and being part ….
Indeed, the baby can remain alive while occasionally the bathing water has to be changed. The problem, however, begins as soon as the new water proves to be poisoned.
*******
Warwick University is amongst quite a number that deserve being ‘reported’ as institutions boxing humans – and I will later return to this  case. Others are e.g. Brook [Canada], CUHK [HongKong], LSE [London], Oxford U and some UCL [somewhere on the island of independence-dreamers], being sufficiently arrogant to assume that everybody has to know who UCL is [actually it is possible to find out who is hiding behind the three letters: it is not Université catholique de Louvain, not the UEFA Champions League, Centre for Computational Psychiatry and Ageing Research … [interesting to see the differences in search engine results, depending on the location from which you search], but it is University College London – sure, symptomatically, being at such a UCL people begin to think like a puddle [see also here for the entire text about the Salmon of Doubt]: there is only one UCL – it is like the puddle being the entire world, only made for you], are part of the experience of disrespect and a ‘special kind of illiteracy’ which may well go as culprit to court at some stage – though for me the [il]legal side is only a wee part of a story that shows the squalidness which higher education reached.
*******
Now coming back to it: Talking about Warwick University means talking about one amongst many, denouncing one as example for a systematic defect. But it also means that it has some especially bitter taste as the history should have taught some wisdom.
Warwick is one of the universities founded during the times of a spirit of change: the forerunner, shock and also aftermath of the so-called 68-movement – forerunners, shock and aftermath also in a positive sense of taking up the need of investing in education, and understanding education as part of …, well not necessarily a revolutionary movement, but an emancipative strive in the spirit of the bourgeois enlightenment for which names like Kant and Humboldt and, yes also Mill and Smith stood. However
And at some this this culminated and
At stake was
And with this it was already at an early stage clear that the entire enterprise was concerned with a shift of understanding of subject matters, i.e. the self-uderstanding of disciplines. Here it changed for instance lets say from economics to ‘Management Science’.
Of course – and Andrew McGettigan makes us aware of it – this has to be seen against the background of the changing economic situation in Britain at the time – though it hadn’t been Britain alone.
It is an often forgotten factor, unfortunately – as seeing this context may help us to understand the moves today, for instance looking at the ‘Eon Energy Research Center’ in Aachen, Germany or the more or less recent ‘donation’ of twenty professorships: the technical university in Munich receives these from the discounter Lidl.
Much more could be said, also that Foundations [the professorships are provided by the Lidl-Foundation, not directly Lidl] are a kind of money-laundry-undertakings, other cases could be mentioned — mind snatchers are under way, even resulting in more or less funny …, perhaps Freudian slips? Briefly retuning to Warwick, we read that
Yes, God save the Queen and long live there multiple heirs. And though I recently looked into kind of shocked eyes when I mentioned the personal experience of the 1972 Anti-Radical Decree [oh, if official documents are looked at …and if some others are considered].
*******

Back to the presence and the bad habits and style when it comes to dealign with applicants and referees – again:

  • Students, naming referees, are asked to provide ‘institutional e-mail addresses’ – Shouldn’t a university that claims to be international and global accept that lecturers are international and global, sometimes not able to maintain mail addresses from previous positions, sometimes just making life a bit easier using onky one ‘private’ mail address instead of permanently changing and/or checking various addresses?
  • Mails sent out  to the institutional address are sent in completely automated fashion or at least the responses are not checked. Concrete: for my part I set up an auto-reply, informing the sender that the mail address they used is rarely checked and asking them to use another contact address. What happens? Nothing. The keen interest of students to get their application properly lodged and also the right of lecturers to be available in a self-defined way are not respected – even the self-respect of the universities diminished to the extent that they reduce themselves to illiterate, at most semi-literate machines.
  • This is completed then by the expected formats of references: a questionnaire any person who is at least a little bit qualified in data analysis [not to speak of common sense] would immediately see as inappropriate, lacking meaning and not allowing gaining any insight it the student’s ability. Personal questions about the referee that breach protection of privacy and are completely irrelevant …
    – Of course, the entire procedure may [and should] be questioned and there is the need to find better ways. But leaving this aside, it may deserve some further reflection: Should a questionable procedure, a matter that is extremely difficult to be answered, be followed up by further sub-standardising the way of dealing with it?
  • Useful, then, would be to to protect referees against being bombarded by advertisement from those universities, offering the referee to apply for a graduate course … — so, apparently undergrads can act as referee??
End Administrative infantilisation – Please stop it
Artificial intelligence … – I am more concerned about artificial stupidity – but then again, it is certainly true that computers, also intelligent systems, are just doing what they are told do by humans: in other words there is no artificial stupidity, even if messages are from academic systems, we should not blame those algorithms. And one may summarise, saying that algorithmisation, further administration and infantilisation are very much different forms of incapacitation.
Other things may be added, different combinations can be found – the bottom line: human issues are dehumanised and passed on to systems that are completely lacking empathy, and do not even show some basic mindfulness and respect of the values the system they supposedly represent, claims as guiding. Simple: If a university claims to reflect and pursue the values of humanism in the truest sense, the same university should make sure that the instruments and tools, used by its departments work by applying and supporting these values.
*******
Navigare necesse est, vivere non est necesse – Plutarco
The other day I talked with a colleague about all these developments in academia, she commented: ‘And we all accept it.’ I think it is really one of the problems, may be we get up, oppose on small items individually, may be even as small or large groups but at the end of the day  … – how can a system be changed, if changes are not approached on the system level, and systematically. Well, those who try have to pay. Those who have the say, always find a way. It is not least about  ‘squeezing more into less’.
To sum up, it is about universities and their development from academic educational settings to slaves of business further to administered systems, now to IT-led information providers.
Of course, the ‘old Bologna’ was also about business – and there Polanyi comes in: business was controlled by society – sure, we should not forget that it was a more or less rotten feudal society … And society itself is today actually often a stupid bubble economy, only leaving some small niches, suggesting real life is about withdrawing, looking for individual escapes … .
So, there you see me back, unsettled, opposing the temptation of a navigare necesse est, vivere non est necesse as already criticised by Plutarch. I just want to live, and I want for everybody the right to do exactly that. That is surely different  from permanently steering, moving from one emergency patch to another. And for the educational system it was already said by Alfred Marshall, thus even on the conservative side, stating

The schoolmaster must learn that his main duty is not to impart knowledge, for a few shillings will buy more printed knowledge than a man’s brain can hold. It is to educate character, faculties and activities; so that the children even of those parents who are not thoughtful themselves, may have a better chance of being trained up to become thoughtful parents of the next generation. To this end public money must flow freely. And it must flow freely to provide fresh air
and space for wholesome play for the children in all working class quarters. 

And we should never forget: at the end we are all complying! Nolens volens? Being algorithmicised, further administering life instead of living it or being infantilised – as long as we are not ready to stand up collectively and speak out loudly.

How to define appreciation?

[http://deacademic.com/dic.nsf/dewiki/1490665]

or a bit like carrying another cross today …

Well, one of the requests, a student in need of a reference, the Imperial College, as so many others, applying imperial methods and exploiting the labour force of academics instead of employing external assessors — but at least kindly acknowledging … see the highlighted words.

Now, so far so bad. The best step then, after submitting an auto reply is arriving, indicating the imperial understanding of valuing the work: an e-mail with three pages [reformatted as normal text], the beginning of it reads as follows:

Thank you for your email.
We are currently experiencing a high volume of enquiries. Please read the information below as it may answer common queries.

It does not say that the reference had been received, and the rest to the information actually concerns students who applied or want to apply.

Disrespectful is the term that comes to my mind. And if I would like to study, seeing such mail I would even as student look for another university. Rejecting raking I am wondering: if we are living in a world of rank and file in its military understanding, the highest positions occupied by reps and admins, we may think about the gutter rank: which institution makes it to the lowest ranks?

It reminds me of another university, after submitting a reference fro a student there I received for weeks and month  ads, asking me to subscribe to one of there courses. I don’t even know if I would accept a job offer from such unwilling, unknowing, unsensitive …, well, there is something nice when returning medieval standards – talking about un-deservring was quite common those times though it usually punished the wrong people ….

Honestly: Would you buy a used car from this man?

Would you buy a used car from this man?
Supposedly it originates in an anti-Nixon Poster from 1960.
Here is another question, seriously:

Can one as academic recommend students, honestly interested in understanding the world, eager to learn to a university that presents itself this way?

Well, the undue application procedure – one of many – did not allow me to remain silent … – so a letter went as well to this crowd:

Dear something – or somebody, I find it always extremely disrespectful to be approached by a machine, writing on a very personal issue, namely the assessment of the personality of a young man or woman who is looking for a responsible position in our societies. Furthermore it is highly unprofessional as mails of such format are often ‘auto-spammed’ – yes, machines with artificial intelligence know the difference between AI and AB [artificial bashfulness]. Also, using a no-reply address as sender lacks professional circumspection, not considering the rights of the recipient to move away from the address, change it or the like …

In the mail I received I found the sentence:

We require the use of the online recommendation process since it is the most efficient method to submit a recommendation to the Office of Admissions. The applicant’s file will not be processed until your recommendation has been submitted.

You should add: ‘for us’ as this what you respect instead of students and academic colleagues: Hobsons and FSBs convenience and efficiency, i.e. business-interest, distinct from academic requirements and standards. It is for you the most efficient way, not considering that you [i.e. Hobsons/FSB] shift your responsibility and workload on a person [i.e. individual academics] that is supporting students by offering a free, i.e. unpaid service to you [i.e. Hobsons/FSB] facilitating your work of evaluation. If you would imply external evaluators, it would be a rather expensive undertaking for you, while currently we as academics are covering these. – Sit down, please, and think twice about the truth of the meaning. I did not need the over forty years experience to come to this conclusion, but this time surely allowed me to witness an decreasing respect of academic and human standards in what is still called Higher Education. Sending letters that do not allow to clearly identify the sender, actually – from my understanding – sent by some company on behalf of a university, is suspicious.

BTW, the procedure in this case, if compared with that of other universities, is for the referee one of the worst and most complicated I ever came across  there had been several in over forty years. Furthermore, even the boxes that have to be completed for the referee-data are not allowing for differences in national systems etc. – more lack of international experience and professional standards on your side.

As stated on the website of the Dean [https://www.fuqua.duke.edu/about/our-dean], accessed on the seventeenth of January 2018, 21:08:
Checking Boxes is Not Enough in Ensuring Diversity – this, taken cum grano salis, is also applicable when it comes to dealign with applications and asking for references. There is good old request: FROM WORDS TO ACTION. You see … much to be done
I dare to hope that students learn other business models too at FSB, and learn also some respect – Alfred Marshal already made us aware of the need of such education, not boxing young people.
Sincerely worried about the future of Third Level Education in your country [unfortunately Fuqua School of Business is not known which also means I did not know where it is located before checking on the web – seemingly you assume everybody knows it, it is just another fault],
Peter Herrmann, respectfully still classified as human being
Prof. Dr. Peter Herrmann
Students, presenting such work as Hobsons and FSB do, would surely fail my courses.
And I dare to add: it is tremendously sad, that these things, the undue tyranny of administrations in non-administrative areas, are too often just swallowed and only few academics rebuke this bold takeover of universities, just complaining and moaning in silence …
PS: After writing ad sending this epistle I received a phone call – definitely a positiver sign, though at the end confirming that there are different departments of the university or actually agencies that are not part of the university dealing with issues, after they get some rather general information – the one seize fits all kind of, indeed ‘advancing business’ though far from acting as force for any good  that goes beyond personal or the institutions interest. Exactly the pattern of that teaching of economics that brought us the crisis of which we will celebrate in September the the anniversary – Happy Birthday Crisis, enjoy the profits you make out of squeezing honest people, mind the adversaries.