Monatsarchiv: Juli 2008

Internet issue of STI Studies

German print media like Süddeutsche Zeitung and most recently Spiegel [1,2] have accumulated quite a history for characterizing bloggers and Social Media as incompetent, socially irrelevant, unpolitical, self-satisfied, self-referential or even lacking a clear identity, as if digital life would simply vanish as a consequence of their writing. In the face of declining sales numbers, German established media reactions have become increasingly scornful with regard to bloggers in that they teach their increasingly elderly readership to be afraid of bad things that come with the internet – makes for ideal preconditions for a warm relationship.

Amongst deserving more public recognition are Open Access research journals since they abest ccount for the internet as the emergent knowlege world I blogged about earlier. Though growth of OA research journals has been significant, OA still has yet to compete with the non OA journal limited to subscribers and libraries willing and able to pay. The USA is expectedly in a leading position with 773 OA journals, followed by Brazil with 333 journals, United Kingdom with 310, Spain with 203, Germany with 138 and Japan with 107 journals (full list here). With only 67 of the registered 3530 journals, sociology is far from the most active disciplines. Three hopefuls for an emerging online sociology world are Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung (German, English & Spanish), Econsoc Newsletter (English) and STI-Studies.

Let me recommend the current issue of STI, „the first internationally oriented, reviewed online journal for the German speaking STI community“ that devotes two of four articles to internet related topics. All four articles are fascinating literature for today, and STI even invites readers to engage in a open dialogue because it introduces a comments form on their website. My hope is that open access journals like this one will spread much further and enable scientists, teachers, students, journalists and a broader public to search for peer reviewed scientific information online.

The first of four articles by Frank Kleemann, G. Günter Voss and Kerstin Rieder introduces a work and business perspective of Web 2.0. In „Un(der)paid Innovators: The commercial Utilization of consumer work through crowdsourcing„. Web 2.0 technology has enabled companies to outsource time consuming work activities to the paying customer or – more broadly – consumer and is evidence of a shift in relations between firms and their customers. We are witnessing the emergence of a new consumer type: the „working consumer“. In the conventional role, consumers used to be the passive „kings“ to be waited upon. Recently, consumers have become more like co-workers who take over specific parts of a production process, whereby both the process and the result remain under the control of a commercial enterprise or provider. The article seeks to develop a more precise definition of crowdsourcing and to differentiate crowdsourcing from peripheral related phenomina such as the open source movement. In its conclusion, the article develops the argument that the consumer works as unpaid employee or innovator and discusses potential consequences of crowdsourcing from a work and industrial sociology perspective [pdf] [comment].

In his article „Nanotechnology – an empty signifier à venier? A delineation of a techno-socio-economical innovation strategy“ Joscha Wullweber gives a critical account of the Nano-hype. Nanotechnology is perceived as a key technology of the 21st century. As a result, nano plays an important role in government policies devoted to technology. Nanotechnology is supposedly appealing for many actors, since it is expected to both produce entirely new materials and revolutionize production processes in various industries. Approaching the ‘nano-hype’ from a discourse-theoretical perspective, Wullweber aims to show that nanotechnology is an empty signifier rather than a developed technology. This empty signifier provides the basis for an encompassing socio-economic project that is kept together only by the signifier itself. This “innovation project” creates a link between nanotechnology and the future of the industrialised states. It aims, above others, at their reconstruction along competitive criteria as ‘competition states’. The author discusses nanotechnology policies within a discursive field of political and economic interests and strategies and highlights the importance of hegemonic struggles for the construction of a nanotech market and nanotech as a political reality [pdf] [comment].

Jörg Potthast turns to air safety in his article „Ethnography of a paper strip: the Production of air safety“ and asks, how come, that nowadays, where so many things are organized in computer systems and online, air traffic control relies on „flight strips“, that is, papersheets. One answer is „paper has helped to shape work practices, and work practices have been designed the use of paper.“ (Harper & Sellen 1995, in Potthast 2008). Potthast finds this explanation unsatisfactory and aims to identify the social practices in the air traffic control centers that account for air safety, knowing about the risks and huge consequences of potential organizational failure in air traffic. In his ethnographic fieldwork, the author proceeds makes seven stops (1) at the Eurocontrol Experimental Centre at Brétigny south of Paris, (2) in the political arena of European skies, (3) in the professional practice of the air traffic controller who recapitulates critical incidents over and over, (4) at the technical support, (5) in the control room where all operations must proceed free of conflict or even aggression, (6) the seminar room, where the worlds of control people and technical people overlap and (7) the sudden end of a collaborative R & D project in the aftermath of 9/11. Based on his ethnographic fieldwork and interviews in two air traffic control centers, Pottast shows that the paper strip was not abandoned but leaves open the question how different sets of social practices are interrelated and how different conceptions of air safety are brought together in practice. [pdf] [comment]

Finally, Niels Taubert examines decision making and decision implementation processes in free/ open source software production in his article „Balancing Requirements of decision making and action: decision making and Implementation in Free/Open Source Software Projects„. Referring to Nils Brunsson, the author sets out with antagonistic requirements of (rational) decision-making and action: On the one hand, rationality of decision-making implies extensive evaluation of alternatives and arguments that can lead to an uncertainty as to which of the alternative will be chosen. On the other hand, a good basis for collective action is established when uncertainty is reduced and consistent expectations exist as to what kind of action will be performed. Corroborating on an empirical analysis of a decision-making process and interviews conducted with FOSS developers, the author identifies three mechanisms of bringing a controversial discussion to an end: (1) rational consensus, ending a decision making process by virtue of an argument leading to a well-funded decision (2) seeking a compromise which takes into account previously discussed suggestionsm, or  (3) moving from collective decision making to individual action – a last conceivable solution to not let a project fail alltogether.  Taubert’s paper concludes with an evaluation to what extent each of these mechanisms serves the requirements for rational decision-making and action. [pdf] [comment].

What OA journals do you wish to recommend for me?

Berichterstattung DGS Kongress

Noch ist es ein Weilchen hin bis zum 34. Kongress der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie (DGS) Anfang Oktober zum Thema „Unsichere Zeiten“ in Jena, doch mit Urlaub und Vortragsvorbereitungen etc. verstreicht die Zeit ja schneller, als man denkt. Ich selbst möchte vom Kongress berichten,  viele andere Teilnehmer auch. Vorhin habe ich bei der Kongressorganisation angefragt, ob ein kostenloses W-Lan angeboten wird.  Auch schlage ich vor, alle Beiträge zum Kongress wie folgt zu taggen: dgs08 für Blogbeiträge, Fotos etc. und #dgs08 für Beiträge auf Twitter, flickr und Interessierte können sie sich dann gebündelt auf Twemes anzeigen lassen bzw. sie anderswo einbinden.

Go to ASA08 of ASA annual meeting here! (via Eszter Hargittai)

A qualitative study of blogging

Sociology coblogger Kristina Barnett at Texas University San Marcos does a qualitative empirical study about blogging. Bloggers, please participate here.

Neues aus der Bildungsanstalt: 11 Herausforderungen an die deutsche Universität II

In Teil 1 dieses Megabeitrags habe ich fünf Herausforderungen an die deutsche Universität diskutiert. In diesem zweiten Teil folgen 6 weitere Herausforderungen, drei davon sind von der deutschen Universität bisher weitgehend ignorierte Herausforderungen aus dem Internet. Hier geht’s weiter:

(6) Das akademische Feld und die Rolle der Professoren

Begreift man – wie Pierre Bourdieu in „Homo Academicus“ (1992) und Richard Münch in „Die akademische Elite“ (2007) – Wissenschaft als akademisches Feld, so kommt man auch um den marktlichen Charakter des Feldes nicht herum. Dann Feld ist eine Arena, in der mit ungleichen Tauschchancen ausgestattete Akteure um knappe Ressourcen und Tauschchancen konkurrieren, wie sie bei Max Weber in “Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft” (1920/1980: 382-385), Neil Fligtein in “The Architecture of Markets” (2001) und zuletzt bei Jens Beckert in “How Do Markets Change? On the Interrelations of Institutions, Networks and Cognition in the Evolution of Markets” charakterisiert wird (2008). Damit wird der Fokus explizit auf Akteure, Macht und Ungleichheit ihrer Tauschchancen gerichtet.

Akteure in dominierender Position sind Bundeswissenschaftsministerium, Kultusministerkonferenz, Wissenschaftsrat, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, finanzierende Stiftungen, Gutachter, Anbieter von Rankings, Organe der Universitäten und Institute, professionelle Vereinigungen, Akkreditierungsagenturen und selbstverständlich Professoren, Nachwuchswissenschaftler hingegen befinden sich in einer herausfordernder Position (vgl. Fligstein 2001). Ungleiche Akteure im akademischen Feld konkurrieren um knappe Ressourcen und Teilhabechancen wie z.B. Forschungsmittel, Lehrstühle, Professuren, Stellen, Publikationen, Auszeichnungen, Konferenzteilnahmen, Vorträge und – mit deutlich geringerem Stellenwert – Lehrveranstaltungen. Das Votum der Professoren als Akteuren in dominierender Position ist mitentscheidend für Spielregeln und Erfolgsbedingungen im akademischen Feld. Ihre Entscheidungen und Interessen sind also mitbestimmend dafür, welche Strukturbedingungen, Ressourcen und Chancen der wissenschaftliche Nachwuchs vorfindet, welche Erzeugnisse als wissenschaftliche Arbeit Anerkennung finden und welche nicht.

Martin Huber stellt fest, dass Richard Münch lediglich die Programme der Exzellenzkonstruktion, d.h. das Regime der Drittmittel und Kennziffern in absoluten Zahlen, sowie das Verhältnis von Drittmittelinput und Publikationsoutput – nicht jedoch die Zahlenherrschaft als solche – kritisiert (Huber 2008: 286). Bleibt hinzuzufügen, Professoren, die in Gutachterausschüssen, wissenschaftlichen Beiräten mitwirken oder NPM durch neue Prüfungs- und Studien-, Promotions- und Habilitationsordnungen implementieren, selbst das Exzellenzregime repräsentieren. Sie sind Konsekrationsinstanzen für Studierende, Promovierende und den wissenschaftlichen Nachwuchs.

Dieses Bild kontrastiert mit der z.B. in Münchs “Die akademische Elite”(2007) und in Interviews gepflegten Darstellung eines äußeren, dinghaften, zwingenden und Strukturwandels des Wissenschaftswesens mit dem Charakter einer unabänderlichen sozialen Tatsache. So erweckt z.B. im Interview mit DIE ZEIT (2007) und Telepolis (2007) den Eindruck, als ob Professoren am wissenschaftlichen Strukturwandel unbeteiligt seien. Dabei sind sie – nicht der einzelne Professor, gleichwohl wohl jedoch alle im Zusammenwirken – für die Verhältnisse verantwortlich, welche Nachwuchswissenschaftler erben, z.B. für das Ausbleiben der Ausschreibungen der Junior-Professur, die Stellenprofile des Lehrprofessors und der Lehrkraft für besondere Aufgaben, die geringe Vergütung von Lehraufträgen und zeitlich befristete Arbeitsverträge. Da stellt sich die Frage, weshalb Münch an der Implementierung von NPM bereitwillig beteiligt, statt sich aktiv zu widersetzen und dem von ihm selbst miterzeugten „akademischen Nachwuchs“ eine wissenschaftliche Revolution verordnet. Das hätte der Nachwuchs wohl eher von den Professoren erwartet.

Neues aus der Bildungsanstalt: 11 Herausforderungen an die deutsche Universität

200 Jahre nach Alexander von Humboldt steht die deutsche Universität für Aufklärung, Theorie, Erkenntnis, Beobachtung und Experiment, systematische Reflexion, rationalen Diskurs und eine wundervolle Vielfalt unterschiedlicher Disziplinen. Die Universität (ich verwende den Begriff bewusst breit für das Wissenschaftswesen) ist eine altehrwürdige Institution, doch zugleich ruhen auf ihr die Hoffnungen der heutigen Wissensgesellschaft. Sie soll Wissensvermehrung, Märkte für Wissensgüter und hochqualifizierte Fach- und Führungskräfte hervorbringen und sich in eine kapitalistische Wirtschaft einfügen. Generationen von Akademikern sind ihrer Alma Mater mit Stolz und Dankbarkeit verbunden. Leider erweckt das Erscheinungsbild der deutschen Universität gegenwärtig Zweifel an ihrer Zukunftsfähigkeit.

Update: Aus den ursprünglichen 10 Herausforderungen für die deutsche Universität sind 11 geworden. Hier sind die ersten 5 Herausforderungen zu lesen, 6 weitere folgen in Teil 2. Ich freue mich auf Meinungen und Anregungen und möchte meinerseits die Frage voranstellen, welche Herausforderungen über diese Liste hinaus ich vielleicht vergessen habe.

(1) Das Reform-Desaster der Wissenschaftspolitik

Viele Professoren echauffieren sich über das Reformdesaster der Wissenschaftspolitik aus Brüssel und Berlin: Exzellenzinitiative und Bologna-Prozess [siehe Soziologie 2008, Hefte 1, 2, 3; Nida-Rümelin 2006; 2008]. Die Exzellenzinitiative des Bundes beinhaltet, dass einzelne Universitäten in einem standardisierten Verfahren der Bemessung und Bewertung von Forschungsleistung als herausragende Forschungsstandorte identifiziert und mit zusätzlichen Finanzmitteln als Forschungsstandort gefördert werden. In der offiziellen Darstellung bleibt meist ausgespart, dass den nicht als exzellent identifizierten Universitäten wenig mehr übrig bleibt als sich auf die Lehre zu konzentrieren [BMBF; Wissenschaftsrat; DFG].

Obama in Berlin

Obama is no longer toast, Obama is giving a talk at the Siegessäule in Berlin tomorrow. Cheering is guaranteed, his talk will be a huge event, and people have high expectations. Spiegel International reports Obama’s campaign is frustrated over vehement discussions in German politics about his speech in Berlin scheduled for Thursday, but this criticism can be explained with the fact that we will have our national elections 2009, and there is increasng tension between Christian democrats (CDU) and Social Democrats (SPD) as election year approaches.

Markus Beckedahl at Netzpolitik has done an interview Daniel Weitzner, a member of the advisory team “Technology Media and Telecommunications policy committee advising the Obama ‘08 Campaign” to Obama concerned with internet related topics and co-author of a whitepaper on internet technology. Here is the full interview: NetzpolitikTV 042: Die Netzpolitik von Barack Obama [Text by Markus Beckedahl in German, watch Interview in English].


via text&blog

Since the age of Sesame Street I strongly appreciate the importance of educational TV. Via Netzpolitik & Hauptstadtblog.

Tagungsberichte Politische Soziologie & Wirtschaftssoziologie erschienen

Die Berichte zu den Tagungen „Korruption und neue Staatlichkeit“ der Fachgruppe „Verwaltung“ des BDS und der Sektion Politische Soziologie der DGS von Jens Aderhold, Uwe Marquardt und mir und „Theoretische Perspektiven der Wirtschaftssoziologie“ der DGS-Sektion Wirtschaftssoziologie von mir sind heute in Heft 3 der Zeitschrift Soziologie erschienen. Vor allem die Wirtschaftssoziologie-Tagung war eine der besten, die ich bisher besuchen durfte. Das Abfassen der Tagungsberichte war ein ein Vergnügen, und ich freue mich schon auf die Veranstaltungen der Sektionen beim DGS-Kongress in Jena. Einen Preprint meines Tagungsberichts Wirtschaftssoziologie können Sie hier lesen: dgs_sektion_wirtschaftssoziologie

Got it?

So easy! Worlde vizualization of blogs via Dan Hirschman and Understanding Society.

Why the U.S. economic recession will bite Germany, too

Do you feel the pain already? No? Get a loan, buy that car you always dreamed of, get some jewelry for your wife, go for an extended vacation overseas and enjoy a two star molecular dinner and better go for it now because it might b the last time for a while. My hunch is that the current crisis on the U.S. housing market and the credit crunch will bite the German economy. Not now. Later. CNN Business editor Todd Benjamin has been predicting recession and rising oil prices for a while, and Jack Cafferty has asked CNN viewers „What’s the difference between a “mental” recession and a real one?“ A brief look into the media raises fears that the U.S. economy has more gloomy days ahead, e.g. NYT1, NYT2, IHT1, Atlantic, Business Week, FT1, FT2, IHT2, Le Monde, NZZ, FAZ, SPIEGEL, Handelsblatt.

Socioblogger Dan Hirschman has already layed the foundations [some thoughts on the mortgage crisis; a follow-up on the mortgage crisis], so why follow the U.S credit monster any further? Why disturb the happiness since German business leaders, politicians and financial analysts prefer to discuss the crisis only in very moderate tones? Like Dan, I am not an economist, so I also draw on a different toolbox. My focus is on the structural and cultural change in companies – especially the public banking sector – in Deutschland AG (Germany Inc) and the consequences in the face of this development.

Going West – from Germany Inc to the Global Financial Market

For more than 40 years, German companies have profited from a very specific strategy vis-à-vis an emerging global economy: a strong technological orientation, high quality orientation with regard to products and processes and incremental innovation of making small changes in products and processes rather than radical innovation of seeking opportunity in fundamentally new technologies, business sectors or world markets. German companies would spread risks broadly by engaging in various activities simultaneously and not limit their activities to few profitable activities. Thus they were able to maintain their niche by exporting products characterized by strong technological specialization. The business environment where this strategy worked out fine for decades was „Deutschland AG“ – a network of financial relations and interlocking directorates among Germanys large industry companies, banks and insurance companies. Deutschland AG emerged as a strong coherent organizational field with two companies at the core: Deutsche Bank AG and Allianz AG. Since the mid 1990s, though, we witness the dissolution of Deutschland AG. That is, the number and intensity of interrelations of mutual shares and interlocking directorates is declining and German companies show a stronger orientation toward the global financial markets rather than seeking shelter in the established network relations of Deutschland AG.

Referring to the various writings of Wolfgang Streeck, Martin Höpner and Jürgen Beyer and to my dissertation it is safe  enough to say that core companies of former Deutschland AG such as Deutsche Bank, Allianz and subsequently many other players in the German finance sector saw greater business opportunities in a strategy shift – to withdraw from the boards of the various companies, to enter the global investment sector and to benefit from the dynamics in the organizational field of global capital markets because a flourishing global financial market opens the door to much more capital. Investment money from diverse sources on global capital markets comes at the prize of a small size of German companies as compared to the largest players on global organizational fields, e.g. finance, chemistry, pharmaceuticals etc.

As these graphs by Lothar Krempel at MPIfG show, Deutschland AG has been declining since the mid 1990s to the present day based on the data from the Monopolkommission (German anti trust commission).  Whereas graphs in blue show the decline in financial relations, the graph in gray shows the network of interlocking directorates in Deutschland AG for the year 2006 [MPIfG document here].

State-owned banks traditionally play a special institutional role in German corporate capitalism. They were established to provide economic development with the recources necessary and contribute to a sound business development with long term orientation. One of the few remaining nodes is Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau. KfW, originally established on the basis of the Marshall plan in 1948, is a state-owned development bank designed to assist the German economy and developing countries. The bank lends to small and midsized German businesses and buys securitized small and midsized business loan portfolios from German banks in order to keep that area of lending robust. KfW also provides funds for housing, infrastructure, environmental protection and preservation, and venture capital. KfW has adopted a global stategy in recent years.

Deutsche Industriebank (IKB), located in Düsseldorf, was founded 1973, is also specialized in lending to small and medium sized companies to foster German economic development. In August of 2007, IKB became the first victim of the U.S. credit crunch in the housing business since a 100 percent IKB owned company named Rineland Funding Capital Corporation (RFCC) as a result of extensive speculation on the US subprime mortgage market. The essence is that IKB was refinanced by state-owned KfW: While it is expectable and legitimate that German banks engage in the U.S. mortgage market and will be held accountable for their expected writedows, IKB was rescued by German tax payers payers money after Rineland Funding Capital Corporation (RFCC) had extensively lost on US. subprime mortgages. The future of IKB still remains uncertain [FAZ2; FAZ3; PR inside].


„Thieves in the temple“ or nails to the coffin?

Haltet den Dieb!“ by Marcus Rohwetter in „DIE ZEIT“ (10.07.08, German) is just another illustrative example of the warmth in the relationship between the established commercial print and broadcasting in Germany and Web 2.0. Rohwedder argues that YouTube is nothing more than a combination of a garbage can for private junk video and a violation of copyrighted video material. He seems convinced that YouTube stands for a decline of media culture. Watch teenagers eat pizza or that guy named Expanda touch his belly after drinking four liters of Coca-Cola. Find copyrighted materials stolen from publishers, music lables nd broadcasters and feel encouraged to upload new unauthorized material to the Platform, e.g. from high quality German public broadcasting stations. Thereby Rohwedder does not even mention alternative legal constructions vis-à-vis the traditional „all rights reserved“ copyright such as creative commons and GNU licence used in Wikipedia. Rohwetter interprets increasingly widespread collaborative practice of producing, distributing and organizing knowledge online that is known as produsage as deviant behavior or even crime. Interestingly, the author ignores that „DIE ZEIT“ where his article was published, offers RSS feeds and invites readers to bookmark and tag the articles as do many German newspapers. Rohwetter seems unaware that content, code and metadata can be produced, criticized, improved, combined and re-combined in creative processes by every ordinary person, that a critique, improvement, organization of content by bookmarking and tagging or creative re-combination of content, code and meta-data is a ‚value added‘ to a global public good. Jan Schmidt and I have worked out this argument in our essay in Herbert Willems (2008). „Weltweite Welten“ (German). None of these potentials are recognized in Rohwetter’s contribution in „DIE ZEIT“. He writes about Web 2.0 as what it seems to from his perspective: another nail to the coffin of a media business model in decline.

„Thieves in the temple“ or nails to the coffin? Technology edition

Just in case Rohwetter is already troubled by nightmares, here is another reading recommendation:  „Das Internet und die Transformation der Musikindustrie. Rekonstruktion und Erklärung eines unkontrollierten sektoralen Wandels“ by Ulrich Dolata at MPIfG (pdf, German).

While in the mid 1990s, the music industry was a flourishing well structured and flourishing industry economic sector, living well on LPs, Singles, tapes and even profiting from the CD an music television and dominated by five large companies: Universal/Polygram, Sony Music Entertainment, EMI, Warner Music Group and Bertelsmann Music Group. Since the late 1990s the music industry has been in a state of crisis. Sells have declined from US $ 40,5 billion in 1999 to US $ 31,8 billion in 2006 worldwide, from US $ 14,3 billion in 2000 to US $ 10,4 billion in 2007 in the United States and from € 2,63 billion in 2000 to € 1,65 billion in 2007. A new set of technologies  – digitization, data compression and the internet – have been successfully combined in such a way that they jeopardize the business model of the music industry and have forced significant changes. The impulses for restructuring the music industry came both from the fringes of the music industry itself and from actors outside the music industry. First, the CD had no copy protection and the MP3 as an open music format was invented. Subsequently, the music industry was challenged by non-commercial platforms for the exchange of music such as Napster, Freenet, Kazaa and Gnutella originating in the hacker scene starting about 1999 and and powerful new actors with commercial interests invading the music market starting about 2003. So far, iTunes has been the most successful example for establishing a music market introduced by a powerful invader to the music industry – Apple [of course, the user can also choose social music discovery services, e.g. ilike,]. Established companies within the music industry hesitated to live up to the technological challenges. Instead of seeking their opportunities in the process of change, they chose blockading and containment strategies and only strategically repositioned themselves when change was no longer avoidable.

Dolata identifies four factors contributing to the incabability and unwillingness of the music industry to anticipate and adapt to the technological challenges, the music industry is in the doldrums. First, the music industry had difficulties antiticipating the full impact of the new technological opportunities even though CEOs were well aware that the internet would create challenges. Music labels lived in a state of uncertainty and ambiguity. Change would have meant to integrate well established powerful actors within the music insdustry; so the music industry was reluctant to technological change.  A second obtacle was the music industry’s structural inertia with regard to the complex and time consuming process of implmenting a new techno-institutional match (can be but need not necessarily be a market) combined with the unwillingness to let go the established rules, roles and procedures that were the basis of previous successes: markets, company structures, legal frameworks, licence models etc. Third, the music industry is characterized by a strong structural and technological conservatism. The music industry tends stick with the established technologies. The music tape and the CD were implemented years after they were originally invented. This tendency holds true for data compression and for the use of the internet, as well. The music industry lacked interest for the new technology. The music industry has never been a first mover to new technology but always been a second exploiter. Its dominant orientation is that to the slowest consumer, well established technology and dominant tastes and styles. Finally, an oligopolistic market structure combined with a structural hierarchy between the companies at the core contributed to the unwillingness and incapability of  to undergo fundamental change with regard to the power and dynamics that the global interactive internet unfolds, today. Since change has always originated in the periphery – never at the core – it is no wonder that the music industry has failed to anticipate the impact the internet would have and to implement innovation beyond a minimum of protectionalist designs. Moreover the music labels considered themselves more powerful and more important than they proved to by with regard to the challenges coming from the internet.

„Thieves in the temple“ or nails to the coffin? Educational edition

But this whole argument can also take an knowledge and educational spin. Mike Wesch and his students at Kansas State University have explored the potential of Web 2.0 for higher education in their project „Digital ethnography“ and developed a pretty cool answer to the garbage can model of teaching and learning in tertiary education. In tertiary education of almost any subject, the internet confonts teaching models based on a garbage can model of dumping knowledge into atomized students with severe problems and questions its legitimity: (1) the students are put in the position of thieves in the temple when materials they need to learn are not distributed to them and too expensive on the regular market (e.g. expensive books or text materials), (2) they are put into the awkward position of thieves in the temple when teaching models and testing procedures encourage cheating (e.g. in multiple choice testing procedures when they can have the answer to every question displayed on their mobile).

Instead, students lack a learning environment encouraging discovery, knowledge sharing, critical thinking and collaborative knowledge organization. The technology is at our fingertips, we can do something creative with it. The video of a lecture by Mike Wesch from a guest lecture at the University of Manitoba on media literacy is pathbreaking in how Wesch explores potential of the internet to create a learning environment clearly superior to the established university system confining academic teachers and students to a specific institution and location. The video is also instructive in how the internet can be used for the specific purposes of social sciences and humanities in the broadest sense since almost anything that is found online is genuinely social in character. So watch Mike Wesch’s experiences with an integrated online participatory learning environment (Wiki) in his video „A Portal to Media Literacy“ (ca. 67 minutes).