Measuring research impact – the metrics of grey collar labour

May 15, 2012

Academics in western higher education institutes are increasingly being assessed according to performance measures and metrics that resemble a Taylorist production line from early twentieth century capitalism.

The days when public intellectuals could luxuriate in ivory towers have long since faded into history. These days academic offices resemble open-plan public service pod-farms. There are no leather arm chairs or pipe-smoking professors in the refectory.

You are more likely to see us hunched over a pile of marking or filling in endless performance review and appraisal forms.

Higher education has become instrumentalised, commodified and regimented.

Students are no more. Instead we have customers and we must take them on an effortless journey from juvenile to adult while they continue to live at home well into their 20s and expect a steady diet of spoon-fed readers and easy marking.

Of course, this is a gross over-simplification and I know that many academics (myself included) continue to take pleasure in teaching and in mentoring students as they take hold of their own learning and see the light at the end of the assessment tunnel.

There’s increasingly less time for research, not to mention less hard-to-get dollars available. This is particularly true in the social sciences — often considered of lower value that attempts to cure cancer, make ‘clean’ coal, or map the human genome.

One metric that is used to sort “good” research from “ordinary” or “bad” is the notion of impact. Government departments have produced scads paperwork to grapple with this concept. Often it leads to nothing and after a few years the measures are scrapped or replaced with even more arcane forms of policing.

It’s gratifying then to see how impact is measured in less formal ways.

Take The Conversation, for example. On this collaborative and innovative site, impact is measured by social media tools.

The result is an instant and accurate picture of how the work of grey collar intellectuals is affecting the people around them.

Impact as measured by social media tools. If you ‘like’ my research just click.


Saurons of cinema: Gobbits and Quislings in a tale of ‘yore

April 9, 2011

The drafty Stalinesque lecture hall underneath Auckland’s trade union headquarters in Grey Lynn was a fitting stage for the evening of ‘serious fun’ and ribald politics, earlier this week, when Warner Brothers won the despised and coveted Roger Award for the worst transnational operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

It was fitting that the gun-running, racist lackey Bugs Bunny was on hand to accept the Roger on behalf of his bosses.

Bugs Bunny takes home the Roger for God-knows-what nefarious doings. Photo Nigel Mofiet

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Someone’s lawyer might be interested in this

April 22, 2009

[28 April update Legal letter freaks out Big News]

I’ve just been to Big News and there’s a very interesting post that I reckon a couple of legal eagles might like to take a look at.

It seems that someone’s been a very naughty boy – and totally stupid to boot.

Someone has been posing as a number of senior New Zealand journalists to post comments on a Big News blog item and, apart from being very peurile, it strikes me as possibly worthy of a legal challenge.

Big News names the culprit as a student journo at Victoria University in Wellington. Michael Oliver is the news editor of the Vic Uni student mag, Salient.

[30 April update:

Big News wrote: I can now reveal that those comments on this blog were done in the offices of Salient, and a Salient volunteer has taken the rap. I doubt whether this volunteer was alone. I was advised today, after being threatened with a defamation suit by the Victoria University Student’s Association(VUWSA) two days earlier, that current editor Jackson Wood was “aware of it” and knew “who is responsible” after initially writing to me denying any knowledge of the spamming.]

If I was Mark Sainsbury, or Carol Hirschfeld,  or Tony Veitch, or Zoe Halford, or Mike McRoberts, or Glenda Hughes, or Dave’s mum, I’d want to take the jerk who did this outside for a quite talk and a noisy thumping. Or maybe I’d just sue the arse of the little turd who is responsible. You can view his/her handiwork on this post at Big News

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Chaser lot may be let off for the APEC stunt – National – smh.com.au

October 2, 2007

It seems the NSW police may have belatedly received some drugs to help with their apparent lack of humour.
This report, Chaser lot may be let off for the APEC stunt , from the Sydney Morning Herald speculates that the Chaser team may well not be prosecuted for their hilarious breach the rabble-proof fence during last month’s APEC bonanza in Sydney.

11 members of the Chaser team were arrested on various charges after their fake motorcade managed to breach the wall of security around the APEC leaders.

At the time the cops couldn’t see the funny side, but now it seems they’ve been given a dose of something and had their humour restored.

Justice really.

You can see the full Chaser story here
When you see this you’ll soon realise why the cops are not so keen on a prosectution. They look like real gooses here. The police case will collapse – and hopefully some asses will get spanked.


APEC satire – "not funny"

September 7, 2007

APEC’s surprise guest – Mr bin Laden of Canada – National – smh.com.au

Good on the Chaser crew. They managed to breach the APEC “rabble-proof fence” yesterday, but now 11 of them are facing charges to do with eluding the security operation.

The charges against them are just more ammunition for satire. This just makes the whole exercise in locking down Sydney appear that the disturbingly real and sad joke that it is.

If a couple of clowns in hire cars can breach the security wall because they don’t look like feral hippies, imagine what a clever hitman like the legendary “Jackal” could do.

The goon squads are obviously not looking for terrorists, their role is to monster a few anti-globalisation and anti-war protestors into cowering submission.

Those brave bastards.

The Chaser team have a proud record of embarrassing politicians and the police. They have a worldwide fan club as you can see from this photograph. the billboard is an ad for the Chaser TV show on ABC.


Weapons of mass distraction – the funny side of APEC

September 6, 2007

Who says cops have a sense of humour? It seems that in Sydney they don’t. At least not when it comes to satirical attempts to cross the rabble-proof fence.
This story from the ABC Online. No doubt we’ll hear more in the next few days:

Two stars of The Chaser’s War on Everything have been detained after conducting a fake motorcade through Sydney.

Chaser co-star Chris Taylor has told ABC News Online that police have detained Chas Licciardello and the show’s executive producer Julian Morrow.

Taylor says the motorcade was made up of three cars.

“A lot of people were involved [in this stunt],” he said.

“Some have been detained and some haven’t.”

Taylor says the crew members have been detained in their cars, while police wait for special units to arrive.

Lawyers for the ABC are also on their way to the scene.

The Chaser convoy had been dressed up to look like an official Canadian motorcade.

“No particular reason why we chose Canada,” Taylor said.

He says they thought it was feasible Canada would only have three cars in its motorcade.

ABC spokesman Peter Ritchie has confirmed Licciardello and Morrow have been detained, but not arrested.


Should Parliament be protected from satire

July 10, 2007

You know it’s interesting how politicians are usually the first group to complain when their freedom of speech is attacked. They all like to make motherhood statements that free speech is the cornerstone of a “democratic” system of government, but they don’t like it when the media tries to insert some leavening humour into proceedings by poking fun a their stuffed shirt antics.

The New Zealand parliament recently held a select committee process to look at the satirical use of footage of parliamentary proceedings and guess what…the committee voted to ban TV networks and other media from using such images in comedic pieces that might tend to denigrate the solemnity of their work.

In a rare show of standing up for themselves, the TV networks refused to go along with this ridiculous idea, which was first mooted back in late June. This week both the Greens and the Nationals have said they won’t go along with the ban. As this transcript of the TV1 programme, Agenda, makes clear, the matter is now back in the hands of the politicians. How can we recognise them? They’re the suited-up spivs in the dark corner wiping egg of their faces.


The YouTube Election

April 27, 2007

Free Times – Columbia’s Free Alternative Weekly:

In this week’s Free Times, Dan Cook commented on the ways in which YouTube may become an interesting media battle ground in the 2008 US Presidential election. Noting that unauthorised clips of several candidates had made it to the site, he went on:

“It’s looking more and more like a YouTube election season after John McCain made his way to the site in a big way last week with comments he made about Iran. Speaking on April 18 at a VFW hall in Murrells Inlet, S.C., McCain was asked about whether the United States might launch air strikes against Iran. McCain responded making a reference to the song “Barbara Ann” by The Beach Boys, saying, “That old, uh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran.’” He then sang a mock version of the chorus, “Bomb, bomb, bomb … .” Though the comment was clearly made as a joke — McCain’s position is that bombing should only be used as a last resort — the episode highlighted once again how the democratization of media is throwing scripted presidential campaigns off balance. Previous videos that have made waves this election season include an amateur Barack Obama ad that lampooned Hillary Clinton and a video of Sen. Clinton singing the national anthem off-key.”

This is interesting from a media theory point of view and very useful to me. I’m just beginning to write a book about this, hopefully to be published next year in Australia.
It would be even better if Cook were right that this is the “democratization” of the media. My worry is that the YouTube generation don’t vote, many of them are perhaps still underage.
If they did mobilise, perhaps McCain would go down, but Hilary and Obama wouldn’t be far behind.

There’s similar stuff posted on YouTube about Australian Prime Minister John Howard, but the lampooning of the PM hasn’t made the news yet “down under”.
My favourite SATIRICAL YouTube clip of the PM is this little ditty: “John Howard is an ar$&l1cker” [RATED PG, occasional use of obscene humour]