Monday, June 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Murdoch really really really need to stop trying to “capitalise on the new media opportunities” and “speaking to young adults on their level” and realise that they are a fucking university. I don’t want you on my god damn level, murdoch. I want you to be the shining beacon of everything I’m not, I want you to be the institution that chews me up and spits me out, if I’m lucky, with a degree that’s worth more than the paper it’s printed on. I want you to make me admire you, not suckle at the teat of whatever new ploy your young marketing staff has come up with this week.
If you want to capitalise on the “new media” I’ll let you in on a secret, you can’t make it work for you. The new media is us, it’s this, right now, what I’m doing here, what people are doing elsewhere. It’s said that markets are now conversations, and I’m under no illusion that a university is a market driven entity, but here’s the genius part about markets now being conversations, you can’t direct them. You can’t fool us, the new media, with gimmicks and shiny baubles. Sure, you might catch what vestigial features are left of the old school mentality, but the bright minds, the committed thinkers, the people you should be wanting to attract, all you are doing is leaving them with mud to throw, buckets and buckets of it.
Pick up your game, lead by example, stop pandering to the lowest common denominator. You are a higher education institution, start acting like it. *IF* you do, we the media, will start saying nice things about you again, but I won’t lie to you, it’s going to take a while
Now, the reason I started off by saying that the internet is pervasive is that a member of the marketing team at Murdoch, one of the same ones that chose me to be an endorsed blogger. The same ones who have given me cool free stuff like tickets to blues and roots. They emailed me because they had seen my comment on this other blog, one I have never linked to here, and asked me, very politely, if there was anything in particular I had issue with and that the team felt they were doing the best they could to give prospective students a window into uni life. So I thought I'd take an opportunity now to clear up what I meant in my criticisms.
My issue isn't with the marketing team at Murdoch, online or otherwise. In fact I have a fair amount of respect for them, both professionally [thanks to t.v. ad campaigns like the "I want to try" ad, which I can't find a video online of unfortunately] and individually [the online marketing team that I've had the most to do with actually seem to care about stable of bloggers and students they've got helping them out, something that is pretty hard to come by in the industry, believe you me]. No my issue with Murdoch is not with the marketing team, it is with the upper management directing them. For too long now Murdoch has become the last thing in the world is was ever envisioned being, a degree treadmill. This is especially hilarious as Murdoch isn't even a predominantly teaching university, it's a research uni, and of the two, research uni's make significantly less money.
Now, the upper management will go to the grave saying that it is for this reason that Murdoch, as an institution has had to make some of the hard decisions that it has over the last few years. I know this because I conducted an interview with one of the bigger mucky mucks about the executive's side of the story in last years pay dispute. He said that Murdoch is run extremely close to the line and that there is very little surplus money for things like paying teaching staff more. A very useful excuse to use when the financial operations of the uni are not transparent, meaning open for scrutiny. Now, I'm not an idiot, I am fully aware that a company should not reveal it's financial decision making process to it's stakeholders because stakeholders have NFI how to run a business. The only problem with this is that Murdoch is a Public University, and as such, not only does it in part belong to the staff and students who teach and attend it, it belongs to the community as well.
This is the crucial facet of the approach the Murdoch Executive has towards conducting itself which I feel is essentially flawed. Yes, Murdoch needs to be financially ship shape and able to support itself. This however does not mean maximizing profits and receiving the best return on your investment. Especially when part of that means selling false promises to prospective students. Your marketing campaigns are wonderful at invigorating people and stirring up their social motivations and desire to not be a part of the crowd, unfortunately I've studied here for three years and I am yet to see the innovative thinking and outside the box approaches that you sell.
At the end of this semester you will lose two of your best and brightest from the media department to Monash, a crushing loss for those of us in the media school. A friend of mine started uni as a mature age student this year and despite being a switched on self reliant young lass I have had to wade waist deep into the quagmire of bullshit that surrounds simple tasks like, enrolling, or, signing up for tutes, the administrative staff being unable to offer her the solutions to her problems because they were either over worked or had no real experience with the online systems. Murdoch has a policy of not allowing fliers or posters on columns of bush court or the poster pillar near the main car park [which funnily enough is called such because it's sole purpose in life is to act as a home for posters] which they claim it to keep the uni neat and nice looking... it's a university you morons, it's supposed to be covered in fliers. Couple this with the fact that students are not allowed to set up food vending stalls and tables outside of very strict guidelines for fear of unfair competition with the food hall, [us crazy students having the proclivity to partake in activities that provide services without generating profit] are just two of many examples of measures the executive has undertaken which, deliberately or not, leave the Murdoch student culture a malformed still-born year after year. The list of failing goes on and on, and while I would dearly enjoy being self indulgent and listing them all [it is a blog after all] I fear I'm already starting to lose your attention so I'll anchor all of these symptoms to the root disease.
Murdoch is being run as a entity with it's financial prospects as the huge and overwhelming priority, other benefits such as quality of education and staff conditions are externalities and considered as factors in an economic equation. I have an alternate view to propose, what if students, staff, and research where the combined goal, and financial sustainability merely a way to best maximize returns to that goal. As I said in my quoted comment from the other blog, markets are now conversations. We are reaching a point in social organization where anything BUT quality product [and your product in this case is a vibrant, healthy, and happy university] will get you nothing. You can still try and run the ship with the old school headspace, and that will most likely work right through to the end of your respective tenures, but what then? You will leave the next round of administrators with a university with no student life, dissatisfied and underpaid staff [if there are any good ones left at that point] and shitty research culture, and in this future, when a shiny media campaign has become irrelevant, how the fuck are you going to sell Murdoch to us then?
P.S. once more to the marketers at Murdoch, I really have no beef with you guys, you've always been super lovely to me, despite me being an arrogant douche bag, which is really rather nice of you. And like I said, I got the mad respect for you, having successfully polished a turd.
P.P.S. If you like what you've read here, quote it, link it, and spread it.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
In the course of “education” I’ve had more than a passing interest in politics, and by politics I mean political science, you know Totalitarianism and Democracy, the role of ethnicity and god, that sort of thing. Nationalism is a prominent feature of almost any conversation about change within a nation, because time after time we can see that the quickest way to mobilise a people is to stoke the fires of their nation-love.
But why? The idea of the “nation” and by extension “national identity” are fairly new concepts, they’ve only been around for a few hundred years, and lets not forget that until about 150 years ago [give or take half a century depending on who you look at] small lineages for fairly inbred people controlled most of the world through empire rule. Yet stand in the deep south of the US or on the river foreshore on Australia day for that matter and utter the phrase “fuck this country” and you will attract some violence pretty quick.
How have we become so caught up in the idea of the national family that we will attack members of that “family” for criticizing it? And why, in Australia at least, does it seem to be a province of the young [younger than 30]. I will allow that in the Australia day scenario booze would play a large factor, but when Alan Jones whipped that merry band of savages into a frenzy over in sydney, most of them weren’t on the piss.
The answer, for here and elsewhere, seems to be anomie. Anomie is a cognitive dislocation, a kind of social disconnect that leaves an individual rudderless in a storm. Anomie can be born of many things but from what I have observed one of its principal causes in western society seems to be the rift between expectations and reality. We expect to be successful, we expect to be rich, we expect to be famous. I’m not saying everyone is deluded enough to think that one day they will be Paris [or even Perez] Hilton, but the fact remains that we are sold on the idea of moving into the class above us at some point in our lives. The realisation that this probably isn’t going to happen, that dairy section manager at the local supermarket is about the best that’s going to come your way*, results in an anger, a formless, unexplained dissatisfaction that an individual is not aware of and cannot solve.
It is into this spiritual and emotional hole that some of the “answers” float. These answers might be God, Drugs [In Australia Booze, Weed, Meth. In order of impact] Love, or as is pertinent to this article, Nationalism. It gives us comfort knowing that we are a part of something bigger than ourselves. It makes us feel victorious when members of our family beat members of rival families in contests. And it makes us feel righteous when some of these other families behave in monstrous ways. We can say to ourselves, much as your actual family may have done when you were little, “I’m glad we don’t behave like that”. I am glad our women have the right to vote, our citizens don’t have their ethnicity on their passport/identity card, and our citizens are free to criticise. These features of our country are good features, but I am not proud.
I am not proud because the facets of my nation that should arise pride are not representations of my families elegance or intelligence. How many of these qualities that I hold so dear would still be around if left to the constantly shifting discretion of my “family” members, rather than enshrined into law? Our nationalism revolves around a schema of exclusion, that is, we feel good by comparing ourselves to others. This I feel, is a crucial mistake. If we look at ourselves critically we will see a population of commodity driven worker bees. We make a big song and dance about people coming and trying to get in on the good life that we’ve all works so very hard to build, but Australians haven’t worked hard to build anything, other than our own personal fortunes. We think that because we’ve contributed to the economy in some kind of thrice-removed abstract sense that it not only absolves us of further effort but entitles us to claim the whole nation for ourselves?
What about this, what about we actually live up to the slogans and the t-shirts. What if we actually, as a people rolled up our sleeves and gave a shit. We stopped trying to accrue our sad little piles of stuff on patches of sand where every house looks the same. I’m not saying that the everyone has to become some kind of social welfare zealot, that’s the true absurdity of the situation, all people would need to do is to look around themselves and see the mechanisms in our society that are already in place but could use another set of hands once a week.
Australia is already not half bad, I mean, given how useless it’s population is, it’s kind of surprisingly good. Imagine what it could be if everyone actually started caring. Imagine if our nationalism revolved not around “this is ours, not yours” but around “We’re working hard, you’re welcome to work beside us”.
*Note. I do not for a second think that being the dairy manager at the local supermarket is a degrading or “low” job. Two reasons, first of all because I don’t think it matters where a person works, you can always bring pride and sincerity to your job, and secondly, sometimes I really fucking need a man who knows his cheeses. KnowwhatI’msayin?