Beyond fast and slow: temporal ontology in critical higher education scholarship

My notes on The Shifting Rhythms of Academic Work. On Education. Journal for Research and Debate, 1(3)

In this short paper Fabian Cannizzo takes issue with an assumption he (plausibly) suggests underlies the vast majority of critical higher education literature, namely that “broad social transformations to the policy and organisational infrastructure of global academia have a deterministic relationship with academic work temporalities” (pg 1). This means that well established changes to the character of academic work are  taken to produce unavoidable effects for academic staff, leaving analysts for instance reading back time pressure from expanding expectations (a perception he says is near universal amongst critical higher educations scholars). This reflects the absence of a diachronic analysis because when “conceptualised synchronically as part of a social structure of power relationships, temporality is reduced to a factor of structure itself” (pg 3). The qualification “as part of” does most of the work here but it’s a really interesting point to make nonetheless.

By denying that “neoliberal and managerial interventions into the organisation of academic life have systemic, logically-inferable influences over the temporal experience of academic work” (pg 1), he opens up the space through which the empirical relationship between systemic transformation and scholarly experience can be properly scrutinised. This makes its easier to recognise the performativity involved in scholarly characterisations of the scholarly field, with dichotomies of slow and fast work being normative characterisations through which “academic work routines and control are contested and legitimated” (pg 2), as well as the complexity of how injunctions by management are taken up by agents. His point about productivity culture here is an important one, observing in relation to the collegiality of academic blogging alongside their role for profile building and Shut Up and Write Groups with their seemingly strong focus on productivity that “these spaces allow for agentic experimentation with different rhythms, paces, senses of pressure and relief, social and technological infrastructures” (pg 3). This is precisely what is opened up when we move away from an opposition in which “the ‘fast’ times of productivity, media and economics are juxtaposed to the ‘slow’ times of thinking, learning and crafting” to instead focus on the temporal agency of academics themselves (pg 3).

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1 Comment

  1. I think it comes down to being paid and making a living. The institution of academics thus, perhaps, no longer becomes an effort that has an ability to consider things outside of its impetus for producing. Because if someone is getting paid then someone is expecting a job to get done, and it’s not just any job. And so I think that what tends to happen is it becomes an effort that doesn’t notice that the product of its effort are already determined in scope regardless of what any of the academic thinkers might see of their efforts and so I think that what tends to happen is it becomes an effort that doesn’t notice that the product of its effort already determined in scope regardless of what any of the academic thinkers might see of their efforts, this by virtue of the fact that you were doing a job. And that one who is doing a job really has no perspective on what it is to do something of the same sort when it’s not being expected as a means to make a living.

    I mean, do you even have a possibility of considering anything in your academic intellectual scope outside of the fact that it might be used in some way to generate income or identity Capitol for yourself?

    Are you able to consider things in them selves? Outside of that which you already know as your whole life?

    I might argue that you don’t.

    Perhaps.

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