Taking cyberpunks out of the dystopia

umwdtlt – Jim Groom as Edupunk
CC BY 2.0 Created: 28 May 2008

Block 1 concentrated on the big picture of digital culture through the lens of the sci-fi film and fiction genre and introduced us, through our together tube sessions to the concept of the cyberpunk, although we never referenced them directly, only saw them in action.

So what is cyberpunk? Well, cyberpunks are the underground rebellion against the big capitalist corporations controlling the technology in the not too distant dystopian future of the sci-fi genre. They scavenge technology, much like Hector in Memory 2.0, as the megacorporations control access to and use of clean, safe and costly “official versions” of the same technology.

In Memory 2.0, Henry begins by visiting the business selling the virtual memory experience but ends up visiting the seedy world of the cyberpunk and specifically Hector, when the corporation can’t or won’t meet his needs.  Due to the unregulated and amateur set up of the cyberpunk provider, this has consequences. A moral tale to the viewer that we shouldn’t be involved in the underground and disreputable world of the rebellion perhaps.

Cole (2005, pp. 259) describes the power struggle between the cyberpunk and the megacorporations where “power is imposed by a system of social domination”,  the rebellion against this power and authority being the source of the moniker of punk for this community relating to the punk subculture of the 1970s where common punk community goals included anti-authoritarianism, a DIY ethic, non-conformity and direct action (Wikipedia 2017). The cyberpunks DIY ethis being in their technology use.

Fast forward to 2008 and the punk subculture influence is seen again in a movement which was to be named “EDUPUNK”, a movement defined by Tom Kultz (2008) as “an approach to teaching that avoids mainstream tools like PowerPoint and Blackboard, and instead aims to bring the rebellious attitude and DIY ethos of ’70s bands like The Clash to the classroom. EDUPUNK sees teachers react against the rapid implementation of course-management systems, which provide “cookie-cutter” tools that promote uniformity at the expense of pedagogy.  Jim Groom, an instructional-technology specialist and adjunct professor at the University of Mary Washington, is credited for coining the term and declared himself a poster boy for the movement and “ds106” was the course which launched Jim Groom into the public consciousness as an EDUPUNK. He took all the essential elements of teaching for his course and put made them open and online, choosing to use an array of available web tools instead of relying on the institutionally provided VLE, which he claims waters down the elements of web 2.0 and dilutes the social aspect of learning.  Again we see the anti-authoritarian approach matched with the DIY ethic. The moniker this time focussing on the educational focus of the punk attitude rather than focusing on the technology element, which is also strong.

Listen to Jim Groom talk about ds106: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EFMMghmp8U


Cole, D.R., 2005. Education and the Politics of Cyberpunk. Review of Education, Pedagogy, and Cultural Studies, 27(2), pp.159–170.

Escapist Movies, 2014. Memory 2.0 – Dugan O’Neal/Wilson Bethel (Prototype), Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd2ka3-hvKA 

Kultz, T., 2008. The Buzz for “EDUPUNK.” The New York Times. Available at: https://ideas.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/the-buzz-for-edupunk/

TEDx Talks, 2012. TEDxNYED – April 28, 2012 – Jim Groom, Youtube. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EFMMghmp8U

Wikipedia contributors, 2017. Punk subculture. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Punk_subculture&oldid=767545516

Wikipedia contributors, 2017.EDUPUNK. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Edupunk&oldid=771717086