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 

Linked from Pocket: Elon Musk launches Neuralink, a venture to merge the human brain with AI





SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk is backing a brain-computer interface venture called Neuralink, according to The Wall Street Journal.

from Pocket http://ift.tt/2nb2bBp

First thought on reading this is how sci-fi and how well this matched to some of the film clips we watched in our together tube sessions. However as the article highlights, we are already implanting devices in the brain, the most successful being a device that can stop tremors in Parkinson’s sufferers. Perhaps because this is not more widespread, it still seems like science fiction, but Musk’s area of interest goes that little further and it’s about writing and saving information to and from the brain. It’s all about cognition, about improving ourselves through a technology link.

In reading this article and reminding myself of the current extent of research in this field, it’s taking me back (in thought) to the beginning of our EDC journey, to the first few weeks where I battled to understand the concept of cyborg, not as in the sci-fi movie sense but from some of our readings like Miller(2011) and Hayles (1999) where I grappled with the concept of cyborg being much closer to home,  where Miller (2011) explains cyborg as “the growing number of ways that technological apparatuses have been used to fix and alter the human body”, which still sounds “out there”  but is actually talking about such mundane things as eyeglasses and prosthetic limbs, body modification and gym membership.

Hayles (1999) however is probably much more relevant to the intention of Musk in this article, in her paper she talked about her amazement that any scientist could genuinely consider the idea that the human consciousness could be separated fro the body. Even in reading this article and hearing that this is indeed the subject of research in 2017, I still find myself agreeing with Hayles on this one and thinking, come on get real!



Hayles, N. Katherine (1999) Towards embodied virtuality from Hayles, N. Katherine,  How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics pp.1-25, 293-297, Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.

Miller, V. (2011) Chapter 9: The Body and Information Technology, in Understanding Digital Culture. London: Sage.

What is culture?

I thought a good place to start this week would be to define what exactly culture is, and it took me on a much more exciting journey than I had expected. I began, as I suspect many of us will, with the idea of culture as some sort of society, a group of people with similar practices, outlooks and goals, much like the depiction of computer culture in the early 90s movies I grew up with.  The depiction of the dystopian world is a regular in sci-fi movies and books which feature computer technology, where there is always an underground culture fighting “the man”. The man usually being the group who are in charge of the computers (a corporation or the government).

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