Re: On illegal software in an academic assignment ...


Subject: Re: On illegal software in an academic assignment ...
From: Kenneth Newby (knewby@sfu.ca)
Date: Sun Nov 13 2005 - 19:16:23 EST


On 13-Nov-05, at 3:36 PM, Owen Grant wrote:

>
> Kenneth wrote:
>
>> This gets more and more interesting. When, as a child, my parents
>> wanted us kids to have a direct musical experience they invested in a
>> piano. They didn't expect the music school to provide an instrument
>> for free. It was simply too expensive. When I decided to learn any
>> musical instrument I either bought outright, or, if on a tight
>> budget, found a store with one of those lease-to-own programs.
>
> I think this is applicable in a private situation -- I wouldn’t expect
> a free instrument either if it were my hobby. Although, in an academic
> environment the situation is slightly different: one moves away from
> an ideologically capitalist environment of individualism -- where
> motivation is provided largely through greed, and the love of money --
> and into an environment that instead thrives through the sharing of
> ideas, collaboration, and a shared end product.
>

I'm not aware of any university-based or professional music programs
that provide instruments for their students beyond those that sit in
commonly accessible practice rooms. I never got to take anything
home... which is where I developed my individuality and individuation
to an acceptable level to be able to function and contribute to my
culture. There's just not enough time to do that in the hallowed
halls. The same situation applies to digital music instruments and
tools.... unless of course we want to accept another increase in
already spiraling tuition costs. In our school we considered requiring
students to purchase their own laptops and a basic suite of
software.... no unlike the requirement that an instrumental music
student is expected to have their own instrument while engaging in
their studies. The idea was quashed for many obvious reasons. We do
provide labs with enough seats and software to support all the students
in our program... but they still want to work at home, on their own
time, and I don't blame them. But the societal shift towards public
institutions paying their own way means that tuition fees are
dramatically higher, grants to students non-existent, and therefore the
thought of investing yet more in one's education is not easy to
justify.

The idea that universities are devoted to an idealistic culture of free
sharing of ideas, collaboration and shared end product is another one
I've not had personal experience with. Industry-university liaison
offices abound and pressure is intense to find ways to capitalize on
one's research outcomes. Pure research is made difficult or simply
abandoned under pressure from industry partners in favor of so-called
applied research. I'm all in favor of a culture of academic freedom
and free scholarly exchange... in fact I think it's one of the most
important features of modernity that we'd like to preserve. It just
seems to be a vanishing part of our current culture driven by
management science and the cult of efficiency. I'm increasingly
skeptical of the utopian aspects of this culture

The problems we're discussing are, I believe, a direct consequence of
this shift in the role of the university (and so many other public
institutions) in contemporary culture. I wonder if this isn't what
would lead so many people to discard their ethics and simply dive into
the culture of intensive individuality, greed, profit, etc. you
describe? I don't think it's simply because it's easy that people take
what is not theirs with so little regard for the investment that's been
made by the producers. Rather one is taught to develop a certain
thickness of the skin in the face of the meanness of the "new economy".

Kenneth.



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