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The @thirduniversity on the @thirduniversity

16 Dec

The Third University went down to the bank of ideas yesterday to attend the 2nd discussion about the potential for a London Free University at the Bank of Ideas. The Third University have been around for a while now, since March, and it’s seen and been to a few things in the few months it has existed that was like that discussion last night. As consensus discussion is hard to work with and it was felt that although asked, we couldn’t really tell people what we had done so far that perhaps answered and mainly asked a lot of questions about power, dominating voices and fear of listening within critical spaces, it was felt that we should reflect on the things that we have done, perhaps to help those who are trying to set something up or to avoid getting trapped by the same ideas they are supposed to be critiquing.

February 2011

Born in a pub, possibly because it was difficult to decide the value of throwing an egg at Nick Clegg in a privatised space such as a shopping mall. We were happy to be the third university in Leicester, because the other two were happy to charge 9 thousand pounds for the privilege. We were also friends with the social science centre and the really open university, who opened up the possibility about what we might become. We visited the Really Free School in London and was inspired by things just happening and people learning from each other.

March 2011 

First teach in – at the coffee republic in leicester on the day of the UCU strike. We were there for a few hours and we discussed what a third university might be and look like and who and what will it teach. We stuck loads of post it notes on the mirror and were donated some nice chocolate cake as well as being allowed to use the space. It’s amazing actually, there is space everywhere – you can just do stuff when you stop getting hung up on metrics and accreditations. Many people there were already teaching something to somebody somewhere. This was warming. This is the sort of stuff we spoke about. The third university dissolves into city and appears when we need it.

April 2011

The Third University ran a alternative teaching training session at NatterJacks Bar – who were also very nice and offered us space any time that we feel that we might need it. We set our objectives of teaching – if it is your first night, you have to teach. And teach people have. We learned about what people knew already, what they would like to learn and really, it is just nice hanging out with people who are passionate about the things they like. This has framed much of what the Third University has been about. Here is a list of the things that we discussed and the things we might learn.

May 2011

The Third University ran some lessons in liberating knowledge where we took out learning to lunchtime and dissolved into the high street. It was a nice sunny day. We took a break to hang out the bunting.

June 2011

The Third University hung out the bunting during Community Media Week. It did some stuff around social media, and citizen media and the shock doctrine. It invited people from all different parts of the UK to think about how to critique things like education and the olympics. It was nice to work with our friend citizen eye who are already providing free education opportunities to Leicester.

We took up Croquet. We held lunchtime lessons in Croquet and wet maths through June and…

July 2011

We won croquet! We beat the high chancellors of lols and took victory on the pitch. We saw the politics in croquet.

We also responded to the alternative alternative white paper. We are worried about alternatives too. So we set up a customer charter, just to make sure that those who are part of the third university know their place.

We announced our unemployability framework – the focus for 2011/2012 term, making sure that our members constantly make sure they are increasing becoming less employable by age.

We expanded, advertising for a Third University Business manager – where we appointed Professor Terry Wassall and promoted him to Professor pretty much before we got his references because it was a sure bet and he’s our pal.

We tried to learn about consensus decision making – but it changed everything. So we came back to Leicester and made no decisions.

August 2011

We did some arty stuff for a change. We taught in and out during the riots, it was more educational than watching the telly.

We went camping in Hampshire. We drank beer and chatted about everything. We weren’t very good at behaving or doing what we were told. We can put up a tent though.

September 2011

But we got ready for protest and prepared for November.

We have to acknowledge politics in everything. We bring what we learn from the third university and it helps us do the things that we need to do in other spaces. And that’s nice.

October 2011

We occupied everywhere. We visited Wall Street, St Pauls, Glasgow, Ayr, Leicester, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham. And we thought about it.

November 2011

Especially in our home town, Leicester. We were inspired by the young people who were raising awareness for the things that others would choose to ignore. We visited some more Occupy camps, we spoke at a few and shared stuff in tent city university, in the bank of ideas, in nottingham city centre, at the Space Project in Leeds. We loved to learn from people and feed on the energy of the movement.

December 2011

We came to London to speak with those who are inspired to set up and encourage a national network of free universities across the UK. We hoped that we could join them and share why and how we did what we have done this year. But it was about technology before doing, it was about spectacle before substance, it was about numbers before people. And that was hard for us.

In the new year, we are putting out focus into continuing to work with the communities and the people who support us, to run a day of activity about the things we like, to play darts, to talk and build with bikes and alternatives to the world we live in. We have to do it by talking to people, not building destinations. We can have space when we need it, but mostly the space we need is here already. We don’t need to recruit but you can join us if you wish. We are going to continue to watch what happens.


occupation, permission and freedom-as-overcoming

21 Oct

Last week we spent some time with the occupation on Wall Street. Then we wrote this. Then we read some other views about extending the occupation of LSX beyond its limits. Then we re-read about the power of the Space Project in Leeds and its hopes for a hub for radical education. Reclaiming these spaces takes courage. We have seen many acts of courage recently. We will need more as capital and those with power-to seek to re-enclose our world and re-inscribe our society with their power.

Then @willcommon wrote this on Twitter. The tweet stressed the importance of excess; of boundaries; of moving beyond limits; of disruption; of actions that are beyond permission. It reminded us of Moishe Postone’s critical re-reading of Marx, that our social constitution by labour is not transhistorical; it is historically situated and defined. It therefore underlies the automatic, and apparently normal/normalised/normalising, regulation of our social life in capitalism. This is then the object of our critique of capitalism. Emancipation, in Postone’s terms, is not found in the realisation of this mode of social constitution [of labour in capitalism] but by our overcoming of the capitalist relations of production, of value and of capital, and by our overcoming its automatic regulation of our society.

In. Against. Beyond. Inside our abstract domination. Against our abstract domination. Beyond our abstract domination. Overcoming abstract domination is a necessary presupposition for the realisation of self-determination.

Postone stresses overcoming and moving beyond limits imposed in states of normality and democracy and exception. This may be where spaces need to be theoretically-defined not in terms of their demands and their representations, but in terms of what they enable through excess. So in New York we witness Occupy Wall Street supporting moves against Stop and Frisk, which @newyorkist is tweeting about here. And in New York a march heads-off to the Village against fracking. And in New York there is a spin-off occupation of MoMA, because its sponsors are big finance and because art should be for all and not just oppressive.

And in this occupation as a space as a hub for radical education, we might ask, as @aaronjpeters did here, how do the current occupations connect to the lessons of the dispersed, demanding, student protests of last winter/spring. How do workerists, educators, students, support the variety of issues within and across our society that act as controls and constraints on our being? How do those students and workerists empower occupations to grow in excess of their spatial limits? As the Dean of St Paul’s, supported by transnational elites (the 1%) and in order to maintain capital’s reproduction of its power in our world, we might ask, in Postone’s terms, how do we use spaces as hubs of radical education, to overcome capital’s automatic regulation of our society? How do we develop the courage to reveal our freedom in acts of overcoming?

an away day in Bedford

2 Oct

Yesterday we held a walkabout-cum-learnathon-cum-exploration-of-space-cum-awayday in Bedford. We were hoping to learn something about unemployability. We learned:

  1. about historically-defined administrative units of wapentake, hundred, shire and county. We learned about their role in feudal enclosure and political control and taxation. And in our wondering why they developed as they did, with different flavours in different spaces/places, we reflected upon their historically-situated and defined emergence, and the historically-situated and defined emergence of new possibilities. Just because it was, doesn’t mean it has to be;
  2. about the role of public schools and rowing clubs and rugby clubs and the aristocracy in the early development of football and the way in which the town provided a space for former colonial administrators, in the history of Bedford. And we learned about the sacking of the town under Henry III and its pivotal medieval role on the River Great Ouse. And we wondered about how that inscribed the place and the space with a particular culture and set of explicit values that denied other histories and possibilities by enclosing and refusing them;
  3. about the ways in which the successful defence of the line in rugby union offers a sense of hope and relief and release through a real-world focus on place and space. And the attritionality and precarity of our actions in the world. And we wondered how that shared engagement in a space, shared for immanent and yet disparate reasons by a crowd, and that co-operative association might enable new forms of production and use to emerge in other spaces. Or we wondered whether there always had to be dominant and dominating rules inscribed and imposed on our land.

And we thought about how walking through a place like Bedford, historically-situated as an amalgam of cultures, reflected by a distinctly conservative culture, might enable us to re-think our solidarity with #occupywallst, and prepare for action ahead of #nov9 and #nov30. And we wonder about this in the real-world, and in face of the proletarianising reality of austerity, and we reflect on the need for direct action, in enabling possibilities for a world of #unemployability that is against capitalist work as the primary organising principle for all our our lives.