The debate in the University of Edinburgh's 'edcMOOC' on Coursera got a bit heated, and personal. The issues relate to a larger question:


Is the 'monetarization' of education an affordance or a 'disfordance'?

Here's a response, which tries to put it into a larger context. ...

1. Coursera clearly introduces a different business model into education, based on selling, using, and re-using 'personally-generated' content, although hopefully not 'personal' content for any purposes of their choice - including marketing, one would assume. And their rights replace and exclude yours, even to your own material, as a participant.

2. Its not the only game in town (see the other discussion forum in this MOOC, on Money) and there are established and successful technical and business-model alternatives. So choosing Coursera is a deliberate choice, there's nothing inevitable about it. Whether Coursera will go the way of GM food, which was rejected by the consumers in the UK, or not, is an interesting, but different question - i.e. it might not even be a good business model, but we'll have to wait and see.

3. Selling personally-generated and/or personal content seems to matter much more to some people than to others. We need to respect differences. For myself, I am now a reluctant participant in the edcMOOC - ambivalent at least, and really keen to see some response from the course convenors (I know its a difficult issue to respond to, but silence is also telling, in its own way).

4. More interesting is the way this issue (of 'monetarization' and commercial exploitation of personally-generated content) is part of a much bigger debate, which links directly to the utopia/distopia theme of the early weeks of the course, and I guess will also be linked to the debate in week three on what it is to be 'human'.

This is not a new debate and fight - and although we should keep this debate cool, it is a fight, over big money and power, it's not just an 'academic' issue. For instance:

Google: a business model based on selling and manipulating data on personal use of goods and networks - 'customer and consumer profiling', which is done via all sorts of technologies, e.g. 'loyalty' cards. Google pushes this one as hard as they can, for commercial gain and market share (aka 'power'), and they have already had to 'fine-tune' some of their practices that the public objected to as exploitative and intrusive.

Facebook: similar business model, but not nearly as successful (compare the healthy share price of Google, with the rather sickly one of Facebook, with some investors even threatening to sue them around the share issue last year). Facebook got into a storm last year (or was it earlier) when they announced that they were going full-steam ahead on exploiting personally-generated data, and claiming exclusive copyright - they retracted in a few weeks.

Picture-sharing apps. One has already been killed off, because of this issue, and another one has already popped up.

So ... clearly there are a lot of people out there who care (one way or another) about these issues. Coursera is just another thread in the way our society is moving towards utopia or dystopia. The extent to which monetarization dominates (or does not dominate) our society affects basic freedoms and rights (see below), autonomy and privacy, security and surveillance, and the role of the state - see the UK debate on the state's right to monitor and store all txts, emails, tweets, etc etc, which recently caused a storm, and has at least been watered down, if not rejected - it's still in process, as far as I know.


And of course there is the issue of whether, as a participant in the edc Coursera forums, I have any rights to publish this, my own post, in this blog/wiki, and whether Coursera would do anything about that. We shall see ...

Resources

On digital rights: Affordances and the new political ecologies - towards the end.

On the key sociological issues: Complex Global Microstructures

(Cross posted to here ... )