The “Edupunk” Thing.

As Rob MacDougall pointed out, “Edupunk” seems to be the new hot meme in the edublog world.

I’m coming a bit late to the party, as the term was coined almost two weeks ago, which in the blogosphere seems to mean a thing’s ready for its postmortem… Well, unless it’s LOLcats. LOLcats has legs.

If you’re not hip to the right circles, or just behind on your feed reader (I’m both), click around these entries. Follow the hyperlinks. Check out the blogs of the people posting replies. Make sure you’ve got a couple hours on your hands– for such a new concept, it’s generating a lot of dialog. Which is awesome in and of itself, honestly.

Personally, I find the concept deeply intriguing. Ultimately, a lot of what people are talking about as being “edupunk” is very similar to things I’ve been trying to express for a while. An appreciation for the DIY ethos– the concept that fast, quick, and handmade is better than slick corporate cookie-cutter product any day of the week. A desire to get people to get their hands dirty with all the new tools available. The understanding that sometimes you need an Allen wrench, and sometimes you need a sledge hammer. Advocating that educators going past the standard classroom interaction is the essence of “best practices.” The concept that being in a classroom shouldn’t keep students from being autodidacts, but should rather encourage it. Using Web 2.0 tools (when appropriate) to make students interact more, participate more, and allowing them a greater amount of ownership and stewardship of their work. Acknowledging that Blackboard is too badly designed and inflexible to be the killer ap of courseware it’s become.

Of course, I’ve been a big fan of and advocate for punk, DIY, zines, and the like for– wow… over fifteen years. So this sort of thing has an intrinsic appeal to me. Something that co-opts the DIY ethos and combines it with new media and progressive/radical pedagogy? That’s just custom-tailored to my tastes.

The term’s a bit silly, of course. And the term’s too new to really indicate any real community or cause. But I’m glad the term’s been coined. Ultimately, if the meme gathers enough steam, and actually comes to be a real thing, a movement, philosophy, praxis, approach, critique, whatever… It will have come out of Jim Groom coming up with a term that provides an umbrella of linked concepts under which different people can gather.

I hope it does. I’d gladly call myself edupunk if that came to pass.

Even if it doesn’t, it’s definitely come to generate a really interesting conversation.

—————————

One qualm I have to express, though, related to an association made by several critics of the not-yet-extant “movement,” as well as some of its advocates.

Punk was never, ever, only about anger and nihilism.

That’s an impression that comes from too many people painting with much too broad a brush, and the overstatement of the impact of the Sex Pistols.

The Ramones had an edge, but blind, dumb joy drove their music, just as often as anger. The Clash had more righteous indignation than undirected anger. Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers are, to my mind, totally punk rock– and JR writes songs about romantic awkwardness and being a baby dinosaur. The DIY ethos that has driven so much of the last thirty years of punk music and culture found its incubator in the garage bands of the sixties. Listen to the Shaggs singing (with no sense of melody or harmony, let alone any sense of irony) about how great parents are. Listen to the One Way Streets singing “We All Love Peanut Butter.” You can’t hear anything but sheer joy in these songs.

I thought Bob Mould proved conclusively in 1984 that punk had a lot more emotional depth and complexity than angry adolescent rejection. Why does this impression persist?

Assuming that punk– and anything that, like the notion of “edupunk,” draws on the legacy and ethos of punk– has the emotional complexity of the Incredible Hulk is just patently wrong.

Sure, punk is often about smashing the “system.”
And sometimes anger makes you want to smash things.
Sometimes, it’s political– the system is too broken to be repaired, and needs to be cleared away before new options can thrive.
Sometimes, it’s just the sheer joy of breaking things.
And other times, you’re motivated by a sense of play and fun– detourning the mechanisms of a system, subverting it, disrupting its self-seriousness, and trying to provoke positive change.

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12 Responses to The “Edupunk” Thing.

  1. Jim says:

    Tad,

    Punk was never, ever, only about anger and nihilism.

    That’s an impression that comes from too many people painting with much too broad a brush, and the overstatement of the impact of the Sex Pistols.

    The Ramones had an edge, but blind, dumb joy drove their music, just as often as anger.

    Yes, exactly, thanks for this injection of persepctive. The Ramones were the most bubble gum punk band going. They were far more taken with the Beach Boys than some punk tradition. Moreover, the refused to tour with the Sex Pistols, because they didn;t want to be seen as hostile and generally vicious.

    I don;t understand how people can take to general ideas from some nebulous history of punk to explain an idea, rather than the opposite. The idea is more like a zeitgiest that suggests something about a word, rather than defining it, so when folks try to nail it down with very shoddy and general detaqils from the complex history of punk, it seems absurd.

    As for your DIY fascination, you might be interrested to know that this all started three months ago when Brian Lamb and I were talking via IM about a few things and the term EDUPUNK was born. I thought it would be a cool idea for a DIY online zine for Educational Technology folks who are going it alone and want to feature work or do it themselves within a community for some help and direction. I bough the domains (edupunk.org and .net) with that idea in mind, but then The Glass Bees post hiot, and the whole thing just took on a life of its own —bizarre.

    But if when this all calms down, you may want to think about the zine element. It is gonna take a community of folks, and I still really want to push it.

  2. Jim says:

    Tad,

    Punk was never, ever, only about anger and nihilism.

    That’s an impression that comes from too many people painting with much too broad a brush, and the overstatement of the impact of the Sex Pistols.

    The Ramones had an edge, but blind, dumb joy drove their music, just as often as anger.

    Yes, exactly, thanks for this injection of persepctive. The Ramones were the most bubble gum punk band going. They were far more taken with the Beach Boys than some punk tradition. Moreover, the refused to tour with the Sex Pistols, because they didn;t want to be seen as hostile and generally vicious.

    I don;t understand how people can take to general ideas from some nebulous history of punk to explain an idea, rather than the opposite. The idea is more like a zeitgiest that suggests something about a word, rather than defining it, so when folks try to nail it down with very shoddy and general detaqils from the complex history of punk, it seems absurd.

    As for your DIY fascination, you might be interrested to know that this all started three months ago when Brian Lamb and I were talking via IM about a few things and the term EDUPUNK was born. I thought it would be a cool idea for a DIY online zine for Educational Technology folks who are going it alone and want to feature work or do it themselves within a community for some help and direction. I bough the domains (edupunk.org and .net) with that idea in mind, but then The Glass Bees post hiot, and the whole thing just took on a life of its own —bizarre.

    But if when this all calms down, you may want to think about the zine element. It is gonna take a community of folks, and I still really want to push it.

  3. tad says:

    I thought it would be a cool idea for a DIY online zine for Educational Technology folks who are going it alone and want to feature work or do it themselves within a community for some help and direction.

    I think that’s an awesome idea, and would be a great resource. Something like that could really run the gamut, too– from pedagogical theory to classroom praxis to sharing hacks, code, mashups, etc.

    Plus, it would foster community… something that’s (rather paradoxically) vital to all things DIY.

  4. tad says:

    I thought it would be a cool idea for a DIY online zine for Educational Technology folks who are going it alone and want to feature work or do it themselves within a community for some help and direction.

    I think that’s an awesome idea, and would be a great resource. Something like that could really run the gamut, too– from pedagogical theory to classroom praxis to sharing hacks, code, mashups, etc.

    Plus, it would foster community… something that’s (rather paradoxically) vital to all things DIY.

  5. Tom says:

    People have learned from the news, you take what is most sensational and focus on that regardless of the whole story a more complex picture.

    Even if all punk was violent and mindless, that doesn’t mean that punk in this context could have changed in meaning some to focus more on the energy and embrace of individual expression. Words change over time. Their meanings are at the least semi-fluid and bound by context. You might even take the word . . . say . . . “punk.”

    If I call you a “punk” chances are I’m not saying your part of an anti-establishment music movement. If I say “pass that punk so I can light this roman candle” I would not like you to hand me a guy who’s mohawk is on fire. Maybe that’s not an exact parallel but it seems pretty elementary that words change and evolve and you don’t have to take all of their connotations with you to new places.

  6. Tom says:

    People have learned from the news, you take what is most sensational and focus on that regardless of the whole story a more complex picture.

    Even if all punk was violent and mindless, that doesn’t mean that punk in this context could have changed in meaning some to focus more on the energy and embrace of individual expression. Words change over time. Their meanings are at the least semi-fluid and bound by context. You might even take the word . . . say . . . “punk.”

    If I call you a “punk” chances are I’m not saying your part of an anti-establishment music movement. If I say “pass that punk so I can light this roman candle” I would not like you to hand me a guy who’s mohawk is on fire. Maybe that’s not an exact parallel but it seems pretty elementary that words change and evolve and you don’t have to take all of their connotations with you to new places.

  7. Lauren says:

    The idea of bb/webct/etc incorporating stuff like social networking reminds me of the episode of The Office where Ryan incorporates social networking into the Dunder Mifflin website. It’s completely redundant — our students are already ON facebook, myspace, etc — why ask them to do stuff in the insular environment of a course management thing?? This is why my students blog on livejournal instead of ICON (our course mgt sys here at Iowa).

  8. Corrie says:

    Tad,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment at http://sddc.blogspot.com/2008/06/im-not-edupunk.html, and this post.

    Maybe it’s just me. I never “got” punk. I was raised on “both kinds of music – Country *and* Western.” I moved from the 60’s folk revival (courtesy of my older sisters who taught me PP&M and S&G early on) to the likes of Queen, Styx, and Boston in high school, to the Renaissance Festival / SCA thing in college.

    Punk was, and is, alien to me. I do not identify with it. Never have.

    Thanks for the “punk-to-folk” bridge links in your comment. I look forward to exploring them.

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