Uncertain politics: Agencies and ethics in a-disciplinary ecologies of practice
Authors: Walker, Charles
ABSTRACT: This paper introduces work-in-progress on a longitudinal, ethno-methodological case study of the
process of establishing a new inter-disciplinary Bachelor of Creative Technologies (BCT) at Auckland University
of Technology in 2008.
The project-organised BCT curriculum draws together elements of art, interaction design, computing,
engineering, mathematics, philosophy of technology, entrepreneurship and industry internships. The program is
conceived as a “post-graduate program for undergraduates” or a “liberal education for the 21st century” which
recognises that pervasive technologies lie at the heart of any modern cultural enterprise. Learning objectives are
framed as research projects from Year 1, and intellectual independence is cultivated through active identification
of contemporary issues leading to the formulation of new research hypotheses, methodologies and outcomes.
The BCT has been recognised as ambitious or timely in challenging normative disciplinary boundaries and
pedagogical practices, yet has also attracted initial scepticism. In discussing the contested evolution of the
program, this paper will draw on interviews with situated individuals to highlight frequently overlooked institutional
investments in the micro-politics of disciplinarity, and how these influence the wider academic, socio-professional
and industrial ecologies of practice within which we operate.
The paper argues that in these new, information-rich, a-disciplinary ecologies, ontological tensions will tend to
manifest themselves inter-subjectively, reflecting aesthetic, social and/or ethical dispositions as well as
disciplinary ones. This situation is compounded by the observation that the agencies of ‘professor’, ‘tutor’,
‘learner’ or ‘peer’ are frequently contingent, inverted or fluid enough to confound increasingly fragile institutional
structures of authority and their expectations for predictable learning outcomes.