NOTE: Junana: Game Nation is a sequel to the novel Junana, in which a learning Game is invented that pushes the limits of online learning and propels its players into a new perspective on learning and living at the start of the 21st century.
Game Nation takes place 10 years after the Game was introduced.
DRAFT DRAFT... for discussion only... typos will be found.
Robby Robinson stood in the glaring lights of the TED stage, dressed in khaki chinos and a pull-over blue sweater over a Madras plaid shirt, his shock of red hair competed with the red dot on which he strode, never settling into a stance. He queued up his first slide: a graph showed an arrow nearly vertical, pointing toward the floor. "Here we are in 2012. What's in store for higher education in the coming decade? I am proposing that this will be a decade of profound...perhaps titanic is a better word...change in the academy."
"The first real challenge is in people. Of the almost two million college and university teachers in the US, only about ten percent will keep their current jobs, and most of those will be in the biosciences, where corporate and university research are well paired. If massive online open courses live up to their promise, then most introductory college content will be acquired online. But MOOCs are neither the threat not the answer."
His next slide showed a village somewhere, a background of dusty stunted trees and rough shacks with outdoor fire pits on a dirt path. Five teenagers, barefoot in baggy shorts or wrap skirts, wearing identical t-shirts and hats, are grinning at the camera, which catches them in the middle of a collective coordinated jump. The hats are blue with the short brim and a red star. The shirts read "Property of Yanagi University."
"With half a million students earning their Yanagi University diplomas through the Game each week, it will not be long before college campuses are filled with freshmen who expect a whole lot more than lectures and a test. And when knowledge is no longer scarce, the priesthood that had monopolized access to learning will find itself preaching to empty lecture halls. Allow me to paint the two possible futures I see for higher education."
Another slide appeared, showing a nearly empty lecture hall, half a dozen scattered students among a thousand seats, with a professor scribbling on a blackboard.
"Here is scenario one: The major universities might retrench into their historical elite posture and forbid the use of the Game. This will force the majority of Gamers into other institutions, perhaps ones yet to be formed. Over time, these new institutions will prevail, as they assume the mantle of knowledge stewardship. In this scenario, current university student populations will decline by more than half in the next three years. This decline will precipitate the widespread financial failure of the majority of universities, which have built high fixed costs for their administration and infrastructure. States will be unwilling to step in with more funding, and tuition increases will be counter-productive, pushing more students away as these ivy covered towers collapse under their own weight."
The next slide showed the ruins of an ancient university in India.
"Fortunately, in this scenario, the actual amount of learning available in the nation will not be greatly affected, only the fortunes of these institutions and their employees. Let me say this again. When learning is unleashed and supported as a ubiquitous activity; when a billion people are exploring knowledge on their own; the job of the university is to find new ways to keep up with their students."
The next slide was of a high-school classroom filled with advanced Gamers: their hats, bags, and attitude all in full view.
"Let's talk about Scenario Two. We face three challenges here. The first challenge is to build new curriculums to be offered as badges and managed online, much the same way as are MOOCs but supported by small conference discussions. What we do is flip the MOOC. Content is acquired online. Knowledge--that special blend of content in context--will be learned though small discussion groups. And learning will be evaluated anonymously as a service on the web.
"The second real challenge is what to do with college campuses? Lecture halls will be obsolete. These could be repurposed for other activities. Laboratories and other facilities that support the physical needs of research will remain, and can now be expanded to fill now-vacant buildings. Dormitories, dining halls, and gyms, student centers, athletic fields, and theaters: all of these require that students still physically attend the college. Which brings me to the final point.
"The third challenge is what to do with college as a stage of life? Don't young adults deserve a time to explore their intellectual, physical, and sexual capabilities before they settle into productive adulthood? Many of us in this room can testify to the value of being a student away from home with our peers... and our beers. In fact, the Game is the product of friendships forged during college."
Robby's next slide showed Winston, Desi, Itchy, and Michael, the Game makers, posed on the great lawn at Reed College.
"My recommendation here is to create a globally available multi-year residential learning experience. Students can continue to live on a campus, share learning experiences in small conference discussions, be given one-on-one guidance by teachers, and have access to research facilities and also to athletic and social activities.
"Here's the pain we face. Even in scenario two, entire college faculties will be dissolved and reassembled to meet the needs of advanced Gamers. The entire academic infrastructure will be rebooted as a more nimble and humble occupation. This tsunami of change will impact every professor and instructor at every institution of higher learning. Many of them will find their careers swept away. Others will find new doors opening for their talents.
Robby's final slide showed a Gamer school somewhere in a African village where a dozen students with their Computos sat under a tree with their teacher.
"We live on a planet with ten trillion hours a year of cognitive surplus time--time spent creating nothing. If we can capture ten percent of that we can rebuild our societies and reboot a new economy where all acts of creation are, at the same moment a gift of time and talent from the individual, and a gift of the shine of gratitude from her peers."
Julia Brookes, PhD slipped her laptop into her shoulder bag. She peered into her coffee mug, contemplating a refill. That would make three already for the morning. What the hell, she decided. This conference is a rowdy bunch. They can take her with a full caffeine load. The coffee in the Hawthorne College tutor lounge was excellent. A local roaster delivered every Monday. A dozen or so of her colleagues were in conversation, or on the web, or doing emails at tables around the room, which had been formerly been the office of the department of history.
There were a lot of "formerly" spaces around the campus. Most of it had been repurposed from what had been a Tier One research university. Now it was a collection of top flight residential colleges, with a cadre of tutors that was the match of any campus on the planet. A couple of the larger lecture halls were used as theaters, the rest were now dining halls or public baths or multipurpose hacker or maker spaces. Gone were the faculty offices, so too the deans and provosts, the vice chancellors, and their secretaries and assistants. Gone as well was the position of professor, with its tenure and privileges. Julia was a tutor in the college. Tutor was the main academic job title. It sounded and paid better than her last job as an adjunct.
That job was in a major public university in the midwest. She had just finished her first three-year contract when her position got "MOOCed". The campus decided it was cheaper to not pay her what amounted to ten dollars an hour. Instead, they would subscribe to massive online courses produced elsewhere and made available for free. Free for the first couple years, they later discovered. Just until the administrators had soaked up as much of the reduced faculty payroll cost savings they could in their own salary increases.
Overworked and underpaid, and now, unemployed: this after she had sweated blood for six years to get her doctorate at Yale. Her thesis had been picked up for publication by Duke, and she had endured several interviews at the Association meetings, perched awkwardly on the edge of a bed in a business hotel, tugging at the hem of her dress to keep it from riding up, while three faculty quizzed her on her expectations for a job they had already planned to give to a Phd candidate, a former undergraduate from their own department. Somehow, all she could remember clearly from these interviews were their mustaches.
She swore she would not accept an adjunct position until the moment it was the only thing anyone offered. Then she poured all of her knowledge and energy into her syllabus. They gave her four classes with fifty students each and zero support. No amount of coffee could help her grade two hundred ten-page papers in a weekend.
By the time she was not renewed, she had abandoned most of her daily personal routines: real food and exercise, anything that would have, perhaps, kept her from falling into abject depression. She returned to the house she had left a dozen years before, on a shady street in a small town in Virginia, where she had been a top student and a member of the high school tennis team. While she had not been actually popular, she had been active on the high school newspaper and website.
Her parents had made her old room into a computer den, with a futon couch/bed, which she reoccupied as though it would just be for a weekend or two, living out of her suitcase, open in the corner of the room. They were at turns supportive and condescending. Not too subtle hints about law or business school made breakfast uneasy for Julia. But their broadband provider was first rate.
Julia slept most of the first month. She slumped through the house when called for meals and took very long baths in the guest bathroom. She went online and joined the Junana social network, which her students had been telling her about for years. She found the Game, and her guide: Gabriele. And she and Gabriele spent many of her waking hours together for the next year pushing through the first four levels of the Game. While on a free-for-all fantasy excursion on a virtual pre-war Orient Express train that was steaming along somewhere outside of Strasbourg, Gabriele suddenly gave an audible gasp. His demitasse cup of coffee slipped from his hand, splattering on wooden floor, and he slid sideways in a faint.
"You are my masterpiece," he said, grandiose as normal. Then he shut his eyes and his avatar faded away. She already knew that Gabriele could not continue with her after Level Four, but the suddenness of his collapse and the finality of this moment hit her harder than she expected. Hard enough to make her angry.
Not just a flush of anger, like she would get when some idiot did something stupid on the interstate, or when an ass-clown radio host made another misogynistic remark, she was angry at the world, angry enough to go outside and yell something, which she did.
It was the middle of the day and pouring down rain, so none of the neighbors caught the furious music of her obscene backyard rant. After she ran out of curses, and she had a good repertoire--she had almost memorized much of 19th Century American literature--she stood in the rain, in her t-shirt and sweatpants, and she let it wash away her anger and her bilious chagrin.
She realized she was far more angry at her advisors from Yale, who failed to tell her that the academic job market for English PhDs was already in the crapper when she arrived. And angry at herself for throwing herself into a bullshit job that nobody respected. She screamed her rage at the rain clouds that cried softly on her upturned face.
"Gone," she whispered, hopefully, and a smile crept onto her face. She had just kicked ass on Level Four in under a year from the day she first opened the door to the Game. She marveled at how the templates could reveal new facets of knowledge in arenas she had previously mastered. Now that she could read ten times faster than before and with better recall, she was able to extend her academic interests well beyond what she'd accomplished for the dissertation. She was having more fun reading more books than at any prior time in her life.
"Only the beginning," she promised herself. And it was. Julia took a job in the single remaining bookstore in the town. It paid barely enough to contribute to her food bill and the monthly utilities. The owner had three years left on a twenty-year lease. After that, the store was sure to close. Julia worked nights on weekends and read more than she sold.
Julia was already a Sixer when she joined the local grange. While she had just missed being the last Yale PhD to be hired as a tenure track English literature professor at a major university, her timing was perfect to be one of the first of the cohort of academics that overturned the academy and reinvented intellectual work.
Being a Sixer, she had several options to pursue. She considered becoming a SpimeCop. The WholeTale market was just opening up, and there was a general call out for more regulators. WealthMinder was another option, but she had always been somewhat uncertain about her own bank balance, so she suspected this was not in her future.
The news about the massive student walkout at Stanford confirmed in Julia that the time was ripe to re-imagine being an academic. She had been following the blog of Robby Robinson, who had predicted the collapse of the higher educational establishment years before. He had a vision of what might replace this, however the vision needed pioneers who could push Game-centered learning to its flower.
Julia requested a meeting room for academics in Castalia, and posted its location and the time for weekly meetings on the Castalia digital notice boards. The agenda was simple: organize craft guilds and badges for the humanities and social sciences. To her surprise, Robby showed up at the first meeting. So did several dozen other Gamer academics.
It would be two years before the curriculum for master level badges became available for most of the subjects taught at major universities. Most of the academic disputes from the past century had to be refought in the process. The arguments were mainly about intellectual territory. Theoretical fences as stout as Rabelais's reimagined city walls. All would need to be revisited, undone, and then rewoven into an active intellectual commons.
Robby explained that these arguments were cleansing. In a few years, a smaller set of the most interesting and useful badges would win out. Robby was very strict about the process of approving the master badge levels, and the practices that students would follow to achieve these skills. He grounded his opinions fully in the templates.
Some examples of Robby's thinking were striking to Julia. The first was to absolutely separate teaching and evaluation. Teachers would no longer grade their own students. Instead, teachers and students would evaluate students and teachers from other conferences through a single badge-wide system. Once evaluation was fully externalized, once kissing-ass had no impact on the final score, academic conference discussions were freed to became much more honest, productive, and provocative.
The second example was to insert a lottery into the selection of academic jobs. Robby had been working with Winston Fairchild on the benefits of a random selection layer for all executive positions. The object was to remove the levers of corruption. Anybody who wanted an advertised, open position would first need to earn the prerequisite badges and shine in order to enter the job's lottery. Three to five finalists who won the lottery, would then compete for the job. The organization had the final decision, without needing to read a thousand resumés.This eliminated inside track appointments and pro forma job searches.
"When students aren't afraid to speak up to their teachers and when seduction or coercion aren't enough to guarantee a job placement, then the world is a more reliably open and interesting place," Robby told her.
The final piece of the emergent logic came from a template: "Tension at the edges." Organizations need to be reflexive and responsive to new situations. For this, Robby figured that the top performers and the bottom performers should be rewarded or punished. Anybody who under-performs for more than a year needs to find new work or a new place in some other field or social setting. Those who constantly over-perform need to be celebrated and supported to share their methods. Tension at the edges pushed the deadwood downstream and gave the blossoming flower more sun.
By then, Julia had become a Meister in the Game, and had met two of the Grand Meisters in Castalia.
When Julia met Grand Meister Desi, he told her the story of how Robby had unfolded the Intentionfull template, upon which the entire Game was built. In all of their conversations, Robby had not even hinted at this.
Grand Meister Jennifer, newly elected to the Collège de France, took time to congratulate Julia on her work.
"The academy needs more like you," Jennifer said. "I think there's a place for a new fork in SilvasAcademi for your badge research. If you like, we could work together on something." That pretty much made up for every insult Julia had suffered in graduate school seminars.
Julia had nothing to do with the opening of SilvasAcademi, the global git repository for academic output, except to jump at the chance to get her ideas into the mix. Parts of her dissertation on Mark Twain and 19th Century realism in American frontier fiction entered an early version of the American English literary criticism corpus. Since then, much of what she contributed has been edited and enlarged upon.
With all the academics in the world contributing to a single research hub, the tattered edges of old disciplines gave way to new nodes of interwoven knowledge. The natural science end of this hub bristled with connections to data archives, workflow engines, and models. The humanities side anchored into cultural artifacts and literature. Contemporary sciences, the new label for social, cultural and information sciences, cut their own wedges into the corpus and linked out to social big-data repositories. They soon limited new additions to SilvasAcademi by Badge level, opting for quality over quantity. Even as a Level Three Master, Julia could only add or edit a few hundred words a year. She spent as much time on these words as she would on an entire monograph.
When Julia won the lottery to be a finalist for a job as Tutor at Hawthorne College in Santa Barbara, California, a big part of her figured that was as far as she would get. The job offered enough bonus shine to take six months of research leave after four years. Her teleconference interview went well. One of them mentioned how much he liked the sample syllabus she had sent. She was contemplating the irony of that as she hung up. The job offer happened the next day.
Julia filled her coffee mug to the brim. Her phone jangled. It was a text from Robby Robinson. She had invited him down to Santa Barbara to give a talk on the future of higher education. He confirmed he would be arriving on Thursday evening. She would finally meet him in person. Toting her laptop, she strode down the hallway to the conference room where she would see just how well her students had estimated the work and literary life of the 19th Century American author, Bret Harte.
Nick Landreau opened the door to the conference room. Formerly a professor's office, it retained a wall of bookcases, mostly empty, and a whiteboard. Instead of a desk, an oblong wooden table took up most of the room, surrounded by a dozen padded armchairs. The window faced west, out to a sunny, tree-lined courtyard. Most of the conferees were already seated, and focused intently on their last-minute notes. A couple were still doing their brainwave hand movements. Coffees and waters were arranged next to their laptops. Nick took an empty chair. The room's silence was frosted with anticipation. The next ninety minutes would pass as quickly as a championship soccer match, only the goals would be intellectual, and the passes verbal.
On tap for the conference was a work and life of Bret Harte, who wrote in and of California in the 1860s. Of course, any American writer prior to that could be entered into the conversation, and so the reading list for the day was unrestricted.
Nick opened his notes and refreshed what he had studied the night before, including all of Harte's early stories, and those of other, prior humorists, mostly from the South, as California was new literary territory at that time. Nick had another three weeks of bi-weekly conferences before he could sit for the exam for a Master Badge Level One in 19th Century American literature.
Nick's status as a Fiver had allowed him to enter his grange's lottery for an academic studentship. Each year the grange supplied the jikan and the fees required to support eleven students to go to any college in the world for a year. Nick had done well enough on his badges to be attractive to most colleges. His starshine points were also impressive. He could have gone anywhere, but living with Megan was his top priority.
Hawthorne College was one of the twelve residential colleges that were carved out of what was formerly the University of California, Santa Barbara. Nine of the colleges were strictly academic, some with major research facilities: five of them in the sciences and engineering, three in the humanities and social sciences. Another one was experimental: its mission was to explore the limits of open learning through the templates. One more college was devoted to athletics. These students had all earned their shoes in the Game, and took badges in basic liberal arts. But they devoted nearly all of their time to their sports. The college competed in the new National Collegiate Athletic Society as Santa Barbara University under the old "Gaucho" team name. The campus teaching staff had their own Game grange: Newton College, which had taken over the old faculty housing project and added hundreds of new rooms, central dining, and a couple of public baths. Finally, there was a service grange, Cheadle College, that provided information technology, equipment fabrication, and financial, groundskeeping, and other services to the whole campus. Its members could take any class on campus for free.
Hawthorne College had newly occupied a six-story building, formerly the home of several academic departments. The ground floor had been gutted and redone as a dining commons, a coffee lounge, and a small pub with a music stage called the Tanglewood. The second floor was devoted to conference rooms. Additional bathrooms, showers, and lounges were added to each of the residential floors above this. About half the college roomed in one of the old dorms near the beach.
Hawthorne College was a non-profit corporation, its mission was to teach a wide range of content leading to master badges at all levels. Like any Game grange, the college was divided into dachis and gumis for social reasons. These groups organized events, frolicks, and intramural sports teams. They took turns cleaning the common spaces and lavatories and working in the dining room. Its members did not buy shares, as they would only be a temporarily in residence: most badges took a year or less, although some students would earn several badges over the course of some years.
Hawthorne used peer teaching as the rule. Students learned by critiquing each other's work. Actual grading was external and anonymous. One week, Nick might be evaluating a peer at a college in Sri Lanka. And his work might be reviewed by a student in Romania. Badge holders earned shine reviewing the reviews--creating still more learning moments for students. Teachers could access, but not alter, the external reviews of their students. They were not allowed to award or deny badges to their own students.
Everyone had the opportunity to rate the conference when the term ended. In most conferences, the students would give a shine stone to the peer they thought contributed the most. The tutor paid extra attention to the overall badge test score for each student, based on an extensive pre-test and the results of the badge examination. The greater the difference, the higher the teacher's score. Higher scores meant more job security, more shine, and a chance to enter the lottery for campus prizes, including extra sabbatical time.
Nick looked around him. All of the class were at least Fourveys in the Game. Two were Sixers. Half were not yet eighteen years of age. Their tutor was a Game meister and a third level master badge holder in American literature. He hoped she had taken it easy on the caffeine today. Meister Julia Brookes was not famous for being a hardass. But she also knew enough to not suffer any bullshit.
Nick checked his notes. His "I do not understand" question was ready. After a quick survey of the corpus, Brookes would go around the table and each person had to ask a question about their reading, starting with the phrase "I do not understand...". The class would then discuss this. Her reasoning was pure. If you understand everything you read, you're not reading the right stuff. If you think you understand what you read, you're not thinking hard enough. Knowledge begins with Humility was the first template in her conference. She always ended this part of the class by saying what she did not understand, and engaging the class to teach her something new.
The door swung open. Brookes entered and they all looked up and greeted her. Her eyes swept across the room.
"Where's Willard?" she asked.
"Infirmary," someone said. "Tore his ACL yesterday playing ultimate frisbee."
"That's a better excuse than last time." She sat down and opened her laptop on the tabletop. "One announcement before we start." She smiled at them.
"I have great news. Rob Robinson will be speaking this Friday evening at Campbell Hall. Seven PM."
"I hope he brings Wanda along," Nick said softly to the classmate on his right.
"You have something to add?" Brookes looked at Nick.
"I was just saying what we used to say when Robby was due to visit Sao Do. We all hoped he would bring along Wanda."
"As in Wanda and Jorge. Robby's the one who got the brainwave inserted into the Game. He actually knew Wanda back in Brazil."
Brookes looked a bit perplexed, then she covered. "I would think that Wanda has better things to do, and so do we. Who wants to summarize the SilvasAcademi entry on Bret Harte?" Around the table hands appeared.
The lights in the crowded former lecture hall dimmed as a spotlight picked out the lectern on stage. The din of the expectant audience gave way to applause.
"Looks like we're on," Julia Brookes said. She was standing in the wing of the stage with Robby Robinson and two of his local friends, Megan Doolan and Nickolas Landreu, who was in one of her conferences. She walked out on stage and stood behind the lectern.
"Ten years ago on the Junana social network, a door appeared announcing a new Game," she started. "We all know what happened then..."
A cheer went up in the room, with more applause. She waited.
"No aspect of our society was impacted more than higher education. And no one person on the planet is better equipped to talk about these impacts than our speaker tonight. I am very honored to present the man who first unfolded the template Intentionfull..."
More applause, this time with whisperings. "He's also responsible for bringing Jorge and Wanda into the Game..."
This brought the raucous crowd to their feet. People, mostly women, started chanting "Jorge, Jorge..." This brought a return chorus of "Wanda, Wanda" from others.
In the wings, Megan gave Robby a hug, which he shied from, so Nick got him with a bigger hug from the other side. "Go get 'em!" he said.
"Give it up for Robby Robinson!" Julia gestured over to the side of the stage where Robby emerged into the spot light. He was dressed in chinos and a pull-over sweater.
"Apart from the bald spot," Megan said to Nick, "he could doing his old TED talk."
"Thank you, thank you. Julia Brookes," Robby said and nodded to her. Julia waved at the crowd and then retreated.
Robby let the crowd settle down. The room was packed. More than eight hundred in here, and several hundred more in an overflow hall. He pulled the projector remote from his pocket and queued his first slide, an urban street with a crowd of teens all wearing brown shoes and Yanagi University hoodies.
"I'll keep this short. I know you all have concerts and better things to do tonight. Tomorrow morning I'll be doing an AMA on the Hawthorne College wiki, so save your questions.
"Over the past ten years, more than a billion people have earned their Game shoes. Two hundred million Yanagi University diplomas have been sent out, along with hats. This represents about a trillion hours of Game time."
His next slide showed a magazine advertisement. A middle-class suburban living room with a family watching an enormous television set.
"This is roughly twice the amount of time that American adults in 2010 spent watching television. I am happy to say that total global Game play time has finally eclipsed the time we spend as a species viewing TV."
Robby paused for the applause he expected, but was not surprised when this was not forthcoming. Most Gamers could not imagine spending twenty or thirty hours a week watching television, even though their parents regularly did so.
His next slide was a montage of a dozen different grange activity kiosks in several languages.
"Of course, Gamers have a lot more to do these days. No other sector of the society is being transformed more than higher education. Eight years ago I gave a talk that predicted a few of these changes. Let me now catch up with how it all worked out."
The next slide was an aerial view of a small liberal arts college, neoclassical buildings nestled in towering evergreen trees and broad lawns.
"Early on, the more nimble private colleges joined with cash-strapped state schools as these hopped onto using the Game as an experimental learning engine. By doing so they captured the most advanced gamers as their students. Gamers entered their campuses as freshmen with more intellectual tools than did most doctoral students before the Game. In the first year of the Game, professors were simply delighted that their students were so very capable. In the second year, professors were shocked that their lecture halls and classrooms were mostly empty. Gamers would sign up for a class, read the syllabus, gather in Junana, and complete the semester's work in a couple weeks. By the third year, when some colleges began to require classroom attendance, Gamers responded by creating their own classes in dormitories and coffeehouses, withholding their tuition, and forming entire shadow universities. Some faculty and most graduate students also took to the Game, if only to keep up with their younger peers."
The next slide was a huge auditorium lecture hall, filled with students.
"Here we have a university class lecture. How many of you have never been to one of these?" A majority of the crowd raised their hands. Robby smiled broadly.
"Students were required to sit through these three times a week and take notes as their professor spoke at them."
The next slide was of a small conference in a cozy room. A dozen Gamers sat in rapt attention as one of them spoke and gestured.
"Gamer faculty flipped their lectures into group discussions and students returned to the classrooms. Non-Gamer faculty, who tended to be the more senior and controlled many departments, mostly responded by proposing penalties for using the Game in the classroom, escalating the divide between those departments that allowed the Game and those that prohibited this.
"Let me tell you what happened where I work, at Stanford University. In the third year of the Game, several Gamer faculty declared themselves to be independent from their departments. The next fall, the first of these rogue Gamer professors was denied tenure, even though her classrooms were packed and her students brilliant achievers. Her case became the spark that broke the University's academic governance system, and heralded the collapse of the old-school American university system well beyond Stanford. That week, three quarters of the undergraduate student body walked out of class in protest. They held their own classes in cafes and GameTowns.
"Meeting at the Stanford scene on Junana, students organized a list of demands, including the reorganization of the university into residential colleges, the end of departments, the recognition of Level Two and Three Master badges as credentials for teaching, and the separation of teaching and evaluation.
His next slide showed a row of academic guild halls in Castalia, the street was crowed with avatars.
"The students approached me, and I became their liaison with the university president. I urged her to be bold, because she was standing at the inflection moment for the whole academy. The real sticking point was the end of departments. Faculty received their tenure within a department. Livelihoods were at stake. She offered a limited buyout option for current faculty contracts. The faculty rejected this offer and graduate students walked out in protest. More importantly, Gamers at other campuses walked out in solidarity. Within a month, more than five million students across the US were striking.
"After three more months of the strike, the president called upon the Board of Trustees, who voted to accept the students' demands, dismissing the entire faculty. Over the summer the University was reborn into its current form, as a cluster of college granges. This became a model for other universities, including Santa Barbara.
"It took three years for most of the major universities to remake themselves. The Castalia craft halls for the master badges became the crucibles of new learning, and centers for innovation in the academy. Their new federated wikis became real-time, open-knowledge repositories, replacing thousands of pay-walled journals and hundreds of university presses. The historical investments in higher education infrastructure by the states have been rewarded in this transformation. The campuses, with their laboratories and their ball fields, are now filled with study, research, and play.
"A number of professional schools, mostly for business and law, went private at this point and continued to follow their old rules and economy. These were followed by a group of East Coast colleges that snatched up the most famous of the old-guard academics and proclaimed themselves the New Ivy League. None of the old Ivy League joined them. I believe the closest one to Santa Barbara is Pepperdyne University.
"We are grateful that intellectual production has been sustained as a feature within the growing global grange economy. Granges and their mura donate millions of hours of jikan and a great deal of shine so that their members can acquire master badges. No society in the history of humanity has had more of its people exposed to advanced knowledge. And nobody today is forced into a lifetime of debt to pay for their passion for learning.
The next slide was of a grange somewhere in Asia, bustling with midday activity.
"How many here are tutors?" A hundred hands extended.
"The livelihood of the academic, which was once chained to the promise of tenure in a single department or to a lifetime of low-paid adjunct positions, is now anchored to the shine each person can generate through their work. The marketplace for tutors across the nation and the academy's badge space is well known, as are the odds of the lotteries for open positions. Everyone with skills has the same opportunity, and those who are not selected this year can find work in their granges and time to study for another year. Many teach online through their Badge guilds. I'm happy to say that intellectual pursuit has never been more ubiquitous and more satisfying..."
"Says you!" A voice boomed across the hall.
"I'm sorry." Robby shielded his eyes from the spotlight. "Is there someone who wants to contribute?"
The attention of the crowd shifted to a man, portly and balding, dressed in a dark suit and a blue tie, standing midway in the center of the auditorium.
"Can somebody get our friend a microphone?" Robby pointed at him. A technician was already running down the aisle. She passed a wireless microphone to the person on the end. This went from hand to hand.
The man snatched at the microphone. "Do you realize what you've destroyed..."
"Can you please introduce yourself, so I know with whom I'm speaking."
"Geoff Koenig. I was vice chancellor here for ten years, and professor of linguistics for thirty. Now I'm retired, not by choice, mind you."
"Professor Koenig. I have had the great pleasure of reading your work on topicalization in Portuguese."
"Don't try to brown nose me, Robinson. You and your Game took three hundred years of science and learning and flushed it down the toilet. Millions lost their jobs. Can you imagine what it feels like to have everything you counted on yanked out from under your feet?"
"I can tell you I've met dozens of former vice chancellors who share your perspective. I have to be honest here; I'm glad their words are sharper than their fists. Do you know how many people are now working as teachers in higher education?"
"I know that none of them have tenure."
"More than ninety percent of the number ten years ago."
"So says you. Everyone I know in the academy is now fucked. They're working in cafes and clothing stores and selling insurance or appliances. They're running laundromats, for Christsake."
"I see. I did not mean to suggest that the very same people were still teaching, only that our national investment in teaching and learning has not declined. Quite the opposite. Ten times that number are teaching casually in their granges, accumulating knowledge and shine."
"Do you know how many vice chancellor positions there are in the entire US?"
"I think I will, shortly..."
"Seventeen. Professor Koenig, I can only say that hearing this is one of the proudest moments of my career. Please sit down."
"Eat shit, Robinson! This... all this... is your fault!" The man dropped the microphone which hit the concrete floor with a sonic snap. He began to wade toward the side aisle, mouthing curses as he went.
At the top of the aisle Koenig turned and flipped him the gesture Robby was expecting. He had received plenty of these from other former department chairs, deans, provosts, and chancellors. Robby gave Koenig a wave in reply as he exited through the back door.
"Let's be fair to Professor Koenig. These past several years have been disruptive and economically difficult for whole cohorts of former university administrators and, of course, to tenured faculty. Let me ask how many here once held a tenured faculty job? Please stand up."
Several dozen individuals stood up. "Thank you. I'm going to ask you to do something for me. Please stay standing. If you are still teaching in some capacity, raise your hand." Nearly all of them did so. Robby went to the front of the stage and gestured at them. "Look," he shouted to the crowd. "This is why I'm so proud to be an American intellectual today. Let's give them all a big hand."