Biocapitalism: Universities in the Knowledge Economy - Syllabus

Biocapitalism: Universities in the Knowledge Economy - Syllabus


This Design Research-Workshop in the Department of Architecture at MIT is being presented by Arindum Datta, with inputs from Nader Tehrani, Liam O’Brien, Joel Lamere, Lorena Bello, Cristina Parreno Alonso, Irene Hwang, and others. 



To say that the university is defined by the quest for knowledge is to suggest that the price of money is determined by the value of gold. At best this amounts to propping up one fiction by recourse to another. What are the hallmarks of the present, and future, university? We can list some: large real estate acquisitions and development; greater corporate penetration into research and training activity; the franchising of university names into global brand equities; the scouring of new markets through marketable e-learning portfolios; competitive building of larger intellectual property assets; blurring of domains between faculty, venture capital, corporate boardrooms, and start-up industries; outsourcing student labor through co-sponsored research or internship programs; a decrease in tenured or permanent positions, compensated by burgeoning cadres of adjunct teachers on temporary contracts; thickened cadres of financial, legal, and administrative staff accompanied by heightened dissociation in institutional decision-making by upper administration or education ministries; curricula that emphasize entrepreneurial potential over disciplinary questions; the redescription, in both rhetorical and legal terms, of students as consumers. 

What is/should be the future of knowledge in the new, hybrid context of the knowledge economy and of knowledge capitalism? How might/should the “form” – in both architectonic and physical terms – of the university change if, say, the professor is no longer a privileged purveyor of knowledge? What will be its domain and dominion; what ‘brave new world’ will it find itself in? What kind of physical form will/should universities of the future acquire, particularly if they no longer monopolize the acquisition, possession, and dissemination of knowledge (e.g. if knowledge repositories are no longer contained in physical artifacts such as libraries)? How will the “publics” of the future negotiate these redrawn franchising and rentierism of knowledge? What will be the university’s relationship to the “public”? How may we rethink the constituent typologies that have so long been the architectural mainstay of the university: the lecture theater; the seminar room; the laboratory hall; the library (after digitalization); the convocation grounds, the dormitory, the university corridor, the classical cupola?


This workshop is one of the many co-located classes and workshops that are part of the History and Future of Higher Education HASTAC project. 

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