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The Fifth Edition of the Moodle Moot UK took finally place at the Loughborough University, in the Midlands, from the 7th to the 8th of April 2009. This Moot edition has been drastically affected by the financial hardship that most of the so called “FE and HE” institutions are suffering in the UK; an economic uncertainty that put the conference at the brink of being cancelled. The event was organized by Sean M. Keogh, the man who invented the term “Moodle Moot”, and who started this tradition in July 2004, when the first world Moodle Moot was held in Oxford.

 

In addition to the expected keynote presentation about Moodle 2.0 by Martin Dougiamas, this year’s edition offered an interesting variety of topics, such as: a case study about Mahara as an eportfolio platform, the Mr.Cute plugging as an institutional repository for Moodle, or the integration of Moodle with other external systems.

martind pteppic_new_logo_small

 

My contribution to this- my first- Moodle Moot was the 50 minutes presentation “Keeping Moodle tidy: how to obtain accurate statistics and get rid of obsolete users and courses”. I have to say that I was surprised by the high number of participants, taking into account that my humble presentation was scheduled at the same time that Workshop “Looking for the future: What is coming in Moodle 2.0?” led by the famous MoodeMan.

Unfortunately, one of the most expected presentations for this Moot -the session about Wikis and Webservices in Moodle 2.0 by Ludo, from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya- had to be cancelled, as the speaker could not attend the event.

I realised too late that I have forgotten my camara when everybody started taking photos of  Martin Dougamas and uploading them in Facebook. Shame…

 

Moodle 2.0: The Never Ending Story

Time has gone by, since I first listened to Martin Dougiamas talking about Moodle 2.0 at the University of Glasgow in October 2009. As he is now able to show more Moodle 2.0 features in action, it is evident that much technical development has been done during this time. Yet there is no release date for the first stable version 2.0, like if the development of these new features would have to continue forever and ever… In his keynote presentation, Dougiamas announced that this long-time-expected stable version would be launched before Christmas 2009. He also invited the community of UK moodlers to take part in the testing of the current alpha version, providing feedback to Moodle.org.

Among the new key features of Moodle 2.0, Dougiamas enumerated:

  • The Wiki and Blog 2.0 new pluggings.
  • 2. Full repository integration.
  • 3. Full portfolio integration.
  • 4. Webservices integration.
  • 5. File storage management.
  • 6. Conditional activities and monitoring of course completion.
  • 7. Totally flexible users fields, etc.

Moodle, both the wiki and blog pluggings have been designed to be integrated with Google. Although this statement created a great deal of excitement among the audience, Martin Dougiamas did not go into the point in depth, since it was going to be covered by Ludo’s presentation.

 

The full repository integration will allow moodlers to pull multimedia contents into Moodle, as well as push contents out, to the web, in different formats. This integration will work for most of the web 2.0 content sites, such as Googledocs, Wikipedia, Flicker, Piccasa, Twitter, etc.

 

With regard to the Eportfolio integration, it is significant the change in Dougiama’s view: in October 2007, he announced two eportfolio platforms as the most likely candidates to be integrated with Moodle 2.0: MyStuff, mainly developed by the Open University UK, and Mahara, the result of a joint venture between Catalys Ltd and several Universities from New Zeland. Almost two years later, in the Spring 2009, Dougiamas did not mention at all MySutff, while the portfolio platforms considered are now:

  • Mahara
  • Alfresco
  • Flicker
  • Googledocs.

 

By considering these platforms, Moodle org acknowledges that users want to use their own portfolio system, rather than the ones provided by institutions. Moodle 2.0 will facilitate the integration between the learner’s chosen platform and the institution’s VLE.

 

The webservices’ protocols supported by Moodle 2.0 are:

· Soap

· Xml-rpc

· REST (Representational state transfer)

· amf-php.

The new file management system in Moodle 2.0 makes possible that only one physical copy of the same file is stored in the server, reducing therefore the unnecessarily use of the storage space.

 

 Teachers will be able to customize the course’ menu, so that certain activities will only be displayed provided a given condition is fulfilled (for instance: that the leaner obtains a certain result in a previous activity). Likewise, the learners will be able to track the activities that they have completed.

community1An example of community hub architecture shown in the presentation.

 

In his presentation, Martin Dougiamas also emphasised the importance of “Community hubs” as a part of the cultural change that Moodle 2.0 brings. These hubs will allow moodlers to easily share resources among their sites, without having to worry about technicalities. For instance, teachers will be able to “push” their courses to a central repository, just by clicking on the “Community button”, so that other teachers over the world can browse and use them.

 

In addition to these developments, Moodle 2.0 will have a “cooler” appearance, as all the pages will include menu, administration and navigation blocks, all of them completely customizable by administrators/teachers. An example of this new look is the current front page of Moodle org.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

In conclusion, I feel honoured of having had the opportunity of attending the British Moodle Moot both as speaker and  moodler. The only thing that I would change is the inevitable and forseable British lunch  -a soggy vegetarian sandwich, plus another even more soogy sandwich if your stomach still bears it, plus orange juice from concentrate- , by a real continental French buffet.

 

The power of Moodle is, all in all, the power of the Open Source Movement.

 

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I have recently attended the Distance Lab Open Studio Event “Slow Technology”, held in the heart of the Scottish Highlands- Forres-, very close to the community of Findhorn. As explained by the Distance Lab Research Director, Stefan Agamanolis, the aim of the organization is twofold: to undertake academic research as it is done by conventional universities, but also identifying and developing projects that materialize that research in order to support local communities. The leitmotiv of the research is “distance”- as the organization’s name suggests-, and how the conception of “distance” can be explored and overcome from different perspectives: education, human relationships, environment, etc.

The concept of “slow technology” was introduced by the main speaker, Glorianna Davenport, a documentary filmmaker and lecturer at MIT Media Lab (Boston, Usa). Slow technology is intrinsically related to the Slow Movement. As described by Carl Honoré in his book “In praised of Slow” (2004), in the last decades, westerns societies seem to be dominated by speed. This one occupies a predominant position in our hierarchy of culturally accepted values: we need to “work fast”, we “catch up things” with our friends, relatives or colleagues, we “buy on line”, we “grab something to eat” and systematically devourer junk food so that we don´t waste any single second of our working or leisure hours in unproductive activities; we want to “travel faster”, we want to “have more time”, we want to “live more experiences”. We are societies “on the go”. Fast is the attribute that dominates our lives, and speed and time constitute therefore the Cartesian plane in which we measure all kind of human experiences, both sensorial and metaphysical. We measure the quality of our life experiences –work, love, sex, family or faith-, by the time we dedicate to them.

This is the actual framework in which modern technology has been born: a technology whose design and purpose has been shaped by that restlessness. We have fast technology for a fast world: a technology based on quantity, and whose raison d’être is to make things happen faster. Fast technology is global, invasive, dehumanised and sometimes elitist, since it can be used for displaying our social status. Very often it does not encourage reflection, but, on the contrary, it is perceived as alienating since it offers no choices to its users. This is the conception of technology that has shaped our mobile phones, plasma video screens or laptop computers.

Slow technology has appeared as a reaction to the cultural and social values that gave birth to fast technology. Slow technology serves to a slow world, since it has born in the scope of the “Slow Movement”. As stated by Glorianne in her talk, the “Slow Movement empathizes the need to make stronger connections and build deeper relationships between the self and the environment, in which the self find itself”. The slow movement originally started in Italy, with the protests that took place with the opening of the first MacDonald in Roma. The protests against the fast food imported from the USA shaped into the called “Slow Food Movement”, founded by the Italian Carlo Petrini. The concept transcended soon the sphere of food to pervade every aspect of human existence: Slow Travel, Slow Shopping, Slow Design… A whole movement reclaiming “slowness.

As defined by Carl Honoré in his website, the slow movement is “It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. (…) Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”

Slow technology was first defined in the book “Slow technology: Design for reflection” (1992) from the Swedish Lar Hallars and Johan Redtrom. Slow technology can be defined as a design philosophy for a technology aimed at reflection and moments of mental rests rather than performance efficiency. Slow technology aims to measure the degree of satisfaccion/dissatisfaction of human experiences by other parameters than the time spent in these experiences. Slow technology is interested in quality, not in quantity, is –or idealistically tries to be- people-driven, not profit-driven. Likewise, it is perceived as non-invasive, since it offers choices to its users and promotes reflection. Slow technology is local since it makes possible specific project in support of local communities.

The best example of how slow technology looks like are the projects developed by the researchers at Distance Lab, whose expertise cover very diverse disciplines, from mechanical engineering to textile design. Among the team of researchers, the Japanese artist and designer Tomoko Hayashi who explores in her work the impact of physical distance in human relationships. Tomoko is the intellectual creator of “Mutsugoto”, “an intimate communication device intended for a bedroom environment. [That] allows distant partners to communicate through the language of touch.
Examples of the projects undertaken by Distance Lab can be found in their website

Fast or slow, our current world cannot survey without technology and we cannot put it away from our lives. However, how we design, shape and build technology…, this is only up to us.

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The last week of September 2008 the European Parliament voted a new Telecommunications package including measures that represent a serious threat against the open architecture of the net, and the privacy and the fundamental rights of the European citizens. These measures are known as “The Torpedo Amendments”.

 

The Torpedo Amendments are mainly the “intellectual creation” of the British Conservative MEPs Malcom Harbour and Syed Kamall, who are trying to impose, not only to their own citizens, but the rest of the member States, the “three strikes approach” draft bill of the current president of France Nicolás Sarkosy, a former collaborator with the CIA and also linked to the Mossar (see Thierry Meissan in Red Voltiare, http://www.voltairenet.org).

 

The Torpedo Amendments can be summarized as follows:

  • Amendment H1: this amendment empowers national regulators to establish standards which restrict the run of “lawful applications”, “lawful services” and the access to distribution of “lawful content”. The concept of “lawful content” is new in the European law and may affect the distribution of free software.

This amendment also introduces the concept of “trusted computing” when, in reality, it is meaning the “technologies [that ] are designed to take off the right of users to control their computer (and by the way their personal data)” (see La Quadrature du Net, “Telecom Package warning document”).

  • Amendment K1: it empowers the Commission to authorize technical measures to detect, prevent or stop infringements of intellectual property. For this to occur, it would be necessary to monitor and filter users’ electronic data by means of “intrusive technologies”. In that scenario, ISPs would take the place of police and judge. The only restriction that the amendment imposes to these technical measures is that they don’t harm the competitiveness inside the internal market.

 

  • Amendment K2: This amendment authorizes the automatic processing of the traffic data without the consent of users. That means that, with the implementation of intrusive hardware and software, such as the so called “Digital Restriction Management System”, corporations will be able to remotely control their clients’ communications without their consent.

  • Amendment H2: it follows the model of the French bill draft, and allows national regulators to impose ISPs, vendors and retailers to work with copyright holders in monitoring “non-trusted” users and promoting surveillance technologies.

 

  • Amendment H3: Following the French approach, it empowers ISPs to blackmail their clients when ”unlawful content” have been detected in their data communications. On top of that, the additional costs incurred by undertaking in complying these obligations would be reimbursed by the member States.

 

 



Since its official announcement in July 2008, the Torpedo Amendments have generated a massive protest campaign among civil right watch and internauts´ associations. Two prestigious NGOs, the Spanish “Informática Verde” and the French “La Quadrature du Net” are leading the protest.

 

Thanks to this citizens’ response, amendments K1 and K2 –the so called “spyware amendments” – have been definitively rejected by the European Parliament last week. But the amendments H1, H2 and H3 still remains alive, opening the door to a complete ban of the P2P, and to the violation of the privacy in users’ electronic communications. These communications would be monitored and users would be told which contents are allowed and which ones not.

 

It is time for European internauts to get involved in the campaign and write their MEP about the dangers of the remaining amendments.

 

If you join the campaign, download the letter to MEPs from:

http://www.informaticaverde.org/wiki/index.php?title=Sample_letter_against_Torpedo_Amendments

and raise awareness about this issue wherever you are.

Because the European Democracy is still at risk.

It has drawn my attention the new appeared on the online press today:

Following the UK Op-Out Clause, the European Commission, has decided to approve the extension of the 48-hour maximum working week to 60 hours. This proposal is mainly supported by the UK and Germany.

As you may well know, the threshold of the 48 hour maximum working week was established in the 1993 Working Time Directive (93/104/EC). The Directive was source of considerable division between the at that time State Members. In order to promote “health and safety” at work, the Directive stipulated such health provisions as:

  • Maximum weekly working time of 48 hours on average, including overtime
  • At least four weeks’ paid annual leave
  • A minimum rest period of 11 hours in each 24, and one day in each week
  • A rest break if the working day is longer than six hours
  • A maximum of eight hours’ night work, on average, in each 24.

The Directive also included the Article 18 –The Op-Out Clause-, mainly to satisfy the UK Government pressure.

This Op-Out Clause rules the labour conditions in the UK , allowing employers to extend the 48 working week under certain conditions, videlicet:

Workers must sign individual opt-out agreements, and must not suffer any penalty if they refuse to do so

Yet the reality is the Op-Out Clause has been widely abused in the UK.

As a volunteer advisor with the South Devon CAB, England, I did witness how foreign workers from South Africa and the Philippines were forced to work 24 hours shifts (8 a.m to 8 p.m.) in Nursing Homes in Plymouth. Without a proper resting – as sometimes they have to be on duty at night – these workers were in charge pof the administration of critical medicines to elderly people, as well as to perform other demanding physical jobs (hosting, changing of sanitary towels, etc) . The salary paid to workers in Nursing Homes is -luckily – £6 per hour.

But my experience was only the tip of the iceberg.

As the European Trade Union Confederation has warmed:

Research indicates that two-thirds of British workers are unaware of the 48-hour limit. In addition, two-thirds of long-hours workers say they have not signed an opt-out, and one-third of those who have, say they were given no choice.


People in the UK work the longest hours in the EU-15 Member States. Full-time workers put in some 44 hours a week on average, compared with around 40 in other countries of the EU-15. Some 4 million people work more than 48 hours a week.

Far from boosting British competitiveness, long-hours working leads to reduced productivity and poor management. The UK is only tenth in the EU-15 in terms of productivity per hour, and studies show that long hours create tired workers, producing lower, poorer quality output, and more mistakes. They are also a barrier to workers’ education and training, perpetuating an underskilled and underproductive workforce” ( ETUC Resolutions on Working Time Directive , 2005)

Perhaps you might think that it is no concern of yours, since you have a 36 maximum working hours contract, but nobody can remain impassible at the sight of the social injustices that are happening in front of us. If we simply look to other side, it may well end happening to us like the famous poem by Martin Niemöller

Als sie mich holten,

gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte”

( Where the most common British translation is:

When they came for me

there was no one left to speak out)

(This interesting post  includes the template of a proposal  for introducing telework in your workplace. The proposal comprises an in-depth research, so please… read it)

Tomorrow I have a meeting with the Principal of the college in which I work. I am trying to promote the introduction of a telework policy. As a sort of IT geek (although a very useless geek, I have to say), I have always felt that I have the moral responsibility of employing the existing technologies in order to make possible more sustainable and rational ways of living and working.

Our work organization, understood as the way in which work is organized and managed in modern societies, is absolutely artificial and irrational. Work procedures and methods are still a legacy from the Industrial Revolution age. Work and leisure life are detached and disconnected, and there is alienation in this rigidity. Work should be measured and organized in terms of results and achievements, and not in terms of working hours (in addition, it is estimated that 3o% of our meaningful “office hours” are wasted in unnecessary meetings and constant interruptions).

Now the technology is ready, and telework is a reality which more and more organization adopting all over the world, and it is our responsibility to fight for its introduction in Scotland. It is a mammoth task, I know, as we have to demolish a wall of old fashioned prejudices but I believe that it is better to try it and generate debate than not to try anything. As I stated in my proposal, if we were allowed to telework, at least one day at week, we could reduce an average of 1280 C02 emission weight per year.

Evidence shows that the main hindrance for introducing a telework policy in an FE organization is the resistance to changes in the corporate culture. Telework is a paradigm shift in the cultural patterns of many managers. It represents an evolution from the rigid conception of education inherited from the Victorian Age –in which students “had to go to college” and employees “had to go to work”- to a more egalitarian and sustainable way of living and learning –in which lecturers guide students through their learning journey. By removing the barriers between “home” and “work”, ”leisure” and “duty”, telework contributes to create a learning culture.

If there is a component of trust and integrity in the relationships between managers and employees at Carnegie College, if employees are motivated in their work, they would not “slack off” when working from home and management could be measured in terms of results and project executions rather than number of working hours.

Perhaps the best way of concluding why Carnegie College should consider a telework policy is quoting a sentence from Fraser McLeish in his proposal “How to Introduce Teleworking in an University Context”:

What’s important is that we provide help in ways that makes it easier for people to change and develop, not in ways that seek to protect them from change

Finally, I attach my full proposal if you want to read it. You are free to use it as a template in order to champion the introduction of telework wherever you are based.

telework-proposal_template1

E-portfolios –also called “webfolios” or electronic portfolios – can be defined as a collection of work in electronic form that allows the learner to provide a record of academic accomplishments (National Learner Infrastructure Initiative, 2004). As this collection of work is usually displayed on a web platform, from a technological point of view, e-portfolios can be also described as a “web-based information management system that uses electronic media and services” (EPortfolio Portal).

 

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The “cool” venue of the conference: The New Campus of the Queen Margaret University (you can´t scape the noise)

Although the original concept of portfolios was linked to artists, the possibilities of the web 2.0 technologies applied to education allowed to expand the concept to all sort of academic disciplines. In my opinion, electronic portfolios represent a powerful tool for:

a) empowering learners as ultimate owners of their own academic achievements

b) developing most sustainable ways of measuring that achievement.

The development of e-portfolios is still embryonic, with a great number of uncertainties around them. The E-portfolio Conference I attended in Edinburgh covered some interesting aspects such us:

  • · Accessibility of e-porfolios.
  • · MyStuff: The E-porfolio software of the UK Open University.
  • · Plagiarism detection .
  • · Blogs a platform for developing e-portfolios.
  • · Legal issues of portfolios.

Yet it failed to address other relevant ones such as:

  • · Standardization and interoperability of the portfolios.
  • · Ownership of the e-portfolios: institution or learner? (a repeated question throughout the conference, but never answered).
  • · Resistance from the educational establishment.

The conference’s path was likewise stressful due to the amount of workshops. In some sessions, such as the legal issues, there was no time for questions and answers. There was very little time for networking and sharing experiences and, and off course, as it is traditional in the UK, “lunch” means: fill your plate with (cold) food and scoff it all in a slot time of 5 minutes.

Here are is the summary of some of the sessions I attended:

  • MyStuff: The E-porfolio platform of the Open University.

The Open University in the UK supports at present 180.000 online students (undergraduates and postgraduates). 70% of them are mature students in full time employment. This predominant learners profile has compelled the OU to develop an online platform for electronic portfolios based on the concept of Web 2.0, and designed to be conected with Web 2.0 applications: MyStuff.

MyStuff is an open source information management software that allows students to create, store and organize their own learning contents. It also allows to re-use the materials stored (supporting, therefore, the sustainability of the resources). It can be accessed from any PC an students can decide what they want to share and what not.

 

The technical implementation of MyStuff was not mentioned at all, which was a shame, because the “father” of Moodle, Martin Dougiamas, talked in his visit to the University of Edinburgh about the possibility of integrating MyStuff into the new versions of Moodle.

Nevertheless, despite the increase in the use of MyStuff, the speaker from the OU admitted that the project was still in its early stages, facing still important challengues such as:

  • Stabilization
  • Conectability with web 2.0 applications
  • Embedding the application effectively into courses.

  • Legal issues of e-Porfolios

This was probably one of the most expected sessions in the conference, delivered by the director of the Centre for IT and Law of the University of Bristol. The speaker highlighted the importance of addressing the legal risks and costs of electronic portfolios from the beginning, rather than waiting until legal problems arise. When launching an e-porfolio project, HE and FE institutions should be aware from of the cost involved in tackling legal issues/risk and should include the financial provision of these costs in the project’s budget. Implementation of e-portfolios can be, therefore, more expensive than it was planed from the technological side.

According to the speaker, basic legal knowledge is becoming an essential skill for educational professionals. That is why some institutions, such as the University of Bristol, have started to provide with legal advice in-house.

Most of the legal problems usually arise from a poor operational and strategic planning. Institutions fail to embed the legal risks and costs throughout the planning process as a result of ignorance of the relevant law.

The most important legal issues around e-portfolios identified by the experts were:

  • Ownership and intellectual property not only of the contents, but the software and tools.
  • Liability for system failure, data losses and security breaches. The speaker advised to arrange an insurance cover against this possibility.
  • Maintaining data protection, privacy and confidentiality rights.
  • Accessibility of e-portfolios systems and risks of social exclusion.

Albeit the speaker introduced these interesting issues, there was no time for discussing them in detailed, in particular the first point: who owns the electronic portfolios. For what I have researched, it seems that, in the UK, the ultimate intellectual ownership of the contents stored in e-portfolios belongs to the institution, while in Europe and Canada the tendency is, that this ownership belong to the learners (as it should be).

The legal expert ended up his intervention by quoting some remedial strategies again legal risks:

  • Provide clear guidance, from the beginning, to both staff and learners about their rights and their legal responsibilities.
  • Document effectively all the decisions regarding legal risks.
  • Undertake a legal impact assessment while planning the project: who, for what and how can be legally prosecuted. Set up legal responsibilities from the beginning.
  • Audit the project on a regular basis.
  • Ensure that the institution has an effective disaster recovery processes and adequate insurance.

(In this festive session for the West)

At this very moment, for the peoples and the nations of the earth,
May not even the names disease, war, famine, and suffering be heard.
Rather may their moral conduct, merit, wealth, and prosperity increase,
and may good fortune and well-being always arise for them”

daila lama

photo by Aaricia Thorgalson

 

Some people have asked me why I don´t write in English more often. The truth is that I don´t have much time for my blog now that I am a responsable member of the community again, (am I?) so, when I have some spare time, I rather write in Spanish.

I would like, however, to please those who have asked me about that with this post in English. It is based on the final dissertation I wrote for my PGCE at the University of Plymouth, UK, about a different model for education (yes: I said for and not “of”)

image003.jpg

The great Indian educationist and philosopher J. Krinamurti

First of all, my experience of the British educational system is that it is failing as a whole (both FE, HE and all the posible combinations you can make with “E” and another letters from the alfabet).

Our students are not taught to develop a critical mind and to question the world they are living. They are “imbued” with bodies of knowledge, sets of principles, rules, procedures… and force, like horses in a restless race, to pass tests, GSCE exams, A levels, degrees… Competition is the key word in a more an more dehumanized educational system, where teachers themselves have very little to say, since the moment that decisions come from management positions, with limited contact with the reality of classrooms.

But teachers are not the ones to blame. British teachers are often underpaid and overloaded with extra burocratic work. The teaching profession is losing professional status in the UK.

 

There is, however, another way of understanding education, a way that defies the so praised educational theories of our Western universitites and that some alternative educational movements have successfully implemented.

My first model for an alternative education is Ghadi´s own view for a new educational system in India, known as “Nai Talim” (New Education).

image001.jpg

Ghandi rejected the British education that, according to him, had made young Indians mere imitators. For Gandhi, education should not be alien to the culture of the society that aims to educate. This is an interested point if we consider how keenly British educationalists adopt American trends in education. Nai Talim is described by Ghandi “as a beautiful blend” of craft, art, health and education. Students are not trained for fulfilling employment’s criteria, but to serve society with their “art of living”. For that purpose, according to their natural inclinations, students are guided to develop skills in:

· Crafts, which comprises handicraft, industry and manual labour.

· Art, equivalent to the Western “humanities”.

· Health, comprising both the Western medicine and the Ayurvedic tradition.

Mahatma Ghandi In Ghandi´s system, manual labour is as relevant as intellectual work. “Our children should not be taught as to despise labour “, wrote Ghandi. He removed the distinction between training for manual work and teaching for ruling positions. Indeed, he encouraged all students, no matter the academic disciplines, to do manual work.

Lee el resto de esta entrada »

So here we are. More than two centuries separates us from the Industrial Revolution, in a sort of “no-man’s land” economically speaking, which was first called post-capitalism, to be re-baptized later as the digital economy and more recently the global economy. Whatever it comes to be known as, the truth is that the purpose of our economy is, as it was at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, to maximize consumption as the only means of maximizing individual and collective well-being. In other words, the more we consume, the healthier the economy. But it is evident that there is something failing in this approach, because if there are more and more inhabitants on the planet and, in order to have individual and collective well-being we all have to consume more, or at least the same, unless resources are capable of regenerating at the same speed as they are consumed, we are all sitting on a time bomb. Today, more than ever, the contradictions of our economy oblige us to search for new sustainable models.

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In this quest, perhaps in the West we should stop looking inwards and start learning  from other civilizations.   An example of an alternative economy can be found in the model that Mahatma Ghandi advocated for an India free of British colonialism: swadeshi.

Satish Kumar, programme director of Schumacher College and a Gandhian scholar, defines swadeshi as an “economics of permanence”, a concept that goes beyond mere economics as it implies a profound social and political transformation. In our modern “global” economy, societies are organized in mega-cities, whose inhabitants are employed in the services sector, in particular services developed around the so famous information and communications technologies. The individuals who make possible this economy are, on the whole, employed by second parties and sometimes by third parties, as occurs in subcontracting. They hire out their intellectual capacity to public and private companies to provide certain services, which are often consumed in another part of the world. They are “global” services. But the truth is that, in this model, individuals have very little or no power over their work, over the services that they help to provide. From the moment that they are “employees” of others, individuals cannot decide how to organize their work. Nor are they able to decide how the food they eat is grown, how the clothes they wear are made or how the homes they live in are built. They depend totally on external production for feeding, clothing or sheltering themselves. The global economy leads therefore to dependant societies, which are only capable of consuming but incapable of “”manufacturing” anything and that are, because of this, completely vulnerable. In this economy, individuals have less and less freedom to make decisions about their lives. Ghandi was the first one to realize this at a time when the “educated” western nations lauded the achievements of industrialization. 

 In opposition to this approach, Ghandi proposed the organization of society into self-efficient, self-governing village communities, each empowered to take all the decisions that affect the community. The inhabitants would be self-employed and would produce, with the fruit of their labour, the goods and services consumed by the community. In an economy based on the principles of swadeshi, everything produced by the community is destined for local consumption. This means that production does not depend on market forces, only local demand, therefore pressure on the environment is minimal. External trade only occurs for those goods and services that the community is unable to produce. On the contrary, the nation states of our global economy attempt to maintain a favourable balance of payments by increasing the volume of exports, which necessarily leads to increasing production and therefore, the exploitation of natural resources. Ghandi especially emphasized the autonomous character of the inhabitants of these communities. In an economy of swadeshi, each individual is capable of generating his own work, is capable of using his own skills to produce something that will be consumed in the community. Self-sufficiency is therefore achieved at community, and not at an individual level.

Regrettably, Ghandi never had the opportunity to put into practice the principles of swadeshi, as he was assassinated only six month after India gained its independence. His successor, Jawaharlal Nehru, considered Ghandi’s vision too idealistic and decided to continue, with minor amendments, the British colonial model.

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