iPay. iLearn.

Image: Amber Hunt, 2010

Today, information is king. We are now witnessing the boom of digital ‘cognitive capitalism’, where information and education are bought and sold with great ease. Cognitive capitalism, however, has existed for centuries within the institution of the university. Tertiary institutions have held at their “…centre the highly-credentialed content expert who generates individually-authored print documents fully protected by copyright” (Miller, 2009, p. 147). Copyrighted materials have been offered at a high price in the form of textbooks, and more recently, through online subscriptions to journal article databases that have been paid for before they even reach students. Miller (2009) describes the university as ‘frozen in time’, a prehistoric world almost completely separated from the effects of globalisation and democratising technology.

In the last 25 years, the ‘ivory tower’ of the university and associated publishers has worsened, as they have become high-technology, low-skilled industries driven by economic growth and Fordist expansion (Dyer-Witheford, 2005, p. 71).

Global publishers now potentially face a challenge with Apple’s entrance into the textbook market. Apple now sells interactive, multimedia textbooks (US$14.99 each) in its iTunes-based iBookstore, featuring powerful annotation tools. Apple also offers a new application called iBooks Author, which enables independent authors to create and sell content without the need for a publisher.

Whilst Apple’s new foray into textbook production and distribution does empower students and authors, it still exhibits cognitive capitalism. For example, iBooks textbooks may only be sold through the iBookstore, and are limited to the proprietary iBooks e-book format (Reid, 2012). Reid (2012) asserts that the technological industry is begging for standardisation.

Universities and publishers need to exit the ‘ivory tower’, and move beyond the archaic media and distribution channels of textbooks and journal article subscriptions. They must, however, exercise caution before adopting a potentially worse proprietary environment that controls students, scholars and authors alike.

  • Dyer-Witheford, N., 2005, ‘Cognitive Capitalism and the Contested Campus’, Engineering Culture: On The Author as (Digital) Producer, New York: Autonomedia, pp. 71-93.
  • gearlive, 2012, Apple Introduces iBooks Textbooks, retrieved 01/04/2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6HeyTldraw.
  • Hunt, A., 2010, 3 Ways You Can Manage Your Debt – Quicken Loans Online, JPEG, retrieved 31/03/2012, http://www.quickenloans.com/blog/ways-manage-your-debt.
  • Miller, R., 2010, ‘The Coming Apocalypse’, Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture, Vol. 10, No. 1, Duke University Press, pp. 143-151.
  • Reid, C., 2012, ‘iBooks 2: Reinventing Textbooks or Lulu on Steroids?’, Publishers Weekly, Vol. 259, Iss. 4, New York, p. 1.

This post was written originally as part of the undergraduate BCMS course at the University of Wollongong.

Locative Media

In recent times, locative media have caused quite a stir, with media outlets arousing fears of privacy invasion, hacking, increased stalker activity and the degradation of human socialisation. One example of recent media sensationalism is Apple and Google’s ‘Locationgate’ of early 2011, where both companies were caught supposedly misusing smartphone users’ location data.

Michel Foucault’s notion of the ‘Panopticon’ has dominated (Manovich, 2006), whereby we are under constant surveillance, often without even knowing it. The truth is, however, that locative media are not really dystopian. Instead, locative carry great potential for social networking, self-actualisation, education and entertainment.

Locative media present opportunities for rich, transmedia storytelling through convergent mobile channels (Chan, 2008). More recently, this has come in the form of augmented reality entertainment and gaming, which gives users a sense of ‘co-presence’ or a ‘doubled perception of space’ (de Souza e Silva and Sutko, 2011).

Following the success of early augmented reality applications like Botfighters (Sweden, 2001-2005) and Mogi (Japan, 2003-2006) (de Souza e Silva and Sutko, 2011), and technology like photo geotagging, new and exciting locative concepts are constantly being developed. One impressive example is ‘Augmented Reality Cinema’, an app currently under development for iOS by a group of London developers, which enables an iPhone user walking through London to view famous cinematic scenes filmed in their recognised location, using the inbuilt camera, screen and GPS module.

‘Augmented Reality Cinema’ and similar future applications could have enormous international benefits for tourism, entertainment and education. Film-makers and advertisers could benefit from the promotion of included films, local businesses could profit by pure association, and features like historical footage could be integrated to produce an ‘augmented reality timeline’, educating locals and tourists alike about their surroundings.


Chan, D., 2008, ‘Convergence, Connectivity and the Case of Japanese Mobile Gaming’, Games and Culture, Vol. 3, pp. 13-25, retrieved 16/03/2012, Sage Publications Online Database.

de Souza e Silva, A. and Sutko, D., 2011, ‘Theorizing Locative Technologies Through Philosophies of the Virtual’, Communication Theory, Vol. 21, International Communication Association, pp. 23-42, retrieved 23/03/2012, Wiley Online Database.

Manovich, L., 2006, ‘The Poetics of Augmented Space’, Visual Communication, Vol. 5, pp. 219-240, retrieved 23/03/2012, Sage Publications Online Database.