Response to “Pandora’s Box” Post on Michael Feldstein’s Blog

I am an avid reader of Michael Feldstein’s Blog, but a recent post with a conversation between Michael and Anya Kamenetz, kind of caused me to have an an “excess use of metaphor” alarm when I read it. So for two days I stewed and wrote several long critical comments – but then in honor of the TedXUofM event tomorrow I decided to throw all my critical comment drafts away and try to make my point in a more fun and light manner..

The Original Post: Should Pandora Have Opened the Box?

Here is my response:

I have written four different comments for this blog post and mercifully threw them all away. Now I have come up with this gentle formulation of my ideas.

I start with this quote from the Wikipedia page on EduPunk:

… Stephen Downes, an online education theorist and an editor for the International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, noted that “the concept of Edupunk has totally caught wind, spreading through the blogosphere like wildfire”.

Please read this carefully paying close attention to where the so-called “edupunk movement” is happening.

I actually have some experience with the word “Edu”, “Punk” and “DIY” because I am a teacher that is always looking at ways to fight the system and do things my own way. My son is in a Punk band – so I hang out with a bunch of young punk types wearing my black band T-Shirts and his band plays at lots of DIY music venues. SO while I am not an expert on “EduPunk” and “DIYUniversity” – I actually have some real experience in the underlying metaphors that you are borrowing from.

I would suggest the following exercise to give you both a little experience in the sustainability of the Punk/DIY approach – take a look at this web page:

And go through and figure out how many of these registered DIY venues are still operating one year later.

My son’s band wants to go on tour this summer and they want to go DIY all-the-way – but nearly all DIY music venues close up shop after a few short months because they are a labor of love by some special person but then that special person becomes tired of spending their weekends hosting demanding out-of-town bands with a station wagon and a ratty trailer who bitch about the sound systems in the DIY venues.

So the DIY music venues which are the hives of creativity and clever innovation appear and disappear and never get close to any kind of tipping point – appear and vanish sadly – way too quickly. It is clearly a movement – just not a mainstream movement and a movement that is uninterested in affecting the mainstream in any way. All they want to do is make a place where they can express what they want unhindered by “the man” and in doing that they learn something about themselves and learn something about creativity.

This is really sad because when you find and interact with one of these DIY music venues, it is a very freeing and very uplifting feeling and the people are so cool and fun and you so badly want it to be a “movement” and you want everyone to be able to experience this. But sadly, they generally only exist for a short while after which they go away.

Punk music at a DIY venue is like the most intensely creative group activity I have ever seen – the performers and the crowd function as one – there is continuous sharing and remixing of ideas and fluid group memberships – it is magnificent. It just does not last – it is sustainable as a concept – but no individual stays punk their whole life – it is the domain of the young who are experiencing it for the first time (and the scene-parents like me) who were squares in High School and so they are experiencing it for the first time in their fifties.

And as I have said before, when you first experience this amazing freedom and creativity – you wish it were the future for everything. The bad news is that punk is not the future of all music – sorry about that. Sooner or later we get old and our tastes move toward the blues or some variant of the blues. But the super-duper good news is that if you have not yet experienced it – punk will still be there 20 years from now – it will still be alternative and underground and will be happy to see you when you get there and you will paint your nails black and wear black t-shirts and “hate the man” with your fellow punk/DIY hipsters.

Bringing this back to your post a little bit, neither of you are Pandora, and there is no Pandora’s box – and there was no “opening of a box” that has brought into being some new profound sea change that we cannot undo.

All that happened is that you noticed something that has been happening since the beginning of time and will happen forever going forward. You mis-interpret this marginal, small, continuous, alternative, underground, situation as something that “just happened” and “is coming to get us all” – and a few pundits collectively named it “edupunk” so you could sell some books and sell some Google Adsense.

By the way, you can take a look at Google’s Keyword Value Calculator to see the potential value of the word “edupunk” in the advertising markets.

According to my recent calculations, the word “edupunk” is worth about 0.05 per click and was entered 1000 times in the last month roughly generating $50.00 in potential ad revenue for Google last month.

As contrast the query “lms” is worth $4.14 and was entered 823,000 times last month roughly generating 3.2 million potential dollars for Google last month. A rough calculation of the variations on the “lms” query says that there is a little over 15 million dollars total potential ad revenue for Google last month.

If we do some multiplication – that means for last year LMS systems represented nearly 200 million dollars of potential ad revenue for Google and edupunk represented nearly $600.00 per year in terms of potential Google ad revenue.

Just as another data point, the search for “Charles Severance” represents roughly $2016 of potential ad revenue for Google last year – roughly four times as much interest as “edupunk”. I have no explanation for this but a superficial analysis looking only at advertising revenue data might suggest that the “Charles Severance” movement is more real than the “EduPunk” movement.

P.S. I am still looking for a DIY punk/metal music venue in Nashville or Memphis for a summer visit. If in your research, you find one – let me know. Thanks.

P.P.S. If you really want to see the world’s most awesome DIY music/art venue in action – I claim it is in Lansing, Michigan – Basement 414 – I have lots of DIY punk video of my son’s band – I pick one of the earlier ones here – – their second concert ever.