‘We are Going to the Edge of the Inhabited World’
From August 8th –20th the Fourth International Summer School will take place in Lapland. The organizer of the School, Sergey Medvedev, Deputy Dean of the HSE Faculty of Applied Political Science, told us about the programme and aims of the School this year.
- Sergey Aleksandrovich, this year you held a Winter School in the Alps, in August the fourth Summer School will take place in Lapland. What do these two events have in common?
- Both schools are united by one concept which we call Escapes from Modernity, and here we mean escape literally as well as metaphorically. Schools are held in places where there is an opportunity to get the experience of living in extraordinary circumstances:we go to the tundra, or mountains, we give up city life with its benefits and ‘cultural activities'such as museums, clubs, discos and shopping. But of course some elements of modern culture are still essential for us, in particular the Internet, and the concept of the School which took place in The Alps was ‘World 2.0'.
- What does ‘World 2.0'mean?
- In the modern world new interactive forms of economic, political and social life which involve the full participation of both consumers and users are becoming more common. And in this sense we can talk about politics 2.0, economy 2.0, culture 2.0 and so on. Politics 2.0 refers to political activity which primarily involves participants who voluntarily give their time and resources to facilitate a specific political change. Barack Obama's election campaign, as well as the phenomenon of Obama himself, is an example of this new type of politics. A typical election campaign is a strictly structured and is comprised of a planned series of actions which involve various mechanisms of party machines. On the other hand, Obama and his campaign placed emphasis on directly working with a huge number of ordinary people, including communication via internet blogs, communities and chat rooms. New forms of interaction are also arising in the economy:for example, Linux uses open source software which can be studied and changed, and this allows software to be improved by users and the code for new programmes to be written by the Linux community. Thus, in fact, everyone is at the same time a consumer and a producer of software:A person can create his own project or join an existing one, and there is no issue of intellectual property in its traditional meaning.
The Internet allows the appearance of a form of economic activity which is not strictly economic. Economics is a science about limited resources, but internet economics deals with unlimited resources, such as human creativity and interest. Why do people contribute to Wikipedia? They appear to have no motivation for this, they don't receive acclaim, but anonymous moderators spend hours and days editing and posting articles written by someone. Why do they do this? It's impossible to explain this in traditional terms of economic rationality. This is a complex of ideas which we call post-economic, post-material civilization, World 2.0, and this is what we are studying.
- Who are ‘we'?
- We are a group of students and teachers who become a coherent team at every School. The last Winter School involved the participation of students and teachers from the following HSE faculties:Applied Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy, World Economy and International Affairs, Public Administration, School of Business and Political Journalism, as well as our German colleagues from Erfurt University. We supplement each other:I read at the HSE a course of lectures on network society, and my German colleague Philipp Mueller reads at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy a course on Public Policy from the perspective of network interactions and new technologies such as e-democracy and e-government.
- What will be the topic of the Summer School in Lapland?
- This year the Summer School in Lapland will take place from August 8th - 20th. This is a project with a formed reputation and audience. This year apart from the HSE students, Finnish students from Helsinki and Tempere universities will participate in the School, and Stanford students have also expressed their interest in participating. The key idea of this year's School is the limits of modernity. We are going to the edge of the inhabited world, where it dissolves into untamed nature, and plan to study the boundaries of civilization from ecological, political and psychological points of view. The topic of the School is Modernity, its policies, economy, and ecology, its limits and alternatives. For example, we are studying the life of the traditional Northern peoples, and what can be taken from their ecological experience for the modern civilization. And in the evenings we traditionally watch movies about the North. This year our programme will feature the Norwegian film ‘Nord'based on Erlend Lu's novel and a new film by Alexey Popogrebskiy ‘How I Ended this Summer'which was shot in Chukotka.
- What, in your view, is the most attractive thing about the School in Lapland?
- I think that students are attracted by the unique Northern climate as well as the intellectual atmosphere which we are trying to create there. There is a synergy of nature and thinking:people go for a unique ecological experience which helps them to get new ideas. A week in the Arctic Circle contributes to changes in intellectual, creative and communicative processes. We could go with the same people to the Moscow suburbs or to London, with the same ideas and texts, but I don't think we would get the same effect.
- How do you evaluate students'work?
- Each of them comes to the School with his own project, which is discussed and selected by the participants. For example, at the Winter School in the Alps out of the initial 25 projects, 4 were selected:they were created as social networks by model 2.0. One of the projects is an online guide to Russia, with travel notes and user recommendations for various places throughout the country. Another website is a social project aiming to help orphanages:From one side the site contains requests for help from orphanages, and from the other, it is visited by people who can offer them something. As for the School in Lapland, we are waiting for project proposals from the particpants, on the basis of which applications will be evaluated. Please visit the Escapes from Modernity website for more information. The deadline for applications for the Summer School in Lapland is 23rd May2010.
Lyudmila Mezentseva, HSE News Service