From Sofia Scientia

Re: Breville Learning (a message to our Visionary Cheerleader)

I have always assumed you thought the e-infrastructure problems at UWS would eventually be solved by the NBN some time in the next decade and that was why you did nothing to tackle them, despite the fact that on any given day you can arrive on the Penrith campus (but presumably not the Werrington North part of it) to find not only no network, but no power and even no water, though the last is another story.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I was astonished to discover how much of the Bankstown campus is a wireless black hole. Not so much in the courtyards between buildings, apparently, where I had to sit downloading my email under an umbrella in the rain, but in the buildings themselves. Even in the School technician’s office. I had assumed my own perpetual connectivity problems were due to under-resourcing of technical support which meant I could never get my software properly installed (though that is certainly part of the problem, I’m reliably informed).

But not the whole problem. Whereas you can pick up the UTS network in the tunnel at Central Station, Usyd from a coffee shop in Forest Lodge and UNSW at the Randwick race course (or so I’m told, since I have never actually tried the last), UWS wireless is about as reliable as winning the lottery. I guess this is why UWS is not And we included on the Lost on Campus smart phone app along with every other metropolitan university in Australia – there would be no point, really.

At Bankstown, it seems, wireless actually works best in the car park close to the buildings, where I can’t park because those spots are for the management types whose salaries are big enough to afford them. Which is a shame, really, because being able to work from my car would be preferable to the broom cupboard stuffed with everything none of the permanent residents wants in their own offices currently offered me as a hot office. And at least it would be all my own space, with secure document storage (as required by the terms of my Ethics Clearance) in the boot and the back window serving as a bookshelf, while the back seat could be occupied when needed by students requiring consultation sessions, or used for Teaching Group meetings, now the staff has been whittled down to a skeleton by disposing of all those Boutique Units.

Under these conditions Breville Learning strikes me as an inspired solution pre NBN. If students are rarely on campus the demand for wireless is diminished and they can use their own resources at home instead. Presumably staff will be encouraged to work more often from home as well, also saving university resources – including office space. Which rather begs the question about all the building going on around the place now, including the new Janice Reid Library Palace I believe is slated to dominate the hitherto architecturally uninspired Kingswood Campus, and which will doubtless be visible from Penrith, perhaps even Castle Hill, so imposing and on such grand a scale (as befits a lasting monument to you, Dear Cheerleader) will it be. It will need to be eye-catching on the outside, because no one except a few technicians will ever to get to see the inside, since all it will contain are the servers and so on needed for our bookless future. In fact it could even be built on the very site where all those donated books were buried about 15 years or so ago because there were insufficient library staff to catalogue them. A commendably economically rational double purpose building then, in spite of its apparent extravagance, this shiny pinnacle of the digital future – both a monument to you, Dear  Cheerleader, and a memorial to dead books.

But oh, wait, maybe it will need to be a book-filled library after all. Because we’ll need hard copy, since on current indications we’ll never be able to access any UWS-managed e-library reliably. (And actually as you told us the other day, you’re not really part of the digital age, so perhaps a state of the art e-library wouldn’t really be appropriate to perpetuate your memory).

But a book filled library will mean students and staff will need to come onto campus, so we will need wireless, and we will need offices… Now I’m confused. What was the plan again?