From An Aura of Desperation

No less than a dozen separate photos of smiling new students representing an array of university courses and majors were featured on the UWS News Centre website as part of an iPad Collection Day Photo Gallery. I wish these students well in their first year at UWS. They look like a nice group of eager minds. But I also wish that UWS had not been so eager to cynically use the images of these students clutching their belated Christmas gifts (I sure hope Apple is paying UWS for the free advertising). The caption for each photo tells us what the students will be studying at UWS, but the placement of their new gadgets front and centre—no doubt staged according to the directions of a photographer from the marketing department–visually relegates the educational message to the periphery. Who cares what they are going to study? THEY HAVE NEW IPADS! And you could have one too if you select UWS as your uni of choice. It’s bad enough when you treat education as just another commodity, but it sickens me to see students portrayed as if they are as interchangeable as the iPads in their hands. No, they are not holding copies of newly purchased books for their classes. The university managers that came up with this marketing gimmick will say, “But they are in fact holding the repository of the many e-books that they will purchase.” Maybe so, but no student is ripping open the box in anticipation of downloading their prescribed introduction to psychology textbook. No, they are probably downloading one of the many apps that UWS has recommended on its website, including one called Aurasma, “For augmented-reality use.” I went to the website for Aurasma (which, by the way, Apple lists under the category of “entertainment” NOT education), where the developer explains the purpose of the app as follows: “Thanks to Aurasma, every image, object and even place can have its own Aura. Auras can be as simple as a video and a link to a web page or as complex as a lifelike 3D animation. Use the Aurasma app to unlock Auras and share the experience with friends. Or get experimenting and use the simple tools within the app to create and share your own Auras.” I’m not entirely sure what any of this means, but I think the idea is that today’s generation of university students will not need to experiment with psychedelic drugs to get high. They just need to take photos of real world images, which are then transformed into animations, videos, and 3D models. Now that UWS has teamed up with Aurasma, education itself is now a mind-altering, mind-blowing experience! I wonder if I take a photo of Frogmore House (that’s where the offices of UWS management types are located, in case you didn’t know), I will detect a not-so-faint aura of desperation.