Technology revolution or evolution? 8

Today Penn State put on its annual Symposium for Teaching and Learning with Technology. I  presented along with our Associate Dean and some students about our blogging initiative. A lot of very interesting conversations occurred at the symposium. On one blog was a continuation of thoughts spurred by Cole Camplese’s recent paper and interview, I made some comments about the use of twitter in the classroom (and congregation) earlier this week. Stevie Rocco reflected on Web 2.0 as a revolution and “scholarship” in her blog Teachnology:

After reading Cole’s most recent post, I went back and read the one prior to it for context. Taken together, I think they both make some really important points. The first post discussed his attendance at the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Tech Forum, and the second was a further reflection on that experience. I remember being rather angry at (and dismissive of, I’ll admit) a lot of the comments that followed the Chronicle article that was written about Cole’s presentation, which was entitled “Web 2.0 Classrooms Versus Learning.”

I honestly think that a lot of folks in the academy are just plain scared of what’s coming. It IS a revolution, and when people say that Web 2.0 is not scholarship, or that it’s fluffy, or even that it’s irresponsible, I see that as a form of fear. The old stuff is starting to look broken, and we haven’t yet figured out what systems and institutions will replace it. Or even if they will be replaced.

My brother responded to some of Stevie’s comments that Professors are like the scribes replaced  by the printing press. I responded to Stevie’s post within the comments but I thought I would share some of my thoughts here as well. The suggestion that some were arguing that Web 2.0 is “not scholarship” is misguided. Web 2.0 is, of course not scholarship. It is a merely a tool, or really a set of tools. It/they can be used to create scholarship but it in and of itself is not research or academic study.

At the Symposium there were many of the technology folks who spoke of “the revolution” and that faculty did not understand what was coming. I think many would be surprised, however, as to how many faculty, even in the humanities (my own area and a faculty often thought to be slow adopters of anything new), are looking to and embracing new technologies to pursue and improve research, investigation, and instruction.

Finally, might I suggest that this not a revolution but evolution? The changes are quick, but they are slower than they might appear. Also they are not nearly as radical as many suggest. Web 2.0 is, after all, merely an extension and adaptation of text, images, sounds, methods, etc. Is it different? Yes, but it is still recognizable as a means of conveying sharing information, not too dissimilar from books and journals with responses.


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8 thoughts on “Technology revolution or evolution?

  • Drew Tatusko

    The problem is that Web 2.0 is disruptive to both academic disciplinary systems of social control like peer review which is also a medium for what I would say keeps the pedigree of scholars as “pure” as possible. It has as much to do with disruption of disciplinary orthodoxies as it does the social controls that those orthodoxies necessarily impose on knowledge.

    • Chris Brady Post author

      Drew I don’t think it has to be disruptive. I realize that is what Tim O’Reilly (who coined the term) and others like to insist, but I don’t see it as any more disruptive than any other tool or cultural shift. Web 2.0 is, after all, only a term to described what was a new way of using the web. Yes it includes greater interaction, openness, and makes the web more useful. But why do some people believe this has to signal the end of scholarship?

      It is undoubtedly true that anyone can now post anything and anyone with web access can reach it, but this has been true about the web for 20 years. Peer review will remain and for good reason, not to serve as a gate keeper but as a hallmark that the research is sound and valid. Sure there are benefits to this openness, in the old system some very good work might not get through due to elitism, on the other hand a lot of dreck was published solely because of a perceived expertise. More information is the scholar’s greatest resource.

      We will of course have to reconsider what “publishing” means, do online journals count for tenure review?, but most disciplines and universities already began addressing this 10 years ago.

      And let’s face it, “disrupting disciplinary orthodoxies” is only a temporary thing. New orthodoxies will arise. They always do.

  • Jim Leous

    Dean Brady — I thought of you twice today. First, I went to a memorial service and one of the folks who spoke quoted from the Book of Lamentations (she did it in English I assure you). Second, I read Cole’s post that referred to your blog and I realized that I hadn’t read it in a while.

    That said, I came across this post. I agree with your evolution characterization. I probably use the term Web 2.0 every day. Although I don’t like that term at all, no one knows what you’re talking about if you don’t use it, and even fewer if you do. I prefer the term Read/Write Web, although it’s a mouthful and I don’t get it out very often. The evolution from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 was going from a “Read Web” to a “Read/Write Web.”

    I consider the gopher client and the gopher protocol as the “Revolution.” gopher taught us that the information didn’t have to be on my desktop or my server for me to be able to use it, making it very different from almost anything that went before it (e-mail and ftp). The Web/Hypertext Transfer Protocol came later and became the phenomenon that it is because of the Mosaic Web browser, the NCSA httpd server, and a better addressing structure (URLs). The revolution was the ability to link across machines and location and synthesize information from disparate sources. The evolution is the ability for anyone to do this without having to run a Web server.