Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Technology and the academy

Tim Burke is live-blogging the Social Computing Symposium, all of which is very interesting. I was especially struck by this post, written between sessions. Tim calls himself a misfit toy in academia because of his love of this type of technology and extensive use of it, yet, he feels inexperienced among this particular group of people. I experienced a similar feeling when I went to SXSW. Collin responded to that post, observing that he too has had a similar experience of feeling like an outsider at a tech conference.

I think that the three of us all recognize the potential all these new social computing models have for changing the way we live (and in many ways have already changed the way we live). What we might like to see is all of that changing the institutions we work in and the way we work as well. Can you imagine the conversations that might happen if institutions allowed virtual connections via blogs or wikis or cellphones to flourish? Tim imagines in one of his posts rating comments in a faculty meeting so that people could delve further into the ones that are rated the highest. I'd like to see that in some staff meetings too. How about in classes? Wouldn't it be nice if the president and other administrators had blogs that they posted to regularly or if they came and commented on other blogs, like departmental ones? What if various documents were written as wikis collaboratively? Lots of possibilities.

I'm in a slightly different place, of course, from Tim and Collin. It's actually my job to experiment with many of these tools and to think about how they might be useful where they may not feel as free to spend time on that. But unlike them, I have no way of integrating them into the larger life of the academy. And that's where I see some real potential for change.