Archive for February 11, 2011

How the Internet Gets Inside Us : The New Yorker

Are we in a remarkable time, or aren’t we?  Is technology changing us, or are we pretty much the same?  An interesting New Yorker piece presents a novel perspective on these questions.  I think about issues like these every time a fight breaks out on the SIGCSE-members list over something old-that-we-can’t-give-up, like whether we should be teaching the command line for compiling and linking code.  Is this a core fundamental idea that is important to understand, or is it an old technology that should just go away?  Have we changed, or the technology, or both?

The scale of the transformation is such that an ever-expanding literature has emerged to censure or celebrate it. A series of books explaining why books no longer matter is a paradox that Chesterton would have found implausible, yet there they are, and they come in the typical flavors: the eulogistic, the alarmed, the sober, and the gleeful. When the electric toaster was invented, there were, no doubt, books that said that the toaster would open up horizons for breakfast undreamed of in the days of burning bread over an open flame; books that told you that the toaster would bring an end to the days of creative breakfast, since our children, growing up with uniformly sliced bread, made to fit a single opening, would never know what a loaf of their own was like; and books that told you that sometimes the toaster would make breakfast better and sometimes it would make breakfast worse, and that the cost for finding this out would be the price of the book you’d just bought.

All three kinds appear among the new books about the Internet: call them the Never-Betters, the Better-Nevers, and the Ever-Wasers. The Never-Betters believe that we’re on the brink of a new utopia, where information will be free and democratic, news will be made from the bottom up, love will reign, and cookies will bake themselves. The Better-Nevers think that we would have been better off if the whole thing had never happened, that the world that is coming to an end is superior to the one that is taking its place, and that, at a minimum, books and magazines create private space for minds in ways that twenty-second bursts of information don’t. The Ever-Wasers insist that at any moment in modernity something like this is going on, and that a new way of organizing data and connecting users is always thrilling to some and chilling to others—that something like this is going on is exactly what makes it a modern moment. One’s hopes rest with the Never-Betters; one’s head with the Ever-Wasers; and one’s heart? Well, twenty or so books in, one’s heart tends to move toward the Better-Nevers, and then bounce back toward someplace that looks more like home.

via How the Internet Gets Inside Us : The New Yorker.

February 11, 2011 at 9:27 am 2 comments

Is State-Run Higher Education Doomed?

“Doomed” is rather a harsh word.  How about “Headed for Change”?  While the rhetoric is extreme, the arguments made in this series are certainly interesting and challenging.  What’s going to happen to the American Public University System?

So where is all this going? Consider these six facts:

College debt is becoming the next major loan crisis following the same scenario as housing crisis: Too many huge loans made to people who cannot possibly afford them.

States have made, and continue to make massive cuts in funding higher education. Specifically, funding cuts the operational budgets of state-run universities and colleges.

The budget cuts have driven up tuition and fee costs, making the concept of an ‘affordable’ college education at a state-run institution a myth.

The budget cuts have also forced higher education institutions to increase class sizes and cut services, so students/parents pay more and get less in return.

The budget cuts have effectively ended the concept of job security for the professor as university administrators have hacked away at programs in desperate attempts to slash expenses.

State-run universities and colleges are locked into a brick and mortar concept that demands that education must occur primarily on a centralized campus with massive overhead costs.

Put these six facts together and there is one unmistakable conclusion: state-run universities cannot continue in their present form, and may not survive at all.

via Is Higher Education Doomed (Part I): Driving Off a Cliff Near You – The State-Run University – Technorati Lifestyle.

February 11, 2011 at 9:25 am 2 comments


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