Scholarship in the Digital Age

laptop with booksIn the most recent EDUCAUSE Review, Richard N. Katz contemplates the transformation of the scholarly enterprise as disruptive technologies begin to cause colleges and universities to question the established order of things.

From his article, “Scholars, Scholarship, and the Scholarly Enterprise in the Digital Age”:

More recently, I would suggest, we have entered a more problematic, second phase [of technological change]. This is a phase that often follows an innovative shock or disturbance. In such a phase, some people cease to use the innovation as a tool in support of historically defined approaches and begin to reconsider the approaches themselves. In this phase, the inexorable logic of the disruptive innovation becomes too compelling for some to resist. Social conventions begin to crack, groan, and give way, and established institutions — held together by earlier technology, social convention, and history — stake out a niche, or evolve, or die. During the Industrial Revolution, this was the phase when the vertical logic of factories powered by wind or water gave way to horizontal manufacturing methods made possible by the introduction of the steam engine. It was the phase when scribes and scriptorium monks were supplemented and ultimately marginalized and replaced by printing presses — an innovation that had the unintended consequences of spreading literacy in the West and liberating European learning from the Catholic Church. In this second phase, technologies cease being instruments that extend the virtues of the current order and instead become the harbingers and engines of a new order. During these times, our glass is particularly dark because, as Marshall McLuhan once observed, the past is dissolved before the future resolves.

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