Monday, September 11, 2006

Technology and the Scale of Interaction

The announcement of The Chronicle of Higher Education's "Strategies for Campus Leadership" Technology Forum caught my eye today. Not that wee wonks like me have much voice at such things, but a sentence from the description of closing keynote speaker Peter Nicholson's (president and chief executive officer, Council of Canadian Academies) session disturbed me. It states,
Academics are accustomed to being regarded as the experts on any given topic. But with the arrival of blogs and Wikipedia, the Internet may be tearing down traditional structures of authority. Now everyone is an "expert." A prominent Canadian academic will discuss what this means for higher education.
Sentence one is fine, and I can even understand how sentence two may be valid, but sentence three strikes me as flat-out wrong. Information technology does not create new experts, rather, it merely changes the scale of interaction among existing participants. It increases access. So really, it just forces us to notice and acknowledge other experts who previously didn't have access to us, our classrooms, or our published conversations. And I think acknowledging that "other" experts existed prior to digital technology has important implications for "what this means for higher education".

My "scale of interaction" idea comes from McLuhen and my "different kinds of expertise" idea come from Robert Johnson (no, not that one). Which you, dear reader, now have easier access to because of the miracle hyperlinking.

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