Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Tower and the Cloud: HE and web 2.0

This was Richard Katz sharing tantalising tidbits from the upcoming book of the same title. The book has about 20 authors, all Educause favourites, and looks like being essential reading.

IT has promised quite a few false dawns, the dot com revolution for instance, and before that the certainty that we would all have increased leisure time through the magic of IT. At the moment it is difficult to work out whether Web 2.0 is going to promise more than it delivers – it could be transformative, but then again, the scepticism in the famous IT Doesn’t Matter article has got many people thinking, “here we go again…”

So, the Tower is the university, the Cloud is Web 2.0 – it is a brilliant metaphor, but we all thought that about hub and spoke didn’t we? It allows you to ask questions such as “is the cloud coming to cover the tower?” and look simultaneously profound, and as if you are trying out passwords to get into a speakeasy.

The Tower:

  • 1000 years of continuous operation – nothing if not resiliant
  • historical focus on place
  • quality and intimacy are “bundled” with limits to scale – ie face to face, peer support
  • enormous growth in demand for product
  • unique culture

Universities are aggregations of expertise and knowledge, but, so is wikipedia

Universities have become obsessed with excellence, but there is always Lloyd Armstrong’s syllogism that the more money you lose the more excellent you seem to be.

HE is facing some difficult challenges: more competition for talented students and faculty, for resources, the emergence of a fast growing for profit sector, privatisation of research. Students are either the net gen, or the need gen depending on where you sit. It is all a bit threatening, the rise of consumerism, their continuous partial attention, helicopter parents have become fighter bombers – gen xers are now having children, and these people are militant consumers, they don’t hover over their kids to make sure we give them right amount of love and affection, but are belligerent and in your face parents. They also want us to address sustainability!

The Cloud:

Lots of buzz and buzzwords – blogs, wikis, folksonomies, twitter - around Web 2.0, the hype masters are telling us the cloudscape is changing.

  • Changing cloudscape
  • From content to connections
  • Fixed content to dynamic content
  • Wisdom of experts to the wisdom of crowds

The question many are asking in HE is “Is there something real going on with all this?”
Katz’ conclusion is that of a changing tower, and an expanding cloud.

He argued for the need to flexify (sic) the tower, the history of the tower is about institutionalisation, developing political authority, increasing access, participation, role as cultural arbiter, enlightening the citizentry, with a history of self regulation

On the other hand, the tower could give shape to the cloud. At this point, it all got a bit Close encounters: “the Cloud can draw the form out of HE, how do we manifest our values into this shapeless formless cloud that has no rules.” Answers promised in the book!


anne said...

so what happens to the tower when it rains?

Andrew Middleton said...

It's impervious perhaps. Or if you're sticking your head out of the window (us) you get wet! (OMG - this metaphor isn't working properly!)
If it rains a lot (ref to Sheff and global warning here) then it's good to be in the tower, especially near the top!
Actually, I wasn't going to write this. I was going to comment that I like 'flexifying' and what I think this means is being creative. Creativity is hugely important and we (inc CDT) need to be doing more of it!