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20 November 2009 / erikduval

The University in the age of Google and Wikipedia

Just like Frederik, I had an opportunity to add my three minutes of wisdom on an ‘ethical forum’ about ‘The University in the Age of Google and Wikipedia‘ today… There was quite a diverse mix of speakers – their slides will appear on-line later…

It was fun to try and make a contribution in no more than three minutes. Basically, I argued that:

  • We had discussed Google and Wikipedia. These are 10 and 8 years old respectively. In Internet time, that is an eternity. Search is so passé. It is passive.
  • We now have Web2.0, with much more of an emphasis on social relations and feeds or streams of suggestions. We now live in a pro-active web.
  • There is much more coming: for my kids, “FaceBook is for old people”. If the universities cannot cope with Google and Wikipedia, then we are rapidly falling way behind. These are exponential times, after all.
  • Discussing whether we should adopt or not these new technologies suggests that we have a choice. We do not. That is like discussing whether we want to have electricity in the university buildings. It makes no sense to me.
  • A much more interesting question is to ask whether we should change what and how we teach now that we have information available in abundance.
  • A related question is whether we can now do research in a different way, using a science2.0 approach where we can share what we read with our friends and colleagues in a much more flexible way than before and leverage the wisdom of the crowds to remove barriers to research.

Towards the end of the day, Philippe Van Parijs mentioned that he is thorn between enthusiasm for the new opportunities that the technology creates and worries for the dangers it entails. The forum had reinforced both his enthusiasm and his concern. My intervention was one of the reasons why his concern was reinforced😉.

I’m not sure: I guess I am a bit of an optimist by nature. But I really think that there are enormous benefits, not only in terms of effectiveness and efficiency, but also in terms of global reach and inclusion for instance. What do you think?

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