Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pain and the academic enterprise

I've been reading McLuhan and Fiore's War and Peace in the Global Village (again), and finally starting to understand it. "When one has been hurt by new technology, when the private person or the corporate body finds its entire identity endangered by physical or psychic change, it lashes back in a fury of self defense" (97). This statement makes sense (it could be less dramatic), but the light bulb went on for me when I reversed the direction of the pain. New technologies seem not to generate pain for me; elsewhere in WPGV, M&F compare new technologies to LSD, the computer as a facilitator of the inner trip. Old technologies--the classroom, the academic article--are more likely to cause me pain than online teaching, blogging, MEmorializing, etc.. I remember vividly the pleasure of my first email, my first newsgroup, my first webpage, my first video. I do even remember the pleasure of my first conference paper, but it was kinda funny and creative; my first academic publication (an extension of that presentation) was, I suspect, more painful, although the fact that I don't remember is probably significant. Generally academic publishing is among the more painful things I try to do, although I also understand (more or less) why I do it, and the process is certainly not without pleasure along the way.

This post was really initiated by this report, more than WPGV: "Assessing the Future Landscape of Scholarly Communication: An In-depth Study of Faculty Needs and Ways of Meeting Them." The abstract identifies the kind of pain, the kind of tension, I often feel and am trying to articulate.

"Our work to date has confirmed the important impact of disciplinary culture and tradition on many scholarly communication habits. These traditions may override the perceived 'opportunities' afforded by new technologies, including those falling into the Web 2.0 category."

Is neglecting the (pleasurable?) opportunities of Web 2.0 going to leave academics in a world of hurt? Are those who embrace Web 2.0 going to land themselves in a world of hurt--in tune with the environment-at-large but out of synch with the academy? Of course there is always the middle way, the golden mean, or McLuhan's working at the interface of the two environments. That's probably where I'm trying to go, and struggling in both, hence doubling my pain. Good thing I am a masochistic, protestant, Canadian.

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