Tag Archives: higher ed

The Narrative Of Obsolescence OR Everything is Dying

It seems as though everything from Twitter to higher education to libraries is dying.

Twitter seems to be having trouble keeping leadership and rumors abound of changes that will turn it into something non-Twitter. But in a recent commentary in The New Republic, Navneet Alang argues that while Twitter the company may go away, Twitter the practice will remain, engrained as it is in our culture. I felt a little better.

Alang begins the essay with this observation, “The tech press is obsessed with calling things dead.” I’m not sure it’s just the tech press; everyone seems a bit obsessed with what our networked digital world is going to kill.*

Face to face universities have been dying for a long time now: killed off by online education and MOOCs. But in his reflection on a recent higher ed conference, Joshua Kim suggests that there is a disconnect between the narrative of dying and what is actually happening on the ground. There are challenges, he says, but there are also innovations that are making higher ed better than ever:

The multitude of small innovations and experiments within our colleges and universities seldom get attention.  An active learning classroom redesign here – a new program for first generation students there – these initiatives seldom cohere into a larger narrative.But all these small innovations add up.

I’m getting a similar sense of a disconnected narrative from the reading and research I’ve been doing around libraries. Who needs a library in the age of Google? John Palfrey works on answering that question in his book BiblioTECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google and I’ve been having a blast exploring all the examples of library innovations that he describes. I spent more time than I’d like to admit listening to the Wyoming Toad, just one of the fascinating items that can be found through the Digital Public Library of America interface.

And physical libraries are also innovating, changing to meet the demands of their particular constituents. From makerspaces to computer classes to seed lending, libraries, like higher ed, are pushing back against the narrative of their demise.

*A quick thank you to Jon Becker for sharing this article via Diigo.