Completely digital?

I loved our book club conversation about the Marc Prensky article “ In the 21st- Century University, Let’s Ban (Paper) Books“. There were so many good points made and I really enjoy have academic debates . Two points the really stuck with me were :

1) There must have been a similar conversation to this one when society began libraries.

2) This must be a joke. What authority does Marc Prensky have on higher education?

My thoughts on topic number 1:

At first I completely agree with everyone, the idea of a completely digital university would require far to much effort and its an unrealistic idea. Until I recalled a conversation from my SI 500 course, in which we read quotes and discussed how several people were opposed to libraries and writing because they believed it wouldn’t work. In the past our society was completely oral. Stories, ideas and laws had to be passed along verbally and you would have to be present when it was said otherwise you risk getting some ad-lib version of what happened from some else. Scholars though that writing would lead to us having a terrible memory and thus destroy civilization as we know it. But that’s not what happened and I don’t think I was keeping an open mind while reading because this idea was so foreign. All of the argument (like: once you build the network the system will be outdated, where would you house the super computer that would keep all the book, how would this benefit the university) are all questions I’m sure people asked about libraries way back when.  With that said I still disagree with this article but not of those reasons anymore. I think people need the option between phyically and digital text; and that right now not all text is capable of being digital. So until those two things change having a completely digital school would be more trouble than its worth.

My thoughts on topic number 2:

While I can understand Mr. Prensky’s intention, it is clear that these are the thought from someone who is very removed from archives, librarianship and high education. Its easy to be on the outside and make suggestions that are not feasible and this why I think his background and  prior experiences are relevant. Had this article been written by someone how has spend years studying and working in preservation, librarianship, or information retrieval, I think it would have been a different article and conversation. Proposing to drastically change a system requires boldness and expertise, Mr. Prensky only have the boldness when it comes to this topic. He is not a major mover and shaker in the higher education world, or publishing for that matter. This is similar to politics, sure everyone’s got some brilliant idea on how to change or better manage an issue, but unless you are on the inside of that political issue, you have no idea how things really work, or why they are the way they are; so your 2 cents is worth just that.

I’m looking forward to reading everyone blog on our book club…

Til Next time…shhhh


One comment

  1. I also found the Prensky article hard to believe – it was just so out there that I didn’t think he could be serious. He definitely seems disconnected from what he wrote about. I still also have concerns over the type of infrastructure and funding it would take to have a completely digital university, but it seems like the bigger problem is that not all texts can be digitized. I mean, what would MLibrary do about its collection of pop-up books?!

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