T h e Future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed One way to see the future is to look at parts of the present where the future has already arrived. Personal Computer World magazine was published first published in 1978. The last ever edition was this August. Many magazines are in trouble. You might expect that readers of a computer magazine are more Internet-savvy than most, so its readership would decline quicker than others. University’s are not going to disappear, and be swept away by the Internet. Much of a what makes a university is related to the place and the people - very concrete, real world. But the heart of a university is knowledge, learning, ideas - INFORMATION - and information is now digital. So to understand how universities will be reshaped by the Internet, we should look at music labels and newspapers where this is already happening. Another far-sighted author
Douglas Adam was a great technophile. He wrote an essay on technology 1) everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal; 2) anything that gets invented between then and before you turn thirty is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck you can make a career out of it; 3) anything that gets invented after you’re thirty is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it - until it’s been around for about ten years when it gradually turns out to be alright really. Douglas wrote this in 1999 when the media were just waking up to the Internet, and there was a lot of huffing and puffing about this weird new thing we didn’t understand.
Another great visionary: Tim Berners-Lee What we call Web 2.0 was Tim’s vision of the web from the very start. It’s about connecting people. The web is about people, not about technology “ The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner.” Depending on how you date it. The World Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners Lee between 1989 and 1993. In 2004 Tim was awarded a knighthood by the Queen, and came top of a poll for G r eatest Briton. It took 10 years, just as Douglas said. But Douglas goes on to explain – in 1999 - that we still don’t really understand the Internet. We don’t get it. We’re stumbling along, cobbling it together. Because we don’t understand it we tend to overemphasise the risks and underestimate the benefits. We worry.
But first, a historical digression.
I’m curious. I like learning. These are the sources for some of the lectures I’ve heard in the last few months. It was fantastic to be in the room with 600 people listening to Daniel Dennett at the university of Bristol centenary lectures. Equally fantastic, we streamed the lecture over the Internet. But universities aren’t the only place to go to hear a lecture. I expect many people here have heard of TED.com. If you haven’t check it out.
What is TED? TED is a conference and a website. Definition from TED.com “ knowledge and inspiration from the worlds leading thinkers” “ community of curious souls” That’s a pretty good definition of a university! TED is a private non-profit foundation. The conference is a very exclusive event, been going on since 1990. Leading experts in all fields lecture and delegates pay thousands to attend. But in recent years something interesting happened. TED started releasing videos of the conference for free. This has turned TED into a phenomenon on Youtube. Hugely boosted their reputation, their brand. How can TED give all these videos away free and still charge thousands for the conference? People still pay for the conference for immediacy, and for the personal contact - the hob nobbing, the chance to ask questions, everything that makes the live experience.
The first telephone in the world was useless. It only had a purpose when there was a second telephone - someone to call! The value of the telephone network increases according to the number of connections in the network. If you have a choice of two networks, the larger network always wins. You chose the one with your friends and contacts on it - why on earth would you do anything else? This doesn’t just apply to telephones. I was surprised the first time I received a meeting invite from a colleague at Bristol on meetup.com. The first time it happened I was annoyed. Why not use our internal calendar service? But then it kept happening, and I began to realise. Most academics have many meetings with external contacts. They don’t use our internal calendaring system, as it has a sharp boundary on the edge of the organisation. Our calendar system is a small, closed network Meetup.com arranges meetings between anyone with an email address. Meetup.com wins as it solves the problem globally.
The world is smaller. Our horizons are broader Ten years ago the great management guru Peter Drucker said that “the computer had not yet begun to affect the way in which organisations are managed”. What he was getting at is that new collaboration tools make it incredibly easy to reach out to people. This acts to flatten traditional hierarchies within organisations, and weaken boundaries between organisations.
We have a wealth of information - something close to the sum of human of knowledge online, along with corporate propaganda, fraud, spam and worse. The problem isn't no information, it is too much. This has turned around completely in 10 years.. Most of the world is celebrating 40 years since man walked on the moon. But some passionately believe the whole thing was faked! They believe in the conspiracy theory, and pick and choose ‘evidence’ to support their beliefs If we set our students an essay on the moon landings, do they get their information from NASA or from the conspiracy theorists? Here the role of a university library or even the whole institution is to be the trusted guide to what is valued and respected. One of our top priorities must be to teach digital literacy skills.
Every now and then my Mum tries to persuade me to have a clear out. I don’t clear it out - I’m a hoarder. I stick it under the bed, in the garage, in the loft, where it gathers dust. It is useless! My Mum says “If you can’t as well find it you won’t use it, so just throw it out”. She’s right! Students - and lecturers - always turn to google first to find information. We can bang on until we are blue in the face about our own internal search systems, but they don’t get used nearly as much. The quantity of information in google trumps the quality in ours. In the networked world, openness always wins, and the walled garden loses out. So if our internal search systems are pointless, what do we do? We harness network effects to our advantage, by tying in with the larger network. Google Scholar has an API which university libraries can use. When students find information in Google Scholar they can click through to get the full text from us, with our logo on the page. Result!
Anybody can create or copy content. Once information is digital it can be reproduced, completely trivially. In 2005 Doctor Who returned to TV. A few days before the broadcast, Episode 1 appeared on Bittorrent. If the BBC or Hollywood can’t stop this from ever occurring, then we are kidding ourselves if we think we can lock up our lectures and stop them ever leaking, no matter how many technical measures we put in place OK - so you might think - this is terrible! If all this digital information can be copied that easily, we’ll just keep it as analogue! We won’t record our lectures, as they might leak. But…
This picture is a still from a video shot during the G20 demonstrations in London. Ian Tomlinson was pushed to the ground We used to worry - many people still do - about CCTV, everything we do is monitored by the state. But now every mobile phone has a camera in it. We’re monitoring the state back! I think the conference organisers are recording this – but so could anyone else on your phone. I expect there is someone with a laptop, liveblogging this. Some of our students are already recording audio and video of their lectures, just because they can.
What can you keep secret? Look at the case of the student threatened with a plagarism charge by his professor for posting his assignment . The Computer Science student at San Jose university. He posted his completed code on his website, after the assignment was completed. Nobody else in his year could use it. Why? He open sourced it. He wanted to use it as part of his online portfolio, his CV, show it to future employers. The prof objected – he said next years students on the same course could use it to cheat. Case went to appeal. The student won. Next year the prof will have to work a little harder and set a different assignment.
In a world of limitless information competing for your eyeballs, attention and reputation are the currency that matter more than ever. Your public record on the Internet is your CV - employers will read your blog and your Facebook profile. That's both a danger and an opportunity. Being slightly fascetious, we could measure the reputation of a university by our Google Ranking. How influencial are you? Measure the reputation of an individual by how many followers have you got on Twitter? Stephen Fry slammed the Blackberry storm
First you do what is difficult: live video feed from one room to another so that we can get 1000 people watching the same lecture. Then you do what was impossible: Catch up TV for lectures. Then you do what was inconceivable. Students watch the video on their own first, then turn up afterwards and spend the hour asking the lecturer questions instead! (Wes Streeting, president of NUS calls for fewer lectures)
As Information Technology professionals, Information Management professionals, or perhaps even as academics, our role has changed. Current situation is that it’s incredibly easy to bypass the IT department! We no longer have the power to simply say No – individual staff and students will simply ignore us. This has happened before, sort of. Once upon a time PCs came along. Cheap enough to be purchased from a research grant. We tamed PCs (partially at least!) Now web services and consumer devices (cheap/free and easy to use) mean that we aren’t the high priests guarding the mystical secrets anymore. What do we do? we must conquer our “Not-invented-here-ophobia” and be pragmatic Think of the University IT department as trusted intermediaries, guiding users through the myriad possibilities, and setting standards to avoid chaos. We don’t actually need to provide all the infrastructure and services ourselves. We want to encourage users to come to us for advice. We should advise, not dicate, and then users will consult us, not work around us.
FOTE09 - Nick Skelton: How to learn to stop worrying and love the Internet
How to stop worrying and learn to love the Internet Universities in a networked world Nick Skelton, University of Bristol @nick_skelton http://seis.bris.ac.uk/~ccnjs
<ul><li>How can we see the future? </li></ul>“ The future is already here - it is just not evenly distributed” William Gibson, author Photo courtesy of fredarmitage@flickr, used under Creative Commons attribution- sharealike license
<ul><li>How can we understand technology? </li></ul>How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet, Sunday Times August 29th 1999 Douglas Adams, author Photo courtesy of michael_hughes@flickr, used under Creative Commons attribution- sharealike license
<ul><li>What is the World Wide Web? </li></ul>“ The web does not just connect machines, it connects people” Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web Photo courtesy of Silvio Tanaka on flickr, used under Creative Commons attribution- sharealike license
<ul><li>I want us to </li></ul><ul><li>Understand how the Internet really works - the sociology not the technology </li></ul><ul><li>Assess the risks and benefits pragmatically, without worrying </li></ul><ul><li>Build our universities accordingly </li></ul>
<ul><li>Where do you get your ideas from? </li></ul>
<ul><li>Competition for universities? </li></ul>“ We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers , and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other ”
<ul><li>Living in a networked world </li></ul><ul><li>Larger networks beat smaller networks </li></ul>
<ul><li>Living in a networked world </li></ul><ul><li>New collaboration tools break down barriers </li></ul>
<ul><li>Information in a digital world </li></ul><ul><li>We have too much information, not too little </li></ul>
<ul><li>Information in a digital world </li></ul><ul><li>Information you can’t find has no value </li></ul>
<ul><li>Information in a digital world </li></ul><ul><li>Anybody can copy information, trivially </li></ul>Still from Doctor Who Episode 1 “Rose”, (c) BBC 2005
<ul><li>Information in a digital world </li></ul><ul><li>Anything you say and do can be recorded </li></ul>Ian Tomlinson at the London G20 protest, April 2009
<ul><li>Information in a digital world </li></ul><ul><li>What was artificially secret becomes public </li></ul><ul><li>“ Student Beats Cheating Charges for Posting Work Online” </li></ul><ul><li>Chronicle of Higher Education, June 15th 2009 </li></ul>
<ul><li>Information in a digital world </li></ul><ul><li>Attention and reputation are the currency that matter </li></ul><ul><li> http:// twitter.com /STEPHENFRY </li></ul><ul><li>776,675 followers </li></ul>
<ul><li>Three stages to deploy a new technology </li></ul><ul><li>Difficult </li></ul><ul><li>Impossible </li></ul><ul><li>Inconceivable </li></ul>
<ul><li>Three rules for a networked world </li></ul><ul><li>Think globally, not institutionally. Hook into larger networks. </li></ul><ul><li>Information defaults to open not closed so that you can find it </li></ul><ul><li>Anything can be copied for free – and will. Your reputation is what matters, not your content. </li></ul>
<ul><li>What is our role? </li></ul><ul><li>The trusted guide </li></ul>
<ul><li>References </li></ul><ul><li>The Edgeless University www.jisc.ac.uk/edge09 </li></ul><ul><li>The Tower and The Cloud www.educause.edu/thetowerandthecloud </li></ul><ul><li>Committee of Enquiry into the Changing Learner Experience www.clex.org.uk </li></ul><ul><li>Kevin Kelly, New Rules for the New Economy www.kk.org/newrules / </li></ul><ul><li>@nick_skelton http://ideasandohdears.blogspot.com </li></ul>