Rector Costa, Distinguished Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen;
Before beginning, I would like to congratulate the Ortelius
Consortium for their outstanding work on the buildup of the
Database. It is an ambitious project. From what I have seen
through the website, and from the materials we have all received
here this morning, the Database already promises much for the
advancement of educational mobility in Europe -- and indeed well
beyond, for higher education in Europe is a global commodity that
touches all corners of the world.
I would also like to congratulate the Conference Committee for
having assembled such an impressive agenda for the next two days.
I cannot recall another meeting recently when I looked forward to
learning so much. Our program is timely in examining how
Information Technologies can be used in educational mobility. It
is also urgent as we explore how the new information culture
developing around us will affect Higher Education in Europe.
The topic I have been asked to address is "New Technologies and
the Future Dimension of the University." One does so with
humility. Any prediction of the future should be viewed with
caution, but perhaps especially predictions on the futures of
Technologies or of Universities.
The pace of change of the information technologies which most
concern this conference is so rapid that the industries virtually
re-invent themselves each year. The evolution of more powerful
computer hardware and software, of inexpensive mass storage, of
newly available data in digital format, of the internet itself,
and of the other connectivity services which allow us to work
ever more closely with each other even over massive divides of
space and time, each year brings new potential to teaching and
learning that was almost unthinkable the year before.
It is easy to predict that the change will continue. It is less
easy to predict how. During the first four months of 1996,
almost every week has brought news of yet another major merger,
consolidation or bankruptcy in our communications industries.
The pace of change is so rapid, and the market competition so
intense, that the industries themselves cannot keep up.
Predicting the future of our universities is also a challenge.
The question of what is a 'university' is still topical as new
educational structures emerge throughout Europe. The rivalries
among established research universities, newer Polytechnics and
Vocational Universities, proprietary Business Universities,
Affiliates and Branch Campuses of foreign institutions, Open
Universities and Lifelong Learning Institutes, to mention just a
few, over who has the right to use the magical word "university"
or what constitutes a "university-level" credential are very
real. To this list must now be added "Virtual Universities".
Education systems reflect changes in the societies in which we
live. One of these changes is the way in which we receive and
process information, itself a result of new technologies. My
local newspaper in Finland has taken to printing red underlined
'hyperlinks' in some of its front-page articles. It does this in
part to promote the usage of its on-line edition, but also to
identify a new way in which information can be conveyed, to
educate its readers in the concept of 'hypertext learning', with
'hot-links' from main articles to other stories that are related.
Finnish television has programs almost daily in which new
websites are reviewed, new software downloads and upgrades are
described, new hardware and peripherals demonstrated, and the new
jargon of computer-mediated communications explained.
Advertisements in newspapers and magazines give the Uniform
Resource Locator addresses for the vendor's "home page" on the
World-Wide Web, where products or services are further described.
Such ads are not just from vendors of computers, cellular
telephones or other products with a connection to technology, but
even such services as real estate, or hairstyling.
Interested in a new home? Visit the housing agent's website.
Identify the options in your price range in the desired part of
town. Explore the terrain and services of the neighborhood via
zoom-in maps. Check from the municipal database who your new
neighbors would be. Examine the floor plans of a home that looks
good, and its appearance both inside and out. Review your credit
rating from your on-line bank. Calculate your loan options and
the interest rates. Still interested? E-mail the agent to
arrange an appointment. It's 'know before you go'.
Want to get your hair styled? Visit your hairdresser's website.
Check what times are free; reserve your turn in the appointment
book on-line. Browse through the new cuts currently in fashion,
on head and facial shapes just like yours. Ever wondered how you
would look as a blonde or a redhead? A mouse click will show
you, right there on-screen.
In the commercial realm, the new information society is here.
Technology enables business to identify potential new markets
with vastly increased efficiency. Products can be marketed
interactively with a powerfully seductive personal appeal. The
imprint of these technologies is already pervasive in our media,
and increasingly apparent in our everyday lives. And it will
continue to become even more so.
The same technologies are also changing the way we teach and
learn. Information about the diverse options of higher education
is on-line as well, free of charge and available to all, so
future students also can 'know before they go'. Testing and
tutoring can be personalized in ways formerly unthinkable in a
mass public university. Students and scholars alike can interact
with their peers across town or across the world. Education
itself is being transformed into a global, virtual commodity.
The benefits already are visible. Through the internet, students
are able to learn other languages and cultures better through
greater communication in those languages and exposure to those
cultures, a valuable supplement to their classroom instruction.
Scholars can collaborate electronically in 'virtual research
groups' on projects where before a 'critical mass' of specialists
was simply not available in a given institution, or country, or
continent for the work to have been done, or where circumstances
may not have existed to physically bring them together.
Electronic publications speed new research findings ever more
quickly to their readers; the volume of scholarly information on
the internet doubles more than twice each year.
What does this mean for our universities? There is great anxiety over
what these changes will bring. Some say our universities already are
threatened, their role in research and teaching being displaced, and the
days of academics numbered. Two articles last autumn particularly
advanced this view: Electronics and the Dim Future
of the University by Professor Eli M. Noam, in the October 13
issue of Science, and Endangered
Species by Michael Prowse, in the November 20th Financial
Both praise the internet as a powerful, growing tool of scholarly
inquiry and collaboration. They applaud its ethic of freely sharing the
data it conveys, the liberation from institutional and governmental
controls which is inherent in its use, and the enrichment and growth of
science worldwide which has come as a result. This is the good news.
But at the same time, they say, the movement of scientists toward
a global, virtual scientific research environment of freely
shared data is weakening the authority and the economic base of
our traditional universities. As new communications technologies
change the traditional flow of information, the role of authority
must also change. Confusion emerges. In the virtual world of
the internet, where does the data reside? Who owns it or
controls it? To whom do we look for its validation?
Knowledge is expanding with exponential rapidity. As knowledge
expands, specialization increases. As scholarly fields
subdivide, even our largest and wealthiest institutions cannot
afford to cover all the new areas. Thus, universities also
become specialized. As they do, the ability of scholars to find
specialized colleagues on campus declines; instead they turn to
interaction with colleagues on the internet, in the virtual realm
rather than in the physical realm.
As scholarly activity moves onto the internet, teaching, guidance
and other university services begin to join it there, leading to
the creation of the "virtual campus." There are corollaries with
costs. Universities can no longer afford to purchase scholarly
journals, or to store and preserve the ones they do have. As the
cost of books and journals continues to rocket higher, electronic
formats become imperative, with the internet the least-expensive
and most universally-accessible option. But, published in this
form, where will this knowledge now be?
What we have previously thought of as "Universities" -- lecture
rooms, research labs and libraries which are located in certain
places, on certain "campuses" -- will no longer be where the
expertise is found. Instead, it will increasingly be found in a
virtual dimension -- which is everywhere, and yet nowhere.
The university's teaching role is also being questioned. The
gulf between basic teaching and specialized research is widening
ever further just as the cost of face-to-face teaching is rising
ever higher. In the United States, the cost of tuition has risen
174% in the past decade, more than three times the increase in
consumer prices, while prices have been falling in other
The need to cut costs will demand new teaching methods which are
perceived to be more economical: interactive on-line courses,
hypertextbooks, computer conferencing and tele-tutoring. Such
alternatives could be provided at dramatically lower cost using
the same communications infrastructure we are already developing.
Courses could be offered not just to hundreds of students
locally, but to tens of thousands globally. Or so the logic goes.
Commercial firms will soon enter this appealing new market.
Textbook publishers, building on the names of their most
prestigious authors, will offer electronic instruction directly.
A "McGraw-Hill University" could provide on-line education much
like the specialized MBA or engineering degrees already offered
by corporations such as Wang or General Motors, without the
substantial overhead of physical institutions. The certification
it awarded would soon be accepted as competitive degrees.
The impact on the traditional university would be severe. It
would rapidly lose funding and students, and its status and role
in society. As enrollment and funding vanished, teachers would
create virtual departments elsewhere with like-minded colleagues.
Universities would change into office parks, with 'just-in-time'
learning on soft-money budgets, in concert with business and
government. A telecommuting staff would assemble on need.
Is this farfetched? New technologies are often seen as either
the solution to all of our problems, or the bearers of impending
doom. Seldom is either the case. Yet most of these examples are
happening already. We are in the midst of massive change in the
way we interact with information, as well as with each other.
There are demands to reduce our costs and teaching overhead;
there are commercial challenges. What Noam and Prowse ask is
whether the economic foundation of our present system can survive
this change. Is the university necessary any longer?
In the past, students had to go to the information -- which is to
say, the books and teachers who were regarded as the holders of
that information -- who were located in a "university." Today,
information is becoming independent of the human teacher. It is
instead virtual information. It can go to students, wherever
they may be. What then is the role of the university? It is but
one question, of many that could be asked.
New information technologies will change our universities; the
changes will be dramatic. But need the changes be as Noam and
Prowse suggested? I am more optimistic. I see a future in which
technology could expand the influence of our traditional
universities rather than reducing it, which could help offset
some of the budget cuts we are facing, which could involve a
greater part of the communities which surround us, and which
could drive an ever-larger concept of truly Life-Long Learning.
It is a future in which technology would enhance the human touch,
rather than replacing it.
The questions I would ask are: How could we employ technology to
supplement personal mentoring, to complement human guidance and
face-to-face instruction? How could it enable us to extend the
reach of our universities? How could it help us incorporate
those who are now outside our realm, who need the training and
knowledge the human communities of our universities are uniquely
endowed to provide? How can technology aid the human warmth and
synergy of people working together? How has technology already
been used to enhance the traditional activity of universities?
We have a Program at the University of Tampere which I would like to
offer as a modest, but useful example of this. It is an Area Studies Program in the Department of Translation
Studies, where I teach. We work with "intercultural communication,"
educating professional interpreters and translators, and researchers in
these fields. Communications technologies are integral to our curriculum.
All students have free, unlimited use of the full range of internet
telematic services. For the past two years their studies have required
that they use them, on a daily basis, from the first weeks of their
There are several levels of telematic work, starting with e-mail.
Each course has its own e-mail "list" which all the students
join. Each list carries substantive information, such as notes
and articles on the lectures and followup to class discussion, as
well as practical information, such as schedule changes. Through
the list there is an ongoing contact among students and teachers,
and with the course material, to supplement the weekly physical
meetings of the class.
Learning is enhanced in several ways. There is more exchange of
ideas and perspectives than would have been possible with the
physical class alone. There is also more involvement. Students
who may not have felt like volunteering ideas during class often
do send ideas to the list. Students open up more to each other.
Exchanges on-line lead to discussions in person. Learning
extends beyond the course itself. Students have not left the
lists even after courses have been completed. They stay
subscribed and involved with each new course cycle.
Each class also has its own gopher, which stores class schedules,
lecture outlines, course exams, student papers and projects, and
what used to be known as 'hand-outs': supplementary teaching and
reference materials which are now made available electronically.
This provides a budget savings as well as a resource benefit.
Putting "handouts" on the gopher instead of duplicating them on
the copy machine means more material is available at a fraction
of the cost. Instead of duplicating three pages of paper, thirty
or three hundred pages can be archived digitally, extra material
the teacher has available, but which would have been marginal for
most students and too expensive to be copied. Students browse
the gopher, select material of use to them, download it to their
disks, and print out all or parts of it as they wish, or edit it
directly into digital projects. The incremental cost for doing
this, if the infrastructure is in place, is just the few minutes
needed to put the text on-line.
Student work is also published in the gopher, where it remains,
modest additions to the body of knowledge. For our curriculum
needs, benchmarks are established which successive classes
advance; more pride and care is taken by students in their work,
and more visibility gained for our students and our Program. But
our materials are also used by others, by school teachers and
other language workers throughout Finland, and by students and
staff in other countries and on other continents. Freely
available and searchable on the internet, the glossaries,
projects, papers and reports produced for our own local needs
become a global resource, at no extra effort for us.
Distance education and continuing education opportunities are
inherent in the technology. Classwork includes collaboration by
e-mail with students and teachers in other institutions and other
countries. Sometimes these lead to new physical exchanges, but
ones in which the 'home culture' need not be left behind.
Students can complete credits in our curriculum at the same time
they are studying in another, or directly combine work done
abroad with courses and classmates back home.
The physical classroom is supplemented by a personal 'learning
environment' which is anywhere from which students can be on-line.
Students need not always be present to complete their coursework. Those
who are handicapped, who have child-care duties, who work part-time, or
who simply fall ill and miss a few days, can all be accommodated through
the larger electronic dimension that supplements our physical meetings.
Extension courses for the professional training of translators in
Finland and abroad are also easily enabled. Another e-mail list
handles questions translators submit when faced with unusual
terminology or obscure cultural references in the books, films,
or TV series on which they are working. With deadlines near and
one's dictionaries not enough, where does one turn? The e-mail
list puts one quickly in touch with hundreds of students,
teachers, and colleagues, some of whom will likely know the
answer, which then is shared with all.
There is a mutual benefit from this service. For teaching and
research, the questions are as useful to us as are the answers to
the askers. New definitions go into terminology registers which
we maintain in the gopher. Through the exchanges of queries and
responses, students get a better view of the reality of working
life in their future professions. In turn, we can better
coordinate this 'reality' with extension and continuing education
courses for working translators. These courses can be completed
partly by e-mail while one is working elsewhere, a convenience
which brings more new students to our courses, who then raise our
enrollment figures, which helps our budget problems, and so on
down the line. There is an on-going synergy of benefits. More
can happen. All will gain.
Teaching, Research, and Community Service, the basic functions of
the university mission, are all expanded. Just as before, we are
teaching and creating new knowledge. We assess and store and
preserve it, and convey it on to others. As before, we are a
close-knit working unit, with our primary focus on face-to-face
training, first-name knowledge between students and staff,
discussions in the hallways and coffee breaks together: human
warmth and contact. But now there's more. Technology has
improved our cost-effectiveness, our teaching and research, our
outreach and our image, the personal involvement of students and
staff, and the learning -- and the numbers -- of our students.
But is this an example of "New Information Technologies in the
Future Dimension of the University"? By some standards, yes. But
the technologies we are using are not New; they are stone-age by
internet standards, basic, simple e-mail and text-based gopher. They
work, they do their job superbly, and they are available to all of our
students regardless of the type of computer or access mode they use, at
university or at home. This is important.
But they are a different world from the colorful multimedia dynamics of
the marketing examples described earlier, where text can be integrated
with graphics, sound and motion, where a truly interactive and highly
personalized dimension can be created, where learning could take place
even more effectively, in real-time or at another time chosen by the
student, to the depth and breadth at which he or she is capable of
What could we do with the newer technologies of the World-Wide
Web? And why aren't we doing them yet?
Two examples of potential use would be with admissions testing
and international student orientation, topics that will be
covered in more detail by others later in the conference.
We could, for example, ease admission procedure to the department
while at the same time cutting costs, by putting our entrance
examinations on-line. Each year we have some 300 applicants for
20 slots in each of our translation options, for which there are
multiple-choice tests in five languages. At present, these must
be graded manually, and quickly, as results on one test determine
whether one must take another. The exams are partly based on set
readings, which are expensive and often hard to get from
bookstores or libraries. Students come from all over Finland to
take the exams, and must pay for their travel and lodging.
On-line, the same exams could be taken from the students' homes
via the internet, using their own terminals, or those of their
school or library. Internet access is not an issue. There is no
place in Finland from which students could not connect; we are
per capita the most "connected" nation on earth. Identification
of the student is also easy to resolve. The exam would look the
same as it would have on paper, except neater, with no erasures,
strikeovers or smudges. On-line, the exam could be automatically
graded, with results transferred directly to our records, from
which the next step would immediately be clear. The readings
required for the exams could also be on-line. Access and cost
would no longer be problems. Tons of paper, thousands of human
hours, and hundreds of thousands of Finnish Markkas could be
saved. I am simplifying, but the option is there.
Once students are accepted, orientation would begin. Here, using
even basic Web graphics -- photos, maps and forms -- could help
the most time-intensive parts of our practical orientation to be
put on-line, showing new students where buildings are and how to
get there; introducing teachers and staff; and illustrating how
to complete the different forms -- and letting them be completed
and submitted right there on-line. This would be simple.
Multimedia would be more effective yet. With the holographic,
video, and three-dimensional capabilities of the web that are
becoming increasingly more usable, simulations of the practical
situations new international students would face during the first
days of arrival could be transformed into virtual reality. This
is the same principle as for the training of pilots, who will
simulate hundreds of times before landing at a real airport; or
for the plastic surgeon, who simulates an operation time and time
again on-screen, before taking knife in hand to human face.
Through our simulation, which would be publicly available on the
internet so the student could use it while still back at home, an
'avatar' personifying the student could be created, through which
he or she would be able to direct a 'personal' exploration of all
the arrival steps. Through the simulation, the student could be
virtually greeted at the airport, guided on the bus to town,
helped through the options of public transportation, toured
through the dormitory, taken through the cafeteria lines, and
delivered to our lecture rooms, with everything looking much like
it would have done in real life. One could hear the sounds, view
the scenery, and peek around the corners, doing it all in real
time. A 30-minute bus ride would take you 30 minutes, unless of
course you backed up to try some of the stages again. This is
getting toward the ultimate in "know before you go"...
For our teaching in the Department, such a simulation would have
multiple uses. It would of course be in Finnish, the real-life
language of Finland. For foreign students, this would be their
first encounter with Survival Finnish, which they would soon be
encountering in the same real situations. In the virtual world,
interpretation in other languages could be available at the click
of a mouse. Providing this is part of our teaching and research
in intercultural communication. Each language version would be a
little bit different, addressing different national and cultural
assumptions, and their different terminologies and needs for more
context or modes of expression. These different versions
themselves might make for interesting research, by those who had
free access to them on the Web.
Much of the simulation could also be used by the City Tourist
Office and the Chamber of Commerce, for both recreational and
business visitors to Tampere, leading to support for its
production and for subsequent connections. For our Department,
there would be improved learning, teaching, and research options;
better training for our students. For the University, there
would be greater outreach, visibility, and involvement with the
community. The multiple uses to which many could put it would
bring significant savings in human time and cost. And this only
hints at what could be done throughout our curriculum itself, or
by any other university for its teaching, research and services.
Why aren't we doing it? It would be simple to just say "time and
money". But there are also other factors, of which I'll mention
four. These also have come from our experience, and suggest some
caution as we move toward the future.
- First, the virtual world is a different world, unlike that in which
we have been working. We are only just starting to learn it. We should
be cautious about judging it from our present context. Even our terms of
reference are based on older modes of thinking, when we speak of
'information highways' or 'digital libraries'. As the New York
Times has observed, these terms will sound as peculiar to our
grandchildren as 'horseless carriage' does to us.
What is the "form" of the hypertext world, its structure, its
presumptions? What are the implications of a hypertextual
interactivity in which the individual can determine in what
sequence, what mode and from what sources new data will come?
How will this change perception, and how might it change us?
Michael Heim, in The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, speaks of
the "form" and "format" implicit in "information", and how "form"
and "format" change as the mode of information itself changes.
In Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet,
Sherry Turkle from MIT has described the web as postmodernist in
nature, fundamentally different from the modernist thinking which
has dominated Western culture since the Enlightenment.
On the internet, the simple facts and identities of the modernist
world are not so simple any more. Ideas and individuals can take
on many different forms. Modernist concepts of rational thought,
systematic logic, rules and procedures and a clear sense of what
is 'right' and 'wrong' are challenged by the web's postmodernist
ability to rearrange and reinterpret the artifacts of culture. On
the postmodernist Web, says Turkle, there are no 'rights' or
'wrongs', only individual perceptions of that which is there.
How does this affect the 'ownership' or 'usability' of Web
information into which anyone may link? A law enacted recently
in the State of Georgia, in the United States, makes it illegal
to create links to other information on the Web without the
"owner's" explicit permission. But just who is the "owner"?
What other legal issues may emerge? In the United States, the
growth of medical research information on-line, accessible by
patients as well as doctors and researchers, has produced a
significant rise in second-opinions sought by patients who are
challenging the original diagnosis of their doctors, as well as
lawsuits for wrongful treatment. With the growth of educational
information on the internet, what might this mean for admissions
personnel, for example, if credentials are not thought to have
been properly judged, or to institutions -- or to Ortelius -- if
courses do not deliver what was promised from descriptions put
on-line? Where do accountability and responsibility reside?
In the highly changeable digital world, where so much more data
is now so easily available, and can be used in so many different
ways by so many different people, there are endless questions
about ownership, copyright, intellectual property rights, proper
attribution, and other legalities to which we do not have the
answers; and other questions we are not yet even asking. These
are important considerations for universities. The rules of
operation are not yet established. Caution may be prudent before
moving in too quickly.
- Second is the time required. New technologies have the
potential to radically transform higher education. Yet we are
often so excited about what technology could do that we don't
think about the time which is needed to get it done. Consider
the greater involvement with our students gained through our
class e-mail lists. This is also a greater involvement of my
time as their teacher, two to five times more contact time per
class than I had had before, after the infrastructure for doing
it was already put in place.
Consider the detail and planning that would be required for the
simulated orientation examples mentioned earlier. Routine human
experiences we know so well that we no longer think about them
consciously must be precisely identified and programmed in order
to create virtual simulations of those experiences.
Giving lectures in person, I can respond to questions about any
aspect of those lectures, with detail and examples matched to the
interest and level of the students who are with me. This is the
real 'interactivity' that the web will try to simulate. To put
that course in a hypertext version, I must anticipate all these
questions. I must put the course together in a meaningful way,
so it flows from one segment to the other, regardless of the
sequence in which segments are chosen.
Once produced, what about change? What if the route of our
airport bus should change, or the fare should rise? If an
example that has been used should change, all the interlinkages
with that example must be updated. It all can be done, and is
being done, by some. But it is not a time involvement for which
most teachers are prepared. Nor is it something for which our
terms of employment, union rules, administrative structures, or
means by which the work of teachers or scholars is currently
evaluated are favorable to our doing.
- Third is the pace of change. The speed with which new ways
of presenting and using information is appearing defies our
ability to cope. The pace of change particularly affects those
who would create content for the web, or train others in its use.
It is only in the past year that a critical mass of scholars has
begun using the Web. As a result, scholars have been frantically
trying to learn HTML, the "hypertext markup language" in which
basic web documents are produced. Now we read that HTML is out,
that the new VRML, the 'virtual reality modeling language' is what
we should be learning instead -- that the simple text, color and
graphics of HTML are a relic of the past, too boring for our
students, and other (younger) future users of the web. We should
instead be three-dimensional, animated, holographic and
stereophonic; "multimediating" rather than just "mediating" the
knowledge we have to offer.
It is form and format again.
Should new technologies be used simply because they are available
to use? What are the standards by which to proceed? How can one
know that what is produced today can be used by those we presume
will be its audience? And what about training?
Netscape Navigator, the most popular of the World-Wide Web
"browsers", provides a good example. Netscape Version 2 came to
the market in February this year, bringing new and useful options
that many had awaited. Hundreds of thousands of users downloaded
the shareware version and installed it on their computers, making
it a de facto 'standard'. Three weeks ago, after only three
months, Netscape beta-3 was released, now even more powerful,
with three-dimensional, and audio and video capability built-in,
and many new options for customization. Netscape 4, it was
announced last week, should be out by the end of the year.
For web content providers, which version's capabilities should be
programmed into one's content? For the technician, which version should
be loaded on university computers? For trainers, on which version do you
base your instruction? And what will tomorrow's 'standard' be? How does
one cope with this pace of change, and the frustration and sense of
helplessness the constant change engenders?
- Fourth is equality. The empowerment of the individual is
the most revolutionary aspect of new information technologies: the
individual's ability to access information no matter where he or she is
at; the individual's ability to control interactively the way information
An individual's ability to pay for this is also of concern. Can
students afford the equipment they will need to do their work? Can
teachers afford it, or assume that their institutions will be able to
provide it for them? And if once purchased, how often can we
afford to upgrade? What level is 'adequate' for the ever-powerful
features that are so quickly coming at us? "Entry-level" computers for
those who wish to fully use the present multimedia capabilities of
CD-ROM or the World-Wide Web are now being defined as Pentium processors,
16MB of Ram, gigabyte hard disks, 6-speed CD-ROMs, 17" color monitors,
wavetable sound cards and stereophonic speakers, with a 28K-bps modem or
ISDN line. How many of us will have this at hand?
What is the standard at which we provide information? Where is the
dividing line between inclusiveness and exclusiveness? When
can we risk moving from 'duller' older technologies to which all can still
have access, to more appealing newer technologies which all can not yet
The future dimension of the university will be our struggle with
such questions. Nor do they stop here. How do we digitize the
vast record of human cultural history that is not yet on-line;
preserve and store that record in ways that will survive changes
in technological standards; develop new pedagogical and research
methodologies, as students and scholars are able to work more
quickly with ever-vaster amounts of data; resolve ethical and
privacy issues, as more information on each of us becomes more
publicly available; and prevent health risks from the ways in
which we use technology, among them the new issue of computer
addiction or the rising rates of burnout from info-overload?
Will we learn as humans that technology is our servant,
not the other way around; that "information" is not the same as
"knowledge"; that data is not more valid just because we read it
off a screen? Can we avoid our virtual world being Balkanized, as our
real world has been?
And for our discussions here on the future dissemination of
Ortelius information, can we find a viable pathway through the
economics of information, and its transfer on the net; or a
'standard language' as we reach out to the world?
Whose language, or what variant of it in our case, do we use as
we produce the English version of a European resource with global
application? Where's the terminology that will be meaningful to
all? Again it's form and format, in a non-standard world.
We need to work together in searching for the answers. We need to find
a means through which to share our efforts. There is a SOCRATES Thematic
Network proposal on "Advanced Computing in the Humanities" which was
submitted last week by the University of Bergen in Norway. It would
review, in cooperation with ENIS, the Electronic Networks and Information
Sharing Committee of the European Association For International Education,
what has been accomplished among the 104 European university members of
the Network. It would identify what problems have been encountered,
suggest what the means of resolving these problems might be, and begin to
develop and implement training for the use of New Technologies that would
be available to all. Details on this project, if it is funded, will be in
the EAIE website and will also be included in reports given at the EAIE
Annual Conference in Budapest in early December.
The SOCRATES Network would be a useful beginning, but much more should
still be done. We must look to other disciplines and institutions as
well. We must examine all that which works, and that which
has not. We must learn from these examples how to incorporate new
technologies in our universities in an equitable and human-centered
Higher education is becoming ever more important. The university
is the core of the educational system. It is the place in which
our most highly skilled professionals are trained, and in which
teachers for all other levels of our educational structures are
prepared. On its success our future will depend.
Technology will influence how this future will proceed.
It is for us to determine in what way it does so.