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Hacking the Academy: New Approaches to Scholarship and Teaching from…

by Daniel J. Cohen (Editor), Tom Scheinfeldt (Editor)

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On May 21, 2010, Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt posted the following provocative questions online: “Can an algorithm edit a journal? Can a library exist without books? Can students build and manage their own learning management platforms? Can a conference be held without a program? Can Twitter replace a scholarly society?” As recently as the mid-2000s, questions like these would have been unthinkable. But today serious scholars are asking whether the institutions of the academy as they have existed for decades, even centuries, aren’t becoming obsolete. Every aspect of scholarly infrastructure is being questioned, and even more importantly, being hacked. Sympathetic scholars of traditionally disparate disciplines are canceling their association memberships and building their own networks on Facebook and Twitter. Journals are being compiled automatically from self-published blog posts. Newly minted PhDs are forgoing the tenure track for alternative academic careers that blur the lines between research, teaching, and service. Graduate students are looking beyond the categories of the traditional CV and building expansive professional identities and popular followings through social media. Educational technologists are “punking” established technology vendors by rolling out their own open source infrastructure. Here, in Hacking the Academy, Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt have gathered a sampling of the answers to their initial questions from scores of engaged academics who care deeply about higher education. These are the responses from a wide array of scholars, presenting their thoughts and approaches with a vibrant intensity, as they explore and contribute to ongoing efforts to rebuild scholarly infrastructure for a new millennium.… (more)
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This is a short book, compiled by editors Cohen and Scheinfeldt, consisting of about 50 essays and fragments exploring the shortcomings and future of the modern university. The authors have a special concern about the impacts of new technologies. It's well worth your time to read.

About half of the material recasts discussions which began decades ago. These include considerations of the structure of academic curricula, interdisciplinary scholarship, the value of the liberal arts, the nature of teaching, and the nature of the academic institution. Other parts resemble Government 2.0 discussions about ways to interact and what interactions are appropriate. A handful of chapters cover topics which come more directly from current academic concerns about the role of technology in education and research. Some of these chapters summarize the current state of the discussion; a few move it along.

The book's quality is generally high. This is primarily an effort from the humanities wing of the academy; the hard sciences and other disciplines seem to have had no participants, though it's likely they have similar concerns. (This likely reflects the editors' networks, not their interests.) There's no discussion of the ways these essayists' concerns might differently impact various sizes and types of schools, nor about the different issues which might be faced by private and public institutions. Nonetheless, the best contributions are excellent, and justify the work.

Evidently there's a paper version of this book in the works, but at this time it's available only in electronic formats. An online HTML version is available here, while epub/mobi/PDF versions are available here. And there's a website--which you really ought to investigate.

A good discussion. If you're interested in the future of academia, you should read this. And pitch in.

This review is also posted on a dabbler's journal. ( )
  joeldinda | Oct 20, 2011 |
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Cohen, Daniel J.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Scheinfeldt, TomEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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On May 21, 2010, Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt posted the following provocative questions online: “Can an algorithm edit a journal? Can a library exist without books? Can students build and manage their own learning management platforms? Can a conference be held without a program? Can Twitter replace a scholarly society?” As recently as the mid-2000s, questions like these would have been unthinkable. But today serious scholars are asking whether the institutions of the academy as they have existed for decades, even centuries, aren’t becoming obsolete. Every aspect of scholarly infrastructure is being questioned, and even more importantly, being hacked. Sympathetic scholars of traditionally disparate disciplines are canceling their association memberships and building their own networks on Facebook and Twitter. Journals are being compiled automatically from self-published blog posts. Newly minted PhDs are forgoing the tenure track for alternative academic careers that blur the lines between research, teaching, and service. Graduate students are looking beyond the categories of the traditional CV and building expansive professional identities and popular followings through social media. Educational technologists are “punking” established technology vendors by rolling out their own open source infrastructure. Here, in Hacking the Academy, Daniel J. Cohen and Tom Scheinfeldt have gathered a sampling of the answers to their initial questions from scores of engaged academics who care deeply about higher education. These are the responses from a wide array of scholars, presenting their thoughts and approaches with a vibrant intensity, as they explore and contribute to ongoing efforts to rebuild scholarly infrastructure for a new millennium.

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