[Home]HistoryOfAcademia

MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories

1. Introduction
2. OralCulture
3. Transition to script
4. ManuscriptCulture
5. Transition to print
6. PrintCulture
7. Contemporary history
8. Comments

1. Introduction

The social institution of academics, or essentially the concept of how knowledge is created and retained in society, has undergone several transformations throughout history as the effects of MediaOnResearch have become felt. It has been impacted repeatedly by shifts in technology that have changed either economics of learning, the past knowledge available to study, or the very way scholarship is conducted.

2. OralCulture

Structure of oral culture
At the beginning of recorded history, we have glimpses into what constituted the OralCulture of the day. As all knowledge had to be memorized in order to be retained, knowledge had to be structured in ways that were mnemonic (Ong, 1982). As such, the major institution of learning was poetry (Havelock, 1963), but not the poetry of today. Poetry in the age of orality was what preserved knowledge from generation to generation. Oral poetry is marked by redundancies, clichés, and an underlying ring composition structure that made it possible for people to memorize poems by their structure rather than a simple surface memorization of their words. Since memory is faulty, society had to structure itself in ways that would reinforce the poems that maintained their knowledge and tradition. First, the role of poet in such societies was not about authorship of poems but recitation. Second, poetry was social--poems were recited in all venues. Audiences recited poems back, to each other, over and over as a way of keeping the poem alive in their minds. As people who relied on poetry to tell them how to get through the day, on how to behave in society, this constant reinforcement was necessary merely in order to know what to do.

Oral conservatism
This social structure had many features that we would find both alien and disturbing today. For one, the culture was necessarily conservative as deviations from the mainstream could hardly be remembered in a culture that was constantly reinforcing their major text (Ong, 1982). Hard won wisdom was prized, and elders who were the vehicles for passing on such wisdom were respected. Ancestors were hailed. However, perhaps the most striking difference was the identification people made with the poem (Havelock, 1963). Memorization of such large texts could only be done if the whole faculty of the mind was brought to bear. One did not simply remember the words spoken by a character. Much like method actors today, one became the main character. The audience didn't just recite the poem, but they thought the poem. The poem became their thought.

Plato's Academy
As the progenitor of the academic tradition, Plato is seen as a major departure from this oral culture. He seems like an ideal transition point away from orality since he lived just when the book trade was finally established (Reynolds and Wilson, 1968), and he wrote many important texts. Havelock (1963) argues that Plato was an interesting point in history, living three centuries after the creation of the phonetic alphabet but just a few generations before what could be considered mass literacy in Greece. However, it's clear that Plato was opposed to the changes in society brought on by writing. It seems more plausible that Plato's contribution (as well as his teacher's Socrates') was through the systematization of dialectic as the method of learning and as an approach to thinking (Havelock, 1963). Plato was so endeared by this technology of thought that he expended a considerable amount of energy trying to undercut and replace that predominant method of pedagogy at the time, poetry, in his Mimesis and Republic. His primary strategy was the organization of the first Academy as a way of building a new institution of learning amidst a society of poets. This created the first boundary between the laity and what would be called academics as well as a method to indoctrinate new generations into the order.

3. Transition to script

Aristotle's Lyceum
While Plato worked in the new medium of writing, he did not adhere to it. Plato was consequently quickly succeeded. Aristotle unlike Plato was enamoured with the written word, fully taking advantage of the new economy of the book trade that he had grown up with (Reynolds and Wilson, 1968). His Lyceum had an extensive library of manuscript books from which Aristotle himself drew on readily and handily, even though his students had to learn the lessons as spoken by their great teacher rather than reading them directly, a practice that remained throughout the manuscript age. And just as Plato had condemned poets in the Mimesis and Sophists in The Sophist alike in defence of his Academy, Aristotle cautioned his students in the Topica to only acquaint themselves with reasoned and learned men who knew the method of dialectic, and to avoid the lay person who would waste time advancing absurdities.

4. ManuscriptCulture

Beginnings of ManuscriptCulture
The more powerful medium of manuscript writing dominated learning from that point on, ushering in the age of the manuscript. Manuscript writing allowed for the first time ideas to be captured and held over time, as well as transported over large distances, and read by many people. The medium was not perfect. Manuscripts decayed over time, and producing copies was a laborious and highly errorprone process, leading to corruptions in the original idea over time. Compounding the incoherency of copying, the original form of manuscript was the roll, which could only be read by unrolling and reroll the whole thing (Reynolds and Wilson, 1968). As a result, most people still relied heavily on their memories when quoting other authors.

Public libraries
Nonetheless, manuscripts changed the nature of society greatly. Already in the Roman pedagogical tradition, poetry had stopped being performed as its primary method of learning. Rather the primary method of teaching in schools was reading the poets of the day such as Virgil, Hesiod, and Ovid. New social structures of learning came into being to replace the social recitation of poetry. The construction of libraries was the most important. While a growing book trade encouraged the creation of private libraries such as the Aristotle's wide ranging collection at the Lyceum and Cicero's extensive collection, the creation of public libraries was not far behind. Chief amongst these public libraries was the Museum of Alexandria, one of the most important achievements in the history of the Western world. Famously hungry for manuscripts--their bibliographic catalogue itself spanned 120 books--their extensive collection led to major contributions to the history of learning. With some of the most famous literary men of the day on staff, they fixed most of the corruptions that had proliferated through the hand-copied tradition of manuscripts, inventing several important scholarly techniques such as commentary and marginalia. The library also gave these fragile books a longevity that has time-bound us to their civilization, allowing us to build on their shoulders.

Dark Ages
However, for the remainder of the first millennium, after the collapse of the Roman Empire beginning in the second century A.D., learning in Europe stagnated through the Dark Ages (Reynolds & Wilson, 1968). Some have said that the Roman Empire's road network was more a network of letters. Without the empire's stability to maintain and reinforce learning, and a civilization no longer hung on a skeleton of poetry, civil institutions atrophied. Texts were being lost, so much so that -- to our eyes today -- much of the valuable work of this period is in the compendia that preserved previous words. Notions passed on lost their coherence. Roman civil law was being replaced with thinner and thinner summaries. The only learning was based on the basic elements of the rather thin trivium--grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic--elements rooted firmly in the spoken word, and the only mildly less elementary but much thinner quadrivium--arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music--that relied on writing. Indeed, the emphasis on rhetoric and oratory further eroded the interest in reading Homeric poetry, which created a second Sophistic age in stark contrast to Plato's preferred dialectic. Additionally, the growing number of Christians in society did not have much taste for what were considered pagan texts, including many of the classical Greek texts. Without the care of the disciplines, not enough readers were interested in preserving the less popular texts by copying them, and so many were lost.

Codex
One important advance during this time, however, was the adoption of the codex over the roll in the second century, in particular those made out of parchment (Reynolds & Wilson, 1968). The codex, which has the form and shape of our contemporary paper-based books, were easier to carry, read, and consult since any part of it could be accessed directly rather than requiring a laborious rolling and rerolling. It could hold more information than a roll. Referencing codices was aided by the introduction of page numbers. They lasted longer. As a result, codices were heavily favoured by the religious order, the law, and libraries. With each of the lettered pillars of society sold on the form of a codex, the entirety of ancient literature was transferred from the roll to the codex. Although it took until the 9th century, people began to make criticisms in the margins, which were often faithfully copied by scribes.

Miniscule
The transfer of the entirety of literature happened once again in the 9th century in the Byzantine empire after the three-fold impacts of the increase of manuscript production following the reconstituion of the imperial university; the adoption of paper manufactured in Arabia; and the newer, more compact, more efficient to copy minuscule script that replaced the larger uncial script (Reynolds & Wilson, 1968). The proportion of texts that we have today in the original uncial is only a small portion of the number we have in minuscule.

Changing knowledge in ManuscriptCulture
The relatively few manuscripts that maintained knowledge made it easier to change a body of knowledge than compared to conservative oral cultures. Changing manuscripts required only modifying a few copies rather than a whole society. For examples, Reynolds and Wilson (1968) indicate that Cicero made major alterations to his Academica, and then informed Atticus who was already in the process of making copies of the first edition. Both survive to this day. On the other hand, Cicero succeeded in convincing Atticus to correct his copy of Oratio in Clodium et Curionem, ensuring all extant copies were corrected. In another case, Planudes corrected factual inaccuracies the didactic poem on astronomy by Aratus by replacing several lines with those of his own creation. However, the power to change can also be destructive; for instance, the monopoly over copies gained by the Museum of Alexandria allowed the librarians there to make changes to texts that today we would consider moral censorship.

Church-based scholarship
Of what scholarship there was during the Dark Ages in Europe, most took place by eclesiastical orders (Reynolds & Wilson, 1968). The most important monastery in this history, perhaps, was Monte Cassino founded c. 529 by Benedict of Nursia, which under the Benedictine Rule set aside a period each day for reading. However, the Church was not capable of maintaining a strongly academic focus. First, they continued to maintain their anti-Pagan bias, justified perhaps by the real threat to their power the much better ancient Latin texts offered. Since they controlled the manuscripts, this froze research since notions were starved of the necessary interlocutors. Second, the Church had atrophied by the eight century to the point where some priests no longer understood the Latin they spoke, a good indication that the lay population were equally not interested in academics. The response was the creation of the monastic schools by Alcuin under an imperial edict by Charlemagne in order to spread basic literacy throughout the empire. Although monasteries remained important for their libraries and scriptoria for centuries, they were gradually supplanted by urban cathedral schools in the eleventh century, many of which were the foci of what would later become universities.

Moorish invasion
Only after the Moorish liberation of Spain early part of the second millennium did learning in Europe flourish once again (Haskins, 1984). Suddenly the older Greek and Roman learning as well as the new developments from the vibrant Arabic civilization flooded Europe. Lay society's interest in this material was acute between the professional interests of running a complex society and increased wealth and tastes (Reynolds & Wilson, 1968). Material from ancient Rome was still used as basic education, but there was a new popular demand for secular art and literature based on Roman style. Manuscripts of popular writers such as Ovid and Seneca were copied five times more in the mid-eleventh century to mid-twelfth century than the number of times of all the centuries before. Ideas once again were finding interested parties.

Reorganization of texts
Up until the thirteenth century, activity was mostly focused on copying and distributing across Europe texts that had been hidden in single monasteries during the Dark Ages. Efforts were directed primarily at stabilizing these texts by re-assimilating and organizing the explosion in texts, and then the unification of these dogmatic texts through the use of dialectic and logic. Indeed, by the beginning of the 15th century, the bulk of what we know of Latin literature had been rediscovered, copied, and distributed widely across Europe, usually at the cost of the older manuscripts which were destroyed in the process.

Universities
By the 12th century, the first scholarly societies were beginning to re-form in Italy and mostly Moorish Spain. Scholars would travel far to have access to this knowledge. Soon, they started to organize and the first educational institutions were forming. Rafts of students came to these cities such as Padua and Bologna, far away from home and vulnerable. Needing to protect themselves and unbound by the local geography, they formed student unions in order to control rising rents by threatening to leave en masse and crash the local economy. Successful in these endeavours, they turned the student body onto other matters, their teachers. The students managed to force their professors to come to class, to teach at an appropriate pace, to not skip difficult material, to even pay a fine if they could not attract at least five students! Unsatisfied with the power the student body had exerted, the professors formed their own union, for which they kept students out by administering licensing examinations for competency in the subject matter. Hence, the new institution of learning, the university was born Hence, the new institution of learning, the university, was born simply by creating a system that separated teachers and students from the rest of society.

Certification as boundary
As competency in teaching of a subject was a good measure of competency overall, students took the habit of taking these examinations in order to certify they had acquired a sufficient degree of knowledge in their education. Thus the institution of the degree was created. Even today we use the terms from those days: Master, Doctor (Latin for teacher), and the Licence in France. Certification is not just important to a university, but literally definitive as certification forms the boundary between universities and the rest of society. As a result, a degree provides an insulating layer between what goes on inside a university and market employers hiring the students (Brown and Duguid, 2000). Thus, on one hand, the university has one market value and therefore a source of revenue by offering undergraduate degrees. On the other hand, graduate degrees serve to enculture new researchers into the disciplines of the Academy.

Urbanization of scholarship
The university model quickly spread north, expanding to several universities in several cities, particularly in France, with the major northern university being in Paris. Universities moved learning away from monasteries closer to cathedrals, and began to create an urban learned culture throughout Europe (Haskins, 1984). These urban centres were hungry for the production of knowledge. While in most places manuscripts were reproduced by monastic scriptoria with the free labour of monks working for the remission of sins, commercial lay stationers began to spring up in university towns to satisfy their institutional requirements (Eisenstein, 1983).

5. Transition to print

Printing Press
So when Gutenberg introduced his printing press, there were already concentrated markets to sell to. It is no surprise that Johan Fust, Gutenberg's funder, went first to the biggest university town of Paris with books in hand ready to sell (Eisenstein, 1983). The press had quite an impact on academia indeed. It would be no understatement to claim that the press was a more powerful medium than script. By mass producing practically exact copies, the printed word had an unprecedented degree of fixity. First, rather than let audiences control how representations of a notion were reproduced, all reproductions were now in the control of the author's hands. Second, many copies were made and distributed, and a new printing run could be produced from only one copy. Thus, once printed, a representation of a notion remained static. The press also created a mass market and consequently a mass audience for ideas, making it easy to gain the attention, allies, and interlocutors needed to forment controversy. Finally, the book travelled quickly. Galileo's last Treatise was already being published in Peking by Jesuit printers only five years after he first published it (Eisenstein, 1983). This meant that for the first time the whole of society could be affected by a particularly popular notion, all at once by exactly the same representation.

Older texts dominated the press initially
Now, the most obvious change the printing press was the magnitudes increase in book production. Although the exact numbers are unknowable, Eisenstein (1983) suggests it could have been as large as three magnitudes more, although definitely large. For centuries after the printing press was introduced, older texts were duplicated more rapidly than new ones (Eisenstein, 1983). Now the scholar could read in his private library a breadth of knowledge not possible before. In fact, the scholar no longer had to travel to the manuscripts, but merely had to purchase copies of them from his local bookseller. Indeed, from 1465-1475, the bulk of manuscripts had been converted into printed versions (Reynolds & Wilson, 1968).

Humanist conservatism vs. scientific revision
However, printed works were initially very bad, introducing many new corruptions into manuscripts put to press. First, not the best manuscripts were chosen, but merely what was available to printers. Second, their corrections were haphazard as they rushed to put the manuscripts to the press. For classical works, particularly those of interest to the humanists, the benefit of a mass distribution of identical texts served to stabilize incorrect versions of the text for a long period of time, creating a kind of illogical conservatism that would denigrate attempts to use older manuscripts to alter the now standard printed version--a mood that would last well into the 19th century (Reynolds & Wilson, 1968). Conversely, errors made obvious by the collection of previously fragmented data sets compelled texts in the natural sciences to quickly improve, as criticisms and corrections were sought from the readership. The pioneering atlas, Theatrum by Ortelius, went through 28 revisions as new maps came pouring in and were compared side by side (Eisenstein, 1983). This pointed towards a new era of scientific collaboration.

New books
There still remains a question of why few new books were produced. Eisenstein (1983) suggests two reasons. First, highly technical works in Latin did not sell well enough to be published on the rather expensive press compared to more general works in the vulgar. Second, academics were slow to pick up on the printing press; the medium was exploited by quacks and pseudo-scientists first and thus it carried a bad reputation. As Rhodes and Sawday (2000) recount, even Luther was hesitant about using the press, always protesting that others were reprinting his theses without his permission. What is not the case, however, is the impression that these early scientists were anti-book. It is true that their rhetoric scorned book learning in lieu of the "Book of Nature" which could be read by any man, and which was more accurate than what could be read in books. After all, initial copies of books were highly corrupted and suspect were not only inaccurate, but seemed obscure to read after centuries of mangling. Yet the press was not cold to new thought, but more initial scholarship was spent reconciling the ancient texts. The first century after the press was marked by very active, unfocused, wide-ranging scholarship in an attempt to stabilize all the ancient texts. Texts previously uncorrelated were set next to each other and contradictions puzzled over. Maps had to be reconciled together in atlases. Astronomical theories had to be unified. Ancient opinions were contrasted Arabist to Galenist to Aristotelian to Ptolemaist, weakening each and all. New systems of thought were put forward resolve the puzzles, which resulted in the restructuring of the disciplines. And how else would these systems be put forward, but the press? So, when early descriptions compelling scientists to cast aside books in favour of observation, that presupposed indeed quite extensive reading of old books learning to understand what to cast aside and then a quite feverish production of new books to publish the new observations.

Copernicus
Thus, when Kant described a Copernican Revolution as being the shift from when scientists revolved around things to when things revolve around scientists, he was describing the effect the printing press had on Copernicus. When Copernicus proposed a heliocentric universe, it was not through new observations, but rather the result of having all the ancient and Arabic texts collected in his private library--all the things, the data, now revolving around him, the scientist. His insight came by stabilizing, collecting, organizing, and correcting centuries of observations and then deriving a mathematical system that more accurately accounted for all these observations (Eisenstein, 1983). While all this data was theoretically known in the ancient world, none of it had been put together beforehand.

TychoBrahe and disciplinization
For the young TychoBrahe half a century later, living in a world now well immersed in the printing press, having access simultaneously to both the Ptolemaic and Copernican astronomical systems arrayed against each other was naturally inspiring (Eisenstein, 1983). This inspired him to collect new data, as the old data was obviously incomplete. He set about collecting data in a systematic fashion, dedicating himself to collecting observations as his full-time occupation; that is, his profession. While making dedicated, systematized astronomical observations was not unprecedented, he imprinted (almost literally) his professionalization on the rest of Europe. He printed forms and distributed them to observatories throughout Europe to systematize their method of recording data. He then brought all that data back into his laboratory, as did many others throughout Europe, giving many access to the same data organized in the same process, which all had to follow. By this process, he then inspired his fellow astronomers to confirm observations amongst each other, thus triangulating new data to improve its accuracy and validity. In essence, he built a scientific discipline of astronomy, all because he used the press to his advantage.

Information management
With all this collected data from around Europe in one place, Tycho went about setting it all against each other. Without the benefit of new instruments like the telescope, he made far-reaching conclusions simply because he had better information management than was available before. Indeed, the collection of books had inspired many new organizations of information to help the scholar navigate through the data. Eisenstein (1983) argues that Copernicus would have been unable to collate all the old texts without good indices compiled by others. [***]

6. PrintCulture?

Capitalism
Perhaps the largest economic effect of press on academia was the fusing of the new idea of capitalism to scholarship (Eisenstein, 1983). While money has always been critical to academia, such as the Egyptian king's patronage of the Museum of Alexandria and the painful disruption during the impoverished Dark Ages, capitalism's effects were more than just about funding; rather, it brought about intense notions of TheIndividual. The capitalist printing presses did a number of things differently than scribes. For one, they put title pages on their works in order to increase sales, rather than relegating their signature to the colophon at the end of the work. Also, as Eisenstein points out, much of the more interesting scholarship happened inside the press companies, as people from wide-ranging crafts, trades, and disciplines had to come together in order to produce a book. The press created an environment that reconfigured relationships between classes of men. Perhaps more importantly, however, in the 18th century, in order to secure royal relief from copy pirates, publishers paraded their impoverished "authors" and families in front of parliament (Vaidhyanathan, 2001). As Vaidhyanathan eloquently argues, before that point, the concept of author as the originator of a work did not exist; rather knowledge was Natural and communal to a society. And even though the real beneficiaries were the publishers and not the authors, CopyrightLaw came into being and with it the author stereotype as independent genius, both of which have had significant impacts on the academic process.

Free time
The printing press freed rafts of new time for academics to be put into more productive arts. As Eisenstein (1983) suggests, time was freed first from laborious copying of manuscripts, which as mentioned above scholars often did themselves for the most technical of scripts, particularly those they wrote themselves, in order to keep error-free. Second, time was saved from having to hear texts and present texts in lectures, as private libraries became much larger. Third, time spent no longer was wasted by corruptions, meaning that painstaking work to correct a text could be done once and the gains held, rather than only be lost again once recopied. This meant that free time could be spent calculating mathematical tables that could be printed and published for the use by everyone afterwards.

Changing student-teacher roles
As Eisenstein (1983) tells us, private reading freed the undergraduates from their teachers' lectures (literally translated, of course, as 'readings' out loud), as gifted students could just read the books themselves. Tycho Brahe, having grown up reading books decided it was better to sneak books past his lecturers than listen to them read the books to him. This position is a long way away from the reverence of elders in an oral culture. Yet, of course, pedagogical practices adapted to integrate book learning. The new and profitable genre of writing textbooks at different grade levels came about. Textbooks and other similar books such as almanacs helped transfer academic learning to the lay population.

Images and tables.
The press also revolutionized the printing of images and tables (Eisenstein, 1983). It became possible to accurately reproduce the same image or table thousands of times, and thus spread a technical work over a vast audience. Before, the reproduction of technical texts could not be trusted by unlearned scribes, and so it took up scholars' time to reproduce their own drawings by hand in order to share them with others. Further, mathematical, astronomical, and other scientific texts from classical times such as from Ptolemy, Vitruvius, and Galen had lost their illustrations after centuries of hand copying. With mathematical and astronomical tables being distributed throughout Europe to many scientists all following the same method, it became possible to criticize these tables in order to improve them. By the 1640s, astronomers had indeed several competing tables to draw upon, so they began to publish open letters challenging their peers to test predictions made by each table. In 1631, Gassendi wrote such an open letter to verify a prediction by Kepler's tables, citing a reference to Kepler's published works should the reader be interested in learning more.

AcademicJournal?s
The first academic journals were a natural outcome of the growing exchange of letters amongst academics: The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society in England in 1665 and Journal des sçavans in France in 1667 (Glass, 2001; Westfall, 1995). These journals started as compendia of the letters scientists frequently wrote to each other amongst the newly formed academic societies (the Royal Society and Académie Royale des Sciences respectively). Hence, the original form of articles was written in the first person, and the purpose of the journals was for general discussion. Over time, however, they developed a particular style to support the changing needs of the experimental method. As experiments became more complicated, descriptions became more detailed so that others may accurately replicate the results. On the other hand, the first humanities journal, the Historiche Zeitschrift, was created in 1859. Although meant to create coherence within the discipline, scholars publishing in this journal were expected to take on political ideological commitments. Only after Nazis took control of German universities in the 1930s did the humanities adopt the goal of striving towards what they considered neutral, unbiased knowledge.

Catholic repression and Protestant tolerance.
Eisenstein (1983) describes the impact of Church conservatism on the freedom of the press, and consequently the practice of science. In response to threats to established doctrine, such as famously the heliocentric view of the universe, the Catholic Church in Italy created the Index of banned publications, which it enforced by threatening publishers. While the Index boosted sales of already printed books, it did put a chill on the creation of new books contrary to Church doctine. The Protestant north, however, did not have control over its presses, or if they could, they tolerated them--after all, they needed the presses themselves. As such, the Italian scientific community began to stagnate simply because they could not interact with their peers. Attempts to publish their texts in Italy anonymously failed since the Italian authors lacked the credit that came with discoveries, and thus the reward. Only texts that made it to Protestant presses made an impact.

Laiety is still stupid
This is not to say, though, that the open letters were truly open to the popular voice. The laiety did dabble, inspired by the Protestant doctrine compelling everybody to write the scriptures without regard to authority, people began to argue about Nature without regard to the authority of previous learned scholars. The book of Nature, after all, was laid before everybody to read, so many took to an anti-intellectual persuit of attacking authorities in defense of their right to interpret observations as well. While a democratic idea, perhaps, it did not serve science well, nor was received well by professional academics who again were forced by a change in medium to confirm the boundary between themselves and the lay people. As Galileo (as qtd. in Eisenstein, p. 234) has famously complained:

The eyes of an idiot perceive little by beholding the external appearance of a human body, as compared with the wonderful contrivances which a careful and practiced anatomist or philosopher discovers . . . Likewise that which presents itself to mere sight is as nothing in comparison with the . . . marvels that the ingenuity of learned men discovers in the heavens by long and accurate observation.

CategoryAcademia


7. Contemporary history

AcademicJournal?s
Academic journals today are structured quite differently than the original journals. Their primary goals are distribution of scholarly learning and AcademicPeerReview. The latter aspect is the most important. Most journals use experts in specific fields -- called referees -- to comment and recommend whether or not to accept a submitted manuscripts for publication. The intent is to preserve a level of quality in the journal's articles so as to ensure academic rigour in the discussion.

Latour (1987) describes how academic journals are used beyond producing, disseminating, and exchanging academic knowledge. They are used to evaluate the work of academics in order to allocate research funds efficiently and make decisions about a scholar's appointments and promotions. The advent of the Science Citation Index (SCI) in 1963 has made it possible to measure the research impact of an article by looking at how papers are cited over time.


8. Comments

Book recommendations

Sunir, if you're getting into this area I highly recommend these :

Particularly TheSocialHistoryOfKnowledge? which covers the evolution of various institutions of learning from medieval universities to museums, maps, encyclopedias and the press.

I like the first (probably PeterBurke?) part of TheSocialHistoryOfTheMedia? too. The chapter called "The Print Revolution in Context" is fascinating. The last chapter that covers new media is more patchy and makes me a bit suspicious of other bits. (Actually, for a while I've been wondering whether I could write an alternative to this last chapter and post it as a PDF.)

-- PhilJones

Books are "passive"?

I wonder why you think university / print culture is passive? Compared with what? Knowledge commoditized in LearningObjects?? (http://www.nooranch.com/synaesmedia/wiki/wiki.cgi?LearningNetworks)

Perhaps passivity / activity shouldn't be seen as intrinsic properties of a media, but how it's used. Books can be organized for interactive browsing (encyclopedias) as tutorials, references, cookbooks, histories etc. etc. text has many forms. Libraries seem like hard work now. But were a fantastic invention (particularly things like indexes, bibliographies etc.) which meant that researchers could actively pursue threads of ideas across hundreds of different texts.

OTOH PowerPoint has lots of scope for "interactivity" but 99% of the time gives us presentations that are almost entirely void of learning or teaching. Passivity is an expectation of TheAudience which is made by the teacher. Sometimes out of personal laziness : "I don't want to have to think about what they're thinking", sometimes out of corporate greed : "let's create generic modules about database programming and we can sell them to three different groups of students"

One other thing. Where's the "blackboard / whiteboard" in this taxonomy of oral / print and interactive media? The blackboard has played a hugely important role in teaching.

-- PhilJones

Why don't you feel that books are passive media? Books cross traditional borders of space and time, but at the price of separating authors and readers. Feedback usually uses different media, or it becomes very slow and inefficient, more like a criticism. A blackboard is an interesting medium, it may give access to everyone present, so it is interactive, but it doesn't cross borders of space or time. The Swiss teacher AndresStreiff compares wikis and blackboard to make people understand what wiki is about. So wikis are similar to books, they bridge space and time, and - being interactive - even gaps of culture and of understanding. Wikis lack comparable quality mechanisms, though. -- HelmutLeitner

Verba volant, scripta manent.

The spoken words fly, but the written words stay. -- SunirShah


As a by-the-way, Louis Menand writes a penny history of the professionalization of the US Academy in The Metaphysical Club, a book whose main topic is a history of US pragmatism through the bios of William James, Dewey, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Charles Peirce. Would be curious to hear a comparative analysis -- can't tell whether the developments are new, or just the US recapitulating old European structures.

"CopyrightLaw came into being and with it the author stereotype as independent genius, both of which have had significant impacts on the academic process." The myth of the genius is garden-variety romanticism -- contemporary with CopyrightLaw and certainly not caused by it.

"Only after the Moorish liberation of Spain early part of the second millennium did learning in Europe flourish once again (Haskins, 1984)." Well, there was plenty of learning and scholarship in Moorish Spain before the reconquest, it was just done by Muslims and Jews and occasional Christians. The picture of the "dark ages" leaves out the parts of the world that were civilized at the time.

And thanks for the links, Phil.

-- AdinaLevin


Sunir, in my opinion, this is really becomming an impressive piece of work. Congratulations. -- Hans

Thanks! --ss


Very well written. Only a few bits I found confusing:

the bulk of what we know of Latin literature had been rediscovered, copied, and distributed widely across Europe, usually at the cost of the older manuscripts which were destroyed in the process.

Original manuscripts were destroyed in the process of copying them? I find this hard to believe. Is this just because of wear and tear (compared to letting the manuscript collect dust on a shelf), or is there something else? -- DavidCary

First, rather than let audiences control how representations of a notion were reproduced, all reproductions were now in the control of the author's hands.

Did audiences really control reproduction? I would think that the poets who recite the ancient works from memory are the ones in control. (But the bit about audiences reciting poems back to each other is interesting -- is that what you're talking about?)

The Protestant north, however, did not have control over its presses, or if they could, they tolerated them--after all, they needed the presses themselves.

I'm missing the point here. Why did the Protestants need the presses more than the Catholics?

The laiety did dabble, inspired by the Protestant doctrine compelling everybody to write the scriptures without regard to authority

I suspect that is supposed to be "read the scriptures" (or is it "interpret the scriptures"?), not "write the scriptures".

-- DavidCary



Discussion

MeatballWiki | RecentChanges | Random Page | Indices | Categories
This page is read-only | View other revisions | Search MetaWiki
Search: