¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 First is the historical perspective. How have these tools functioned in the past? The Social History of Knowledge (2 Vols) by Peter Burke is particularly relevant here. The main observation here is that our forebears were all trying to solve the same problems of representation and communication, as well as memory and control. Under this theme I explore the continuities of history to illustrate that our contemporary digital transformation of communication and representation is not unprecedented but is simply an extension or evolution of what human societies and communities of individuals have always done in making knowledge of the world.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Second, however, is the theme of discontinuity. There are unexpected effects of new technologies in any age and ours is no different. After all, if they afforded merely an extension of what went before without transformation there would be nothing to get excited about! Under this theme I try to draw together what is different, what is perhaps new and different. A focus that starts to emerge under this theme is the way in which the landscape of education, learning and organised knowledge is morphing.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 1 Third, the theme of education is extended to ask how our kind of society (Western European post-industrial) can provide for cultural reproduction through inter-generational communication. My interest in education here is wide-ranging though a core concern is the role of the role of a university in our contemporary, European context of economic stagnation and increased socio-political anxiety. Alongside that concern lies a range of important issues such as the ‘widening participation’ agenda or the concept of ‘standards’ as a driver for performance measurement.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 By connecting the first two themes there is clear continuity on the one hand: in the matter of knowledge and how it is made and shared, the digital revolution helps us address age-old problems in new and exciting ways; on the other hand there is discontinuity in the educational mission where the ‘franchise’, so to speak, which has been expanding its social base for the better part of the twentieth century can now, perhaps with the aid of digital technology and in parallel with a a range of other socio-technical developments, participate in formal education to a higher level and for longer. This changes the mission.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 I hope to show that, in the area of knowledge construction, education and importantly educational policy and strategy, the contradictions between the continuities of the past, and the unpredictabilities of the present, render us simultaneously indecisive yet empowered to reach new heights of socio-economic development, notwithstanding the apparent global threats brought on by a new global reshaping of economic and political power. At the same time the rhetoric of participation (which I have just repeated in the previous paragraph) must be opened up to scrutiny for, in that same global context, education continues to be a relatively scarce resource.