Monday, April 27, 2009

How Professors Think

If one ever wonders how the peer review process for awarding grants and fellowships works, a reading of Michèle Lamont, How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2009), will help. This is an interesting study in the process of peer review of a variety of academic disciplines by funding agencies, seeking to inform academics about how such evaluation works and to assist them to get outside of the “disciplinary tunnel vision that afflicts so many” (p. 12). Lamont examines how anthropologists, historians, economists, political scientists, literary scholars, and philosophers think and interact with each other.

End Universities as we know it?

This article is from the NY Times.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Texting and Society

This is from my blog, "Reading Archives."

David Crystal, Txting: The Gr8 Db8 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008).

Well-known linguist David Crystal takes on the subject of texting, its practice and its implications, in this book. He starts off by rehearsing all of the sinister and other predictions about the evils of texting on our society and especially our youth. Crystal then leads the reader through a carefully constructed analysis of the peculiarities of texting as a form of language, the reasons texting has become one of the information age phenomena, who does texting, what they text about, and so forth. He includes a glossary and a useful list of texting abbreviations (useful for someone like me who has sent about three text messages in his life); a bibliography of research about texting would have helped, but it is not a damning omission.

Crystal attempts to calm down all those who see in texting the end of the world, building a case for how it is just a matter of normal linguistic evolution – in fact, that texting “began as a natural, intuitive response to a technological problem” (p. 69), becoming a success because of its convenience. Near the end of his book, Crystal adds this assessment: “I do not see how texting could be a significant factor when discussing children who have real problems with literacy. If you have difficulty with reading and writing, you are hardly going to be predisposed to use a technology that demands sophisticated abilities in reading and writing. And if you do start to text, I would expect the additional experience of writing to be a help, rather than a hindrance” (p 157).

Archivists, and others concerned with the preservation of text, will find Crystal’s book a useful addition to their library. Although he does not address anything remotely related to archival concerns, his primer on the nature of texting provokes useful reflection about why archivists ought to be concerned about preserving evidence of this communication phenomenon (just as they have been interested in dealing with the documentary implications of the telephone and electronic mail). And archivists need to be concerned with this now, as Crystal considers texting as a cultural phenomenon: “How long will it last? It is always difficult to predict the future, when it comes to technology. Perhaps it will remain as part of an increasingly sophisticated battery of communicative methods, to be used as circumstances require. Or perhaps in a generation’s time texting will seem as archaic a method of communication as the typewriter or the telegram does today, and new styles will have emerged to replace it. For the moment, texting seems here to stay, though its linguistic character will undoubtedly alter as its use spreads among the older population” (p. 175). In other words, if archivists are to preserve anything of this technological and societal trend, they need to get busy.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

a propos of our continuing commentary on teaching the "next generation," you may find this recent piece from the Wall Street Journal somewhat interesting:

The Facebook Generation vs. the Fortune 500

Monday, April 06, 2009

Refocusing on the Public Mission of Higher Education

David Glenn offers a report on the recent conference of the Network for Academic Renewal, a project of the Association of American Colleges and Universities, and focusing on rethinking how colleges and universities connect with the public. Glenn reports that a number of “speakers also called for a renewed idea of the professoriate as a profession. But the speakers offered a range of different ideas about what faculty professionalism actually requires.” And then this: “The most austere vision came from Neil W. Hamilton, a professor at the University of Saint Thomas School of Law and director of its Thomas E. Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions. During a session on Friday afternoon, Mr. Hamilton argued that the heart of professionalism is upholding norms and policing one’s peers. Just as law students are required to take courses in professional responsibility, Mr. Hamilton said, graduate students should be required to study research ethics.” David Glenn, “After the Crash, Scholars Say, Higher Education Must Refocus on Its Public Mission,” Chronicle of Higher Education, April 6, 2009,