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Introduction: Assessing the influence of institutional and technological change

ByAngela M. Lee, Deborah Lubken

The institutional parameters of higher education have shifted in recent years, shaping social relationships within the academic community as well as the processes through which knowledge is produced, organized, stored, disseminated, and evaluated. The widespread implementation of what have been variously termed “new” or “digital” media has played no small part in these transformations, engendering a mixture of hope and anxiety. Yet present-day critiques echo responses to earlier moments of technological and institutional change. Centuries before the advent of the internet or the twenty-four-hour news cycle, for example, information overload – from a perceived unchecked proliferation of books – prompted a profound reassessment of scholarly strategies for accessing, organizing, and archiving textual material, including the outsourcing of note-taking duties to support staff.1 Technological advances and institutional change are typically greeted with a mixture of expectation and trepidation, but the digital revolution and contemporary institutional changes have resulted from complex, specific historical circumstances that must be assessed to grapple with, and perhaps shape, the possibilities for the university’s future. The essays in this section chart the institutional landscape by examining the past,

gauging the present moment, and forecasting future developments in contexts ranging from the classroom to the enterprise of scholarly publishing. Contributors not only assess the broad influences of technology on the university, including the potential uses of technology by various constituencies in affecting institutional change, but they also ask how particular institutional configurations and articulations may amplify and muffle the effects of specific technologies. They investigate the roles of technology in shaping the ways that students, faculty, administrators, and academic disciplines interact with each other, as well as the ways that these entities use technology to shape their identities and jostle for position within the university. Of particular interest to this volume are the implications of institutional and technological change for the body of activity carried out under the auspices of communication and media

research. How have institutional developments in the field’s past influenced its present situation within higher education? – its object(s) of study; its place, in terms of both structure and legitimacy, with respect to other fields, disciplines, and projects that have staked their claim on similar intellectual territory; and its prospects for the future?