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I find myself becoming reacquainted with a skill set that has lain dormant for many years.  Working my way through ‘Inventing the Medium’ was not ‘just like’ going back to school, it *was* going back to school.  My job requires constant learning – after all, I’m one of the folks who are supposed to know how to navigate this ‘new media’.  But my learning style has certainly changed since I had to work intensely to parse something as pointedly deep as Murray’s essay.

I was struck by Murray’s reference to the computer as a ‘universal machine’.  We certainly have that machine at our fingertips now, but the mental tools to work with and digest what this machine has to offer are, at least for me, quite different than the tools that I have to bring to bear (and remember how to use!) upon Murray’s essay.  The light association of topic to topic and the complexity that can be absorbed in that way (surfing the ‘net) is not the same at all as the deep focus required to understand our first weeks reading.

It’s been said that quantity has a quality all its own.  To that I would add, so does scale.  Murray says that, “The digital computer is simply the largest medium human beings have ever invented . . .”.   It does not surprise me that the tools required to navigate such a medium have a different quality than the ones I am scraping rust off of to use on Murray.

This idea might be pointing to the disconnect I sometimes see with faculty being uneasy with students using computers and smart phones in the classroom.  I was asked recently if there was a way to ‘turn off’ the internet in Maxey Lab during the times that the lab is used as a classroom.  I think I understand better now where that request came from.  The new learning tools can appear to interfere with the tools required for deep inquiry – and perhaps they really do.

But both sets of tools are valuable.  Can they live together?  What do we end up with when we try to integrate them?   Should we even try, or perhaps it is better to let both live in their own best domain?

 

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