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Welcome to the "Future of the Academy" Discussion Forum.

This page of the forum contains discussions continuing after March 2000, in the light of the announcement of a Roundtable conference on The Future of the Academy (To return to the original forum)

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The configuration of dialogue

Anthony Judge

New Book on University Futures

Jim Dator

Peter Abelard rules, OK?

David Peat

Mind Media and changing consciousness

Rita Laurier

Public Funding and Civic society

David Peat

New contexts for doing science

Lee Smolin

Tensions and Dimensions

Anthony Judge

The Future of the Academy and the Future of the Arts

Rita Lauria

The Academy: One form of education

Ruth Dempsy

Future of Meetings on the Future Antony Judge
Reply to Judge Arthur Cordell

University Competition

Maurizio Franzini

The Future of the Academy William Bricken




From: Anthony Judge <>

I have been thinking of you having just been given a copy of your 1990 paper on the Mathematics of Nature.

The small insight (possibly not original to others) that I wanted to mention to you was the challenge of configuring dialogue in new ways in the light of the kind of thinking in your paper.

One take is explored with many links in the following:

Spherical configuration of interlocking roundtables: electronic enhancement of global self-organization through dialogue patterns (at

More recently I have been interested in a kind of process thinking more resonant with your paper -- which I built into a speculative paper on dialogue with aliens (

But the insight of today is the possibility that the kinds of challenges faced by the Academy and other such initiatives has to do with giving form to a new Rule in an update on the basis for religious orders. Given current interest in trensegrity as a basis for cell structure, I am encouraged in my suspicion that sustainable community might be based on structures resonant with our understanding of regular polyhedra.

The question is how to understand what this might mean. Again speculatively, the edges might hold relationships but in a non-mechnaistic way -- in a sense they only suggest relationships or modes of communication. Of special interest is the transformative dance between polyhedra and what that might suggest for the coherence of communications and community. The closest we could currently get to objectifying such patterns would be through the protocols through which messages might be swtiched and filtered amongst a network of people -- in an Academy of the future.

From: Jim Dator <>

Announcing the Release of a new book on University futures.
See Papers

From David Peat <>

"Abelard Rules, OK" Maybe students in the 12th century did not chalk such slogans on the walls of their universities but the sentiments are similar. Many of the comments and papers posted in the forum speak of a sense of powerlessness, of scholars dominated by administrations and of the increasing role of corporations and powerful business interests.

Maybe their is a lesson to be learned from Abelard (born1079), the foremost philosopher, theologian and logician of his age. In keeping with scholars of the time Abelard taught within the confines of the cloister and monastery yet was forthright in his criticism of inconsistencies in the theology of his time. His Sic et Non presents a logical analysis of such inconsistencies His later Theologia was condemned as heretical by the council of Soissons.

Clearly Abelard was a man who made waves and so, in the early 12th century, he left Paris and the cloister and settled on the left bank of the River Seine. The result was that scholars from all over Europe found lodgings in that area so they could listen to Abelard's lectures. The result was a nucleus of students and brilliant minds, gathered together in a small area outside Paris, that, in 1170 was formally declared The University of Paris.

And the action of one individual led to the creation of a great university. Of course there was a price to pay. In 1140 Pope Innocent II condemned Abelard who retired from teaching and moved to the Abbey of Cluny.

On an historical note. The original universities were guilds of foreign scholars who banded together to protect their interests. In Bologna, for example there were four universities, for Lombards, Tuscans, Romans and students from countries north of the Alps. By the end of the 12th century members of these societies enjoyed special legal privileges and protection. By the 13th century the "universities" had formed into corporate bodies yet were always somewhat temporary institutions for, should some other scholar arrive on the scene, students would migrate en mass to some other city.

It is from such origins that the present entrenched Academy has evolved, an Academy whose fate we are now debating.

From: Rita Lauria <>

David: I'm working with the proposition that there is a change of thought being expressed globally that re-presents the new physics began in the early twentieth century.

The intentionality of some of the initial designers of "mind media" was to create media that could tap directly into the thought processes and thereby mimic them. So some proposed a symbiotic relationship w/the human and machine (computer) to allow for more direct intutitive access to the very process and resources of thought.

I suggest that the implications of the conceptual thought of qunatum theory, relativity etc. are embedded per se into the design of these media and are currently being assimiliated on a global level with the use of the same. The artists are the first to realize the shift in the cultural ground and their expressions are indications of the foreplay of a mass shift, not just a shift that perhaps a core group of intellectuals -- physicists, philosophers, communication theorists, etc. would be privy to. The conceptual frames of the intellectual ground of the physics of the early 20th century laid the foundation for the mind of the 21st century and the ramifications currently express through the artists who characterize communications via the net as distributed self, etc.

"Artists now talk about how the Internet and the World Wide Web enable them to navigate and to reframe consciousness. They talk about distributed self. They develop projects focusing on the construction of self, the transformation of personal identity, and the ontology of telepresence. They talk in terms of how the Net allows one to be both here and there at one and the same time.

Architects and telecommunications researchers talk about liquid architectures and artificial life technology in the context of noetic navigation and the making of new kinds of awareness and consciousness. They say new kinds of architectures are needed to accommodate the mind as it inhabits 'virtuality.' They talk of the need for new kinds of space for the mind to explore which will afford connectivity with outer minds and provide pathways through cyberspace. These pathways, they say, have implications for the emergence of a post-biologicial culture.

Visionaries in computer science see the future Internet as being everywhere at the same time, always "on." They talk about ubiquitous computing where walls and desks will be fully actuated with sensors, logic, memory, processing, microphones, cameras, speakers, displays, i.e., fully enfolding the potentiality of communication. One could walk into a room and the room would know and would interact with the individual, as if the room were one with the individual, offering up information perhaps in response to requests. The environment world be in-formed as would the individual as a part of the whole environmental context.

Between where computing is now and that ubiquity will be nomadic computing. Using a variety of handheld devices, people will be able to access information over the Internet at any time, any place. ..." (Section in quotes from "Virtuality." By Rita Laurier.)

From: David Peat <>
Public Funding and Civic Society

Participants in this discussion forum on The Future of the Academy may also care to read some of the postings in the Dialogue Forum Art and Funding. Particularly Siraj Izhar's reflections on Public Funding and Civic Society.

A further Discussion Forum, Art and Biotechnology, concers the various ways in which biotechnology, and in particular the Human Genome Project, are changing our vision of what it means to be human. In essence what began as quite distinct discussion topics are begining to converge upon certain mutual themes about the future of our society.

From: Lee Smolin <>
Subject: New Contexts for doing science

Having graduated from Hampshire College and seen the difference a real experiment can make I would be most interested if there were some possibility of discussing the invention of genuine new contexts and institutions for doing science. There is no doubt of the need, and it is not difficult to begin to think of what one would do given the resources. But the problem remains that founding a new institution is expensive. The alternative is to find ways to intervene in the system by offering funding to young people who have their own ideas, at an early enough stage that it could keep a talented but too independent person working as a scientist.

I also think that any discussion of new institutions has to be disinterested in the sense that our goal has to be not to further our own personal research agendas, but to invent contexts for other, younger researchers, to do what they will choose to do. Nor do I think it is helpful to talk about alternative approaches to science, the problem is only now to increase the intellectual freedom of those who are talented and ambitious and want to do good science.

There is no problem identifying talented and ambitious young people who do need support if they are to both stay in science and avoid the economic push of the unfortunate fact that positions go mainly (not completely, to be sure, but certainly mainly) to those who follow the mainstream fashions of their fields. The only problem is to actually do something that will support their careers and work in ways that genuinely increase their intellectual freedom.

From: Anthony Judge <>
Subject: Tensions and Dimensions

I had another read through the discussion forum regarding the gathering. I sense some tension between a need to reform universities and a need to create other contexts where concepts and patterns can be engendered and matured.

I would be of the latter school -- believing that universities have too many constraints to be able to move into a new mode. Part of the charm of the Internet is that it implies new possibilities -- and at much lower cost, avoiding some unfortunate constraints in face-to-face interaction.

The unsuccessful Republican candidate McCain spoke of a soft- money iron triangle binding lobbyists-politicians-policy. I would argue that university bound academics are analogously constrained at the expense of the spirit of academe.

The question is what can the group usefully focus on?

From: Rita Lauria <>
The Future of the Academy and the Future of the Arts

As your Pari meeting focuses on the future of the academy, I would like to share a perspective that reaches outside of this containment. I address the impact of the academy outside its realm, per se into the arts.

A close associate works for a major museum in Los Angeles. The administration recently changed. A top level adminstrator was bought in from a major research university to run the museum. The individual functioned as a top administrator at the university of which they left. I'm sorry I can't remember the exact title of the administrative position that the individual left, but it was quite high up under the Provost, I think.

To make a long story short ...

My collegue, who works as a curator, now considers moving to a different museum because the corporate type structure that recently was imposed upon the museum in which h/she works has dimished her/his creative role as curator. Now instead of the curator going directly to the director and deciding upon the creative process, there are now about three positions in between the curator and the museum's top official. The curator now has basically no say in the creative process of which h/she oversees.

Before h/she worked directly with the director. The creative process was between them, with ideas and decisions fashioned directly between the two, that is, between the area expert and the director. Now, by the time the creative process funnels down through the chain of command it has been handed to the curator as a matter of fact rather than collaboration.

Basically, the curator, whose expertise in the area of which they oversee, now is disregarded. Before it was one on one with the director and responsibility was delegated directly to the expert to creatively work within the fashion of which h/she saw as appropriate to their particular area.

My point. The university has reached its long arm into the arts. The new administrator obviously learned their style of administration from the university setting and now imports it into the museum setting, creating multi-levels of management and committees. This academy style of management has diminished the creativity of that individual who once held responsibility for the many aspects related to exhibitions and the sort, that is, the curator.

So the future of the academy also bears upon the future of the arts in this instance. The old way has been disbanded at this particular museum. In its place has been put a corporate type structural template that marginalizes through diminishment those who once held the power to actively share the knowledge of their particular area of expertise.

In point, through the importation of the university/corporate mentality into the artisitic setting, the creative process has been channeled into a regimentation that seems to be inappropriate for at least the creativity of this curator.

FROM: Ruth Dempsy <>

SUBJECT: The Academy: One form of education

Thank you David, for your invitation to take part in the dialogue on the future of "The Academy".

As I see it, the power of such an invitation lies in the opportunity to approach the question from a broader perspective than that afforded by the demands of our specific area. In my case, the field of Teacher Education.

I am inclined to agree with Michael Heller who suggests that the crisis in the academy is part of a larger crisis. Indeed, it makes sense, that at a time of such enormous change, the entire process of education should come in for a thorough rethinking, as we are challenged to re-imagine education in a global context.

Already today, education in many forms exists side by side: formal and informal: accreditated and non-accredited. It seems likely that education will take more numerous forms in the future as it is shaped by the growing needs and aspirations of diverse peoples throughout the globe.

This may all work to the good, allowing for a certain continuity but also providing us with an opportunity to reclaim education writ larger, and painted on a more textured, nuanced canvas. Thus moving beyond a vision of education for youth and employment to a one that supports learning over the lifecycle and more accurately reflects the needs of local communities and the principles of social justice.

Education in the academy is one form of education. With the existence of many forms, you rightly ask what is to be the standard of knowledge? In other words, what will be the key themes or core curriculum that binds the various forms of education in the future, while allowing them to shape, influence and inform each other?

I think such questions require us to revisit the big questions: Who is the global person? What is the meaning of education in a global context? What are we educating for?

In one way or another, the answer to these questions inform all our efforts at educating today, whether we work with elementary, secondary a university students, or with learners in community settings reflecting on mid-life directions or seeking positive pathways to living more responsibly on the planet. In all forms of education, learning is the common theme. Thus the learner and learning MOVES to centre stage. This shift demands a change is how we approach the educational task.

From: "Anthony Judge" <>
Subject: Future of meetings on the future

I have just returned from a meeting delightfully held in Montecatini Terme near Florence, so I naturally thought of the proposed meeting at Pari.

My concerns remain sharply divided between an instrumental approach (what can we do / achieve) and a belief in the magic of dialogue. Unfortunately the way in which these frame any discussion remains challenging and problematic, whatever the topic. We always seem to underperform and are obliged to express satisfaction with less -- even though it does not respond to immediate needs.

With respect to the future of the Academy, these two play off against each other. What changes do we seek in the processing of insights? What is necessary to ensure a new magic to dialogue to enable such progress?

More brutally, one person's instrumental progress is another's boredom! Just as one person's magical dialogue is totally meaningless to another. And then we are each forced into the comprosmises of common courtesies.

Tricky stuff -- which is why we each seek to develop those congenial niches that favour our particular approach.

From: Arthur Cordell <>

Subject: Reply to "Future of meetings on the future"

I guess it really is about expectations. I hope to come away from the Future of the Academy meeting with a different way of seeing the issue. A new way (for me) of framing the issue. To come away from the meeting with a stronger notion of whether or not there is a problem, the nature of the problem and if so, whether anything can be done.

From Maurizio Franzini:

The program of your meeting is very interesting. At the moment, my rushed impression is that a furher important topic which could be more aptly discussed in the session on the commodification of knowledge is the meaning and the role of competition between universities. In most countries, and now also in Italy, the idea that competition is good for Universities has gained wide approval. My feeling is that on the one hand it is not clear what competition means in this context and and the other - and most important - that the most cited benefits which competition is expected to bring about are somewhat overestimated. One of the most important question in this respect is, for example, what are the effects of competition on the quality and contets of unviersity teachings? Is competition responsible for a more or less generalized race to the bottom?

From William Bricken

Yep, I have a deep interest in your upcoming conference. So here's some personal information which I hope will indicate how I can contribute to the Future of the Academy.

Foremost, as a computer science researcher and teacher, I often feel that I am living and must live in the future. At least in my field, the pace of change is so great that it is changing fundamental pedagogical strategies. For example, it is no longer appropriate for me to teach computer "skills", since they obsolete in months. I have to teach my students how to learn new languages, new architectures, and new skills on a continuous basis.

Aside: In 1995 the definition of software production time changed from "one update every 18-24 months" to "continuous beta", which is effectively a release every three months or so. In 1998, this yielded to "automated updates", which means compiling code each evening, effectively a release each day. Now, in 2001 this will be yielding to "instant automated presence", in which software is updated from the net each time you use it, effectively erasing the distinction between development and release. All this to say that "time-compression" at the level of several orders of magnitude is, in my mind, the greatest challenge to academia, since it redefines the notion of accumulated wisdom. I know that "space-compression", aka distance learning, is a hot topic, but it largely misses the point when attempting to deliver time-dated content.

I've been involved in founded two schools (both thriving after 25 years), two companies (both folded), two research labs (both struggling), and two fields of computer science (VR and boundary mathematics, both currently eclipsed by the internet). Been a professor of Social Psychology, of Education, and of Computer Science, in that order.

With Rita Lauria, I've been thinking a lot about the impact of virtuality and digital convergence on psychology, culture, and philosophy. At Seattle University, I've been addressing the impact of virtualization on graduate education in general, and on the teaching of Software Engineering in specific. Teaching humane perspectives through programming is a real challenge!

At U Washington, as Principle Scientist for the Human Interface Technology Lab, housed in the Washington Technology Center, one of my primary responsibilities was technology transfer of university research to industry. I've also spent several years in industry acting both as a researcher and as an entrepreneur.

For research, I build innovative software, applications which challenge our notions of rationality and physicality. Did some pioneering work in ontological engineering and intelligent interfaces in the 80s. I'm fairly hardcore on insisting on an accurate comparison between computational and biological processes (absolutely no similarity, thus cognitive science is bogus).

My 25 year project has been to rebuild the foundations of computation using boundary systems. I work in modeling systems which fundamental redefine both the representational and the semantic grounds of logic and numerics. Since logic and/or measurement underlie nearly every academic subject, I believe that recasting mathematics outside of text (and inside the space of experience) impacts all of academia.

In terms of the conference agenda, I can wear the hats of commerce, academia, and technology at the same time (um, this does not necessarily lead to coherency). I have specific technological perspectives to share in Sessions I and IV. I suspect that I can contribute the most to Session III, having been both a professional knowledge commodifier and a consultant at Interval Research building trade secret models of computational knowledge. I'd like to represent the mathematical viewpoint on this.

So here's what I'd like to contribute:

1. Commentary on my experiences at the juncture of education, computation, and industry.

2. Informal presentations on computational systems which challenge our notions of reality (immersive environments, interactive information, experiential mathematics, agency and software self-determination, deliberate interfaces, intelligent tutoring systems, ubiquitous computation, environmental programming).

3. Opinion on the impact of virtuality on culture, particularly educational culture. Virtuality = symbolic abstraction.

4. My deepest interest, details of a new paradigm for mathematics based on spatial computation and void-based reasoning, and its implications for modeling, computation, thought, education, and western culture.

I believe, David, that I have some unique perspectives to share, coming from experience and expertise in teaching, educational innovation, intelligent and interactive software, the cultural impact of computational and mathematical innovation, and the mechanics of rationality.

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