Academic Evolution

Academic Evolution is Gideon Burton’s blog, intended as a playground for posting drafts and eliciting feedback while he is writing a book of the same title. You can see the rough outline of the proposed contents of the book here:

This blog is intended to become Academic Evolution, the book. My model is Chris Anderson, whose Long Tail blog helped bring about his seminal book of the same name. Similarly, I am beta testing my ideas, developing them in keeping with the principle of transparency and with the goal of inviting public review and collaboration. I’m smart enough to know others are often much smarter, and I firmly believe that publishing one’s thinking process improves it. So, here’s the working table of contents for the book. Obviously I will be making each of these proposed chapters the subject of my various blog posts. Let’s figure this out together! I welcome your suggestions:

In the introduction to the blog, Gideon writes:

Academic Evolution is a blog dedicated to discussing where the new media is leading higher education, publishing, and teaching as the traditional institutions for producing and communicating knowledge are both enhanced and challenged in the digital age.
Knowledge is evolving in step with communication. What counts as knowledge, who controls it, where it is generated and consumed, how it is revised and developed–all of this is at stake and in question due to democratized media creation, social networking, broadened access, new modes of representing knowledge, new discovery methods, the crossover between entertainment and information, and emerging economic models. What is “the book” or “the press” or even “the university” in the age of Open Access, social knowledge, and the semantic web? These revered institutions no longer monopolize the circulation, creation, or authentication of knowledge.
So much is in flux right now in how we find, develop, communicate, validate, teach, use, and re-use knowledge, and so much is at stake–intellectually, economically, pedagogically, academically. The institutions that we have relied upon to produce, organize and communicate authoritative knowledge (in other words, traditional scholarship, libraries, academic publishing, and classroom teaching) are all competing now with the vibrant and abundant media culture that inundates us. It is a phenomenon that alternately dazzles and threatens us with its splendors and grotesques, and this genie isn’t going to go back into his bottle.
Everyone knows something very big is in play. Some have embraced the new media culture with abandon; others dismiss it as digital detritus. Some see the electronic world as a playground; others, as the opening gambit of a technological apocalpyse. Somewhere between the extremes there must be a way to make the best of our electronic evolution, a way to preserve order amid change as well as change amid order (as Whitehead so aptly put it).
And so I launch this blog–a spinoff from my more general personal blog (where I’d begun discussing these issues enough to merit a more focused blog). I’m preparing a wiki to accompany this, a place to organize my own evolving thoughts along with the feedback I hope to receive. Thanks for reading, and please join me in the conversation.
What do you think? Are we in an academic evolution? What are the key issues from your perspective?

It will be fun to watch as this progresses. Go there and post some feedback as the posts keep coming in.

One response to “Academic Evolution

  1. Thanks for the lengthy excerpt from my Academic Evolution blog. In many ways the sciences are so far ahead of other disciplines with the Open Science movement and Open Access publishing through preprint servers like, etc. I’m impressed with OpenWetWare and the concept of open protocols, which I hope to learn more about and discuss as my blog/book goes forward. I appreciate feedback and insights from those in the sciences.