Open Sourcing Knowledge: Towards a University 2.0 - William Merrin

The links between the university system and broadcasting have rarely been analysed. Universities began as media studies – as theological training schools for the medieval church: that dominant broadcasting system which, from its centralized hub, crafted and produced a single doctrine, carried through its technologies – the monasteries, manuscripts and pulpits – for mass consumption by a captive population. Though universities grew in secularity and independence over the following centuries they followed the same model of informational production and distribution; a model most fully realized with the growth of mass education from the late 19th century. From then until the new millennium a specialist institution and centralized, bureaucratic organisation would control the production and distribution of knowledge, with its experts mass-distributing its message to consumers through its lectures and texts: mass society, mass education and mass media were intimately related. This paper, therefore, asks what happens when that age is over. What happens in a post-broadcast era defined by new alignments of productive, distributive and consumer power? What happens to disciplines in an age when the ability to discover, create, share, debate and legitimate information and ideas has changed so fundamentally? How can academic pedagogical and publishing practice change in the digital era? Can it cope with the open-sourcing of knowledge and is a University 2.0 even possible?


William Merrin is a Senior Lecturer in media at Swansea University. He is the author of Baudrillard and the Media (Polity, 2005) and co-editor of Jean Baudrillard: Fatal Theories (Routledge, 2008). In November 2006 he coined the phrase ‘media studies 2.0′ to argue for a transformation of the discipline to meet the needs of a different, digital-era. He is currently writing ‘Media 2.0′ and (with Andrew Hoskins) ‘Media Ecology/Archaeology’ for Routledge to explore these issues.

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