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Commodity and Community: Institutional Design for the Networked University

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Agre, Philip E.
Date: 2000
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/4553
Sector: Information & Knowledge
Subject(s): information technology
Abstract: From Introduction: "Information technology and its uses unsettle the university as an institution. Institutions are shaped by the practicalities of information, and they exist largely to mitigate information problems (Melody 1987). Now, however, we are confronted with radically improved technologies of information. It stands to reason that the university as an institution will change. But how? Proposals are strikingly diverse. Some proposals treat the university as a purveyor of human capital; they envision a micromarketplace in learning services. Other proposals treat the university as a site for the pooling of knowledge; they envision the Internet as a tool to amplify this pooling on a global basis. Each type of proposal isolates one feature of the university as we know it today. Call them the commodity model -- the university as a competitor in a marketplace -- and the community model -- the university as an idealized microcosm of society. Despite the inherent tension between them, the commodity and community models have always coexisted in the institutional design of the university. And no matter how radical the changes in technology become, I will argue that the university must continue to manage this tension."

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