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10 Academic Computing

Special Focus Archive

THE INVASION OF powerful and relatively easy-to-use computing technology changed the academy in ways no one struggling to use a 1990 PC could have imagined. Research and scholarly exchange were expanded and accelerated. CD-ROMs and online databases offered scholars greater and more immediate access to resources, and everything it seemed was cross-referencable with unprecedented ease and accuracy. The spread of listservs and e-mail extended academic communities from the merely real to the improbably "virtual."

Scholars like Donald Foster and David Cope have used the number-crunching power of machines to make scholarly hypotheses about the authorship of Shakespeare plays and the compositional gifts of Mozart. Sophisticated software was introduced for grading essay exams, recognizing voices, and detecting cheating (all, it should be said, with mixed results). Even creative writers toyed with the nonlinear possibilities of hypertext.

By the end of the decade, university presses were experimenting with web-based publishing even as critics like David Noble were contending that the professoriate would be pauperized by the rise of what he called "digital diploma mills." Still on the horizon: the wide adoption of online distance learning for non-vocational courses, wireless Internet access on every campus, and a computer that never crashes...

Fly Me To the MOO by David S. Bennahum
And let me play among the stars and the Hypertext Hotels and the cyberspatial bars.

Repossession: An Academic Romance by Steven Johnson
The computer-driven renaissance of scholarly editing

New Word Order by Clive Thompson
Inventors of a computerized "essay assessor" claim that their machine evaluates student papers as well as a professor would. Nonsense, say their critics.

The Tech 20: Academia's Most Wired (1999) compiled by Jens David Ohlin
Twenty professors whose innovative high-tech research has yielded answers for the information age.


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