defining a discipline

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I've been asked by a group of senior colleagues in our department to participate in a discussion group to help define the nature of our emerging academic discipline.

IT is the perpetual "Rodney Dangerfield" of the academy, generally dismissed as "applied computing." But those of us involved in it know that it's far more than that. We grew out of CS--and HCI, and Instructional Design, and Information Science, and Communication, and MIS--but we're not just "applied" versions of any of them. We go deeper into mechanics than many of the more theoretical fields we draw on, but we focus more on the context of computing than the applied fields.

Our faculty come from a wide range of backgrounds (from Computer Science to Library Science to Chemistry to Philosophy to Education and beyond), and teach in a wide range of areas. We have concentrations in networking & systems admin, learning and performance technologies, web application development, multimedia development, database design & administration, application programming, and more. Our students learn both the how and the why, and not just in a business context.

So, what are we? Right now, the process of defining that is a bit like the blind men and the elephant. We're each focused on our own piece, and while we know that they must be connected, we don't really understand the whole. That's what this discussion group is going to try to do. Can we come up with an effective description of what we do (beyond "contextual computing," which is what I usually call it, for lack of a better term)? Can we develop formalisms to describe the underpinnings of our field?

Or will it turn out that there's "no there there," that we're not in fact a discipline, but rather a collection of teachers and classes that can't coalesce around a meaningful core?

In our first discussion, we all seemed to agree that just as bioinformatics can be traced to a signficiant event/discovery (the human genome project), IT can probably be traced to the point where internetworking reached the desktop, and the graphical web was born. We're not just the study of the Internet, but almost everything we do revolves around the 'net in some way. But what does that mean in terms of defining our underpinnings?

I'm looking for good readings for our group to use as think pieces--things that talk about the changes in technology (and perhaps the study of technology) since the early 1990s. Suggestions welcome.

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In November (I've only just now discovered the blog in question), there was an entry on mamamusing on the definition Read More

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This page contains a single entry published on November 2, 2002 4:52 PM.

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