Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Idenities, multimodality and knowledge

Identities was a recurrent theme at the one day conference on the Ph.D in the multimodal age yesterday in the British Library yesterday. Katherine Hayles' work on the posthuman condition was alluded to by Lesley Gourlay.

This is expressed as the cognosphere which hosts a dispersed sense of self (Hayles 1999) and where distributed identities co-exist. Another theme explored was the continuing existence of the artefact of the Ph.D as a collation of linear text following a conventional format. The evolution of the modal approach is starkly illustrated when two BBC sites are compared. Gunter Kress Professor of Semiotics at the Institute of Education showed how modal the BBC children's site is compared to the more linear structure of the main site.

The discussion suggested that change is in the air with professional practice at doctoral level deserving of consideration of acceptance of alternative formats as a key notion. Resistance will be challenging in that examiners in following a rigorous convention, submitted their Ph.Ds in that format. Ergo, so should everyone else. The social shift from citizen to consumer could, however, counter academic intransigence. Individual self interest is stronger now and this development is in parallel with the deep social changes where pillars in other spheres have been weakened if not yet quite crumbled as has happened in the Church and Parliament. Surely this affront on the academy's pillars will be afforded new weight from the Tory / Liberal alliance. A new format Ph.D would see the individual telling the academy "I can choose" in a world where user generated content as facilitated by Web 2.0 technology is the norm. Is the brave new world on its way? Academics are able to accommodate the change, but are they willing?

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