Chapter 3 | Practice

I. Digital Decisions

     When the president of Harvard University announced in a special address (given May 29, 1996) that his institution had "committed itself to spend approximately $50 million on new administrative data systems in the next five years" and "something in the range of $75 million to $100 million on academic-related information technology--above and beyond the substantial investments made since the early 1990s" (Rudenstine 4), it was as though higher education had finally realized its fate. Neil Rudenstine, Professor of English and American Literature, well-known friend of libraries, respected author and lover of books, had faced the administrative facts of his own presidency:  

In our Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as well as nearly all our nine professional schools, teachers and students--including freshmen--are online, with easy access to the network. Email is commonplace.... In 1992, we began a retrospective conversion of Harvard's entire library catalogue system--the largest university library system in the world--at a projected cost of $22 million. By next year, full catalogue entries for the approximately 12 million volumes in our 92 libraries will be online and "searchable" in any number of ways.... A year ago, the Arts and Sciences Web site (which includes many subsites) experienced about 150,000 hits in the month of March. This March, just one year later, the number of hits increased to 2.3 million. There is no sign of a slowdown. (3-4)

     In fact, things, as Rudenstine intimates, are speeding up. As Ethernet connections are replaced by faster Gigabit Ethernet connections or by asynchronous transmission mode (ATM) technology, the usefulness of the Internet, and especially the World Wide Web, will become even more apparent (King 22).(1)  Like business and industry, education--not just its administration, but instruction itself--will have to take on the technology of the future: a technology that is already an integral part--a resounding fact--of our present.

     One might expect that someone like Rudenstine, who presides over a large private institution known primarily for its libraries and liberal arts programs, would find these facts at least a little disconcerting. What, after all, becomes of a private institution--an institution that people pay a substantial amount of money to keep private--when market forces and technological innovations compel it to operate more publicly? And what becomes of individual libraries and exclusive liberal arts programs in an age of institutional interconnectivity and information science? The tone of Rudenstine's speech, however, is as far from bleak, self-absorbed speculation as it is from giddy techno-utopianism. "No one," he remarked candidly, "should believe that electronic communication can be--or should be--a substitute for direct human contact. But the electronic process has some features that do permit an actual extension of the scope, continuity, and even the quality of certain forms of interaction, even though communication over the network lacks other absolutely essential aspects of 'real' conversations in the presence of 'real' people" (7).

     This view of the Internet as an "extension" of the real-life, real-time educational process rather than as a surrogate of that process is encouraging. As Rudenstine sees it, educators will be revising and augmenting their instructional repertoire to engage students in a fashion that is at once more timely and convenient as well as more elaborate and content rich. To enable this flurry of revision and augmentation Harvard has chosen to commit itself seriously to assistance and training. Instead of hiring slick webmasters of the Robert Helmick's Real Education ilk(2) to "convert" a course "from on campus delivery to online delivery" (AAHESGIT Listserv 4-14-97), Harvard began its own Instructional Computing Group (ICG), a department of computer-savvy arts and sciences professors devoted to the institution and its quality of instruction, working not only to help professors develop their online materials but to teach them how to do it themselves. The dedication is such that the ICG Director, Paul Bergen, committed his staff, in the academic year 1997-1998, to offering Harvard faculty and fellows at least a class a day, every day, on a variety of online course design techniques and topics (Bergen 1997).

1. A Real Education?

     But such is Harvard: it is an institution with the resources and clout to make a long-term investment in its people while protecting (at least for now) its real-life, real-time educational philosophy and environment. Institutions that cannot afford the substantial, up-front funds for assistance and training but still recognize the advantages of online learning may feel compelled to go the route of Real Education (See Figure 3-1), and consider purchasing an online course for what it might cost to have one full-time professor or two adjuncts teach it during a semester. "Our people would convert all of your academic and administrative services to online delivery..." says CEO Helmick. "Your cost to start the [online] campus would be $100,000 (20 courses times $5,000). As students enrolled and took courses in September we would charge you $120 per student per course. We could not raise that price for four years. There would be no charge for the hardware, software, maintenance, tech support or upgrades for that four year period" (AAHESGIT Listserv 4-14-97).

     Where exactly instructors fit into a scheme like this is unclear; presumably they are at the other end of a phone line or computer, teaching their students via the hardware and software that have been implemented. Whether or not instructors of the future will have real-life, real-time meetings with their students--what two Australian psychology professors have recently called "FTF" or "face-to-face" experiences (Chester and Gwynne 188)--may be entirely up to the marketplace. How those institutions that do view the Internet as a surrogate for FTF instruction ultimately manage themselves and their student clientele may offer instructors at more traditional colleges and universities some insight. Totally virtual institutions, such as the UK's Open University, Canada's Athabasca University, and the US's Western Governors University (WGU), have experienced some remarkable successes, if not with students at least with funding.

     Of particular note is the WGU, which has received major grants from IBM, Sun Microsystems, AT&T, Simon & Schuster's Educational Management Group, International Thomson Publishing, the Huntsman Corporation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation ("WGU Newsletters" February 1997). In addition to a remarkable amount of private funding, the WGU has a $100,000 commitment from each of the governors of the fifteen participating states and the protectorate of Guam, making the entire operation (well before the admission of a single student) extremely successful and investment-worthy.

The Monitor Company, which is developing the WGU business plan, has provided the Board of Trustees with preliminary findings, indicating the WGU will need an estimated $25 million in funding during its first eight to nine years of operation. After that, it is expected to begin making sufficient revenues to cover expenditures. The low-funding requirement is largely due to WGU's planned emphasis on outsourcing instruction and student services to established providers, thereby minimizing the fixed investment needed to establish the entity. ("WGU Newsletters" April 1997)

     While the concept of "outsourcing instruction and student services" might sound somewhat cavalier to anyone who has worked for a college or university for a few years, it is at the very heart and soul of this endeavor. Perhaps even more than operating a major university successfully, what is at stake here is the investment these mostly Republican governors have made in the idea that universities can be run as businesses and, therefore, profit as businesses.

     The governors are very open about this; in fact, they publicly endorse a set of criteria for the virtual university that is first and foremost "market-oriented," which means that the WGU will not be "controlled by those who represent established interests with regard to either the delivery of education or its certification"; it will focus "on the needs of students and employers rather than instructional providers...not providing instruction directly, but drawing upon needed capacity wherever it exists...." ("WGU Goals and Visions"). Like the Real Education plan, the WGU vision is also rather nebulous on the issue of whose capacity will be needed, when, where, how often, or at what rate of pay. However, virtual institutions like the WGU would be foolish to announce their plans for instructors prematurely, as these institutions may capitalize upon a growing body of educational materials that are or will be made available to the public free of charge.

     Through its teaching with technology initiative, for example, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has already made a good deal of headway in the area of digital education, vowing to "do three things" to help the United States meet its educational goals:  

1) Preserve and create high-quality educational content.
2) Identify and disseminate high-quality educational content.
3) Empower teachers to take full advantage of new technologies.
(Hackney "NEH's Role in the Digital Age")

In 1996 the NEH funded twelve software projects which amounted to $2.2 million, a move that represented a relatively new spending strategy for the agency.(3) Many of these projects will disseminate content via the World Wide Web, content (with a good deal of built-in interactivity) that is intended to become part and parcel of what some instructors in the humanities might cover in their own courses; thus the content may be integrated into any number of online course offerings at any number of institutions. A Web site called Humanities OnLine (or H-Net), also funded by the NEH, promotes and demonstrates online models of teaching and learning via Internet technologies, both encouraging and enabling scholars, teachers, and students by way of a discussion listserv and a relatively well-screened repository of educational information, such as book and software reviews, bibliographies, online resource guides, museum exhibits, as well as course syllabi, outlines and handouts.

     Having high-quality educational content available in cyberspace is absolutely essential to getting a high-quality education in cyberspace. And, until very recently, the paucity of educational content online--especially for students of the arts and humanities--was at least one of the deterrents to online teaching. Why spend all that time on computers or have students spend all that time on computers when the quality materials are in print? And, by the way, just what is so marvelous about another series of technologies born out of scientific and military research that is exploited by business and industry, especially when these technologies constitute a real threat to such fundamentally well-loved traditions as reading books or researching in libraries? This less pragmatic, more ideological resistance--what amounts to an unwillingness on the part of many in higher education to repudiate what is real for what is virtual--is going to be more tenacious, in part because the "high-quality content" argument is, as NEH investments demonstrate, becoming less and less an issue and in part because such resistance is not without genuine merit. One might argue that in our society it is the role of educators--and particularly educators in the humanities--to resist, to work hard at slowing down "progress," if only just enough that it might be more thoroughly evaluated.

2. Thoreau's Question

     In the same month that Neil Rudenstine made his public address, explaining with a certain exuberance Harvard's decision to invest millions of dollars in academic-related instructional technology, Geoffrey Hartman, Sterling Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Yale, was lamenting the very fate of his profession in a guest column in PMLA:  

The advent of hypertext and cyberspace will, no doubt, affect the reading page--but perhaps thin it rather and institute a new density.... Past a certain age many in our profession feel abandoned by the direction it has taken. There is considerable alienation, especially in the literary humanities, where it is always difficult to make the case for progress. While it is exhilarating, for example, to travel at great bibliographic speed, to look through Windows 95 or 2000 at an ever-varying, manipulatable landscape of information, Thoreau's question, from the age of the steam engine, about where we are going or what we are missing in trying to get there sooner, keeps its relevance. (383)

To people in the literary humanities--to English language, composition and literature professionals--digital technology means real change. And real change wouldn't be real change without its most resolute feature: real loss.

     Because we are in the midst of an electronic or digital revolution and have been caught up for some time in an age of information, it is difficult to discern what those real loses might be in more precise terms. As is the case with real gains, many just have a feeling about the losses...a sensation, perhaps, that is intensified in the twilight of any century and, perhaps, even more so at a millennium's end. In her novel Orlando, Virginia Woolf uses the presence of a "great cloud" to symbolize the murky pervasiveness of such a feeling. At the "imperceptible, ubiquitous" moment at which one era becomes another, Woolf's cloud looms over everything, making the world look "bruised and sullen" and "less intense." Worst of all, the cloud ushers in "blustering gales" and a melancholy "damp" that "makes its way into every house"; suddenly things feel "chilly," and without really understanding the cause, human beings begin to sense, "the chill in their hearts; the damp in their minds" (148-149).

     The feelings of abandonment and alienation to which Hartman alludes are not so new to people or to the profession that the advent of hypertext and cyberspace should be considered a sole contributor. The reality is that Western society, and American society in particular, has been moving away from a book-based concept of literacy for a long time. E.D. Hirsh's Cultural Literacy (1987), rather like Susan Faludi's Backlash (1992), acknowledges or takes for granted certain cultural changes in society as so mainstream that full-blown critiques of those changes can be possible. It is during this time--a time of acknowledged change--that the rhetoric of the reactionary can be most compelling or poignant.

     J. Hillis Miller, Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of California, a Yale School compatriot of Hartman's and member of the Modern Language Association's Ad Hoc Committee on the Future of the Print Record, is diligently pragmatic in his reactions, hoping very much for gains if only to master his feelings of loss. In "What Is the Future of the Print Record?"--a brief essay in the MLA's annual publication on pedagogy, Profession 95--he writes:

One thing is clear to me. The first obligation of the MLA is to support vigorously those efforts in textual preservation, now funded to a large degree by the NEH, that will at best be able to save only twenty-five or thirty percent of the titles printed on acid paper.... The second obligation: the MLA needs to make every effort to study the effects of the electronic revolution.... To study this revolution means supporting the radically new graduate training that will make our young scholars and teachers appropriately educated for the study of many cultures (as in, for example, global literature in English or United States literature in languages other than English) as well as for the study of those media that mix language with other visual and auditory materials, media such as cinema, television, and video, which have such influence on our lives today. To make sure the electronic revolution proceeds in ways beneficial to our interests means resisting the rapid commercialization of the Internet that is at this moment occurring. It means also doing our best to make sure that electronic storage of printed materials carries as much as possible the history that is embodied in the physical artifacts.... (95)

     Miller's recommendations are rich with a touching irony. First and foremost, he wants to save the books, even though he senses (and encourages training for) a coming generation's less bookish future. His argument, though, is not so much an argument for literature as it is for history or archeology, as the book itself is an artifact, a physical object that provides part of the historical context for a work of literature that has been represented in a particular form. When Miller calls upon the MLA to support textual preservation--to save the books from rotting away in America's libraries--his interest is in saving a part of the past that he knows is already being lost.

3. The Ethics of Hypertext

     In "The Ethics of Hypertext" Miller makes the point that when books are digitized or converted, as Nicholas Negroponte would say, "from atoms to bits" (4), much of what the book once was is no longer. He insinuates that the risk of loss is especially great if the conversion is done by people who are lacking in a certain appreciation of books. When he compares his Oxford University Press paperback copy of Anthony Trollope's Ayala's Angel to the Oxford Text Archive digital copy of Anthony Trollope's Ayala's Angel, he calls into question much of what makes literature literature and, perhaps more importantly, much of what makes reading literature so remarkable a pleasure.

     Noting that the print version of Ayala's Angel is part of "the Oxford World's Classics series" and that the "series defined what was a world classic," he recognizes that Oxford, by making the book "widely available and cheap," exercises "a large power of canon formation." That is, as new historians and postcolonial critics have been arguing for some time, publishers can wield a good deal of colonizing power. "The list of cities," he observes, "where the Oxford University Press in 1960 (on the page facing the title page) asserts itself as located reads like a litany of sites associated with British colonialism and imperialism: 'Glasgow, New York, Toronto, Melbourne, Wellington, Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Karachi, Kuala Lumpur, Cape Town, Ibadan, Nairobi, Accara.'" Nevertheless, he argues in the same paragraph that Oxford University Press gave Ayala's Angel "an unmistakable authority as 'literature,' as a classic of world literature" (29). That "little book," says Miller:  

feels comfortable in my hands. I could carry it in my pocket and have done so. It not only feels familiar. It also smells familiar. It has that faint smell of paper, printer's ink, glue, cardboard, and cloth those who belong to the book culture know so well. I know how to read it (word after word in linear sequence from page one to the end), and how to find my way around it. (28-29)

Clearly, part of the joy of reading literature is, for Miller, the joy of the book itself, and as he himself admits, its is a bias he cannot (and apparently does not want to) overcome: "My relation to this object is an example of the way so many readers of my generation and of many generations before mine have participated in the fetishism of the book" (28).

     The digital version of Ayala's Angel is "cut off" from "signs of its historical context.... It exists as a large number of 'bits' of information, zeros or ones inscribed as magnetic differences on a hard disk or on magnetic tape or as minute scratches on an optical disk or as electrical pulses on the wires and wireless transmissions of the Internet" (30). When describing the digital text, Miller's language is polysyndetonic, implying an ever-lengthening catalogue, a kind of "good God, what next?" in an age of endless technological "begetting"; polysyndeton can have the effect of being quite entrancing, but it can be incredibly frustrating just as well. This is often the case with new, "time saving" technology: the effect is such that one can be entranced and frustrated all at once.

     And the effect is implicit in Miller's recounting of his discovery that the "1,321,000 bytes" (30) of Ayala's Angel is in no way affiliated with Oxford University Press. Like many online books it is, instead, part of a text archive that "stores whatever texts special interest groups happen to have taken the trouble to turn into machine-readable form" (33). Even while Miller acknowledges that a new, potentially more democratic process of canon formation is taking place in the digital world, he is nevertheless more concerned about a book that "floats in cyberspace" being little more than a text file among so many other files (including image, audio, and video files). "As such," he adds, "it might now be the object of a globalized 'cultural studies' by scholars who are themselves more and more cut off, in part by their use of the computer and by their inhabitation of cyberspace, from participation in any local culture of their own" (34).

     What is even more frightening to Miller, is what these culturally estranged, cyber-scholars might do with an electronic text. Musing over some of the printer codes he downloads with his digital Trollope, Miller makes the remark that "Ayala's Angel comes from the Oxford Archive carrying some of the marks of the beast..." (34). It comes to him via his computer via the Internet, quite amazingly, as if from ether (though probably Ethernet), as vulnerable as humanity:

This sense of the fragility of the text's inscribed embodiment is reinforced by the fact that once I have got the whole file in my computer I can change it in all kinds of ways.... I could...easily deface the text in any way I might want, for example by scrambling the chapters, substituting a new word for every example of a given word, removing all examples of a given word or words, and so on. I could change every example of Ayala to Susan and turn the book into Susan's Angel. I do not know why I would want to do that, but I could. (35)

It is a well observed fact of human nature that people do things because they can, often without reason, and usually without much forethought. President Bill Clinton's moratorium on human cloning experiments in the United States attests to this fact (Reuters June 9, 1997). If someone can clone a sheep, after all, someone will eventually clone a human being. And where would the integrity of the individual be then, especially if the copy were just as "perfect" as the original?

     The ethical dilemma of digital media in general is that digital media can be copied perfectly, and with great speed and ease. It is then, as Miller mentions, subject to any kind of manipulation. The integrity of the original work of art-- especially if its genesis is digital--is certainly at risk, but so is the integrity of the individual artist. This is especially apparent in commercial television and film. A famous actor or personality, such as John Wayne, for example, can be cast (years after his own death) into a beer advertisement.(4) Film director Robert Zemeckis was applauded for the innovative technique of digitally enhancing audio and video of John F. Kennedy so that he seemed a part of the cast of the Academy Award-winning movie Forrest Gump (1994). Unlike Kennedy, though, Bill Clinton was alive and well to criticize the unauthorized use and manipulation of his voice and image in another of Zemeckis's films, Contact (1997). White House counsel Charles Ruff's letter to Zemeckis was nothing if not direct: "By appropriating President Clinton's image and words in this manner, you have essentially given him a role in your film without his authorization." Zemeckis's reaction, however, was blithely confident: "No, the president is in the public domain. He works for us. I hear he's a big fan of Jodie's [Contact's lead actor Jodie Foster]." While the White House did make it clear that this particular use of digital technology is unwanted in any future films, it made no mention of a lawsuit (Reuters July 15, 1997).

     As is usually the case, technology moves more quickly than our legal experts do. "In the digital world," says Negroponte, "it is not just a matter of copying being easier and copies more faithful. We will see a new kind of fraud, which may not be fraud at all" (59). When the image, audio or text is a perfect (perhaps even improved) replica of the original image, audio or text, and it is recast, remixed or remastered to achieve some effect that may be quite different, what fraud is and where legal protections apply become extremely unclear. "Copyright law is totally out of date. It is a Gutenberg artifact" (Negroponte 58). The days of moveable metal type on paper have been supplanted by the "etexts" of archive projects, such as Michael Hart's very ambitious and aptly named Project Gutenberg. When the Materials Research Lab at the University of Illinois gave Hart what amounted to a million dollars of computer time in 1971, he promptly decided to use it for storage, retrieval and searching rather than for computing (in the strict programming sense). Hart's decision was to include the public in on his computer time, setting himself a goal of ten thousand "etexts" to share with everyone by the end of the year 2001. Mining the public domain,

Project Gutenberg selects etexts targeted a bit on the "bang for the buck" philosophy...we choose etexts we hope extremely large portions of the audience will want and use frequently.... Project Gutenberg has avoided requests, demands, and pressures to create "authoritative editions." We do not write for the reader who cares whether a certain phrase in Shakespeare has a ":" or a ";" between its clauses. We put our sights on a goal to release etexts that are 99.9% accurate in the eyes of the general reader. Given the preferences your proofreaders have, and the general lack of reading ability the public is currently reported to have, we probably exceed those requirements by a significant amount. ("History and Philosophy of Project Gutenberg")

     While Hart's heart may be in the right place, he may not fully understand the ramifications of his own project. What he sees as providing a service to the general public, many others may see as a threat to the integrity of literary work; for once the book has been recast (from text to etext), it is electronically primed, so to speak, for remixing and/or remastering. While a misplaced colon or semicolon might cause an academic like Miller some minor irritation (though he might be even more irritated to hear the word "phrase" used as a synonym for "clause"), the transforming nature of hypertext is far more confounding.

     Unlike linear texts, hypertexts can be read in any number of nonlinear ways, and if the hypertext happens to be linked to the World Wide Web, the nonlinear reading can be as infinite as the Web is infinitely intertextual. An etext that has become a hypertext is something at once the same yet very different. It is a digitally enhanced version of the of the original--recast, remixed and remastered to facilitate a reading that is, by its very nature, something other than what it once was. Hypertext "turns a linear verbal text into a vast indeterminate assemblage," says Miller, and "[t]he possibility of such hypertext explosions of the linear continuity of older texts is intrinsic to the new electronic media" (35-36). With copyright where it is today, those digital representations in the public domain--Jude the Obscure, Middlemarch, Ayala's Angel--are likely to have any number of new adventures; as hypertexts, they may come to say things they could never say before; they may go places and do things that, at one time, might have filled their papery hearts with a papery terror.

4. Subversion of the Traditional

     But, who knows for sure? Some texts may be up to the new freedom of saying (seriously) whatever; they may be exceedingly comfortable outside their bindings, finding cyberspace a kind of afterlife for texts that were in various states of decay, a place where they can "hook up" or mingle quite cozily with any number of their own kind. Back when Miller was less an archivist and more a deconstructionist, he actually seemed to have a little more faith in the power of the word. "Great works of literature are likely to be ahead of their critics," he wrote in "Deconstructing the Deconstructors." "They are there already. They have anticipated explicitly any deconstruction the critic can achieve.... Chaucer, Spencer, Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, George Eliot, or even Williams are...there already, however, necessarily in such a way that their works are open to mystified readings" (31).

     A shift in perspective that views hypertext as a means of facilitating mystified readings (rather than as means of altering or defacing canonical writings) may be, in the end, a good way to cope. Having faith that the truly great works of literature are "there already"--beyond criticism and, ostensibly, beyond any critical analysis technology--may seem radically humanist to some, but it may be that it takes a strong believer, if not unbeliever, to venture into the arena of hypertext, where a linear text disappears, its context is diminished, and the intertext becomes a plenary marvel. "Electronic textuality brings with it many changes," says George Landow, Professor of English and Art History,

but not all concern loss, as so many critics of culture seem to believe. [Jean-Francois] Lyotard, for instance, claims that the new information technologies produce effects much like the journalist's rewriting, "which consists in erasing all traces left in a text by unexpected and 'fantasy' association" (34), but the evidence of hypertext works thus far created, both instructional and literary, suggests that on the contrary electronic linking graphs idiosyncrasy and personal association and in particularly liberating ways. (32)

While Lyotard is thinking primarily about writing--of the potential of erasing writing via rewriting, Landow is thinking primarily about reading--of the potential of understanding reading better via a method such as hypertext. For Landow moving through a text by way of a series of hyperlinks that may be thematically or linguistically (or in many other ways) interconnected does not constitute a textual loss but a textual gain.

     Hypertext enhances a reader's ability to traverse a text, assisting the reader's critical instincts while also informing the reader about those instincts. Thus a reader might follow a certain series of links, both within the text and perhaps well beyond it. If some readers are interested in, say, a text's many biblical allusions (some of which might be linked together within the text and/or linked directly to one of the many hypertext Bibles on the Web), they can pursue and peruse, relatively quickly, a good deal of literary information. Using the computer or the computer's Web browser application (Netscape Navigator or Communicator or Microsoft Explorer), readers can also review their own paths of navigation, their own step-by-step progression through a text or any variety of texts.

     For example, when I want to read a good hypertext version of a text (and I do this at work where the Internet is fast), I usually start out at a popular Duke University site called "Hyperizons," an excellent little place in a quiet corner of cyberspace mostly run by Michael Shumate, a fiction writer, archivist and manuscripts cataloguer at the university's Special Collections Library. Shumate is the consummate professional, providing a wealth of information about hypertext and hypermedia, but to keep abreast of what Miller calls those "hypertext explosions" of "linear continuity" I look often at a subsection of "Hyperizons" called "Print Literature Converted to Hypertext." There I find among many other options that vie for my attention some interesting work by Daniel Anderson, an instructor and doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin, who, like me, started his doctoral work in 1990 and hopes to finish before the end of the millennium. He has been teaching online a good deal, too--American literature mostly. Ten minutes later, when I finally get around to his online version of Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street"--to which he adds another subtitle: "an interactive version"--I have a pretty good sense of the hypertext genesis, why Anderson chose the story and where he got the etext (from Columbia University's Text Archive: Project Bartleby--already converted from ASCII to HTML).

     When I get back to the hypertext of "Bartleby the Scrivener" at last, I notice that Anderson encourages his students to read five essays (all of which are linked into "Bartleby") before navigating the story itself (Melville would appreciate the metaphor). The interactive version does not begin with the familiar, "I am a rather elderly man" (1091), but with a series of analyses of the word "prefer," the "significance of the Dead Letter Office" and "imagery of walls and the theme of views." Despite the diversions and preludes, the text of "Bartleby" reads pretty much the same; no explosions of linearity here. So far, it looks as though Miller has little to worry about. Of more interest is the path of my own reading (which I discover by clicking on "Go" in the Netscape Navigator menu). On this particular day, I have learned by way of tracking my own idiosyncracies that I am more interested in the professional life of Daniel Anderson than in poor Bartleby. I find this stranger and his curriculum vitae compelling. I have a question about some of the work he is doing on hypertext, so I email him a quick note.

     One of the great promises of digital media is that it will get more and more personal as the technology evolves. When television is digital, for example, the "six o'clock news not only can be delivered when you want it, but it also can be edited for you and randomly accessed by you.... Eventually, when you watch a baseball game, you will be able to do so from any seat in the stadium or, for that matter, from the perspective of the baseball" (Negroponte 49). Reading--and especially scholarly reading--will be about the individual, too. When texts are hypertexts, individuals will be far more inclined to read them in ways that reflect their personal interests; they may want to read only those Browning poems involving Catholic priests or those fourteen-line monologues and soliloquies in Shakespeare's dramas. Some hypertexts will come with features that allow readers to customize the writing itself; one might want to leave out the profanity, perhaps, or see the video dramatization of the text rather than the actual writing. Readers may even become their own writers when participating in the kind of programmed or "scripted" hypertexts that allow readers an interactive role in the creation of the narrative.(5)

     Whereas some hypertexts, such as Michael Benadetti's Mercury, use a complex system of links so that readers can make their way through a text that is available as the result of the work of an author or group of authors, other texts, such as the Kate Bush-inspired No Dead Trees: The Interactive Novel and (again) Daniel Anderson's Becomings, rely upon various computer applications that allow individuals to add to, delete, and/or revise each others' writing. Thus a "novel" can be ever-evolving, though always on the brink of oblivion (should someone decide to delete too much). A variation on the theme is AMAZON.COM's The Greatest Tale Ever Told, one of the Web's most expansive and lucrative group writing projects to date. Amazon, a successful online bookseller, has recognized the commercial potential of hypertext. Luring people to its Web site by way of a novel-writing contest that paid out $1,000 a day and was open to all,(6) the company hoped to sell printed texts while also creating an experimental online novel ("Enter to Win $100,000...").

     In his essay, "The End of Books," Robert Coover, creative writer and colleague of George Landow's at Brown University, writes of his own attraction to hypertext. While he admits that in his "seventh decade" he is "rather committed, for better or for worse, to the obsolescent print technology," he is nevertheless "interested as ever in the subversion of the traditional bourgeois novel and in fictions that challenge linearity." For Coover, hypertext would become a marvelous tool for teaching creative writing. His Brown University Hypertext Fiction Workshops have been "devoted as much to the changing of reading habits as to the creation of new narratives" (24). And when students work with hypertext, they not only learn how to use computer applications that compel them to read and write in new ways, but they are forced to think more carefully about the nature and expectations of a "linear, bounded, and fixed" (Landow and Delany 3) mentality that is typical of the book culture.

     Perhaps even more significant than getting young writers to adopt new methods of expression (for Coover notes that his students "are notoriously conservative creatures" [24]), is Coover's own adoption (as a professor in his "seventh decade") of more than a few new instructional methods:

At our weekly workshops, selected writers display, on an overhead projector, their developing narrative structures, then face the usual critique of their writing, design, development of character, emotional impact, attention to detail and so on, as appropriate. But they also engage in continuous online dialogue with one another, exchanging criticism, enthusiasm, doubts, speculations, theorizing, wisecracks. So much fun is all of this, so compelling this "downright celebratory" experience as Mr. Landow would have it, that the creative output, so far anyway, has been much greater than that of ordinary undergraduate writing workshops, and certainly of as high a quality. (26)

     In addition to his tinkering with computer applications, such as Storyspace and Intermedia, Coover and his students used online communication--notably email--more and more frequently, making a once-a-week class an everyday learning experience that is student-driven rather than instructor-driven. The fluid, contingent, and multivocal nature of hypertext also lends itself to a good deal of collaboration, a situation rather unusual for students of so solitary an art as writing. "In addition to the individual fictions," says Coover,

which are more or less protected from tampering in the old proprietary way, we in the workshop have also played freely and often quite anarchically in a group fiction space called 'Hotel.' Here writers are free to check in, to open up new rooms, new corridors, new intrigues, to unlink text or create new links, to intrude upon or subvert the texts of others, to alter plot trajectories, manipulate time and space, to engage in dialogue through invented characters, then kill off one another's characters or even to sabotage the hotel's plumbing. (26)

With the improvements in sheer computing power, improving computer interface systems and a slew of applications that are directed at instructors and students of the humanities, many more teaching-with-technology success stories are coming to light.

     A study coming out of the Penn State Commonwealth Educational System (CES) assesses a system-wide, student-centered experiment in higher education called Project Empower, which is somewhat encouraging. Similar to the Harvard model, the CES model focuses on "empowering its faculty" (771) first and foremost. Thus in 1995 the CES established The Center for Learning and Academic Technologies (CLAT). However, unlike Harvard's Instructional Computing Group, which is devoted to a single institution, CLAT is a small, centrally located department that serves the needs of eighteen campuses across the state of Pennsylvania. Despite the funding and personnel issues, CLAT and Project Empower were able to demonstrate very clearly that when faculty members are adequately supplied with hardware and software and assisted by instruction-oriented technologists (rather than by computer-oriented programmers), they are quite capable of change as well as open to and energetic about new ways of teaching online.

     The Project Empower statistics, which represent 108 fully funded and assisted faculty members, reflect some serious methodological changes on the part of instructors as a direct result of their use of technology. Extended lecturing went down by 19 percent while small group discussion went up by 46 percent. Computer lab activities rose by 54 percent and electronic conferencing skyrocketed by 260 percent . More importantly, though, instructors gained a deeper respect for the necessity of collaboration, especially cross-discipline collaboration. Thematic linkages across disciplines increased by 63 percent while team teaching with other faculty rose to 86 percent. The bottom line result of the experiment is that the instructors who participated seemed convinced of the usefulness of certain computer and Internet technologies. "None of the respondents," say Noel and Brannon,

indicated they would go back to teaching as they had before Empower. Ninety-four percent said they intend to develop additional new learning activities for their students. Seventy-five percent indicated a desire to learn more about new teaching techniques. Large numbers also indicated that they would revise their units and try them again, and seek more opportunities to collaborate with their peers. (773)

     Such successes can be successes, as Harvard President Rudenstine noted in his special address, because of "a very close fit--a critical interlock--between the structures and process of the Internet, and the main structures and processes of university teaching and learning" (3). Because Internet technologies can emulate electronic versions of well-established features of the educational process--researching in libraries, conferencing with instructors or students, working in laboratories, writing and editing papers, etc.--the Internet seems to be a natural for augmenting or extending the learning environment. Having already made the commitment to invest nearly $100 million in such technology, Harvard, like so many other institutions and systems that have made sizeable investments, will need to make its technology work.

II. Freedoms, Abuses and the Wisdom of CONFU

     No one likes an imperative, especially when it is economically driven and especially when it might negatively affect the quality of one's work. Nevertheless, instructors at colleges and universities will soon feel the pressure to adapt and to use technology in their teaching. Already, the system of rewarding instruction in higher education is beginning to change. The spending strategy of the NEH is a good example, but instructor incentive plans cropping up at institutions throughout the United States are even more telling. Professors and fellows who are technologically inclined at Harvard may apply for annual grants of up to $15,000 through a fund that has been set aside by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to develop innovative applications in instruction; these would "promise to have broad and/or continuing impact" with priority being "given to proposals that will be widely used and reused and that can be expected to serve as practical models for other courses." Additionally, applicants are reminded that "[p]latform independence, ease of use, and versatility have resulted in widespread acceptance of the World Wide Web as a lingua franca. ("Announcement of Available Funding...").

     The Penn State System's Project Empower awarded over one hundred faculty members computers, telecommunications technology, release time and generous technical support (Noel and Brannon 772). In more educationally stymied regions like the South, the University System of Georgia (USG), often in conjunction with its distance learning network, has been offering a combination of grants and programs to the technologically inclined since 1994. Like the Penn State System, the Georgia System also operates a small, centralized support office, the Office of Information and Instructional Technology (OIIT), which trains groups of instructors from around the state. In addition to what has been an annual series of technology grant opportunities for instructors, the state operates a Connecting Teachers with Technology Program, which trains instructors with relatively little technical or computer experience. Other faculty development opportunities, such as the Governor's Teaching Fellows Program, encourage technology-driven educational applications and operate under the auspices of what amounts to a government mandate:

The Governor's Teaching Fellows (GTF) Program was established in 1995 by the Honorable Zell Miller, Governor of the State of Georgia, to provide Georgia's higher education faculty with expanded opportunities for developing important teaching skills. Governor Miller envisioned that the program would address the pressing need faculty members have to use emerging instructional technologies--technologies that are becoming increasingly important for learning in today's society. ("History and Purpose")

Since 1996 the USG has also taken to rewarding instructors for the work they have already accomplished with technology and instruction with an annual stipend that amounts to additional pay (and sometimes additional funding for the instructor's home institution) as well as the special title of Board of Regents Distinguished Professor of Teaching and Learning (Simpson 1997).

1. Very Distinctive Powers

     Thus instructional priorities are changing or are being changed, and the rate of change is quickening. As more instructors in higher education begin to use these emerging technologies, the more evident and public their work is going to be--to students, to other instructors, and especially to department chairs and administrators who can view online courses and course materials very easily. The same may be true for those who instruct via other telecommunications and computer technologies, such as those associated with distance learning networks and stand-alone presentation software, as technologies are quickly converging (if they haven't already converged) with that digital domain known as the Internet.(7) While all of this might sound a shade Orwellian and may seem especially so when recently "enriched" colleagues start conversing in the acronym-ridden Newspeak of the World Wide Web ("Where do I FTP that, and what's the URL?"), it is important to realize that a number of these technologies, and especially the Internet technologies, have "very distinctive powers: a unique ability to complement, to reinforce, and to enhance many of our most powerful traditional approaches to university teaching and the process of learning" (Rudinstine 8).

     Although teaching has been traditionally a somewhat private affair, a closed room featuring students and an instructor that colleagues or supervisors observe relatively rarely, the increasingly public nature of online instruction may not be a bad thing necessarily. In fact, one might argue that the traditionally private nature of teaching has actually hurt the profession in that accounting for the work of instructors has been, thus far, rather difficult to do. Because teaching, like a boiling pot of water, has an effervescent quality about it, demonstrating all of the work that is done in a class--by instructor and by students--constitutes a real problem. An extensive report put out by the American Association of Higher Education (AAHE) has recognized the problem, in fact, and is calling upon colleges and universities to rethink the manner in which faculty members are evaluated, especially in terms of their teaching.

     The AAHE Teaching Initiative publication, Making Teaching Community Property: A Menu for Peer Collaboration and Peer Review (1996), articulates the need to make teaching itself a scholarly undertaking. In her introduction to the volume of essays, Pat Hutchings, the Initiative Director and a professor of English at the University of Wyoming, identifies the most compelling motifs of the AAHE cross-disciplinary study as being "corollaries," interrelated themes that invariably come back to the notion that teaching, like research, needs to find its way into a more public sphere. "First," she writes, "to call teaching scholarly work is to see it as a process of ongoing inquiry and reflection. It is to assert that teaching is a matter not simply of standing and delivering (no matter how skillfully or with what eloquence) but also of examining and advancing one's knowledge and practice." In order to "see it" at all, of course, teaching must be viewable and reviewable; thus, "[a] second corollary to a view of teaching as scholarly work is the need for collegial exchange and publicness." And as is often the case with communal systems and institutions, there is the not-so-small matter of accountability. "The third corollary of teaching as scholarly work is that faculty take professional responsibility for the quality of their work as teachers. In the context of research, faculty belong to scholarly communities that serve to set standards for the field--not in rigid exclusionary fashion, but as a constant process of defining and redefining the field, identifying and addressing its major issues, determining what's important, making judgments about work that is (and is not) seminal" (Hutchings "Introduction").(8)

     While the AAHE Teaching Initiative participants examined a variety of concepts designed to foster more dialogue and openness in the profession, such as mentoring, peer evaluation, team teaching, and teacher portfolios, only a few of those who contributed essays recognized the valuable role that Internet technologies could play in facilitating their aims. That is, instructors who put their course materials online are already (whether they know it or not) mentors and peers. They have put their work "out there" for others and the students of others to use and review; plus, such instructors are usually accessible via email and generally open to inquiry. Those instructors who "register" their courses with large online course indexes, such as The World Lecture Hall at the University of Texas at Austin, are in many ways consummate team teachers, for they have consciously decided to make their work--which is often intertwined with or linked to the work of others--available to a community of educators world wide. And as their work piles up--or rather doesn't pile up because it is stored in a computer--their teaching portfolios effectively create themselves. The labor that goes into developing online course materials can pay off, especially around evaluation time. Imagine a professor who does not have to spend a solid week in the office dredging up seven years worth of publications, syllabi, and evaluations come tenure review. Imagine that professor submitting, instead, a single CD-ROM or, even less cumbersome, nothing at all but a Web address where the review materials can be accessed. Imagine the people on the tenure committee not having to sift through a stack of papers but browsing the portfolio on their computers, selecting from a variety of directories and files featuring various texts (or hypertexts) but also computer applications, images, audio and video.

     As computer hardware and software become more affordable and easier to use, people will have to imagine less and less. It will quickly dawn upon those in academe to streamline administration-faculty relations in much the same way that colleges and universities are currently streamlining faculty-student relations. While an increased reliance upon computer interfaces rather than FTF meetings might seem at first an exercise in estrangement, many educators are finding that precisely the opposite is occurring. Instructors are beginning to experience an unprecedented freedom from the confines of time and place, exercising the life of the mind anytime, anywhere. "I probably stay in closer contact with geographically distant students to whom I am linked by Internet," says George Landow, "than with some at my own institution who do not use it. In other words, the digital word reconfigures education, continuing the process begun with the invention first of writing and then of printing, and frees the student from the need to be in the physical presence of the teacher. This freedom, which comes at a certain cost, also has the compensatory advantage of sharing scarce resources among institutions and providing the foundation for what some educators call 'distance learning' learning outside colleges and universities" ("What's a Critic to Do?" 12).

     With Internet and telecommunications technologies providing short cuts to reliable synchronous or asynchronous information dissemination and acquisition, a good deal of the administrative burden of teaching is lifted. Instructors who have experienced handing over yet another copy of their course syllabus to students who have managed to lose the original in less than a week will no longer find themselves in that awkward state of worry. Their syllabi and course materials cannot be lost because they "exist" in cyberspace; they are "there" for students to consult or print out whenever they need to. Thus two of higher education's remarkably enduring problems are solved: instructors are spared the familiar rummaging through file cabinets and consternation at being "fresh out of syllabi" and students are saved the keen embarrassment of "knocking on that office door" so early in the term.

     As students grow more accustomed to accessing and printing out the course materials they need via the Internet, instructors in general will experience a new freedom from paper work. Their syllabi, their handouts, even their exams can be managed online, minimizing the paper deluge as well as the time invested in photocopying and grading. While security issues are still a very real problem, a number of instructors are experimenting with online testing, as tests can be scored automatically by imbedded (client-side) or tangential (server-side) programs, providing students with immediate feedback while sending (via email) the test score to the instructor or, even better, to the instructor's electronic gradebook.(9)

     While Web testing might seem little more than a glorified version of popular exam scanners, such as Scantron or Opscan III, an invention that most English language, composition or literature instructors have found to be wholly useless, the programming languages of the Web give instructors (and especially those instructors who can do some programming or, at least, "repuropse" some programming) an infinite variety of options. Instructors who spend much of their time engaged in reading and grading the writing of their students will still find the Web very useful, as exam items requiring short answers or essay responses are easily rendered online. As with true-false or multiple choice items, responses to short-answer or essay items can be input and sent over the Internet to the instructor. In some cases, the written responses might even be graded by key-word or grammar-critiquing programs, and, perhaps, one day, as Negroponte suggests, a program that actually reads and writes.(10)

     Instructors can also save a good deal of time in terms of course preparation by using and linking to an increasing wealth of online course information and resources. A quick look at indexes such as those at the World Lecture Hall and H-Net can provide instructors--and particularly those in remote locations with limited resources--excellent, timely information as well as more than a few colleagues with ready expertise who are readily available via email. The World Lecture Hall is an especially good site for English professors, for it maintains an easy-to-use catalogue of courses in language, composition and literature in addition to indexes for and links to courses in advertising, the classics, comparative literature, communication, cultural studies, education, humanities, linguistics, philosophy, rhetoric, telecommunications, and women's studies. The site itself features links to courses in just about every academic discipline (from accounting to zoology), and every course listed includes a summary of content, the name of the instructor as well as the college or university at which the course is taught. Thus instructors looking to find out more about contemporary American autobiography, for example, might browse the World Lecture Hall until they run across an appropriate category, such as "English and Writing"; clicking on the hyperlink, they would then find a marvelously useful list of courses in English that are being taught around the country and around the world. They wouldn't have to scroll down too far before they found Natasha Sinutko's "Contemporary Autobiography in the United States," taught (as so many are) where online teaching and learning are flourishing: the University of Texas at Austin. Like many other English courses on the Web, Sinutko's course involves traditional texts which students can find in print, but she also provides links to electronic texts and some hypertexts that are required reading for the course as well.

     What instructors are learning to do very successfully online is to give their students a variety of options. For example, Larry Benson's course site at Harvard, "Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales," includes links to electronic versions of Chaucer's tales, even though the course itself requires The Riverside Chaucer (the ever faithful bound version). While Benson's offering of virtual and real copies of the same tales might seem at first a little redundant, it nevertheless plays into and encourages the instincts of undergraduates who have grown up with computers. By providing digital texts for them to work with as well as a link to the University of Michigan's "searchable" version of The Canterbury Tales, Benson creates a number of opportunities for his students. The course site not only makes online reading possible, but it makes computer-assisted literary analysis much easier to perform. In addition, Benson's site is a detailed research guide and a means for online class discussion; he tells his students up front that his "course is provided with resources on its web page, and much of its business will be conducted by computer" ("Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales"). Confirming his university president's claim that "the Internet works to create a new forum" (Rudenstine 7), Benson's incorporation and use of other instructor's Web sites in addition to his collaboration and dialogue with graduate fellows and students via the Internet is a fine example of the kind of elaborate multi-layering of information and intellectual exchange made possible by hypermedia and the World Wide Web.

     As the numbers of online course syllabi increase on the Web, it is becoming clear that many instructors are doing far more than summarizing or outlining their course readings, lectures and assignments. The sites are often, in fact, indispensable hypermedia and multimedia resources that deliver course readings, lectures and assignments to students--wherever they may be--at the click of a mouse. Nowadays a text such as the Complete Works of William Shakespeare can be on the syllabus as well as in the syllabus, a technological marvel that may hurry an end to that other periodic conundrum: "the lost book." The growing presence of online journals or "ejournals" can make a "hypersyllabus" a crucial secondary resource or research tool as well, for it can link students to various editions of Hamlet as easily as it can link them to Cynthia Joyce Clay's excellent article, "The Bardic Tradition's Effect on Elizabethan Casting," or the Illinois Shakespeare Festival Online. Instructors might also link their students to any number of Shakespeare Web sites or any number of the Usenet News conversations about Shakespeare and his plays; they might link their students together, too, in a "threaded" HyperNews-type discussion that allows students to read and respond to the comments of classmates while posting their own comments to the same discussion site.(11)

     And why stop there? An instructor who hasn't taught a course in Shakespeare for a while or who is teaching such a course for the first time might also arrange for some online expertise. I might, for example, contact a Shakespeare professor I had in graduate school a few years back. More than likely, he would be flattered, but, more importantly, he would be available to my students (and to me) via the Internet. Schedules permitting, he might even let my class "drop in" on a few of his graduate seminars by way of the state's distance education network.

     As telecommunications technologies go digital and begin to converge with computer and Internet technologies, the above scenario will become as seamless as it will be common.(12) Distance education programs that have, in the past, been more like correspondence courses (with a televised talking head) will come into their own. And while they may never achieve the same flavor of togetherness and interactivity that traditional, in-classroom courses do, the technology that mediates the class experience can offer participants an expanded learning environment with a great deal of convenience. Like various educational Web sites, expert guest lecturers or online advisors are likely to become prominent features of such courses, making the job of the instructor more investigative and collegial, making the instructor more a facilitator of information than a fountain of wisdom. The students' eyes will be turned toward the many experts and the many layers of course materials, while the instructor works behind the scenes, designing, orchestrating and providing feedback. The beauty of the Internet and digital media is that instructors will be as free as their students to decide where and when all of this teaching and learning takes place. They might write or revise their course files to their departmental or institutional servers from home (or from an apartment in Prague). Their lectures might be pre-recorded in Web video formats such as MPEG or AVI and then accessed by students asynchronously; or they might be recorded (and delivered) in real time via distance learning television or via Internet videoconferencing technologies such as CU-SeeMe.(13) Their students, in turn, might submit papers online, sending them along as email attachments or writing them to "protected realms" on a server.(14) If they already have their own Web sites (and many do), students may just send their instructors the assignment's URL.

2. Relevant and Forward-Looking

     One thing is clear: the diversity of these technologies means that instructors will have to learn and know a good deal more about them; however, such diversity also means that instructors will have more choices. And when they have more choices, that usually translates into more choices and benefits for students. This is already immensely clear in the area of educating students with disabilities. The reality of virtuality is that blind students can use adaptive, reading software far more easily; deaf students can, via email and chatrooms, communicate more readily. Students confined to wheelchairs can do much of their research--a somewhat arduous task even for the physically hearty--from a single location. And students with learning disabilities, such as "slow learners" or those diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), can return again and again to the materials--the syllabus, the readings, the assignments, the lecture notes, the class presentations, the practice exams--whenever and wherever they can be online.

     The most gratifying feature of putting course materials online may turn out to be what it can do for this group of students. While my impetus for learning to write hypermedia was to build a kind of information delivery/acquisitions system for distance education or "distant site" students in a composition course I taught in the winter of 1996, I discovered its more compelling value in the computer lab one day, quite by chance. One of my "on site" students, who is so visually impaired that she is legally blind, sat in front of the computer, nose to screen, locked into what she would describe as her usual, everyday battle with "tiny text"--the dreaded 12-point standard. When I showed her how she could manipulate the text size on Netscape Navigator by going into the "General Preference" menu under "Options" and change the font size default, she and I both were truly impressed. Suddenly, serendipitously, everything online was hers to see! I could tell from the expression on her face that my move to hypermedia would sustain me spiritually as well as intellectually. Yes, this method of teaching is practical for all of my students, but it can make all the difference in world to some of them.

     While the above scenario may seem inapplicable to many instructors because they have never had to accommodate students with disabilities in their classes, it is likely to become increasingly more relevant. For the numbers of disabled students in mainstream higher education are rising.(15) This is due in part to improvements in medicine and medical technology that enable the disabled; however, the most immediate catalyst has probably been the improvements made in legislation. As institutions and instructors fail to accommodate disabled students under the provisions of the Rehabilitation Act (1973) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (1990), they are much more likely to be sued and much more likely to lose their cases. In addition, students coming out of state secondary schools will have raised expectations about their state colleges and universities. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (1997), "makes it clear once and for all," said President Clinton at the official "signing in" of the bill, "that children with disabilities have a right to be in the classroom and to be included in school activities like work experience, science clubs and field outings.  It requires states and school districts to help to get disabled children ready to come to school and to accommodate them once they are there with services ranging from pre-school therapy to sign language interpreters, from mobility instructors to an extended school year.... Second, this legislation mandates that with appropriate accommodations children with disabilities learn the same things with the same curricula and the same assessments as all other children" (Clinton 1997).

     Just two months after Clinton publicly endorsed the new Act, Bill Gates announced that "Microsoft will soon release technology to make it easy for authors and third parties to add closed-captioning and audio description to Web pages and software applications." Thus online teaching and learning will be even more functional, as curricula and assessments, when digitized, are far more adaptable. "Windows 98," he wrote

will feature numerous new features for people with disabilities, including a screen magnifier and an easy way for individuals to customize their machines. Good accessibility work is under way at several other big companies, including IBM and Sun. And numerous small companies are making important contributions by providing everything from speech synthesizers to foot pedals for people who have trouble holding down keyboard keys. (Gates "Helping People with Disabilities Helps Everyone")

     The issue that new technologies and media can make college courses more accessible and equitable will no doubt find its way into the prosecuting attorney's legal argument. The disabled client will want to know why his university, which has all the necessary equipment and software and which offers several online or Web-based courses already, has failed to put his particular curriculum online. He may explain to the judge and jury that it is paramount for someone who is blind or wheelchair bound, for example, to have access to an online or Web-based course.

     For a blind person, something as basic as reading a course text can present a tremendous problem; course materials are not always available in braille or on tape, and people are not always generous with their time when it comes to reading handouts and texts aloud. Most blind students at colleges and universities do a good deal of scanning, a cumbersome and time consuming process that can yield imprecise results; but they do this so that they can hear their course materials read to them on their familiar computer reading systems at home. The benefit of reading software, such as JAWS or Outspoken, is that the student whose ear is attuned to the reader can understand the computerized voice at an accelerated rate, making up somewhat for all that time lost to scanning (Vance 1997). Unfortunately, the way many colleges and universities translate "accessible to the handicapped" is in terms of wheelchair ramps and larger restroom stalls. And while these are improvements that represent genuine progress, they allow for only the most basic navigation and use of a college or university. Imagine, for example, the wheelchair-bound person with multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy who is seriously motor impaired. She can get into the library, but how does she get the book off the top shelf? Even when some stranger concedes to help her, how can she turn the pages of her book or keep her place in the book when her hands are so prone to spasms that she cannot even hold a book?

     If she can click a mouse or speak into a microphone, however, she can read a book nowadays; with some adaptive programs and Internet connectivity, she can navigate many of the online libraries and/or electronic text repositories world wide, making her selection and reading her selection with relative ease--and it is getting even easier these days because she can do this comfortably (and affordably) at home as well as at school. Thus, the "sick days" that ordinarily work against the handicapped or infirm who attend colleges and universities can be overcome to some extent, especially if the class assignments, discussions and lectures are available online. As a joint project of the Australian Centre for Computer Enhanced Learning, IBM Australia, Ltd. and the Royal Children's Hospital School demonstrates, it is becoming entirely feasible to educate students at home while incorporating them into a public classroom setting. And not only is it less expensive in the long run, but it seems to have a number of therapeutic side effects as well. In the case of Anthonella, a home-bound student with Xerderma Pigmentosum (a condition that makes it impossible for Anthonella's skin and eyes to repair any, even the slightest, damage caused by sun light or Ultra Violet Rays), the new Internet technologies have altered her life dramatically:

Her view of herself and her world has changed. She sees her developing skills as offering her a window to the outside world now and potential employment from home in the future. She is now considering a variety of occupations for herself, with full realisation that she is a "night person," but not letting that fact limit her imagination.... (Mahon and Thalathoti 674)

     "Anthonella," note Mahon and Thalathoti, "having completed her primary education and commenced her secondary education this year will eventually have access to a tertiary qualification" (676).  When Anthonella is in college, cheaper, faster computers and Internet technologies that will invite more people to participate in a university education will also have the highly desirable effect of leveling the playing field, making research and communication easier to negotiate and manage for all. The prospects are so encouraging that traditional in-classroom courses, with their burgeoning online components, may begin to feel more and more like distance learning courses. Such a shift, however (away from the in-class lecture and toward the student's out-of-class work), would not be entirely predicated on technology. "The direction of movement in teaching and learning," notes Rudenstine, "has, for more than a century, been shifting away from a previously established model that viewed the faculty member (or an authoritative text, or a canon of texts) the dominant presence--as the transmitter--with the student as a kind of receiver" (7). That is, while Internet technologies can make education more convenient, they can also refocus the responsibility of learning on the learner:

The Internet virtually requires--even demands--that the user be an engaged agent, searching for information and then managing or manipulating whatever is found: solving problems, buttressing arguments with evidence, and exploring new, unknown terrain. Students are beguiled into tracking linkages from one source to another.... Their posture or attitude, seated in front of the computer, is to make something happen. And they generally act or pursue, rather than merely react and absorb. (Rudenstine 8)

     Some testimonials offered by online learners underscore Rudenstine's points. Terri Langan, a graduate student who took the time to write Steven Gilbert's AAHE Listserv, explains that he finally found what he was looking for when he came across Walden University's online masters program in Educational Change and Technology Innovation (See Figure 3-3). Not only did he find a school and program that allowed him to avoid all the problems associated with meeting "someone else's time schedule," but he felt that the program itself was "geared toward...the future." Perhaps more important than anything else, though, is that Langan is finding his studies to be compelling and rewarding:

I enjoy the challenge of the course work...because it's relevant and forward-looking, well integrated and structured so that as I move through my classes, connections are made and enhanced. I've been able to complete projects individually, with a partner, and as part of teams; I do the majority of my research through the Internet's vast resources. I also enjoy the schedule; I'm my own boss and can participate in asynchronous, threaded discussions at my convenience rather than confining them to strict time parameters of on-campus classes (the nice thing about this is that the threads can be picked up at any time during the semester, encouraging review and developmental thinking which often doesn't happen in on-campus classes--people constantly bring in sites and information they find to support both present and past conversations. (AAHESGIT Listserv 5-7-97)

     What this student enjoys is what Landow and Delany call "interactive hypertext" (29), a form of communication that has the "potential to be a democratic or multi-centered system" because "students who use the system contribute their comments and individual documents.... By contributing to the system, student users become authors and designers as well; and they thus establish a community of learning, demonstrating to themselves that a large part of any investigation rests on the work of others" (29).

     While hypertext technologies have been linked to the rhetoric of greater democratization since the days of Vannevar Bush's idea of the memex machine and Theodor Nelson's conceptualizations published decades later in Dream Machines (1974),(16) greater democratization has been the goal of distance education developers since, as Reid Cushman puts it, "Gutenberg's invention made possible the mass production of a distance learning device known as the book. (Or, earlier, when someone figured out that lectures offered greater economies of scale than tutorials.)" (55). In the West, and particularly in the United States, the idea that an educated citizenry fosters democracy and democratic ideals has long been a given. This somewhat unscrutinized "given" is often touted as the force behind the development of telecommunications and computer networks in higher education. The public reasoning of most college and university administrators is that the equipment is for the students and that it has been purchased and implemented to improve student experience and learning.

     In his exposé of the Education Network of Maine (ENM), a distance learning service of the University of Maine System, Cushman, a Policy Scholar at Yale, underscores the fact that certain types of networks and technologies can and do serve students, especially students in rural areas or older students who have jobs and families to manage. In the Maine System in 1995 the "median age of a network student...was thirty-four. Half were married; two thirds had children; nine out of ten were attending school part-time" (59). But whether or not providing this type of access to education actually nurtures intellectual growth and greater democraticization is an issue that is more readily debated these days. Not so long ago, distance education (e.g. correspondence courses or courses which required the instructor to travel to satellite or partner institutions, such as high schools, businesses and prisons) usually meant additional work for additional pay. Instructors were inclined to believe that they were doing their part; they were extending the reach of higher education, delivering its "product" to people who were in serious need. Even when adjunct and part-time instructors were brought in to do this work more cheaply, many viewed the step (though with far less enthusiasm) as helpful and diversifying--more jobs for a growing variety of educated people, alas.

     However, in early 1995 when the University of Maine's former chancellor, J. Michael Orenduff, put forth a plan to increase the reach and impact of the ENM by offering more distance education courses "gleaned from the other University of Maine branches and from institutions from across the United States" (54) and by making the ENM a wholly virtual, degree-granting institution of more independent means, the Maine System faculty members got worried, got involved and called for (and received legislative support for) a moratorium on any degree-granting ambitions put forth by the ENM. The idea of competing with or being absorbed by so untested a means of education was as unpalatable an idea to the professorate as the idea that, one day, their work might be computer-automated. Still, the issue of democracy was played out in a different light this time. The moratorium was granted because the University of Maine System did not allow its faculty members a voice in the board's decision. For all its skepticism, however, at least some of the Maine System faculty will to have to compete in the digital world. Since the governors and legislators of the founding states of the Western Governors University have each already promised a $100,000 commitment to the idea of a virtual university that does precisely what Orenduff envisioned for Maine (but on a far grander scale), it is unlikely that faculty members at state (and overseas) institutions in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming are going to be able to organize much of a "think tank" or stage much of a coup. Indeed, the experiment of the WGU is already upon them.(17)

     When college students in Maine learn they can attend the WGU from home, faculty members in the Maine System are likely to be reminded that moratoriums are temporary and will be expected to understand that "every technology or gift of science has a dark side. Being digital is no exception." Even the great media optimist, Negroponte, admits a down side:

The next decade will see cases of intellectual-property abuse and invasion of our privacy. We will experience digital vandalism, software piracy, and data thievery. Worst of all, we will witness the loss of many jobs to wholly automated systems, which will soon change the white-collar workplace to the same degree that it has already transformed the factory floor. (227)

3. A Small College--Without the Faculty

     While the job loss fears of professors are certainly a very real consequence of the instructional technology revolution, these can be capitalized upon by university administrators and state governments who have a tendency to insinuate that instructors not using technology in the classroom are Luddites or anti-progress; the rhetoric is such that they might easily make excuses for poor institutional performance while creating rather convenient scapegoats who, in an age of a sizeable academic employment pool and post-tenure review, can be led out to pasture and sacrificed fairly expeditiously. The irony, of course, is that it is usually administrators and government officials who are more lacking in the area of techno-expertise. And, unfortunately, this can lead to very bad policy. I have seen department heads and college deans overcompensate for what they themselves can not do and will not do with technology, in fact, by foisting it upon untrained underling instructors who are already negotiating tremendous workloads. I have also seen these same administrators and deans charmed by instructors who, while they may be technologically proficient, are (and probably always will be) high on gloss and low on content.

     In such a climate, technology, as Herbert Marcuse observed of industry decades earlier, "tends to become totalitarian to the extent to which it determines not only the socially needed occupations, skills, and attitudes, but also individual needs and aspirations. It thus obliterates the opposition between the private and public existence, between individual and social needs. Technology serves to institute new, more effective, and more pleasant forms of social control and social cohesion" (xv). For all the talk of access and democracy, instructional technology, like industrial technology, has the potential for rendering its users much less diverse and free-thinking. But as state governments put the pressure on colleges and universities to curb the costs of higher education (which in the United States is going up at double the rate of inflation), colleges and universities are likely to respond by utilizing their heavy investments in technology more extensively.

     Because distance education is one of the obvious ways to cut instruction and student services costs at the same time, its host of technologies as well as its telecommunications and computer networks will begin to factor into the lives of instructors and students rather prominently. How fairly or democratically these technologies will factor in, though, is a matter of some speculation. Inevitably, the nature of instruction at colleges and universities is going to change. Since the winter of 1996, for example, my work as an English instructor has been changing quite dramatically. Without much warning or choice and with absolutely no training whatsoever, I learned in the late autumn of 1995 that I was to teach a distance learning composition course on the Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical Systems (GSAMS) Network. I was told that I would have a group of students "on site" as well as a group of students at a "distant site" and that the "distant site" group would be composed of high school seniors taking the course on a joint-enrollment or post-secondary-option basis.

     The first year I taught the course, I was fairly miserable. For all my private steaming about having so little say in the matter of teaching a distance learning course at all, though, the system infrastructure and the technology itself was far more exasperating.(18) For GSAMS, as it was instituted at my college, was ill-conceived and poorly supported. Not only did my college fail to offer Web hosting or email services at the time, but there was little in the way of regular courier service. Technology support in the classroom was also poor. My first "network facilitator" was a student employee who had a penchant for dozing off during the class. Sometimes the distant site students would get to see the same camera angle of my left arm and the wall behind me throughout my lecture. At other times they would get to look at a fellow classmate's knees, hearing my lecture as some kind of absurd documentary voice-over. While my on-site students had the benefit of me in the classroom with them, they were still inclined to watch the television monitors, which displayed the video going out (from on site) and the video coming in (from the distance site). This would have been great material for Samuel Beckett, I often thought to myself, as I watched the reactions of my students on site (usually laughter) watching the reactions of the students at the distant site (usually bewilderment) to the shameless "work" of our sleeping cameraman in the back of the room.

     But at least we had a connection. The telephone company ended up taking more time away from me and my students than did our cameraman, as we experienced repeated connection failures that winter. Sometimes the whole system would go down (or never come up); I would usually cancel class then, putting in a call to the distant site to explain the problem and excuse the class. But sometimes the system would come up (or go down) half way. That is, sometimes we would have video only, a situation which promotes a teaching style known to distance education instructors as "the mime." Sometimes there was only audio, and I would have to shift quickly into "disembodied voice" mode. It didn't take too long for me to begin to feel like a victim of the system; to continue on in such a situation, I felt as though I would have to transform my occupation, skills and attitude, as much of what I could do in the classroom was being technologically determined. Robert Markley, who had just published Virtual Realities and Their Discontents (1996) was, I thought, right to advocate "a more guarded approach to virtual technologies." In his essay, "Boundaries: Mathematics, Alienation, and the Metaphysics of Cyberspace," Markley is "skeptical of the notion that a technologically mediated existence offers a radical break with our 'modernist' past, and suspicious of the leaps of faith we are asked to make from experimental, jury-rigged, and often gremlin-ridden virtual technologies..." (56). Yet Markley is hardly a Luddite and is about as far from "anti-progress" as professors come. The purpose of his essay, he emphasizes, is "not to attack the development of virtual technologies, but to suggest that their usefulness in education, medicine, architecture, art, engineering, and other fields depends precisely on our resistance to their being collapsed into 'cyberspace'--the naive, totalizing incarnation of Western tendencies to privilege mind over materiality" (57).

     Like Miller's response to electronic archives and hypertexts, Markley's response to virtual reality--what he defines broadly as "electronically mediated experience" ("Introduction" 2)--is also systematically leery. Both writers are quick to point out that descriptions of cyberspace are rife with misleading claims and metaphorical characterizations that are totally inappropriate. "The rhetorical name," says Miller,

is "catachresis." "Catachresis" means "against usage" in Greek, the "abusive" transfer of the name of something known, in this case, a visible net, mosaic, highway, web, or galaxy, to something unnamed, not an "identifiable entity," but something unknown, and indeed unknowable, if "knowable" means direct apprehension by the senses. All the common names for the Internet and its programs are catachreses. The Internet is not a "space," if one means that a Euclidean manifold in which each thing is in one place and has identifiable relations by coordinates to all other things and to the borders that define regions within the volume. In the nonspaced or spaced-out space of the Internet, everything is in a sense everywhere at all times, and everything is juxtaposed to everything else, in a pell-mell confusion. ("The Ethics of Hypertext" 31)

     What is so enchanting about this pseudo-space, this pell-mell confusion, notes Markley, is founded upon a series of unfounded, often utopic descriptions. "The crucial metaphors used to evoke cyberspace...are self-consciously holistic, transcendent, sublime.... Even scientists who are dedicated to promoting virtual technologies in fields such as medicine drift into a metaphysically laden rhetoric.... Richard M. Satava of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (and a major figure in the development of virtual technologies for laparoscopic surgery) declares that 'the video monitor is [becoming] the portal into the entire world of information; this 'electronic interface' will bestow power beyond imagination'" ("Introduction" 3-4).

     For all the promise (or propaganda) of power, however, these electronic interfaces (video monitors, computers, etc.) are also creating remarkable dependency in our culture, and especially so in the ultra-networked realms of higher education. People have come to rely heavily on their email applications and the hypermedia of the World Wide Web. But what do people have when the telecommunications and computer networks fail them? What do they do when their source of power is unplugged? In a distance education scenario (whether televised or online or both), there is actually very little an instructor can do, especially if the instructor has so bought into the system's belief in technology that every feature of his or her course is electronic--online syllabi, etexts and ejournals, scripted tests and exams, Powerpoint presentations, video lectures and teleconferencing....

     That networked education systems can determine and, to some extent, can control the exchange of instructors and students is cause for serious concern. For not only do instructors become more dependent on certain technologies in their teaching, but they become even more vulnerable to a system that operates (or appears to operate) in relative ignorance of its own potential for widespread disenfranchisement and abuse. By directly challenging the former chancellor's decision to make the Education Network of Maine a kind of suprastructure of the University of Maine system (instead of part of its infrastructure), Maine faculty members in effect slowed the pace of electronic campus development:

Most ENM students attend one of over one hundred downlink sites around the state.... Inside, there are electronic classrooms, a library (shared with the town), offices for support staff and academic advisors, a study hall, and a lounge with coffee brewing "courtesy of the student government association." It's like a small college--without the faculty. (Cushman 60)

     The absence of faculty is precisely the point. While Cushman asserts (perhaps somewhat tongue in cheek) that the "news isn't all bad," that "institutions that manage to cut costs may see jumps in enrollment that will allow them to keep most of their professors on board," the new roles of those remaining instructors--"[s]ome...may become nationally known 'broadcast stars'; others will roam, TA-like, behind students huddled around computer screens" (61)--may be even more problematic.

     It doesn't take too much a leap of the imagination to predict how high-profile, high-energy and, above all, high-tech instructors might fare in such a system. In a state like Georgia, where faculty members are generally nonunion and the distance education network has grown to be "the largest and most comprehensive distance learning and healthcare network in the world" ("About GSAMS"), the high-profile, high-energy and high-tech instructor is likely to enjoy a fourth "high" in salary--and, potentially, in royalties. With over "370 distance learning sites and 31 telemedicine sites," a popular GSAMS instructor could have a very large following one day.

Every college, adult and technical school, and counties throughout Georgia has at least one GSAMS site and a number have more than one. In addition, there are nine correctional facilities, seven children and youth services sites, Georgia Public Television, the Medical College of Georgia and resource sites such as Zoo Atlanta and the Museum of Aviation. ("Georgia Statewide Academic and Medical System")

     The larger the audience, the more cost effective the system. With lectures handled over the airwaves and the administrative part of class (syllabi, handouts, assignments, consultations and exams) handled on the Internet, colleges and universities might reduce their costs tremendously. Because the system would need fewer instructors involved in lecture positions and in course design (as these can be easily replicated and distributed nowadays), the majority of the work is likely to be in support-type or assessment-type positions.

     For all the emphasis on support and assessment at our institutions of higher learning at present, however, it would be wholly uncapitalist--and terribly ingenuous--to believe that professors involved in support (tutorials and discussions) or in assessment (the grading of papers and exams) would be valued as the equals of those who might provide course lectures and/or design courses and course software. Most colleges and universities have already relegated the position of student support to graduate assistants or to staff members who generally have fewer credentials and who earn far less for their trouble. These are the people who regularly tutor students in academic support and writing centers on campuses (and online) across the United States. Because their skill levels are, for the most part, up to the task of support and because they are imminently cost effective (however exploited), I would have to argue that much of the support role--the "guide-on-the-side" professor--rhetoric coming out of the mouths of administrators, instructional technologists, and assorted folks with terminal degrees in higher education is probably either blind, wishful thinking or opium for the masses. "With so many of their responsibilities removed," writes Jeffrey Young in The Chronicle of Higher Education, "professors could spend more time leading discussions that take place in classrooms and in on-line chat areas. Even if institutions had to pay providers for courses or Web-site access, such a realignment might save money by allowing fewer salaried faculty members to serve the same number of students" (A26).

     This brief paragraph from Young's article, "Rethinking the Role of the Professor in an Age of High-Tech Tools," is indicative of the euphemistic language that many in higher education adopt when talking the talk of teaching and technology. While the first sentence of Young's paragraph soothes ("more time"), the last sentence says--in the nicest way possible ("by allowing")--that those professors who are lucky enough to keep their jobs will have many more students to manage. Of course, management is likely to mean something very different in an age of what Young calls the "unbundling" of instructor tasks. More and more course specific management is likely to take place online. Students wanting to know more about Samuel Coleridge, for example, will be encouraged to tap the resources of one of the many Web sites or to email or chat with one of their "support instructors." General, on-site management of students who take online courses is not likely to require an advanced degree in a specific subject area other than instructional technology. Indeed, when a large number of college or university courses are disseminated (and acquired) via computer and video interfaces, the guide-on-the-side professors may fast become those guys on the sidelines if they are not careful. In "The New Technology: Is It Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem in Education?," Michael Apple makes a disturbing yet cogent work force analogy:

In offices, the bulk of the new technology has not been designed to enhance the quality of the job for the largest portion of the employees (usually women clerical workers). Rather it has usually been designed and implemented in such a way that exactly the opposite will result. Instead of accommodating stimulating and satisfying work, the technology is there to make managers' jobs "easier," to eliminate jobs and cut costs, to divide work into routine and atomized tasks, and to make administrative control more easily accomplished. The vision of the future society seen in the microcosm of the office is inherently undemocratic and perhaps increasingly authoritarian. Is this what we wish to prepare our students for? Surely, our task as educators is neither to accept such a future labor market and labor process uncritically nor to have our students accept such practices uncritically as well. To do so is simply to allow the values of a limited but powerful segment of the population to work through us. It may be good business but I have my doubts about whether it is ethically correct educational policy. In summary, then, what we will witness is the creation of enhanced jobs for a relative few and deskilled and boring work for the majority. Futhermore, even those boring and deskilled jobs will be increasingly hard to find. (165)

"The faculty need to wake up and realize that their butts are on the line," says University of California communications professor Phil Agre. "Their jobs could easily be radically changed for the worse over the next 10 years" (qtd. in Young: A27).

     The assessment plan of the Western Governors University is making it abundantly clear that, in the virtual arena at least, faculty members might also find themselves on the sidelines of grading and evaluation. Students enrolled at the WGU, for example, will be evaluated, not by their instructors, but by a third-party organization that (to date) appears to be closely allied with, if not a feature of, the WGU itself. According to Robert Albrecht, the WGU's chief academic officer, degrees will be granted to students who manage to pass a series of competency-based exams, standardized tests that are comparable in style and structure to advanced-placement exams. "We believe there is a considerable demand for competency-based degrees," say Albrecht. "If an employer knows that there's been a third-party assessment, then the employer has more confidence that the student has the skills" (qtd. in Young: A28). Despite the WGU's touting of its innovative assessment plan, however, it is somewhat unclear if the university will meet the criterion of a third-party assessment in any real sense of the word. A true, third-party assessment would come from outside the institution and would be free of obligation and ties to the institution.

     If anything, the assessment plan of the WGU sounds more easily corruptible than the traditional instructor-evaluation model. That the grading and evaluation of students would be rendered by fewer and fewer professionals and by more and more machines is an important and serious fact. Subsequently, the evaluation process would be taken out of the hands of the many professionals who would know and would have witnessed the successes (and failures) of their students and would be relegated, instead, to a few assessment administrators and the limited number of standardized tests and automated assignments they are expected to interpret. To use an Internet metaphor, the WGU plan appears to undermine the security and reliability of a redundant system (of many instructors instituting multiple evaluations) by relying too heavily upon a hierarchical and requisite system that may be vulnerable to in-house tampering.

     I have already witnessed scaled-down versions of "tampering" in my own experience with distance learning. In the case of my very first televised composition course, which was offered to a distant-site high school group as well as to an on-site college group, I became privy to a number of serious problems with a system that diminishes the instructor's evaluative power, all after the fact and all quite by chance. It wasn't until a student from the distant site contacted me to ask if I could change her overall average in the course from an 84 percent to an 85 percent that I learned of the high school's different grading and evaluation scale; unlike the college, which gives "As" to students making a 90 percent or above, the high school gives "As" to students who made an 85 percent or higher in college-level post-secondary option courses. The student who called me was notably upset because the "B" she received affected her eligibility for a community-based college scholarship. I felt the tug of politics instantly. And it wasn't too much longer before the politician himself felt compelled to pay my institution (and me) a little visit.

     Having made the deliberate decision to avoid the rough-and-tumble scene of teaching high school, I never could have imagined that I would, one day, find myself in a college vice president's office debating my students' high school principal. But there it was, bizarre and perverse. What the high school principal made clear to me (for he was hardly a subtle politician) was that he viewed the distance-learning post-secondary-option programs in his high school as a kind of business transaction. As long as the college helped him gain prominence (and he has) as an innovational success--a real user of the technology with excellent results--our college would, in turn, get a steady stream of students from his high school. However, it seemed as though much would depend upon the kinds of grades his students made. He admitted, of course, that they were all "A" students and that if they did not excel (make "As") in my classes, he could just as easily receive the course from another college or university that also provides a televised composition course.

     Taking one's business elsewhere is one of the great freedoms that distance learning networks afford institutions and students. It remains to be seen whether or not this new form of competition for students among colleges and universities will actually improve the quality of education, however. The business ethos, after all, is one of pleasing the customer rather than one of educating the customer. This is why commercial, network television is a financial success and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) is desperate for funding every year. It is same ethos that can make faculty as well as students skittish about big business investments in their own institutions. The $300-million, "five partner" proposition that has incorporated the California State University (CSU) System with Fujitsu, GTE, Hughes Electronics, and Microsoft is a case in point. What people fear is that this new, for-profit corporation, the California Education Technology Initiative (CETI), would "give corporations too much control over technology decisions on the campuses, and would create a monopoly for the companies" (Young, "Proposed Technology Deal...." A24):

"There is distress that the C.S.U. system has been kidnapped by people who don't share our values," said Emily Stoper, a professor of political science on the Hayward campus. She said she feared that the partnership would lock the university into dealing with companies that could then raise rates for their services. Worse, she said, the university could be pressured by the companies to offer more distance-education courses over the Internet in place of traditional classroom instruction. (Young, "Proposed Technology Deal...." A24)

     Clearly, the state of California, the Western Governors University's most egregious defector, has decided to go into business for itself. While in October 1996 it seemed as though the Governor of California, Republican Pete Wilson, was actually trying to preserve the identity and value of California higher education by rejecting many of the WGU's ideas on accreditation, including the idea of the WGU itself (Blumenstyr A19), one might suspect now a less academic, more enterprising motive, as the state's dealings with Microsoft were, more than likely, already underway.

     CETI is in many respects a beautiful business deal for the state of California. Not only did the California legislature save money by avoiding the $100,000 commitment of the WGU-involved states, but it gave the state education system a competitive edge, contesting the IBM- and Sun Microsystems-backed WGU with the computer software kingpin itself. How and where the corporate rivalries will drive institutional competition is open to interpretation, but many faculty members, at least at state institutions in California, are preemptively despondent. The days of academic freedom--of having the choice, say, of computing with a Macintosh, of deciding what software packages (if any) to purchase or use, and of determining how (or, for that matter, where) their courses will be implemented and assessed--seem to be numbered. College and university professors, a normally skeptical lot, would be wholly gullible to believe CSU officials (who felt no obligation to consult the state's faculty) when they say the system "will control its destiny and all agreements with the partners.... Nothing in the proposed final partnership agreement will shift campus authority for academic policies and programs to the partnership" (qtd. in Young, "Proposed Technology Deal...." A24-A25). The deal, however, reminds one of that classic scene in Tom Sawyer: "Suppose you want a fence painted," writes San Francisco State University professor Robert Daniels. "You hire your neighbor to paint it and agree to pay your neighbor $100. Your neighbor then hires you as a 'subcontractor' to paint your own fence for $70. Nice work if you can get it" (qtd. in Young, "Proposed Technology Deal...." A25).

     Again, how "nice" that work will be if one does get it is debatable. While new computer and telecommunications technologies could potentially solve a number of problems in higher education, they could also introduce a number of problems. Although it may be cost effective to enlarge the scale of lectures so that they are, essentially, (simulcast or webcast) distance learning courses and although it may be cost effective to use a few specific, however remarkable, software packages that can be accessed via the Internet, the question remains: are these innovations philosophically or ideologically wise? Is creating enormous access to the "best" professors and the "best" software packages really so desirable at the expense of diversity in education? Haven't we already learned that there is a certain, impending danger in allowing so few to control the education of so many? And don't we all know that power corrupts and that people in control are often the greatest abusers of power?

     I was first awakened to the abuses of power in distance education in that strange meeting with my students' high school principal. Not only did he broach the subject of grade manipulation on his end, but he made me suddenly aware that distance learning networks are closed systems(19) only in the sense that they do not broadcast to the public at large. What I imagined to be a closed system was the class itself, including both the distance-site students (and their facilitator) and the on-site students (and our facilitator). I thought--because it appeared to be so--that no one beyond my students, our facilitators, and me could have access to the class. But I was wrong. The high school principal had been watching me. Though I never once saw him set foot in the distance-site classroom while I was teaching, he spoke with me about the class as if he had occasionally attended. The truth was in the details; it just had not dawned upon me until then that the network might be used for surveillance purposes, that anyone with the authority and/or technology to access the network might view my class or might even videotape me or my students without my knowledge. I suppose I never imagined such a scenario because I just couldn't imagine a reason for it. Not to write disparagingly of my own charismatic teaching style, but who would really want to sit around and watch a televised English composition course?

     Having a reason, of course, is not the issue; people do things because they can. In the case of this particular high school principal, I am convinced that he wanted to effect certain changes in my behavior by making me a little nervous. And he did, though the nervousness probably didn't effect the changes he had in mind. When I taught the distance learning course for the high school again, I taught it as though I were under continuous surveillance; I warned all of my students about the deceptive appearance of a closed system as well as the deceptive appearance of relative intimacy and privacy in a technologically mediated environment. I ceased to feel comfortable in the distance-learning classroom, and not because of the technology itself but because the technology was subject to serious abuses. I became purposely bland in my literary interpretations and solicited the same from my students. The usual spontaneity and urgency of the class dynamic were gone. Single-handedly, I took the "desire" out of A Streetcar Name Desire that year. Did I really want to discuss or solicit a discussion on such a range of volatile issues as homosexuality, nymphomania, pedophilia, domestic violence, sexual assault and rape in a class that might be videotaped by an indignant high school principal in a conservative county in the rural South? Did I really want to risk being taken out of context or have any of my students take the same risk? No, we would be (and were) innocuous with conviction. Sorry, Tennessee.

     In the virtual world, as in the real world, it is just plain dumb to rely upon the kindness of strangers. One never knows who might be watching or who is recording on a network.(20) Thus, I think it is only fair to warn students to watch what they say on interactive television as well as over the Internet. Chances are, they are far more unsuspecting than their instructors. Most instructors have at least a basic understanding of the limitations of freedom and privacy on their local area networks (LANs); the majority (I hope) realize that at universities "copies of most e-mail messages are retained on tape as part of the nightly backup of the main computer" and remember that "Ollie North was unable to destroy evidence of the Iran/contra cover-up because the White House maintained a backup copy of the e-mail system on which he had plotted his crimes" (Wiener 275). What instructors are realizing more slowly, however, is just how vulnerable their everyday work might be in the digital world.

4. The Fair Use of Electronic Materials

     Even though more computer use and cyberspace court cases are beginning to shape and define the laws governing the Internet, people need to understand that they are operating in a virtual frontier. "The electronic environment of computer networks," Anne Branscom wrote in Scientific American in 1991 "is marked by versatility, complexity, diversity and extraterritoriality. All these characteristics pose challenges to the laws that govern generating, organizing, transmitting, and archiving information" (316). Since information is the hard currency of the professorate and higher education, and the conduit through which knowledge is ordinarily achieved, it would make good sense for people at colleges and universities to keep an eye on their livelihood.

     How professors use the information created and disseminated by others may very well affect how their own materials are used in turn. In the early days of the Internet and the World Wide Web such exchanges were non-issues, for the information trade was the nascent purpose of the entity. And though the Internet's precursor, ARPANET, was funded initially by the United States military, the network was always more academic than not. With its heart in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the project intersected in the lives of many at Harvard and MIT. Like the Internet's founders, Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, also stays close to academe, teaching at MIT and directing his nonprofit group, the World Wide Web Consortium (3WC), from his university office. "The original goal," says Berners-Lee of the Web, "was working together with others.... The Web was supposed to be a creative tool, an expressive tool" (qtd. in Wright 64). What happened to the Web was the University of Illinois' Marc Andreessen, one of the highly publicized inventors of Mosaic, the first Web browser in mass circulation, and the co-founder of Netscape.

     What happened next was big business. With the rapid commercialization of the Internet, the number of Web hosts grew from 3 million in 1994 to well over 15 million in 1997 (Wright 68). Berners-Lee's "original goal" was transformed, though some might say deformed,(21) to the extent that the Clinton Administration's Working Group on Intellectual Property Rights in the Electronic Environment "called upon copyright stakeholders to negotiate guidelines for the fair use of electronic materials in a variety of nonprofit educational contexts" ("CONFU Background"). By the fall of 1994, the Internet was no longer the dominion of academics, and the nature of free exchange and fair use was about to get complicated. It was so complicated, in fact, that negotiations in all but one of the areas of educational use identified by the Group--distance learning, multimedia, electronic reserves, interlibrary loan, and image collections--broke down. For many of the parties involved, it took several years before preliminary agreements could be reached. Then on 30 May 1996 all of the Group representatives met in Washington, D.C. to provide one another with drafts of guidelines and progress reports on their work. In this preparatory meeting for the Conference on Fair Use (CONFU), which was to be the final meeting of the Group held a year later, the tone was already set: while some groups (notably the multimedia group) seemed closer to a general consensus than others, no one had actually reached an agreement. At CONFU in 1997,

None of the Proposed Guidelines would survive the comment and endorsement process that ended in May.... [Ninety-three] organizations representing for-profit and nonprofit publishers, the software industry, government agencies, scholars and scholarly society, authors, artists, photographers and musicians, the movie industry, public television, licensing collectives, libraries, museums, universities and colleges, spent untold amounts of money and 2 1/2 years of their time and their energy to find agreement on the scope of fair use in various electronic contexts. Now it seems that not enough of their constituents, and in some cases, not even the participants themselves, agreed with the result to qualify the Proposed Guidelines as consensus documents. ("CONFU")

Not to diminish the hard work of the participants or the usefulness of many of the guidelines drafted, but the failure of CONFU should be taken as a warning to the wise. As the work of colleges and universities emerges in juxtaposition with commerce and industry on the Internet and (as digital technology progresses) on television, college and university work is simply going to become more vulnerable.

     Professors who are teaching distance learning courses are especially vulnerable because, more often or not, they do not fully understand or appreciate their technologically mediated situations. This lack of understanding or appreciation is often an extension of a particular college or university's disposition to technology issues, if not the particular disposition of the managing university system itself. My own experience leads me to suspect that college, university and university system administrators have been and still are far keener to have technology used than to have the ramifications of its use investigated. The impulse has a rich history, in fact, and as long as the sciences continue to be privileged above and separated from the humanities in higher education, such an institutional impulse is likely to remain.

     The professors who operate in these electronic terrains, this virtual frontier, will need to be as self-sufficient and as self-reliant as the kind of people who settled the American West: hearty, resourceful, somewhat desperate or a tad eccentric, and ready to function in a land of relative lawlessness by making up a few laws of their own. In early 1996, when my college sent me ahead to teach distance-learning courses on the University System of Georgia's GSAMS Network as well as on the state's computer network, Peachnet, I knew of no established guidelines for the fair use of copyrighted materials in an electronically mediated environment. I was able to access a few "frontier" sites on the Internet and came up with a good deal of information on the subject for myself at a Web site at the University of Texas at Austin, an institution that was, in the lone star spirit of the West, forging ahead with its own policies. But I had to extrapolate a good deal and never really felt sure about what I was doing in my home state. It wasn't until 13 November 1997 that the Georgia Board of Regents published a set of guidelines that recognized more fully its electronic community.

     Despite its belated arrival (and perhaps because of it), the "Regents Guide to Understanding Copyright and Educational Fair Use" is one of the better explanatory documents I have seen thus far. Its best feature is "Part II: Examples Illustrating the Application of Fair Use," which illustrates real scenarios in teaching and responds to them in an abbreviated but clear question-answer format. It includes twenty-seven scenarios in total, and the hypermedia version of the document includes a table of contents that makes it easy to access and use on the Web. For example, an instructor might browse the Web site and scroll down to "Section E: Distance Education" and then click on sub-heading "6. Student Project for Distribution on the Internet." This action would render the following information:

6. Student Project for Distribution on the Internet
SCENARIO T: A student is taking a distance learning class in
which the instructor has required that a particular assignment
be created for unlimited distribution on the Web.
QUESTION: If a student includes an audio segment of copyrighted
music (video, news broadcast, non-dramatic literary work), is this a
fair use?
ANSWER: No. Since the teacher specifically stated that the project
is being created for distribution over the Web, this is not a fair use
of any of the listed copyrighted materials and permission should be obtained.
("Regents Guide to Understanding Copyright and Educational Fair Use")

     While such a document provides some solace (especially to those whose love of cyberspace is such that they are compelled to show their students the way), it is important for instructors to be aware that guidelines are merely guidelines, not rules, not laws. So much of what is going on in technologically mediated education is highly experimental and virtually untested, especially in the online arena. So much is still under development in online learning--one of the fastest growing sectors of distance education--that the CONFU participants did not even attempt to tackle it:

These guidelines do not cover asynchronous delivery of distance learning over a computer network, even one that is secure and capable of limiting access to students enrolled in the course through PIN or other identification system. Although the participants believe fair use of copyrighted works applies in some aspects of such instruction, they did not develop fair use guidelines to cover these situations because the area is so unsettled. The technology is rapidly developing, educational institutions are just beginning to experiment with these courses, and publishers and other creators of copyrighted works are in the early stages of developing materials and experimenting with marketing strategies for computer network delivery of distance learning materials. Thus, consideration of whether fair use guidelines are needed for asynchronous computer network delivery of distance learning courses perhaps should be revisited in three to five years. ("CONFU: Distance Learning Guidelines")

Until then, college and university guidelines (if instructors are lucky enough to work for institutions or university systems that have guidelines) and individual prudence are probably the best bets. Consulting the collective wisdom of CONFU certainly couldn't hurt.



1. According to Nelson King, Gigabit Ethernet is an evolving technology. It runs at 1,000 Mbps (10-Mbps Ethernet and 100-Mbps Fast Ethernet), which is, at least theoretically, 10 times faster than Fast Ethernet. Asynchronous transmission mode (ATM), ostensibly the real future of the Internet, is a protocol that allows for the fastest transfer of bits over any mechanism. See "Gigabit Ethernet Surges Ahead" in Internet World (August 1997): 22.

2.  Robert Helmick is the CEO of Real Education, Inc., a company that purports to "build complete online universities and training centers." In a posting to Steve Gilbert's widely read AAHESGIT Listserv, a listserv supported by the American Association of Higher Education and read primarily by instructors, Helmick advertised for "59 new course designers, programmers, html writers, compilers, graphic artists, and account representatives" and in the same posting announced to university and college administrators that his company "will charge you $5,000 per course that we convert from on campus delivery to online delivery and $120 per student per course." See Steve Gilbert's AAHESGIT Listserv posting of 4-14-97.

3. The NEH announced the funding of the twelve educational software projects (for a total of $2.2 million) as part of the first wave of its three-year Teaching with Technology Initiative.

4. Ron Magid reports that "Hollywood is buzzing that superstars are having their likenesses scanned so they can license their digital doppelgangers to play roles in absentia." Cyberware of Monterey, California, which uses a scanner that orbits 360 degrees and produces three-dimensional data, keeps digital versions of Marlon Brando, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Jim Carrey in its database. See "Invasion of the Digital Body Snatcher" in Wired (February 1998): 60.

5. A "scripted" hypertext is a text that includes a computer program either within the HTML code itself (usually written in Java or JavaScript) or that includes a series of commands that link the hypertext to a computer program (usually written in Perl) well beyond itself. Scripted or programmed hypertexts can produce any number of effects, textual or otherwise, and present an interesting quandary for composition instructors, especially. As writing hypertext emerges as a feature of teaching composition, it is only too clear that composition instructors are going to need to know more about the relationship between language and programming languages, as texts can be inextricably linked to scripts and vice versa.

6. More specifically, the contest was open to U.S. citizens, eighteen years of age or older. Seattle-based Amazon began The Greatest Tale Ever Told (a murder mystery) with a paragraph by John Updike "at 12:01 a.m. (PDT) on July 29, 1997" and ended it with another Updike paragraph "at 5:00 p.m. (PDT) on September 12, 1997" but not without a few clarifications: "All entries and other materials (including all copyright, trademark, and other proprietary rights associated therewith) submitted by you ("Entry Materials") will become the property of upon submission.... PLEASE NOTE: Residents of New York are not eligible to enter the Contest until after August 27, 1997. Residents of Florida are not eligible to enter the Contest until after August 6, 1997." See The Greatest Tale Ever Told Official Rules and Eligibility Requirements page at http://


7. This "convergence" of various technologies is to some extent the topic of Nicholas Negroponte's book, Being Digital (1995). Much of the communicating world will be digital (as opposed to analogue or print) in the next decade or so--television, radio, books, magazines, newspapers.... Already some of the most popular presentation and publishing programs, such as Microsoft's Powerpoint and Adobe's Authorware and PageMaker are "exporting to the Web"--either as HTML or via "plug-in" software such as Shockwave--so that clients using the software can also use it over the Internet. New Gigabit Ethernet systems that are being installed at universities and large companies will be capable of streaming audio and video, either synchronously or asynchronously, effectively "beating" the rest of the world to the digital "punch." See Nelson King's "Gigabit Ethernet Surges Ahead" in Internet World (August 1997): 22.

8. The AAHE Teaching Initiative is an ongoing project that has grown out of "From Idea to Prototype: The Peer Review of Teaching," a teaching-improvement proposal written by Lee Shulman of Stanford University; it was originally funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and The Pew Charitable Trusts. The AAHE is working with pilot departments on twelve campuses in the United States "to develop processes and tools that will allow faculty to document and share what they do as teachers. Faculty teams from the pilot departments in math, chemistry, history, English, business, engineering, and music are implementing peer review projects in their own departments, then sharing the results and implications with colleagues on their campus and, through their scholarly societies, across the country. The disciplinary and professional associations are active partners in the project. Campus participants in this project have set up their own home page at the Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis at" See "AAHE Teaching Initiative" at

9. The favorite language of client-side programming for the Web is Java, or the simpler Netscape-developed/supported JavaScript. The favorite language of server-side programming is Perl. Client-side programs run in the Web browser, using the computing power of the client's CPU. Server-side programs run on the Web server, using the computing power of the server's CPU. A Web-based electronic gradebook is being released at Harvard for professors and fellows. "This tool will be extremely useful for large courses in which several Teaching Fellows are recording grades for students.... This tool will allow the instructors to easily assess grading consistency amongst TF staff as well as readily identify students who are struggling. Students will be able to submit their Harvard ID and receive a current summary of their grades. Final grades will be able to be calculated using simple algorithms.... The grade data will be protected via password protection and encrypted network packets." See the Instructional Computing Groups' "Instructor's Toolkit" at

10. In Being Digital, Negroponte anticipates that "computer programs, not just people, will be reading material...and making, for example, automatic summaries. Copyright law says that if you summarize material, that summary is your intellectual property. I doubt that lawmakers ever considered the idea of abstracting being done by an inanimate entity or robo-pirates" (80).

11. "HyperNews is a cross between the hypermedia of the WWW and Usenet News. Readers can reply to base articles they read in the HyperNews web, and browse through the messages written by other people. A forum (base article) holds a list of messages on a topic, and you can reply to the base article or another reply. These messages are laid out in an indented tree format that shows how the messages are related (i.e. all replies to a message are listed under it and indented). Users can become members of HyperNews or subscribe to a forum in order to get e-mail whenever a message is posted, so they don't have to check if anything new has been added. This e-mail gateway is also bi-directional, so the user doesn't have to find a web browser to reply. HyperNews then places the message in the appropriate forum." See "About Hypernews" at:


12. The digital age of commercial television will occur in some cities in the United States as early as 1999. Americans who want to watch television will need new equipment to do so, as the "FCC has set 2006 as the year broadcasters can stop delivering analog TV altogether." See Michael Krantz's "A Tube for Tomorrow" in Time (April 14, 1997): 69.

13. CU-SeeMe is videoconferencing software put out by White Pine Software, Inc. In March 1997 Enhanced CU-SeeMe received NetGuide Magazine's "Best Internet Conferencing" award. "White Pine's videoconferencing software products, Enhanced CU-SeeMe and the White Pine Reflector, create a client-server solution that allows users to participate in real-time, multipoint video and data conferences on the Internet...." See "CU-SeeMe Named Best Internet Conferencing Software by NetGuide Magazine"


14. A "protected realm" is a secured directory on a server; many Web server programs can limit the file access of viewers. A common method of restricting access is by password protecting a realm, allowing access only to viewers with passwords. See Bob LeVitus and Jeff Evan's WebMaster. (2nd Edition. Boston: AP Professional, 1997): 104-106.

15. According to the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, colleges and universities "saw an increase in the number of qualified students with disabilities, particularly learning disabilities, as they began to seek access in the 1980s.... Passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26, 1990, rekindled debate about the responsibilities of higher education to students with disabilities...." Today, there is legislation that mandates that institutions of higher learning "afford students with disabilities access to an education, including all aspects of the campus experience." See Dan Ryan and Maureen McCarthy's A Student Affairs Guide to the ADA & Disability Issues (Washington, DC: NASPA, 1994): vii-viii.

16. See Vannevar Bush's "As We May Think" in The Atlantic Monthly (July 1945): 101-108, Theodor Nelson's "Opening Hypertext: A Memoir" and George Landow's "Hypertext, Metatext, and the Electronic Canon" in Literacy Online: The Promise (and Peril) of Reading and Writing with Computers, ed. Myron C. Tuman (Pittsburgh: U of Pittsburgh Press, 1992).

17. According to Chris Hables Gray, the WGU was originally "set to go into operation in the fiscal year 1996-1997"; however, "it now seems it won't be brokering courses until the winter of 1998, or later." See his continually updated article "The Western Governors Virtual University: Politics, Pedagogy, Progress?" at

18. In early 1997 Canadian professors at York University showed signs of solidarity as they picketed their university, holding signs that read "Televisions don't teach, people do" and "Clone sheep, not Internet courses." The 55-day strike led to a contract revision which included the administration's promise that professors "will not be forced to use technology in their classrooms or to deliver courses over the Internet" (Young "Canadian University Promises It Wont Require Professors to Use Technology"A28).

19. This is a term I picked up in a one-day seminar offered by the University System of Georgia's Office of Information and Instructional Technology called Distance Learning 102. The discussion of "closed systems" came up in the context of a discussion on the fair use of copyrighted materials. I was led to believe that I could use copyrighted materials in the distance learning classroom because the distance learning classroom was, like any other classroom, "closed." The "closed" classroom was composed of teachers and students who gathered to read, view and/or discuss materials (copyrighted or otherwise) in the spirit of education. Interestingly, Distance Learning 102, which was simulcast via the GSAMS Network, did require that I sign an agreement form to permit the content of the course (which would include, presumably, me and my questions and comments) to be videotaped.

20. In "You're Not Paranoid: They Really Are Watching You," John Whalen describes some of the latest technology for surveillance in the workplace, from video monitoring to the "built-in snoop features" of many LAN software packages. His mention of a California email case should inform instructors and students who might rely heavily upon the campus network: "Several years ago, e-mail privacy advocates lost an important test case when a California judge ruled against Alana Shoars, a former e-mail administrator at Epson America Inc. Shoars alleged that her supervisor had printed out and read messages that employees had been assured were private. After she discovered the managerial snooping, Shoars was fired for insubordination, she said. The judge dismissed the case on the grounds that state privacy statutes make no mention of e-mail in the workplace." See Wired online:

21. Robert Cailliau, Berners-Lee's earliest collaborator on the Web at the European physics laboratory, CERN, calls the "just a consumer" growth and development of the Web an "absolute, utter disaster" (qtd. in Wright 68).