Education dystopia #1: triumph of the silos

What are some bad futures for teaching, learning, and campuses? With this post I’m starting up my series of educational dystopias.

A silo.

1: Silos stand tall

In this world silos have become the dominant life form in information architecture.  Closed and proprietary systems have triumphed, and open is on the run.  This has occurred across a variety of areas, including content (movies, books, etc) and software.  Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon each maintain tall, deep, well-curated and -defended walled gardens.

As a result global conversations are fragmented by provider.  Searches occur in individual filter bubbles.

Some good things occur, at least for certain purposes.  Major content industries survive threats from open content: movies, music, publishers, software makers.  Their content is often at a high quality (compare Napster with iTunes).  Some technologies that didn’t do well in open source now flourish (think videoconferencing).

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 And there is less malware.

Colleges and universities have changes in the silo world.

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 Teaching doesn’t occur outside of campus-controlled software.  Syllabi, class materials, discussions live in locked-away systems.  Students conduct research on proprietary databases, supported by librarians.  Faculty conduct research in a terrain of sharply divided platforms, and publish in the same way.  These instructors have been trained to individual stacks, and have a finely-grained sense of their relative value.  Academic content is rarely available on what remains of the open Web, especially for users living in the developing world.

Campus support staff lead lives similar to ours in 2014, but attenuated in certain ways by the silo triumph.  Libraries pay more than ever for monographs, ebooks, and especially journal articles.

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 The library is primarily a content licensing agent, and information literacy has become guiding users between silos.

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IT departments pay high prices for licensed, non-interoperable software. IT staff are individually trained on specific platforms and information stacks, while some staff work solely to connect the silos.

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What does it mean to be an eighteen-year-old in the silo world, having grown up among separated, discrete information verticals?

For these high school graduates, the internet has always been a series of walled gardens.  The Web that they know is entirely commercial.  And they identified with specific stacks by age 15.

Next up in our dystopia series: cyberpunk time.

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2 Responses to Education dystopia #1: triumph of the silos

  1. Pingback: Education dystopia #4: the bubble bursts | Bryan Alexander

  2. Pingback: A week of educational dystopias | Bryan Alexander

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