By Mary Manjikian
In a 2002 book the anthropologist David D. Gilmore explored our culture’s fascination with monsters. He noted that most monsters are a sort of hybrid. They defy simple explanation because they tend to straddle categories. They might be part human and part animal (like a werewolf) or part living and part dead (like a vampire). The monster is thus a mutated version of something we are already familiar with; it is both familiar and strange. It’s the monster’s amorphous nature that we find upsetting—it blurs categories, so it upsets the natural order of things, causing chaos.
I think that’s why we fear MOOCs. As hybrids, they defy easy categorization and threaten to upset the tidy categories we have for judging who is and is not college-educated. Like monsters, MOOCs threaten to disrupt our social world and bring chaos in their wake.
Our most basic understanding of the college experience used to be twofold: It occurs during a finite period of time, and in a fixed place known as a campus. Those two assumptions have taken on the status of “social facts,” in the words of Émile Durkheim. Both of those ideas are so much a part of our culture that we often do not even notice them or think to question them.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/blogs/conversation/2013/06/14/why-we-fear-moocs/ ]