By Rachel Shteir
When I lived in New York in the 1990s, I briefly worked for the Gertrude Stein Repertory Theatre, a company that combined a theater and an Internet start-up. The reason for this unusual hybrid was that the theater’s brilliant artistic director was devoted not only to the modernist playwright but also to technology, which she used to pay for her experiments and nourish her creativity.
If you study the history of the arts, you can find plenty of examples of artists using technology to enrich and complicate their work.
I mention this to affirm that I am not antitechnology. But I am unsettled by the embracing of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, both inside and outside the academy, in part because the conversation about them mostly excludes the arts and humanities.
Not everyone has bought into MOOCs, of course. Still, I have not read much on a point that to me is obvious: MOOCs might ultimately be suited for tackling quantitative subjects like engineering, math, and computer science, but they are irrelevant for humanities and the arts, which are themselves already marginalized in the academy. There is less discussion of the fact that to support MOOCs as the conduit through which information is disseminated is to ignore one of the university’s primary responsibilities: to create an oasis for inquiry into disciplines that in this country don’t receive enough support. American literacy is declining, some experts say—and that problem cannot be solved by MOOCs.
[ Full article available at The Chronicle of Higher Education: http://chronicle.com/article/MOOCsthe-Arts-A-Plea-for/140119/ ]