Monday, 18 June 2007

Fast time and slow time

(Not a lecture on Special Relativity. Nor does it have "2.0" appended to it.......)

I was at a colloquim today on Research-Teaching Linkages. Amongst all the talks that claimed what a Good Thing it is (and I agree with that), there was a question from Ray Land that threw up an interesting tension.

What constitutes "scholarship" and mastery of the subject (Physics in my case, but could apply to almost anything) is built on time spent engaged with material, in a somewhat cloistered, solitary environment (the lone scholar). Mastery is based on authority. In this world, time runs rather slow.

In contrast, acquisition of knowledge and information in today's world is based on immediacy, with authority based on consensus and trust (the wisdom of crowds). Chunked knowledge and information is everywhere: Wikis, Blogs (ahem....), Google, IM, chat. Here, time is fast. Really fast. Eriksen has written about this in his book The Tyranny of The Moment.

So here's the tension; research is traditionally predicated on slow time. Student engagement with information and their learning is now based on fast time. How to solve? Dunno. But we at least need to acknowledge that it is there. This in a way underlines the anecdote of a colleague of mine, who recently who reported how aghast his students looked when he told them a problem would take an hour to solve. "An hour?? One problem??"

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