Electronic programs

by reestheskin on 05/01/2016

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This from GW Bowersock in the NYRB.

Yet by an astonishing coincidence two contemporary English authors who write often and well about ancient Rome, Mary Beard and Tom Holland, have simultaneously produced readable histories of Rome. It would be patronizing and wrong to speak of their work as popularization, but there can be little doubt that both writers are deservedly popular. Between them they have done more to promote classical studies than all the professors who try to reach thousands through the electronic programs currently known as massive open online courses (MOOCs).

I haven’t read the books under consideration, but will still comment. First, just a reminder that great academics have used books and film and electronics for a long time. Think of Galbraith’s ‘The age of uncertainty’ or Bronowski’s ‘The Ascent of Man’ (although whether academia has many such polymaths left is an interesting question). The OU has done a great job for many decades.

But I find the word ‘electronics’ jars. Perhaps it is just me, but I am reminded of Eli Noam’s groundbreaking essay in Science over 20 years ago, ‘Electronic and the Dim Future of the University (here is a free version)’. The ambiguity around ‘program’ is there too.

Time to move on. Otherwise, a terrific and rich article, on a topic on which I know little.