Looks like UMW is getting ITunesU. And while I’ve had nothing to do with the decision process, and I really don’t think it is going to make any significant difference in our environment, I would like to lay out a few quick reasons why I think this is a bad (or would irrelevant be more apropos?) move.
1) Don’t trust anything without a URL! ITunesU has no URLs, isn’t that suspect? Matt Gold pointed me to this post recently that does a nice job of suggesting how the disappearance of URLs is killing the web. Here’s a pull quote from the article: “The rise of the ‘app store mentality’ is a direct attack on the web, and on the very nature of free discovery and choice built upon URL-based hyperlinks.” Amen.
2) What’s more, ITunesU is built on the transactional logic of web design. You go somewhere because you want something very specific, usually to buy—like a song or TV episode. What does it say that most of our content delivery systems are framed according to a logic that is being used for selling goods?
3) Building on that, ITunesU is not a place for community, context, or collaboration. What is interesting about the web is not that you can get something, but that you can participate and dialogue around something. We have built a community at UMW with web-based technologies that is not about simply getting something, but about discovering something and following a series of connections and exposing a community of ideas that would otherwise be locked behind a wall. ITunesU is just that kind of wall we are trying to avoid.
4) The nefarious logic that everyone is doing it. What is this compulsion to be “there”? Who cares? People are often wrong, especially at institutions when in comes to content delivery systems. ITunesU on campus is really no different from bringing Taco Bell or Starbucks on campus, another sign of the corporatization of the university space that is running rampant in our moment. Why aren’t we uploading this stuff to the Internet Archive, as Leigh Blackall suggested at OpenEd this Summer? We have no soul or spine when it comes to “just saying no to the gentrification of our campuses.”
5) Finally, and specifically to UMW, we will have so few resources in iTunesU, so now you can add meager to decontextualized. We are a teaching and learning college that has taken on the title of University for appearances sake. Our strength is in the relationships between faculty and students in and out of the classroom. We do not produce video lectures by top researchers, that is not who we are–why pretend? We don’t have a huge ongoing demand for podcasts and/or other media. We have an engaged community centered around an academic space for open praxis around teaching and learning. ITunesU is not a teaching and learning tool, it is a delivery mechanism that is not only overkill for our purposes, but anathema to the open web.
So there you have it. I know I am right, but comments are welcome anyway 🙂