But if this is true, then what does it mean for those of us just getting started in the field? Will our future positions be jeopardized by this sudden democratization of information? The answer, in my opinion, is stuck somewhere between yes and no.
During the symposium on Friday, I was struck not only by the variety of speakers and their interests, but also by what that must mean for the internet itself. Considering that a small sampling of those using digital means to expand their interaction with texts had such a wide range of fields and information, imagine what must also be out there, just waiting for scholars and resourceful students to engage with it. The scale of the information present on the web is astounding, and more than a little intimidating. With so much information and so many reliable online sources, how is it possible to discern what's really relevant?
In my opinion, this is one of the reasons that academia will never cease in significance. The long heralded concept of gated libraries and dark offices of knowledge is gone. Information is out there, for anyone with a WI-FI connection, and it's no longer gated, but has been thrown wide open. Universities and scholars, however, have not lost their relevance. Rather, by transitioning to the internet, the information, analyses, and insights they can present have simply changed audiences. You don't have to be a scholar to use JSTOR, you just have to be interested enough to want to spend the money. Online lecture series have been wildly popular, and bring in audiences of not only curious current students, but even those who have never stepped foot on a university campus. The importance of professors and universities has not been diminished through this open forum of information. They remain crucial to shaping the presentation and development of information, but the platform has simply changed, and the audience has widened.
To connect this back to my initial statement, the classic idea of academia is unarguably disappearing more and more each year, as more and more information and interactive learning tools appear. However, it's still easy to see the influence that scholarship has, even in the digital world. Academia isn't going anywhere- it's just moving, to a brave new world of interactive websites and digitized data, open for anyone determined to learn. And in the end, isn't that what it always should have been?