"Too often, the computer is used in the schools, as it is used in other
social establishments, as a quick technological fix. It is used to paper
over fundamental problems to create the illusion that they are being
attacked." [Joesph Weizenbaum, Ph.D., Professor of Computer Science,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in "Computers and Education",
BYTE (June 1984) vol. 9 no. 6, p 225 ]
I wish to pose two series of fundamental philosophical questions
in this paper. These arise from this statement about computers in
education and I will attempt to apply them in examining the relationship
between Museums and the Web.
The first series deals with the application of this technology to
the central mission of museums, "to collect, to preserve and to educate".
Many studies have shown that the introduction of Information Technologies
(I.T.) has not significantly increased per capita efficiency of companies.
In our rush to adopt computer-based communication technologies and
restructure our institutions to make use them, do we run the risk
of losing more than we might gain? What might be the long-term side
effects for museums of "being digital"?
The second series of questions are related to the first. In a different
economic environment, would we have chosen the web as a primary communication
vehicle? Museums have undergone a period of tremendous re-structuring
and re-focusing over the last five years. Budget reductions, slashed
staff, loss of audience have been widely experienced. In this period
of turmoil we have, perhaps paradoxically, seen a huge growth in the
use of computer-based information technologies in museums (at all
levels of education for that matter). Has this money been well spent,
or are we papering over the cracks?
The bottom line question I will try to address is simple, with all
this I.T. are we doing our job better or not?
Last modified: March 14, 1998. This file can be found below http://www.archimuse.com/mw98/
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