Death of the university? Knowledge Production and Distribution in the Disintermediation Era.

The next 23rd, 24th and 25th of May will be the Conference McLuhan Galaxy: Understanding Media Today in the maditerranean city of Barcelona. This event, organized by the Universitat Pompeu Fabra and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) will count on a series of experts not only to review McLuhan’s contributions but also to update them in relation to our contemporary society of knowledge. Among the names of Keynote Speakers are Manuel Castells, Derrick de Kerckhove, Ursula Heise and Bob Logan (open the full program, pdf).

Answering the call of this conference: Carlos Scolari, Hugo Pardo (both editors of digitalismo) and I, submitted a paper that analyze the “end of universities” in the time of disintermediation of academic knowledge (generation and distribution). Despite that this paper suggests challenging questions about the future of the education (particularly regarding the university in the 21st century), our proposal was approved by a double blind review process. Enclosed the abstract of our paper.

“The disintermediation based on the digital technology has transformed different environments, from banking to media, education and sales. This paper explores a new kind of disintermediation or re-intermediation; also called cyberintermediation. The paper analyses how the revolution of information and communication technologies provides new alternatives of disintermediation in the generation and distribution of knowledge. The authors raise questions such as: To what extent is this phenomenon reshaping the traditional role of the university? Will it cause a crisis in the educational institutions? Will this disintermediation of the education evolve towards the disappearance of institutions like schools and universities? The researchers propose a table that integrates and recombines the knowledge generation and knowledge distribution dimensions with Boyer’s key functions of scholarship. Finally, the concept of knowledge broker is introduced to enrich the discussion about reintermediation. Beyond the prophecies, which announce the “death of the university”, the authors discuss and suggest new agents, actions and transactions that are useful to think about the educational institution of the new century”.


Within this text we try to better understand how well prepared are the universities to face the fast evolution of knowledge generation and distribution, as can be seen en the transformation of what has been called socially accepted knowledge is moving fast and in a non-predictable way:
  1. Encyclopædia Britannica (closed, analogue and then partially digital) >
  2. Encarta (closed, digital)>
  3. Nupedia or Knol (partially open, digital)>
  4. Wikipedia (primarily open, digital).

We look forward to the discussion that we will have then!

Suggested text: Readings, Bill (1996). The university in ruins. Harvard University Press.