to ETDs in Academe: Diffusion of Innovation
tance to ETDs in Academe: Diffusion of Innovation
However, as the previous innovations of hypertext and multimedia software have diffused, text-centered ETDs have undergone what Rogers refers to as re-invention : "the degree to which an innovation is changed or modified by a user in the process of its adoption and implementation" (17). Graduate students have begun to experiment with the use of hypertext, sound, animation and video in their electronic dissertations.
Hypertext is text composed of multisequential units of alphabetic text, visual information, sound, animation, and other types of data articulated by electronic links. Hypertext scholarship possesses an advantage over print scholarship; while the print medium tends to conceal the underlying network of texts within which scholarly work situates itself, hypertext reveals the network of texts from which the dissertation is constructed and makes in-text references easy to navigate (5). For a researcher in academe, the linking capability of hypertext offers distinct advantages over print. Not only does it reveal connections among the work of researchers and speed up the process of accessing reference notes, it also offers new research possibilities by virtue of its de-centered nature.
Another relative advantage of ETDs is that critical commentary, as well as chronologically anterior and later texts, can be appended to them; this produces a document that radiates linked texts in a way that allows readers to experience information within a broader context (Landow 35) . Continuous appendage over time produces an expanding network of information that reveals multiple connections between theories, facts, investigations and even disciplines. ETD collections that incorporate continuing scholarly commentary can serve as prototypes that help to shape not only the next age of writing, but the next age of research and scholarship as well.
Perhaps one of the most important advantages ETDs offer is their capability to incorporate visual information of a non-textual nature. For centuries, text has labored to transmit information that it simply does not carry well; however, the writeable elements of ETDs may be words, images, sounds, video, or even actions, such as linkages, that the reader directs a computer to perform. This combination of alphabetic text with visual and aural information engages readers on multiple cognitive levels in ways that alphabetic representations of information alone cannot. As Gunther Kress notes: "The single, exclusive and intensive focus on written language has dampened the full development of all kinds of human potentials, through all the sensorial possibilities of human bodies, in all kinds of respects, cognitively and affectively" (Kress "English at the Crossroads: Rethinking curricula of Communication in the Context of the Turn to the Visual" 85). All modes of representation offer both opportunities and constraints for constructing knowledge and meaning; but if the limits of one mode of representation are reached, it should be possible to make use of another mode better suited to the nature of the information a writer seeks to present. If one mode of representation exploits human cognitive potential to only a limited degree, then there is no justifiable reason for sustaining its exclusive use.
Further, HMTL ETDs provide greater opportunity for readers to engage in the highly creative, transformative, meaning-making process known as synaesthesia --the constant transition and translation between different modes of representation. Focusing exclusively on text as an information carrier suppresses synaesthetic activity and thus, constrains cognitive activity (Kress Before Writing: Rethinking the Paths to Literacy 39) . ETDs with integrated modes encourage synaesthesia and promote cognitive activity. (top)
The desired outcome of a completed dissertation is the certification of a potentially productive scholar within a particular discipline. The dissertation demonstrates that faculty have succeeded in guiding students toward this end, and that students have succeeded in acquiring the skills associated with productive research. Perhaps one of the most salient of these skills is the ability to represent their work primarily with words--words that are carefully and skillfully arranged according to the conventions of their discipline.
Representation of dissertation research as text has become a well-established norm within the community of academe. Faculty mentors are familiar with it as a genre, most were required to write one themselves, and they are generally comfortable in evaluating its effectiveness as a research report/argument. However, most are not familiar with multimedia ETDs. Their variable, non-linear structure and non-textual elements require changes in the evaluation process--changes that faculty have only just begun to explore. Mentors may find themselves called upon to become students themselves as they follow and learn from doctoral candidates' bold and innovative attempts to include new content and alternative structures in their work. This shift may be perceived by many to be incompatible with established mentor/mentee norms within the university. But there is an even more important and subtle undercurrent that informs this perceived incompatibility with established relationship norms--the flow of power through the network of social relations in academe.
In her article, "Talking about Research: Are We Playing Someone Else's Game?" Elizabeth Blake suggests that two value systems operate within the university: the community of power and the community of learning (Blake 30-31) . In the university's community of power, "scholarship today can become a kind of high-stakes game played for money, power and prestige" (27). In contrast, within the community of learning, competition does not need to be invoked to prove the worth of scholarly research and publication. Instead, both research and publication are viewed as learning activities. In the community of learning, "Scholarly publishing is important . . . not because it brings prestige, but because it disseminates ideas, revealing to one scholar how another scholar thinks " (33). ETD's represent a new opportunity to "bring today's colleges and universities out of what one might call their captivity to the overly dominant values of the Community of Power and to rethink our work in terms of creating the best possible learning situation for our students and ourselves" (37). Because they furnish global access to new knowledge, promote sharing and collaboration, and engage readers on multiple cognitive levels, ETDs provide improved learning situations for both authors and readers.
However, the community of power to which Blake refers poses a substantial threat to the contribution ETDs can make to the community of learning. As Morton Winston notes,
Graduate students who choose to transgress the boundaries of alphabetic print text in writing their dissertations do not "buy into the dominant ethos," and thus are suspect in terms of whether or not they can qualify for Ph.D. certification. The norm their advisors impose on them is the traditional publication of dissertations as hierarchical, linear, alphabetic text, which their advisors are comfortable with evaluating. Even those students who simply choose to make their traditional dissertations globally accessible online are repeatedly told that they must restrict access to their work in order to protect their intellectual property rights. Moreover, they are strongly cautioned against incurring rejection by future publishers of respectable print journals and books, as online publication may count as "prior publication." In short, they are routinely admonished to protect their opportunity to achieve prestige as one of the disciplinary elites in the academic community of power ( 2000/2001 Author Survey , 2001).
Students who remain persistent in their efforts to provide broader access to their research and/or to challenge what counts as knowledge in the academy by experimenting with non-linear structure and visual or auditory forms of information in publishing their work defy assimilation to the cultural model of the research professor. However, refusal to assimilate may mean that they cannot earn the terminal degree, secure teaching jobs, receive grants, be published or promoted. They often learn that "unless they pay obeisance to the research ethos and to the members of their disciplines' elite" (Winston 57) , they will not be permitted to enter the academy. Hence, the dominant research paradigm in the academic community of power--"publish [in print] or perish"-- maintains significant resistance to the diffusion of ETDs, even among graduate students themselves.
Established norms governing processing and archiving of dissertations are also challenged by the advent of ETDs. Graduate school standards for the presentation of dissertation research are all based on the assumption that dissertations will exist in print. Formats for the appearance of these documents include requirements for content, organization, headings and subheadings, text font and size, line spacing, margins, page numbering, and references that may not be appropriate outside the medium of print text. Online, the writing space can evolve in nonlinear and visual ways that cannot be depicted within one-inch margins. (top)
the diffusion process and how academic norms and values affect ETD
adoption is, I believe, key to understanding how to market the concept
of ETDs to academic audiences. Further, research in identifying
groups and individuals who possess the characteristics Rogers has
identified as typical of early adopters may allow ETD proponents to
locate more successfully those pockets of support among their communities
which will prove most useful to them in their efforts. (top)
Blake, Elizabeth. "Talking About Research: Are We Playing Someone Else's Game?" The Politics and Processes of Scholarship . Eds. Joseph M. Moxley and Lagretta T. Lenker. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.
Kress, Gunther. Before Writing: Rethinking the Paths to Literacy . New York: Routledge, 1997.
---. ""English" at the Crossroads: Rethinking Curricula of Communication in the Context of the Turn to the Visual." Passions, Pedagogies and 21st Century Technologies . Ed. Gail E. Hawisher and Cynthia Self. Logan: Utah State University Press, 1999. 66-88.
MacMillan, Gail. The Digital Library . Online. Available: <http://www.vala.org.au/vala2000/2000pdf/McMillan.PDF>. March 2, 2002.
Rogers, Everett M. Diffusion of Innovations . 4th ed. New York: The Free Press, 1995.
Winston, Morton. "Prospects for a Revaluation of Academic Values." The Politics and Processes of Scholarship . Eds. Joseph M. Moxley and Lagretta T. Lenker. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.
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