Blackboard = Brasilia

The Chronicle of Higher Ed recently published the following snippet in its daily email update on technology:

Weller says new Web tools (such as wikis and video-capture technology) put power in the hands of students, but traditional learning-management systems (such as Moodle and Blackboard) emphasize central control by the learning institutions, so he predicts that “monolithic LMSs will be deserted, digital tumbleweed blowing down their forums. Students will abandon this in favor of their tools.” —Maria José Viñas

I immediately thought of Fred Stutzman’s post on web tools and Jane Jacobs. I think the “ghost town” image isn’t as appropriate as the one implicit in your work: the big new-built urban-renewal municipal complexes of the the 1950’s-1970’s with their rectilinear buildings and giant, treeless public “squares.”


Like LMS’s these are not without human presence–people need to go to those places to get services that they need–but nobody lingers there. They leave them as quickly as they can for tree-lined streets with stores and things more human. That’s what happens, I think, with our big monolithic systems, and that’s why I’d prefer to set up my academic shop (or at least a branch office) between the coffee house and the bookstore and far from city hall…

(Of course it’s interesting that the big monolithic urban spaces are now at least occasionally filled with skateboarders and graffiti. So even /those/ sterile urban spaces get repurposed (it is exactly their sterility and rectilinearity that makes them so great for other purposes. There’s great stuff on this in James Scott’s “Seeing Like a State.”)

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