« Our fine arts were developed, their types and usages were established, in times very different from the present, by men whose power of action upon things was insignificant in comparison with ours... In all the arts there is a physical component which can no longer be considered or treated as it used to be, which cannot remain unaffected by our modern knowledge and power... We must expect great innovations to transform the entire technique of the arts, thereby affecting artistic invention itself and perhaps even brining about an amazing change in our very notion of art."
Paul Valéry, The Conquest of Ubiquity Pièces sur l'art, Paris, 1934, p. 103-104 (Bibliothèque de la Pléiade, Tome II, 1960, P 1284)
This quotation from a short essay by the French poet appears as the epigraph of Walter Benjamin's groundbreaking text: The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Authored in the 1930s by two men of letters, their writings constitute a visionary interrogation on the status of the work of art at a time when technology renders it reproducible ad infinitum. Walter Benjamin's interest in the question did not arise haphazardly. His passion for photography was such that he devoted a book to its history. For him, photography is a form of art unlike the other arts insofar as a negative allows for a multiplicity of prints remaining "identical" to the original. This also pertains to motion pictures, in which film ensures ubiquitous projection. As technology permits large-scale reproduction of a work of art, Benjamin puts forward a key question: In what respect are we called upon to reconsider the duality between original and copy "authentically" distinguishing a painting, for example, from a duplicate? What becomes of the creative act in a context propitious to mass production and dissemination of the copied? What is to become of the work of art and the fine arts in a world of untethered reproduction? In order to address these far-ranging interrogations on art and its practice, Benjamin puts forward a simple question: What, ultimately, distinguishes an original from its copies?
According to Benjamin, the original is a physical object characterized by its presence in space and time: its "hic et nunc" (here and now) and its belonging to a cultural tradition. The here and now circumscribe the precise time and place of the original; they are constitutive of its authenticity. Benjamin writes that "The whole sphere of authenticity is outside technical -- and of course, not only technical -- reproducibility." He adds: "Secondly, technical reproduction can put the copy of the original into situations which would be out of reach for the original itself." According to Benjamin, the transfer not only alters the here and now of the work of art, but also jeopardizes another dimension, namely "the authority of the object". When all is said and done, states Benjamin, "that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art." He sums up: "One might generalize by saying that the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. And by permitting the reproduction to meet the beholder or listener in his own particular situation, it reactivates² the object reproduced." The original is consequently unique insofar as its "here and now" and its aura are unique; any reproduction is an alteration of the "here and now" and the aura. On the other hand, and this is a fundamental point, reproduction reactivates the object reproduced. And reactivation is a source of potentialities, of innovations and novelties of which we fail to realize, in the immediacy of reproduction, the range and scope.
Some eighty years later, the questions raised by Walter Benjamin and Paul Valéry are strikingly echoed in the domain of pedagogy, which is being thrown into upheaval by the emergence of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs, also known by the French acronym FLOT), of which the best-known avatars are Coursera (www.coursera.org), Udacity (www.udacity.com), FutureLearn (www.futurelearn.com), EdX (www.edx.org) and OCEAN (http://www.ocean-flots.org/). It is not by chance that the mergers and consolidations of business schools, for instance, have been occurring at a time of digital fever. And having previously escaped the digital tsunami that has wrought havoc on industry, economic institutions are now in the eye of the storm. In a nutshell, MOOCs are courses to which millions of students throughout the world have free access via the web. Outfitted with a pronounced community dimension, the classes are neither walled off nor subject to geographical boundaries; generally speaking, as is the case with Coursera, they are drawn up from the lectures given in renowned colleges and universities such as Stanford, Yale or Princeton. The recent popularity of extra-mural pedagogy is nothing short of phenomenal; over the same lapse of time, student enrollment in Coursera has increased far more rapidly than member registration in Facebook or Twitter! As of now, Coursera counts more than four million students scattered around the world. Given these figures, it may be claimed that pedagogy has entered the age of large-scale digital reproducibility. Needless to say, e-learning and distance learning came into being prior to MOOCs, but neither of them has been able to attain comparable quantity (number of enrollees, countries and universities involved) or quality (worldwide learning communities, dissolution of the focal point of pedagogical authority).
Michel Serres, the veteran philosopher and eternal optimist, is hardly worried by the shape of things to come: "Far from disappearing, the class is plugging itself into the network and restructuring itself following an open and participatory model. It was previously formatted following the model of the page of a book: The teacher was in front of his class and held the position of the author, of the person who knows and transmits to those who are not in the know. Nowadays this model is falling to pieces. » Notwithstanding the optimism manifested by Michel Serres, the shattering of the model is tantamount to the loss of the hic et nunc, the "here and now" of the original, namely a professor's lecture in an amphitheater. The master lecture is inherently theatrical; it brings together the actors in a classic unity of time, place and action. It is built around a focal point, the podium; as Serres mentions, the lecturer's platform is a Power Point in the original sense of the word. The short-lived unity, which is anchored in long-standing academic tradition, endows the lecture with an aura that is dissipated by MOOCs and the new technologies. A MOOC is initially a large-scale copy of the original, a copy rendered possible by the technological resources of the Web. And yet, it is far more than that; it is a reworked copy that Benjamin might have termed "reactivated"; it is a copy preserving neither the "here and now" nor the aura of the original, and which may be said to trumpet its infidelity with regard to the original. And far from figuring as a net loss, the infidelity is ultimately a reflection of the ever-present tension provoked by technology between fidelity and convenience, of the tension considered by the American essayist Kevin Maney as characteristic of what he terms the "fidelity swap". Later in this paper, we will go into detail on the "fidelity-convenience" couple. In a nutshell, what the user (whoever and wherever he is) loses in fidelity (in "here and now") should be regained in terms of convenience.
This shattering could not help but vitally interest the co-founders of Cyberlibris (www.cyberlibris.com), who are co-authors of the present paper. Cyberlibris is a response to what we call the tyranny of the single, authoritative manual, and to what Serres terms the model of the page of a book. Like it or not, the book has entered the age of mechanical reproducibility. Similarly to MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses), which emancipate pedagogy from the enclosed space of the classroom by detaching it from the focal point represented by the overhyped Power Point towards which the gazes of students seated in a lecture hall are supposed to converge, the digital book separates the contents from the "Gutenberg" container. Access to reading is consequently overhauled. A learner is no longer in a state of dependency with regard to the imposed focal point, the officially mandated book. When he reads a copy he is no longer depriving the other learners; queuing up and rationing are a thing of the past. As a digital community library dedicated to business schools, ScholarVox (www.scholarvox.com) epitomizes pedagogical and book-related emancipation. Day in and day out, several hundreds of thousands of students, professors and librarians converge towards a digital location where they can share their readings and manage, by design and community-based serendipity, to discover works they would surely never have otherwise known.
Needless to add, the library is anything but a new idea. On the other hand, the emancipated and emancipating library without walls is new indeed. Goodbye to the linear model of the appraised and validated, purportedly authoritative text; hello to a model of reading that is profoundly organic, literally natural; doesn't nature proceed tentatively and uncertainly, by trial and error? Doesn't nature constantly make mistakes, and isn't that what allows it to move forward in its untold wealth and multifarious diversity? The digital commons is a library creating a space in which serendipity ceases to be an exception, and becomes the rule. Given the library-based luggage we carry, we could not help but ask ourselves questions on MOOCs and their repercussions on the arts of learning and teaching and, more plainly, on education and the institutions with which it has been associated.
Petite Poucette, si chère à Michel Serres, n'habite plus la même géométrie que celle ses parents. Hier, l'espace quotidien était métrique, balisé par des distances. La distance scandait l'aventure. Petite Poucette ne connaît plus ces distances. Sa géométrie n'est plus physique. Elle est numérique. L'aventure est à portée de clic. Petite Poucette vit de proximités, de liens enchevêtrés. De proximités numériques en proximités numériques, Petite Poucette explore le monde comme jamais on ne l'avait fait avant elle.
Chaque année, universités et écoles accueillent dans leurs enceintes des centaines de milliers de Petites Poucettes. Ces enceintes sont encore le reflet du dispositif pédagogique conçu pour leurs parents. La pédagogie y demeure contrainte par la géographie du campus. Conscient de cette inadéquation, Euromed (devenue depuis sa fusion avec Bordeaux Ecole de Management, KEDGE Business School Marseille) a lancé un vaste chantier de reconfiguration de ses espaces. Premier lieu concerné, symbolique s'il en est, bibliothèque. La bibliothèque est devenue HUB avec l'ambition d'en faire un lieu d'apprentissage et d'expérimentation combinant « physique » et « numérique ». Cet article relate cette aventure. La suite Download HUB_Petite_Poucette
The expected (feared ?) news is out : Amazon has embraced the « all you can eat » subscription model. Kindle Unlimited (KU) is on everybody's mind, lips and pens. Movies have been Netflixed, music has been Spotified and, now, books are following the same path. In a recent post, 24Symbols co-founder Justo Hidalgo is urging publishers to recognize that subscription services do bring tremendous value to the publishing ecosystem. In the midst of the Amazon/Hachette battle, the KU announcement has at least one merit. It raises lots of comments, arguments and counterarguments : Will KU make the publishing industry KO ? Is is good news or bad news and for whom ? Do « all you can eat » subscription services have a bright future ?
Well, as always, nothing is neither totally white or black nor totally new or old. Nothing is either bad or good. It all depends. KU or not, the devil still lies in the details. Subscription, streaming, advertising as paying third party are indeed hardly new concepts. Think of radio, TV etc... They have been around for quite a while. The only difference is that Internet gives them a new lease of life that may or may not be disruptive. To avoid hasty conclusions on these potentially disruptive effects , a step back and a wider perspective are needed. The following lines try to achieve this. They are the output of my business musings and ruminations after almost 14 years of book streaming and subscription. This is one specific (biased?) angle, but hopefully a good one to start with.
How does (should) subscription really work ? : Data, pricing and money talk
Qu'ils soient étudiants, professeurs, bibliothécaires, usagers de bibliothèques municipales etc..., les lecteurs des communautés Cyberlibris apportent au travers de leurs lectures, de leurs choix bibliographiques une intelligence collective du livre remarquable.
Pour la première fois cette intelligence est rendue visibleet utile à des niveaux de granularité remarquables. Grâce à un travail intensif sur ses données Cyberlibris (les fameuses "big data" et le non moins fameux "machine learning") Cyberlibris permet à chacun de ses partenaires et utilisateurs de mettre cette intelligence au service du livre et des lecteurs.
Les exemples visuels suivants sont appliqués aux Editions Maxima:
1. Lecture publique numérique BiblioVox: le graphe social Maxima
2. Lecture académique numérique ScholarVox: Le graphe social Maxima
A l'image du travail des explorateurs et des cartographes, Cyberlbris a entrepris de dessiner les cartes de la lacture numérique que celle-ci soit académique, éducative, professionnelle ou grand public.
C'est un véritable atlas de la lecture numérique qui sera déployé à la rentrée.
C'est cette CLEF qu'au travers de ses services numériques Cyberlibris souhaite proposer à chacun des acteurs concernés des territoires : conseils régionaux, conseils généraux, mairies, communautés de communes, centres régionaux du livre, éditeurs, libraires, bibliothèques, écoles, collèges, lycées, enseignement supérieur, entreprises....
Cette CLEF a pour vocation de renforcer l'attractivité numérique des territoires sous toutes ses dimensions culturelles, sociales, éducatives et économiques.