The MOOC hype cycle is older than you think.

19 09 2013

“A critic of technological development is no more ‘anti-technology’ than a movie critic is ‘anti-movie.'”

– David Noble, Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), p. xii.

As you may have noticed, I’ve been going through a David Noble phase lately. You see, last week I was writing an article for a publication that is very close to my heart (which you should be reading after the first of the year) and I thought I’d go back to David Noble’s famous “Digital Diploma Mills” articles for a little historical perspective. While I had glanced at them back in the day and looked at them again recently because they came up on Twitter in some context, it suddenly hit me that I had never read his entire book. Therefore, I ordered it ILL and started reading it as soon as it arrived.

It became apparent almost instantly that while David Noble may be dead, his ideas in that book are more relevant than ever. This part of the first paragraph in Chapter Four (p. 50) actually gave me chills:

“Promoters of instructional technology and ‘distance learning’ advanced with ideological bravado as well as institutional power, the momentum of human progress allegedly behind them. They had merely to proclaim ‘it’s the future’ to throw skeptics on the defensive and convince seasoned educators that they belonged in the dustbin of history. The monotonal mantras about our inevitable wired destiny, the prepackaged palaver of silicon snake-oil salesmen, echoed through the halls of academe, replete with sophomoric allusions to historical precedent (the invention of writing and the printing press) and sound bites about the imminent demise of the ‘sage on the stage’ and ‘bricks and mortar institutions.'”

My first thought? David Noble = Nostradamus. Seriously, before reading that I would have bet money that Cathy Davidson had coined the term “sage on the stage.” What was once old is new again.

But then I got to the last line of that paragraph:

“Only a year or two later, however, the wind was out of their sails, their momentum broken, their confidence shaken.”

We now know that that didn’t last. Online education is now a major part of higher education. It is also a permanent part of higher education. What David Noble failed to foresee is that online education when done right can be very, very good. Indeed, as I’ve learned over the course of my posts on that subject on this blog, wonderful things can be done online that simply can’t be done in the face-to-face classroom. The real problem is not the act of taking education online, it’s the force of austerity and corporatization that turn something that can be wonderful into fodder for digital diploma mills.

So where does that leave MOOCs? Can we suppose that MOOCs will improve over time, just as online education has, and turn into something worthwhile? The new argument from the MOOC Messiah Squad seems to be, “Well, maybe we won’t change the world overnight, but MOOCs will get better in the future and maybe the revolution will happen then.” That seems to be the thinking of this piece in Pando Daily (which I only saw because it linked here):

There has been a plethora of articles and commentaries suggesting that the MOOCs were all just a bad dream, and we can go back to the chalkboard with a sigh of relief.

Experienced observers of technology will recognize this as a familiar stage in a cycle. This cycle is so commonplace, it not only has a name, but its name has been trademarked by a bunch of voracious consultants who are asserting ownership of what is really a natural phenomenon in the ecology of disruptive socioeconomic change. Nonetheless, to be fair, and to avoid litigation, we will introduce it by its proper name: the Gartner Hype Cycle (TM).

The Hype Cycle is pretty straightforward. It suggests that each new technology goes through five phases: a) the Technology Trigger, b) the Peak of Inflated Expectations, c) the Trough of Disillusionment, d) the Slope of Enlightenment, and finally e) the Plateau of Productivity.

While that author was making fun of my suggestion that anti-MOOC is new black, this entire scaling down of expectations strikes me as very important. When MOOC advocates start citing the Gartner Hype Cycle as a good thing, I think we’ve reached a watershed because it means they’re already thinking post-MOOC. The question now becomes what is this thing we now call a MOOC going to look like once the bubble completely deflates? Will it look somewhat like an xMOOC? Will it look more like a cMOOC? Will any of it even be recognizable as a MOOC at all?

The online education example may be demonstrative. When administrations have given faculty members the freedom to innovate and teach how they see fit, great things have happened. Where that hasn’t happened, David Noble’s digital diploma mills persist. What separates that first scenario from the second scenario is power. If anybody wants to nominate George Siemens for “International MOOC Dictator,” I would second it. Yet even his fascinating experiments can lead to bad results if they fall victim to the same forces that Noble described so long ago now.

The economics and politics of both online education and MOOCs are intimately related. Unfortunately, from where I stand nearly everyone who’s caught up in the MOOC hype cycle spends far too much time on the first thing there and not nearly enough on the second. David Noble’s work serves as an excellent reminder that bad politics makes for bad pedagogy, no matter how enthusiastic its practitioners may be.

Déjà vu.

18 09 2013

“The Massachusetts Institute of Technology will this fall package some of its online courses into more cohesive sequences, just as edX prepares to roll out certificates of completion using identity verification. Seen together, the two announcements may provide a glimpse at what the future holds for the massive open online course provider.

The “XSeries” sequences add a new layer of structure to MITx, the institution’s section of the edX platform. The first of seven courses in the Foundations of Computer Science XSeries will be offered this fall, with one or more new courses being rolled out each semester until the fall of 2015. The Supply Chain Management XSeries, consisting of three courses, will begin in the fall of 2014. The two sequences will target undergraduates and working professionals, respectively.

MIT officials deny that the XSeries sequences are a first step toward students one day being able to combine a set of sequences into something that may resemble a degree.”…

“Students have been asking for certificates that have more verification, more meaning behind them that they can add to their resumes,” the edX spokesman Dan O’Connell said.

Students will pay a fee for the verification service that varies depending on the length of the course. A course lasting only a few weeks that uses the service could cost $25, while a longer course could cost more than $100. Multiplied by however many students — thousands, tens of thousands — who enroll in a massive online course, the revenue generated from the verification service could be one piece of the puzzle toward a sustainable business model for MOOCs.”

– Carl Straumsheim, “Mini MOOC Minors,” Inside Higher Education, September 18, 2013.

“If Columbia’s correspondence courses were genuinely of ‘college grade’ and taught by ‘regular members of the staff,’ as Columbia advertised, then why was no academic credit given for them? If correspondence instruction was superior to that of the traditional classroom, then why did not Columbia sell off its expensive campus and teach all of its courses by mail? ‘The whole thing is business, not education,’ Flexner concluded. ‘Columbia, untaxed because it is an educational institution, is in business: it has education to sell [and] plays a purely commercial game of the merchant whose sole concern is profit.’ Likewise, he bemoaned as ‘scandalous’ the fact that ‘the prestide of the University of Chicago should be used to bamboozle well-meaning but untrained persons…by means of extravagant and misleading advertisements.’ Finally, Flexner pointed out that regular faculty in most institutions remained justifiably skeptical of correspondence and vocational instruction. The ‘administrative professoriate,’ he declared, ‘is a proletariat.'”

– David Noble, summarizing Abraham Flexner, the leading critic of correspondence schools c. 1930 in Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education, 2001, p. 17.

On the commodification of higher education.

17 09 2013

“Imagine an online document that’s iterative like a LinkedIn profile (and might even be part of the LinkedIn profile), but is administered by some master service that verifies the authenticity of its components. While you’d be the creator and primary keeper of this profile, you wouldn’t actually be able to add certifications yourself. Instead, this master service would do so, verifying information with the certification issuers, at your request, after you successfully completed a given curriculum.

Over time, this dynamic, networked diploma will contain an increasing number of icons or badges symbolizing specific certifications. It could also link to transcripts, test scores, and work examples from these curricula, and even evaluations from instructors, classmates, internship supervisors, and others who have interacted with you in your educational pursuits.

Ultimately the various certificates you earn could be bundled into higher-value certifications. If you earn five certificates in the realm of computer science, you might receive an icon or badge that symbolizes this higher level of experience and expertise. In this way, you could eventually assemble portfolios that reflect a similar breadth of experiences that you get when you pursue a traditional four-year degree.”

– Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn, “Disrupting the Diploma,” September 16, 2013.

“The commodification of education requires the interruption of this fundamental educational process and the disintegration and distillation of the educational process into discrete, reified, and ultimately saleable things or packages of things….In the wake of this transformation, teachers become commodity producers and deliverers, subjects of the familiar regime of commodity production in any other industry, and students become consumers of yet more commodities. The relationship between teacher and student is thus reestablished, in an alienated mode, through the medium of the market, and the buying and selling of commodities takes on the appearance of education. But it is, in reality, only a shadow of education, an assemblage of pieces without the whole.”

– David Noble, Digital Diploma Mills: The Automation of Higher Education (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2001), pp. 3-4.

“Video killed the radio star.”

29 07 2013

As you might imagine, I’ve been reading a lot of insufferable technological determinism aimed in my direction ever since that Slate article came out. Of course, there’s been, “How dare you resist progress?” and “Don’t you understand business history?,” or, my favorite…well, let’s just say it gets even worse from there. Since I only title blog posts in order to amuse Ian Petrie now, I’ve decided to call the belief system that motivates these kinds of arguments, “The Buggles Theory of the History of Technology.”

Under this system, progress marches on from one technology to another (like video killing the radio star), always getting better. Under this system, the people who lose out need to just stand aside and accept their obsolescence without making a peep since the dead are silent. No mention of political decisions (like chronically underfunding higher education) or power structures (cough…contingent faculty…cough) or even the actual history of technology will be tolerated! And God forbid you mention the self-interest of your own profession, because that will invalidate your argument immediately since it proves that you’re biased.

Of course, MTV no longer plays any videos anymore, but that just proves their point doesn’t it? After all, if the people want “Teen Wolf” or “Buckwild” or reruns of “Jersey Shore,” then the history of MTV proves that capitalism works. After all, I can still watch any video I want on YouTube (such as “Video Killed the Radio Star”) whenever I want to see it. I can even embed it in a blog post. Therefore, the people have spoken!

That’s all well and good, but how do we know that students actually want MOOCs? Sure, tens of thousands of people will sign up to access MOOCs for free, but what evidence do we have that anybody, especially college-age students, will actually pay for them? I’ve covered potential problems with the MOOC business model in this post. What I want to do here is expand on what was point #3 there: Whether paying college students will be willing to put up with being treated like faces in the crowd.

In just the last few weeks, I’ve seen a lot more evidence that they won’t. For instance, here’s Rob Jenkins writing in the Chronicle:

It’s true that during the past decade, the number of students enrolled in online courses grew at a significant rate. But according to a recent study, that growth started leveling off in the fall of 2010, when about 31 percent of all postsecondary students were taking at least one online class. Researchers concluded that “the slower rate of growth … compared to previous years may be the first sign that the upward rise in online enrollments is approaching a plateau.”

Moreover, a survey conducted this year by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University found that students at two-year campuses, in particular, prefer face-to-face over online instruction, especially for courses they deem difficult.

So while some students want, need, and benefit from online classes, the argument that students in general are clamoring for them doesn’t exactly hold up.

This is just for online courses, the ones in which students can actually be treated as individuals. Student attitudes towards MOOCs inevitably have to be worse since they aren’t treated as individuals at all. [Don’t worry, MOOC Messiah Squad, you can always just hold your hands over your ears and chant “access” until all the bad news goes away.]

Then there’s what happened in my own state. My friend, fellow cog in the CSU system machine and future debate partner Historiann reminds of this in her most recent post on MOOC Madness. Here she quotes an absolutely appalling op-ed from the Washington Post:

What about that experiment to offer dramatically reduced tuition for MOOCwork courses at Baa Ram U.? It’s even more hilarious than you can guess [Historiann’s emphasis]:

Colorado State’s Global Campus advertised last year that it would give credit to enrolled students who passed a MOOC in computer science. This would cost students $89 instead of the $1,050 for a comparable course. There were no takers. Seven additional institutions are set to make similar offerings in the coming year. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, they expect only hundreds, not thousands, of takers.

But why are prospective students so reluctant to jump on the MOOC bandwagon when 10% of them stand to learn so much? Why is it only a few tenured edupreneurs at prestigious universities who are pushing MOOCs by reassuring us that they’re inevitable “for good or ill?” But why? Santy Claus, why? Why are you taking our Christmas tree? Why? Even the not-very-intelligent commenters at the Washington Post have called bull$hit on this advertorial: my favorite is the one that says “Yeah, and blow up dolls are a good substitute for a wife…”

I still think this is more an indictment of online education in general than MOOCs in particular, but students aren’t stupid. That’s why I wonder how much market research any of these schools are doing. What if “hundreds” turns out to be “a handful?” Where will that leave the Buggles Theory of the History of Technology?

Unfortunately, there’s one way that the Buggles Theory of the History of Technology can be rescued from the dustbin of horrible edtech punditry: Make sure that most students have no other option but MOOCs, and the people running the show can still make money even if many students do forego college in droves. However, that doesn’t have to happen.

It’s still early yet in the process of MOOC-ification. We can still rewind. We haven’t gone too far. Those of us who haven’t given themselves over to the Cult of MOOCs simply have to make sure that anti-MOOC remains the new black until the providers all come crashing down courtesy of their non-existent business plans. Cathy Davidson is right. If all the MOOCs went away tomorrow, higher ed would still be in a world of hurt, but at least those problems couldn’t get much, much worse much, much faster than anybody imagined before MOOC Mania began.

“All the promises our teachers gave. If we worked hard, if we behaved.”

18 07 2013

It has been years since I recommended to anyone that they go to grad school in the humanities. In this market, even the most talented students face a likely future of adjunct destitution. When college has come under attack though, I’ve always defended it. “Sure, it’s no guarantee of a job,” I say, “but it certainly makes your chances better.”

I still believe that, but a whole series of recently published articles about the changing nature of work have depressed me beyond belief, making me worry about how long I can promise students that that’s still true. For example, there’s this from Salon:

Technological advances are putting serious pressure on the working person’s ability to command a living wage. If the data showing that workers are grabbing a smaller and smaller piece of the overall income pie even as productivity continues to grow tells us anything, it’s that employers are benefiting far more than workers from Silicon Valley’s disruptive innovations.

The same forces that have enabled American corporations to offshore and outsource so much labor overseas are now atomizing the most basic tasks of daily life — everything from lawn mowing to scheduling a dentist appointment. Fancy Hands employs only American contractors, but the principle is the same. With the Internet, and particularly with the mobile Internet, anyone, anywhere, is a potential employee.

Or, if you have about 15 minutes to spare, go listen to this, then hug your children tight after you’re done.

Call me cynical, but I can’t help but wonder if this drive to educate the world is part of a deliberate effort to drive down the wages of college-educated workers everywhere. The MOOCs increase the supply of labor. The robots decrease demand. The result will be that a free degree will be worth exactly what students paid for it.

Is the Internet going to do this to my profession too? I’m actually a little more optimistic here. It’s not like this is news, but apparently if you throw students into the deep end of the pool, many of them will sink to the bottom. The other end of the spectrum, babying them through their online courses doesn’t strike me as any better. For example, here’s the vision for the future of higher ed that Bill Gates’ money is trying to promote:

Mr. Crosgrove and his classmates study clusters of curated online materials, such as the free “Smarthistory” videos presented by Khan Academy. They let students show mastery of competencies by completing “tasks.” One task, for example, asks them to research potential works of art for a museum exhibit and to create a PowerPoint on their findings. The completed tasks are shipped out for evaluation to a pool of part-time adjunct professors, who assess the work and explain to students what they should do to improve.

A coach helps Mr. Crosgrove set goals, navigate materials, and handle problems. The faculty role in College for America involves curating the content for students and assessing tasks.

I remember when I was shocked that people in India were reading our x-rays overnight. Now that they’re serving as personal digital assistants, this is practically commonplace. However, the difference between all those general work-related examples and higher education is that your x-ray can be read just as well remotely as in person while “curating online materials” is, the obvious labor issues aside, a lousy excuse for a college education. It’s even a lousy excuse for an online college education!

As I keep saying, what scares me most is that students will vote with their feet. Given a choice between an all-MOOC degree or nothing, they’ll pick nothing or – perhaps more disturbingly – even if they have the choice to get a traditional college education, the all-MOOC option will make the competition too stiff for anyone to keep the traditional option viable.* If bad education drives good education from the market this is not a good thing as nobody will actually have the skills our economy needs to innovate or succeed.

In this scenario, academia will become one big Allentown and it will be “getting very hard to stay” for all of us professors except the super ones. Creative destruction may be creative, but that doesn’t always represent progress.

* Of course, all of this will have to happen before the MOOC providers inevitably collapse, but $43 million can last an awful long time.

Update: I’m teaching the New Deal in summer class today, so I thought maybe I could end this discussion on a happier note:

The Henry Ford: A museum review.

22 10 2012

I have a new favorite museum in America. It used to be the National Museum of American History, but I really think they’ve shot themselves in the foot in the course of remodeling and I’ll never forgive them for destroying their bookstore. The Henry Ford in Dearborn, Michigan, however, keeps getting better every time I see it.

I went back last Friday while I was in Detroit for the North American Labor History Conference. You go to the Henry Ford for the cars and their collection really is quite amazing.

1914 Model “T” Touring Car

1931 Duesenberg Model “J”

When I first went during the 90s, the museum just had lines and lines of cars with almost no explanation. Now, the cars are not only explained, they have some of the best computer enhancements to any museum exhibit that I have ever seen.

For example, there’s a station where you can simulate driving a Model “T’ as if it were a driving game. What it does is illustrate all the steps you have to take to get a Model “T” running and moving forward, including getting out of the car at one point. I knew all these things, but I never quite realized how hard it was until I played the game. Now I’ll never forget.

The museum’s “Driving America” exhibit, however, is a lot more than just cars:

Traffic Light, c. 1920.

McDonald’s Sign, c. 1950s.

It really is the social history of the car as well, which I find much more interesting than just car after car. The film in the middle of the exhibit was particularly good. To paraphrase one of the curators in that film, he said, “In order for a new technology to take hold, people have to be convinced to do something in an entirely different way.” That was really easy when cars became relatively cheap.

It also seems quite clear that I have completely geeked out when I get excited over a McCormick Reaper and early steam engines. But then again, look at what I’ve been publishing lately.

McCormick Reaper, c. 1850.

Newcomen Engine, c. 1760.

PS You should all order that book one way or another as I’ve pitched writing a prequel to that book to the same publisher, and they’re looking at how early sales and requests go before deciding whether they’re going to give me a contract.

We are all Woody Allen.

2 04 2012

At Nick Carr’s recommendation, I spent a good part of my last weekend of Spring Break reading Tim Wu’s The Master Switch. It’s an amazing piece of work, highlighting the historical cycling between openness and monopolistic control in radio, television, telephones, film and, of course, the Internet. I was incredibly impressed despite having read two other amazing books on communications technology relatively recently: The Information and Network Nation. [The current issue of the always terrific Lapham’s Quarterly is on the same subject.]

Dedicated blogger that I am, I spent the whole time reading Wu thinking, “What are the ramifications of these concepts for education technology?” It was so useful to learn about the Kronos effect (the tendency of large companies to eat up smaller companies in order to forestall technological innovation which threatens their monopoly position) at just about the time Blackboard decided to buy out a couple of open source rivals. And thanks to Wu, I now think I finally understand what net neutrality is.

For my purposes though, I want to quote a very ordinary paragraph from Wu about the early film industry (p. 89, w/o the footnotes] and then explain why I think it’s actually really important for those of us in academia:

[William W.] Hodkinson [the founder of Paramount Pictures] believed in what is sometimes called craft, or authorial filmaking, wherein one creator did nearly everything, writing, directing, producing, and casting his own film. He was, in fact, among the original backers of a tradition that we identify now with directors like the Coen brothers, Peter Jackson, Woody Allen, and Francis Ford Coppola. In contrast [Adolph] Zukor [who took over from Hodkinson at Paramount] saw not craft but the latest methods of production as the true stock in trade. He would come to promote the “central producer” model, concentrating most of the decision-making authority in the producer rather than the director. With streamlined production and virtually guaranteed audiences, films could be grander and more elaborate than ever. It was a new idea for a cultural industry: there was no need to settle for the meagre profits of the nineteenth-century model still ruling the stage: with the twentieth-century methods of production, one could have a balance sheet to match.

That’s right, I’m not saying that professors are like Woody Allen because we’re all neurotic (although I certainly am). I’m saying that we are all Woody Allen because we are all auteurs. Our classes are a reflection of our visions. We write the script. We get to cast the books. We control what the audience sees and hears. I’d argue that this is by far the most satisfying aspect of working in academia because no matter how helpless the new age of austerity makes us feel, at least we can control our own classrooms.

Teaching online threatens that kind of control. For example, the university’s choice of an LMS determines what our students see and hear. In fact, it controls the entire nature of our interactions. More importantly, if Lasell College can tell professors exactly what parts of the LMS they must use, whatever control we have left is totally at the mercy of our employers. And while this post from Audrey Watters is a little bit over my head, the questions she suggests that administrations might start asking scare me to death because all the data that electronIc classrooms can provide might actually answer them:

What are students reading? What are they buying at the bookstore? What are they checking out of the library? How much time are they spending on course materials? How often do they interact with other students? What does that interaction entail? How often do they interact with faculty? What does that interaction entail? How do students respond to feedback? How’s attendance? How are grades — not just at the end of the term, but in an ongoing and real-time basis? What classes do students want to take? What classes should they take? What classes should the university offer? Can it build a recommendation engine to help make suggestions to students? What faculty should it hire? And what are those faculty doing?

While the privacy concerns she raises here certainly bother me, what scares me even more is the prospect of higher education being totally commodified. This would be triumph of commerce over art. While market forces certainly affect traditional education too, this level of commodification would be completely impossible in an all face-to-face world.

On the other hand, if there’s a lesson in Wu’s book it’s that technological walled gardens never last. Perhaps there’s another kind of online education, one that might make me want to rethink my attitude towards the whole practice. Imagine a world where professors could still be auteurs in their own electronic classrooms. They get to pick the LMS. They get to pick what bells and whistles they’ll use in class and can import new ones from outside the LMS if the ones on the Internet at large are better. They control the nature of the interactions between themselves and their students and can decide for themselves how and whether those interactions will be recorded.

“Boy, if life were only like this.”

“Always something breaking us in two.”

24 08 2011

“Nothing in education is so astonishing as the amount of ignorance it accumulates in the form of inert facts.”

– Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams, 1900.

Recent visitors to this blog should recognize that my interest in educational technology didn’t come out of left field. For instance, I made fun of a book titled DIY U almost from the very first moment that I read about it. It must be out in paperback now because the author is recycling a big chunk of it in Utne Reader.

Perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age, but the author’s arguments actually seem less awful than they did the last time I read them. Perhaps it’s the extraordinary awfulness of the stuff that I’ve been reading over the last few months. Perhaps it’s the author’s obvious enthusiasm for the educational technology future. She clearly believes that these developments will help the students of the future learn better.

I still don’t. Looking at my previous post on this book, it seems that this is the exact same paragraph that got me all riled up months ago:

Technology upsets the traditional hierarchies and categories of education. It can put the learner at the center of the educational process. Increasingly, this means students will decide what they want to learn, and when, where, and with whom; and they will learn by doing. Functions that have long hung together, like research and teaching, learning and assessment, or content, skills, accreditation, and socialization, can be delivered separately.

OK, but just because you CAN deliver them separately doesn’t necessarily mean that you SHOULD deliver them separately. Take the obvious pairing here of content and skills. Perhaps you can teach my discipline adequately online if you believe, as Harry Truman did, that history is just one damn fact after another. Make the students read something, then give them a multiple choice test on the content they just read. Voila! You’ve taught your students history. That’s the popular perspective of people who think that a college education is about nothing besides getting a credential.

I happen to believe otherwise. I’ve come to look at historical facts as a means to an end – actually a means to many ends, namely developing a skill set that helps students better understand the world around them today, not just the dead world of the past. That’s why I’m so smitten with whatever the opposite of the coverage model of history survey classes happens to be.

This ProfHacker post calls it “uncoverage.” I’m not sure I like that name, but nonetheless I really couldn’t agree with these sentiments more:

[D]epth and breadth should not be pitted against each other. In fact, breadth is a key component of uncoverage, the weft to the warp of understanding. Breadth means connecting disparate ideas, finding news ways to represent what is uncovered, and extending one’s conceptual reach to the implications of the material.

Taken together, depth and breadth mean moving away from the prepackaged observations and readily digestible interpretations that go hand-in-hand with coverage.

Teach content and skills separately and you’ll be lucky if you get readily digestible interpretations and prepackaged observations. I suspect students will do nothing but spit back one damned fact after another. It’s no coincidence that Henry Adams was a historian first and a memoirist second.

Do people in other disciplines think like Adams too or are we historians special?

Poor Mrs. Drudge.

16 08 2011

My friend Bob Rydell of Montana State told me about this clip, which they’re using at the exhibit he curated for the National Building Museum. The scene is from the “The Middleton Family Visit the New York World’s Fair,” (1939) and the exhibit is on the world’s fairs of the 1930s. The editing is my own, and it actually kind of fits the new theme of this blog:

More Here at the New Yorker

28 04 2011

Brendan Gill is amazed by the fax machine (p. 112):

“In recent years, part of the twenty-second floor, which is the top floor of the building, has been given to a facsimile transmitting system, by means of which a copy hurtles back and forth all but instantaneously between our office and the Donnelly Press, in Chicago, where the magazine is printed. I would like to describe in precise detail the extraordinary process that makes it possible for me to make any number of fiddling little changes in my galleys as late as two o’clock on a Monday afternoon and have the finished magazine in my hands late the following morning, but I am totally incapable of doing so.”

I wonder how much one of those things cost when Gill published those words in 1975.

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