The Oxford Protocol : Modules

Core Technology

(Mediating Technologies turned inside out)

This has been one of our touchstones, and a useful one—used primarily to think about how new technologies did, or could, mediate practices, organizations, knowledges—as in the shift from scroll to book.


And while there are still readers, that new technology changed not only how we read, but also who can read, and the institutions that deliver and distribute the capacity and resources to do so (school, university, library, press).  Technology change, from the outside, can penetrate and reshape the core.

But few external changes do that.  The “core technology” of an institution, the fundamental process and structure of its organization, functions to mediate or buffer external forces that might derail it from its appointed task.  New innovations that some hope will revolutionize are tamed and tempered into incremental, supplemental, or additive accommodations.  Cars are made larger or smaller, in Detroit or in Korea, but the core technology of assembly line manufacture persists.    Classrooms shift from black boards to whiteboards, but the fundamental core technology of instruction (teacher at front, students sitting in rows) is hard to reshape.  New departments may be added, faculties reallocated, or fields created, but if the core technology of the university is the production of scholarship (knowledge?), the stable and stabilizing platform of disciplinarity mediates efforts at radical change.  Within disciplines, or fields, we see similar patterns at smaller scale.

So the question becomes what are the kinds of change (whether we call them disruptive innovations, or second order change, or revolutionary v. evolutionary) that produce or take advantage of instabilities in the core technology itself?  And which core?

Oxford Group, January 2014: Academy Turned Inside Out | Apotheosis | Core Technology | The Dedisciplinary Environment | Explanatory/Descriptive? | Fiction | Good Explanation | Mediation | Platform | Polemic | Portal | Problems | Protocol | Protocol (II) | Search*/Know* | Sciences/Humanities | Stuckness | Threshold Effects | Topology | Touchstones