Education and Research


Kim H. Veltman

How the Information Highway can Transform Education: Reflections on McLuhan’s Vision

Multicomm 94, Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 1994, pp. 221-247.


Most persons now talk about the electronic highway or Infobahn with very little idea of what it means in practice. Amidst discussions of interactivity, we hear bout home shopping, video on demand, 500 channels of television, and dangers of becoming couch potatoes. At the same time, in spite of the hype and buzzwords, many important ventures are under way: such as a pilot project to scan in all the manuscripts of the Vatican Library and of the Luther Library (Wittenberg). Eight million images of the Canadian Museum of Civilization are being scanned in electronically. The Coalition for Networked Information (Washington) has plans to scan in the full text versions of ten million books. In the past a user was faced with the problem whether any electronic search would generate enough hits to be useful. Today the challenge is reversed; how will a user deal with too many hits.

The System for Universal Media Searching (SUMS, copyright 1994) was conceived to deal with this problem. How do we navigate when we have millions of visual images (paintings, technical drawings, photographs etc.) and tens of millions of pages of books on-line? The lecture will combine a demonstration of the SUMS prototype with both practical and philosophical reflections concerning the consequences of this approach not just for how we gain access to knowledge in new ways but also how this will affect our definitions of knowledge itself.

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