When the Internet became a mass phenomenon, higher education IT providers acquired huge new constituencies and responsibilities. The scope of new services was a challenge, but a few critical means of influenceâ€”such as control of the network, deployment and support of enterprise applications, and ownership of user supportâ€”allowed IT units to mediate the circumstances of IT life. Like the academic departments they served, IT units were both expert authorities and popularizers, encouraging exploration of IT's great new possibilities while enforcing the rules of legitimate participation.
But today, almost every trend in contemporary information culture is working to dissolve these powers. Ubiquitous wireless networks put users in charge of their own connectivity, which they can access with a growing diversity of mobile devices. Service oriented architectures are challenging the monolithic application and rewriting the rules of integration. Web 2.0 technologies allow users to mobilize in complex ways for advocacy, self-help, collaboration, and socializing. The boundaries between enterprise and non-enterprise realms are increasingly fuzzy and permeable.
What's more, these emerging capabilities aren't just redefining IT authority. Through wikis and blogs, social networks and media distribution channels, virtual and "enhanced" reality, they're bringing transformational change to libraries, publishing, and the academic disciplinesâ€”in short, to higher education itself.
ECAR Symposium 2007 considered how emerging networked services and the social practices that go with them redefine the boundaries of the IT unit and the institution. What does an "enterprise" resource look like in an age of permeability? What services should IT units provide, broker, or leave to other parties? How can IT leaders help institutional executives confront the self-organized and defiantly unauthorized sources of knowledge now proliferating on the Web? Attendees participated in presentations and working sessions addressing the unbounded potential of the new age of interconnection.