Plato's Academy was a marketplace of ideas with little or no intervening infrastructure or institutional bureaucracy. Even writing had no place in the Academy, as it was thought to get in the way of the direct exchange of ideas among academicians. Beginning in the 12th century in Europe, higher education was discharged in universitiesâ€”gated groves where students and professors lived and studied in a close, apprentice-master relationship. Over time, universities grew to become "multiversities" in the 20th century: learning centers that hosted not only learning and research, but the full range of services such as housing, food service, entertainment, grounds maintenance, waste management, and so on. This is a history of institutionalization.
The Internet is challenging the power and authority of all institutions. The blogosphere, Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, and other developments are eroding the institutions' authority and markets. Blogging and podcasting are disrupting traditional news media. Wikipedia is challenging encyclopedias. The Google Library and others are redefining the institutional library. Synthetic worlds such as Second Life create the potential to redefine learning space. Virtual markets such as InnoCentive aggregate research talent and reward scientific innovation through financial incentives, and they may reshape the landscape of research. The network is empowering individuals by linking them to one another, to information, and to a wide variety of resources. At the same time, the network has the potential to disempower institutions and to destabilize financial and labor markets. Open content and new Web revenue streams are simultaneously empowering the individual and facilitating the corporatization of services formally financed as public services, such as the library.
This Symposium looked at the question of how higher education institutions (The Tower) may interoperate with the emerging network-based business and social paradigm (The Cloud).