Big questions unasked in every medium

August 21, 2008

Instead of "Grappling with the digital divide" (14 August), we have the usual mishmash of, on the one hand, academics who should know better, lamenting their incapacity to catch up with e-literate students and, on the other, breathless enthusiasts such as the University of Derby's vice-chancellor, whose avatar in Second Life seems to be operated by another avatar (a student).

The "old maids of academicism", as Nietzsche called them in his sexist way, once again bemoan the death of the book since "students don't read any more", while the vocational modernisers (Nietzsche's "Vorsprungdorchtechnischermensche") tell us how relevant multitask texting, surfing and downloading - give or take a bit of plagiarism - is to UK plc's knowledge revolution going forward.

As the global market on which all these hopes and dreams are pinned unravels and the decidedly odd weather gives us just a foretaste of climate catastrophe to come, everybody knows that the biggest questions go unasked however "transliterate" we all become.

Patrick Ainley, University of Greenwich.

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