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Technology’s Transformation of Higher Education is Topic of Symposium

September 18, 2014

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - How is the technology that is altering our everyday lives changing higher education? Middlebury’s annual Clifford Symposium Sept. 18-19 will look at the impact of new technologies on all aspects of academia, from teaching and research to publishing and artistic creativity. “Transforming the Academy in the Digital Era” will feature expert speakers and panelists who will discuss the opportunities for new methods of teaching, learning, and scholarship made possible by technology as well as by corresponding societal shifts in culture, politics, and the economy.

“Every faculty member is teaching and researching in a completely altered media environment than when we were students,” says symposium organizer Jason Mittell, professor of Film & Media Culture and American Studies. “These two days will offer an opportunity to reflect on those changes and what they mean for our students and the future of higher education in general.”

The symposium offers a wide array of events, including an art and technology exhibit, lectures, and a multimedia musical performance. Panels will feature such topics as “The End of Privacy? The Internet and Democracy’s Future.” Poster sessions will provide displays of faculty and student digital research projects. Faculty and students will be available at several of the sessions to discuss their research.

John Palfrey will begin the symposium with the opening keynote lecture, “Born Digital: Teaching and Learning in a Technological Age,” on Thursday, September 18. Palfrey is the current head of Phillips Academy, Andover, and former director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. He is an expert on the relationships between technology, youth, and education, and will share his understanding of the experiences high school students bring to college.     

 John Palfrey
Tara McPherson
Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky)

On Friday, September 19, Tara McPherson, associate professor at the University of Southern California, will give a talk, “Designing Digital Scholarship.” McPherson is a leader in developing and using digital publishing platforms, and will offer insight into the possibilities and pitfalls of creating “born digital” academic work, or work that originates in a digital form.

Also on Friday, Siva Vaidhyanathan, professor of media studies at the University of Virginia, will discuss “Technofundamentalism and the Massive Open Online Corruption of Higher Education.” According to Mittell, “For anyone interested in the recent debates over online education, MOOCs, and other forms of so-called disruption, Vaidhyanathan’s talk will provide a great stimulus for conversation.”

The closing event will be a multimedia performance from Paul Miller (aka DJ Spooky) on Friday night. Miller is a groundbreaking and award-winning composer, multimedia artist, and writer. His performance will combine music, video, and a lecture to explore the artistic space between analog and digital.

A schedule of symposium events is available on the College’s website. All events are open to the public. With the exception of the Paul Miller (DJ Spooky) performance, all events are free. Events will take place at the Mahaney Center for the Arts, located off South Main St./Rt. 30, and the McCullough Student Center on Old Chapel Road off College Street/Rt. 125. Please see the schedule for specific times and locations. For more information, contact Doreen Bernier at or 802.443.5595 or Jason Mittell at or 802.443.3435.

The Clifford Symposium
The annual Clifford Symposium is named after College Professor of History Emeritus Nicholas R. Clifford, who taught history at the College from 1966 to 1993 and who in his many years as a member of the faculty and administration cultivated critical inquiry.