Research and Creative Activity

Indiana University

Office of Research and the University Graduate School
Volume XVII, Number 2, September 1994

From the Editors

A recent bumper sticker displayed the message "Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." New technologies will continue to be developed as we pursue our quest for new knowledge and to make laborious tasks simpler and quicker to perform. The question is not whether we want to use these technologies to help us grow but how quickly we accept and adapt them for our specific needs. New technology, as with anything that is new, can be overwhelming. Therefore, the most important lesson to be learned may be that we need to take a step back and evaluate how cutting-edge technology can best be used in research, teaching, and creative activity.

The appropriate use of new and developing technologies, such as distance learning and electronic networking, is an integral part of an institution such as Indiana University with its eight campuses located throughout the state of Indiana. Distance learning, as envisioned, will play a pivotal role in making high-quality educa-tion accessible to all citizens of the state. Electronic networking, for example, through the Internet, allows our faculty, students, and staff to interact with others worldwide, opening up a new vistas of communications. There is an information explosion occurring, those amongst us who are best able to work their way through what is important and what is not will be the success stories of the future. It is our role as educators that we not only provide information, but that we help students develop critical-thinking skills that are necessary to navigate through large amounts of information and data.

Americans have proved to be unusually receptive to new technology, frequently perceiving it as an unmitigated good, enabling us to live longer, perform safer surgeries, drive faster and more quietly, build taller buildings, design ever faster computers, and reduce the cost of labor. Another viewpoint suggests that a great many of our social problems can be attributed to our inability to adjust to new technologies or to anticipate unintended consequences (consider the continued development of our weapons of destruction as a case in point). Technology is not always beneficial—in part because it overwhelms us, not allowing us to determine how to deal with so many changes that happen so fast. Many of the discussants in this issue register, quite vociferously, their frustration with being overwhelmed by technology. Yet they also find many important uses for the technologies they are utilizing, developing, inventing, and discovering. In this issue we look to the future: the new technologies at Indiana University.

We sacrificed a little on depth to gain a considerable amount of breadth, organizing roundtable discussion among many scholars and many disciplines. We asked: How do you use technology in your research? In your teaching? How is technology defined in your field? What is the future of technology in your area? Their answers, although not startling, reveal the obstacles and promises of new technologies within the university, as well as the limitations to purely technological solutions to long-standing problems. Some of the technologies developed here on campus will be available to industry in only a short while. Naturally there is much immediate practical value to the research going on here at IU, as one short article from our Technology Transfer Office shows.

The editors welcome comments and suggestions (e-mail addresses: sonip@indiana.edu or carmicha@indiana.edu). As always, we hope you enjoy reading the issue.

P. Sarita Soni
Professor of Optometry
Special Assistant for Research
Office of Research and the University Graduate School

Ann G. Carmichael
Associate Professor of History
Special Assistant for Research
Office of Research and the University Graduate School