As you read this issue of CLA Magazine, delivered in an electronic format and likely brought to your attention through email or social media, you are certainly aware of the role technology plays in shaping our individual lives, our culture, and our future. We live in a time of global technological revolution, in which changes in personal communication reflect opportunities to improve our social networks, how we live, and where future generations will work and spend their free time. This technological revolution also has profound implications for how we know about the world, how we create and preserve culture, and even our understanding of the layers of the past. The skills and analytical tools available in our liberal arts disciplines will be crucial to understanding the social, cultural, and individual impacts of this historical change.
A distinctive perspective of the liberal arts is that we are self-reflective. Yes, we use the new tools technology provides, but what sets us apart from other disciplines, what serves as the unique and distinctive lenses of the liberal arts, is that as we use these tools, we also ask questions about technology’s role in society and its implications for culture now and in the future:
- What does being human mean in an increasingly technological age?
- Given changing patterns of work and careers, how can perspectives from economics or sociology help us address things like the role of automation in the workplace or the rise of alternative currencies?
- What can a concern for ethics tell us about how the internet is used to convey health information?
- How does technology inform and enable cultural change, for example self-expression in art and music?
Both the tools and the self-reflection will be increasingly important as we move forward. A recent study from Strada Institute for the Future of Work, indicates that “the growth of liberal arts majors entering the technology industry from undergrad outpaced that of computer science and engineering majors by 10 percent.” Our goal here in the College of Liberal Arts is to remain on the cutting edge of these changes, not only for what technology can do for our research, but also for what technology offers the human experience, and what our research can do for our students as they navigate the careers and personal challenges of the future.
Benjamin C. Withers, Dean
Professor of Art History
College of Liberal Arts