Beki Grinter

Has Computing Gotten too Individualised?

In academia, academic management, computer science, discipline on September 27, 2010 at 12:31 pm

I was at a retreat recently and listening to various talks. One conversation that came up early on was how the nature of space has changed with respect to Computing.

For a number of my colleagues, graduate school was experienced as spending a lot of time together in a shared space. The shared space was defined by access to high-end workstations connected to a mainframe that made the type of programming necessary to get a Ph.D. possible. Even for me, someone who produced zero code (yes that’s zero) for her Ph.D. in Information and Computer Science, access too a shared lab and a machine was the difference between using LaTex in graphical mode versus hoping that what I would write and compile would be the right length.

These shared spaces were shared experiences though. I think about the shared space I shared legally (co-located offices) and then somewhat less legally (I would visit my Software Engineering colleagues who had a nice lab facility and “borrow” their machines to write) and I concur. In that shared space friendships were formed, common problems shared, a community built. It still exists, although very loosely as we have gone our various and separate ways. But, I am still eternally grateful to the Software Engineering students who kept me on the right track throughout the course of my thesis. I’m also grateful to my CORPS colleagues, and the Irvine experience, but that shared lab, especially the somewhat less legal one was a crucial part of my experience.

And so this story, or ones like it are told by my colleagues. And we wonder: what are the shared machine labs of our time? Yes, we have shared student labs today, but our students take their laptops and many head to Starbucks and we wonder what type of experience they have because they are not together any more. Indeed, shared space is sometimes considered a concern, its too noisy, cramped. This was true of the shared machine labs, but there was just no choice.

  1. Beki – I wrote something on this

    author = “R D Boyle and N D Efford and R J Neagle”,
    title = “Evolving patterns of working: do they matter?”,
    journal = “European Journal of Engineering Education”,
    note = “To appear”,
    year = 2010,

  2. thanks! Its good to know that there’s good research to confirm what was a hunch.

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