So, We Have to Have the Talk?

I’m currently at the Australian Council of Deans of ICT’s Learning and Teaching Academy forum meeting and, across the group, we span Computer Science, Information Systems, Information Technology, Informatics, Computing, Computing and Information Systems – and several other areas besides. It’s great that we’re all together because, face to face, we discover how much we have in common across all of our diverse universities and schools.

But, after this, when we all go back to our schools of one name or another – will we all be working together or will the old boundaries creep in?

Is it time that we had the talk? The one that reminds us all that computers are the tools of our trade, and not our trade? The one that reminds us that IT, IS, CS, CIS, I, C all have more in common than they have differences?

If we, inside the discipline, can’t work out what we’re called and create artificial divisions then we can’t stand together to fight for the important things – the recognition as education inside our discipline as a field that is actually discipline research. Does that matter? Yes, in these days of metrics and contributions to research centres, it matters because that is how we are measured.

If we don’t know what to call ourselves, as a group of professions, who else will know? The student who plays a lot of World of Warcraft – hey, that’s computer use… well, no, it’s not for most of our purposes. That’s part of the talk – working out what goes where and being honest about it. Computers are the tool of computer science, the platform for applications, an implementation point for information systems – but they are never the whole of any of these disciplines.

If we’re going to have the talk, what are the questions? I think we should be asking what our parent field is called – what is the container for all of our names? How can we clearly state which schools do what? How can we tell students what they should know, what they should expect, what they’ll be doing and where they might be working?

Where do we go? Who do we talk to? What do we ask? How do we clarify what it is that we do, how people can join us, and – importantly – what it is that we don’t do.

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