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By Michael Lis, Section question corner
Posted on Thu Mar 18th, 2004 at 10:36:22 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
A question regarding the future of (self-) education in the age of information.


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A question regarding the future of (self-) education in the age of information.

This is basically an attempt to (re)open discussion on the possibilities for self-education in the age of information. I have met a number of young people who astonish me with their intelligence without having spent so much as a day in or even near a university. Most of them are extremely internet savvy and seem to access information almost as a form of entertainment. I am becoming a bit self-conscious about the generalizations I am making here, but for the sake of discussion-ignition I would say that a significant number of them construct meaningful relationships within and from the information they take in. Is it realistic to imagine that this new generation and the generations to follow will slowly erode or at least significantly challenge the credibility and autonomy of institutional education? Is it at all fruitful to regard this phenomenon, if it is indeed one at all, in similar terms to a kind of renaissance-era where the con-fusion of disparate study was acceptable and actively pursued by many (Leonardo, Galileo etc.) but also looked upon with some suspicion by institutions such as the Church? I look forward to response.

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[new] The triumph of ignorance (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#9)
by joerabie on Tue Apr 6th, 2004 at 07:18:04 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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A diplomat who once dealt with George W Bush said that he is not stupid at all, extremely quick in understanding, just extraordinarily igonorant. This is for me the triumph of capitalism over everything else: knowledge is subsumed to its strictest minimum of utility. It is assigned market value, no other. The discussion about violin making here is revealing. It is about different forms of knowledge, in the most human sense. Thus knowledge that goes beyond "know how", the ability to do things. About craftsmanship, which I suppose is a symbiosis between mind, hands, materials, and things much more subtle, an aesthetic expectation in the research for sound. About understanding in the profound sense, of music, which is (for me) the sublime metaphor for the human soul. This brings us back to value. Why is a Stradivarius so valuable? Most people probably cannot hear the difference. For them, a Stradivarius is valuable because the market says so. Like Gold. What makes gold more valuable than lead? Ask the market "why", and all the knowledgeable stock exchange jockeys will take out their spreadsheets and point at graphs, but you will be no nearer to any form of worthwhile truth. The problem with information and knowledge, today, in consumer society, (of course I am generalising!) is that one is no longer expected to learn, in the sense of any search for wisdom, one is meant to purchase, in the sense of gaining skills that can negotiated in the market place. What frightens me most in this system is that all human wisdom and spirituality that can no longer justify market share will be pushed out. Intelligence will no longer be a human attribute - just a tool, just about as smart as "Microsoft Office".

[new] the academy (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#8)
by GabrielPickard on Mon Mar 22nd, 2004 at 09:59:38 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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i'm that sorta person too, (as i guess you saw in my post)... nettime has been my main classroom, these years, since i got my internet connection (i think around when i was 17).
i don't think we need universities, not because they're too slow (of course, i'm not a free-market libertarian).. academia is ok - as a meeting space, an infrastructure for learning and research - and i don't think that this form should be taken away from those who enjoy it.
however i do not at all like the whole to-do about degrees, qualifications, titles. because the university - as the only learning institution able to dole out academic hats - represses other infrastructures, meeting places, forms of formation.

[new] All my fingers (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#5)
by Michael Lis ( on Fri Mar 19th, 2004 at 06:23:27 PM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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Aileen wrote : "I *recognize* the commands, I know what they do, and I know how to find the relevant explanations for them on the infrequent occasions when I need to use them, but I am feeling very insecure about my lack of the kind of knowledge that can only be acquired through practice. . ."

And Peter wrote "In the academic world anything besides business studies and IT seem to have become the same kind of luxury. I think it would be a shame not to be able to offer to the internet generation the "old", luxurious way of learning besides the "fast" and independent way."

I have to say that I occasionally look at my hands and thank my lucky stars for still having all ten fingers. When I started in this business I played pretty fast and loose with safety around the machines. There have been a number of close calls over the years and at those moments, while the adrenaline was subsiding, I thought to myself if only I had had someone to teach me. I am not young enough to be considered a bona fide member of the internet generation, but I grew up in the transition. I have to admit that I can be a fairly adamant proponent of the `old ways' but cannot attest to actually having really experienced them in the full sense of the term - and I sometimes feel that growing up in the transition between the relatively `old' and the relatively `new' that I have been short-changed on both accounts. On the other hand I recognize the tremendous benefits in terms of being able to call my own shots, develop my carreer and creativity independently, and live in a semi-rural area without feeling totally cut-off from the things I cherish in the city. To cite another pragmatic example, for myself, using the internet has led me to the slow-food movement and I keep up to date as this nominally slow movement develops rapidly .

But to return to the question of knowledge: I would have to agree with both Aileen and Peter that practice informs an all important aspect of the process of developing knowledge. Indeed in the skills we use both online and off, familiarizing the body with procedures seems to have a kind of sedimenting effect and at some point we say that we know things by heart, or "its all in the wrists," and we perform actions without the hiccups associate with learning. If we think, we make mistakes. Anyone who has memorized a song on the piano will know what I am talking about. It's all very Zen. Now, by teaching oneself certain things we inevitably swerve in directions that under the tutelage of an instructor would be `corrected.' Certain associations would not be made or if they were they would be `disassembled'. My question: What are some of the ways we can imagine a world where the `old' and `new', the `slow' and `fast' work symbiotically to create a context in which "knowledge" of the highest order is produced? A call for philosophers perhaps?

Thanks all for the engaging comments,

[new] answering a question with a question (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by amy on Thu Mar 18th, 2004 at 10:55:10 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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Most of them are extremely internet savvy and seem to access information almost as a form of entertainment.

Phew, I thought it was just me.

On a related note, I've been wondering, why is it that when people spend hours reading on the Internet, they're considered to be "lost in the Internet" [sigh], as though the material they're reading is irrelevant, or presumed to be content-less because it came across the Internet? Nobody ever refers to people being absorbed into a library or newstand. Dang, maybe the medium actually *is* the message...

One might argue that it's difficult to get the depth of longer print material on the net, because screens are hard to read long things on, and some (but not all) net-based texts are shorter than their print counterparts. These are legitimate points - however I'd argue the net has a breadth advantage. For example, I find I might first read about an event or situation in the New York Times online, and then check out alternative media and news media from other countries to see what they say about it. The net facilitates getting a number of sources fairly easily.

Right now, maybe the net is still too new for people to get over the technology. And they should never get completely over it - after all, it's important to recognize how any medium skews things. But at the moment, the net is still steeped in utopian/dystopian larger-than-life hype, so the meatier questions sometimes get brushed aside. Michael has posed a good question, so I'll respond with another question: are the new net-informed becoming broader-informed than print/tv/radio/whatever folks? Broader but shallower? Broader but narrower? It depends?

Ok, that was four questions. :-/

# begin amy's sig
-- Discordia is nice.
# end amy's sig

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