No Cathedral, This Time

1 April 2013

Truisms leap out of the most unexpected places. Earlier today I was learning how to program in the Processing language and read one of the more profound subheadings I’ve encountered in a while:

Don’t start by trying to build a cathedral

Some people would take that to mean ‘know your limits’. I prefer to consider it a reminder to nurture my ambition – to bring it along slowly, wrapped up in learning. The goal is the cathedral, but the first step is a shovel to test the soil. It’s all about patience, and couldn’t we all use a little more of that?

Knowledge is Never Finished

14 April 2008

The ‘Freeconomics’ of Spreading Ideas

The Sinister Idea, by Felipe Morin, with Creative Commons licenceHow do ideas shift across society, through time? Brian Aldiss once wrote that we really have no firm understanding of how an intellectual elite passes on difficult concepts to the general public. Sure, education’s a part of it, as are what Antonio Gramsci called organic intellectuals – those who engage their communities, offer what they know and learn from the experience. Social networking and blogs have diminished geographical boundaries in that sense, but if we stay focused on the Internet there’s another vital aspect of the process that not everyone considers: commerce.

You might be thinking of e-learning services or pay-per-visit news sites, but I want to suggest a more traditional medium that’s making itself over. I’ve mentioned before that academic papers are easy to dredge up online, and they’re particularly helpful if you’re interested in what I recently called casual learning with a nod to Ivan Illich. Most of those papers are available on pages maintained by their authors, although some are orphaned on project sites long after the researcher has moved on. It’s not very often that you can drag out full journal issues free of charge, but it’s becoming a little more common.

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