Tuesday, May 13, 2008

In Response to the Dumbest Generation / Can U Read Kant?


Maybe the people controlling the content of the old masters haven’t quite caught up with the pace yet. Perhaps if educational resources were more readily available online there would be more educated discourse.

We will dare to know. Kant’s Sapere Aude is not an outdated concept.

What needs to now join it is Dare to Post. The knowledge must be accessible.

Every day I have to search for content to post at a blog I’ve created called What Isn’t Art? which is designed to be an easily accessible and searchable database of ideas on Art Theory.

Doing this has made me realize the extreme amount of trouble it is to find what should be easily accessible content. It may not seem like much to those firmly rooted in academia, used to shifting through hundreds of library shelves to find one quote, but to the googling generation, if it can’t be found quickly, often it feels like it doesn’t exist at all. Then finding a reference to a book that can’t even be found in your state means you’ll probably give up.

I’m not saying that we’re lazy, I’m saying that the people controlling the information are hurting their own situation by putting barriers in the way of access.

For example, databases like JSTOR require login. Many other academic databases require similar access. Why? I assume it has to do with funding, but if they had a small amount of advertising and made their databases searchable and open, I’m willing to bet they’d do just fine.

Google Books is a step in the right direction. It’s been extremely useful, though sometimes frustrating. Many sources are out of print and rare. It’s hard to find them even in a physical library here in Georgia.

Much of the misering of information seems to stem from fear. Fear that if it was somehow available the people who produce it would never be able to support themselves.

Maybe it’s just time to start looking for another way, or a bit of give and take. Surprisingly music is at the forefront, (or perhaps not, maybe only because the music industry was also at the forefront of suing people for sharing) with bands like Coldplay, Radiohead, and NIN as well as countless unsigned bands starting to give away music to get a huge burst in good will from fans (followed by actual money. They did just fine when their CDs hit stores.)

I’m sure it would be the same with books. Make every book searchable and available online. Every damn one. I know that I would still prefer to read it with the book in my hands. People who read books will always buy books. I’m willing to bet with your book searchable a lot more quotes and reviews will pop up online. A lot more people will look for it and find it.

This has already happened to an extent, with authors from Kafka and Nietzsche to Poe, Kant, Lovecraft, etc available through semi-pirate projects.

The only people that might lose a little are the publishers living off of proceeds from deceased writers: The authors may do just fine selling directly to readers. I’m certainly willing to donate 5 dollars through paypal to an amazing author and I bet that’s more they see in proceeds from the sale of a novel.

What Robinson seems to miss is that young people like myself are being targeted with the escapist stupidity. It’s profitable. Companies are willing to spend a lot of money and time to make sure we are wasting ours, whether it is on TV or 5 word text messages. And political opportunists and talking heads aren’t making things easier. If the intelligentsia isn’t willing to make it just as easy and free to learn, we are never going to get anywhere. The old system of guarding your knowledge until it is in a prestigious journal just isn’t going to work.

There are philosophy communities on Livejournal. There is debate on Facebook. There is hope. Let’s make the most of it.

Posted in response to Can U Read Kant? at the Wall Street Journal

posted by Ian Aleksander Adams at 3:31 pm  

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