12 February 2009

It are fact. I know it because of my learnings.

Having been plunged back into academia unexpectedly, I am finding it slightly difficult to adjust to a few of the quirks of intellectualism. In fact, I think I'm feeling ever so slightly anti-intellectual. Or am I?

I have this one class which is highly theoretical, and taught by a very nearly growed-up PhD (I don't mean that disrespectfully, only to say he is nearing completion of that honour). It is the class, he asserts, that is supposed to make us think - amongst the rest of our highly practical learnings. In this class we are supposed to give a lot of thought to very thoughtful things, and give definitions to things that defy definition. We're suppose to gain insight into the broader, and perhaps idealistic, scope of what the library is all about.

In other words, we are navel gazing. Which I get, being a champion navel gazer myself.

But this class I don't get. Yes, we get into some interesting quagmires about information ethics, plunge into the blurry gray areas spawned by intellectual freedom's conflict with societal norms, and run amok in the vast planes of definitions for information. And I can see the value in pitting my little grey cells against the dragons that in there be. However we seem to spend a lot of time getting to the dragon. And when we do, it seems that we never actually slay the dragon. And, while I don't neccessarily think that we always can slay the dragon, it seems that we also never acknowledge that we haven't slayed the dragon, or even explore ways of maybe tricking the dragon into having a snooze, or getting stuck in a cave.

Even if we could maybe talk about the dragon actually not being a dragon and being something else completely might help me out. But as it is we seem to spend more time arguing about the sword... or whether it is actually a sword... or what it might mean to be a sword and why not a crossbow or one of those spiky balls attached to a stick with a chain.

And the class is on a Monday. I've never gotten the hang of Mondays.

So this week, my challenge should I accept it is to write an essay for this class about whether or not we live in an information society by analyzing the arguments for and against. The thing is, these arguments don't seem to actually be for and against... they seem to be more about whether it is good or not (which maybe is for and against, only in a different way). So now, instead of arguing about the sword, they are arguing about whether the sword makes the dragon good or bad. Personally, I think if we keep this up, the dragon is just going to skewer us WITH the sword, and use its firey breath to cook us for dinner - happy to not only have something to eat, but also to be rid of the chatter.

So, I'm going to argue my case as I see it (that is, that both sides say that we do live in an information society, they just don't agree on how we arrived here, whether it is good or not, or what we should actually call it), and hope that the dragon is on my side.

But the whole exercise has made me realize how tethered I am to practicality. I like an intellectual exercise as long as I can eventually find a way to integrate it into my day-to-day and make it practical. So far, I'm not finding it in this class. And maybe I won't... or maybe the tether is just way longer than I'm accustomed to. Either way, I hope that I don't reach the end of it by April.


Aaron Berning said...

Quite possibly the greatest thing I've read in a long time. Just hand that in as your essay! Perhaps the prof is worried that if you slay the dragon right now, he'll have nothing else to do for the rest of the class. Reminds me of our weeks discussing QUALITY and The Zen Of Motorcycle Maintenance. Utterly mind numbingly terrible.

Leora said...

You're Ms. Smartie McSmart,so don't take it hard if you're finding it challenging. This sounds like a philosophy class, so it's going to be abstract and seemingly useless, especially for someone with a science background. But keep at it, it'll expand your mind. And I look forward to more blog posts about the dragon!

Erin said...

I think I'm going to give the mind expansion a miss, befriend the dragon, and go on some adventures... stay tuned.

Cellar said...

A bit late, but. Yes, you could go all I LIEK DRAGONS. 'Tis probably more about getting the hang of the tools, and getting to know the field, even if the TA doesn't manage to say so. There's much we don't know about all this, yet.

Whether "our" society is an "information society", well, I don't know. It probably will be, if not already. We are, however, in the "golden age of information".

And the interesting thing about it is that it's not necessarily about information /technology/. That's really but a sideshow, as the important thing is to figure out what to do with all this information. You know, not get swamped by it, but manage it. At least Peter Drucker, late great management thinker, says so. Being in IT, I tend to agree.