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Saturday, 4 April 2009

Atmospheres unknown.

Fabulous quote from Virginia Woolf, discovered in a summary post about The Future of Libraries, the first panel at the very interesting-sounding Library 2.0 Symposium, run by the Information Society Project out of Yale Law School:
A learned man is a sedentary, concentrated solitary enthusiast, who searches through books to discover some particular grain of truth upon which he has set his heart. If the passion for reading conquers him, his gains dwindle and vanish between his fingers. A reader, on the other hand, must check the desire for learning at the outset; if knowledge sticks to him well and good, but to go in pursuit of it, to read on a system, to become a specialist or an authority, is very apt to kill what suits us to consider the more humane passion for pure and disinterested reading.

It's the way we learn. By exploring and uncovering paths we choose to follow. This was also the theme of the brilliant Ways of Learning edition of Lapham's Quarterly.

As Henry David Thoreau said "my desire for knowledge is intermittent, but my desire to bathe my head in atmospheres unknown to my feet is perennial and constant." (Listen to Lapham talking about learning at - it's a good interview, and summary of the volume. My love affair with him continues...)

* Splitting hairs, I'm not entirely sure that you want your data to seduce. I mean, if seduction is successful it leads to copulation, and potentially even procreation. Copulation requires homogeneity (for most of us), and I think all the data we wade through is far more diverse than that (heterogeneous, if you like). Perhaps a more suitable adjective might be "persuasive" or "engaging." I'd love to talk with Matt what copulation with winsome data might mean, over a few pints of course ;)

Posted at 8:24 pm

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