Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Threat or promise

Marcel Berlins takes the opportunity to have one of his periodic digs at the internet. Because of the ease of copying and pasting he asserts that,
The easy access provided by the internet is a direct threat to individual and original thinking, writing and scholarship.
Note that it is the internet that is to blame, not the copiers, nor an educational system that prioritises instrumentalism and conformism, the internet. It is the same old reductionist argument. A whole technology can be damned by just one of its many possible uses, purely on the basis of what happens to be your latest irritation.

I wouldn't be without the internet. I have a realm of scholarship at my fingertips (as well as much rubbish, but that can be diverting in its own way too) and sometimes, like tonight, it can be magic.

I have been gripped by reading Emma Goldman's autobiography, Living My Life. Goldman's prose is pacy and vivid, her narrative drives you through the intensity of an extraordinary life. Her voice is distinctive. Her voice? As I started on Volume Two I suddenly thought, 'What did she sound like?'. So I went to the computer and within a few minutes I was listening to one of the few clips of her speaking that exists.

And now I am going back to the book with that distinctive intonation echoing in my brain and the powerful prose seems alive as never before. And, what is more, I can share my delight with whoever in the world happens to pass by this site. "A threat to scholarship"? Ridiculous.


John said...

Thanks for what is nthing short of a great find. I wouldn't have bet there was any audio-video of Emma Goldman, let alone something available free over the internet.

The Plump said...

There is another shorter one here too.

Daniel said...

I think Mr. Berlins is right - the internet IS a threat to scholarship. It's a threat to the snobby scholars and academics who think they can or should have a monopoly on knowledge, and that knowledge should be the exclusive domain of people with a formal, expensive upper education.

It's a threat to the academic class, and he's right to be afraid.

I agree with you, though - surely the true problem relies on an educational system where the _only_ means of assessing the success of students is to force thousands of them to reproduce identical essays according to pre-determined templates, about topics that have been adequately covered tens of thousands of times.

Graeme said...

Amazing find, Peter. I had no idea anything like that even existed.

Brigada Flores Magon said...

Those who see the Internet as a 'threat to scholarship' should recall the reaction of Erasmus to finding a scrap of printed paper discarded in the street. It signalled to him the fact that knowledge, hitherto confined to expensive, handwritten vellum, was now cheap and available to a much wider public.

mikeovswinton said...

Mr Berlins' reaction shows that the lessons spelled out in the 60s by M.McLuhan are still to be digested by the 'intellectuals'. And we are only just starting to see them playing out.
See you at Sedgeley Park tomorrow?