The Hermetic Reality of "Higher Learning"

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

I need to begin my discussion by responding to the allegation that the first quote that Brad cites, in his post “Are Bloggers the new Public Intellectuals?“, which hints at the specter of the critique of the *irrelevance* of cultural studies or critical work.I think something that is a challenge in today’s fast-paced society is understanding that it takes *time* to achieve depth and breadth of (a) knowledge of a particular subject/interest area and (b) competence and understanding of a variety of theoretical modes and approaches. It can take a lot of study and rigorous intellectual associative work to understand the far-reaching practical applications and implications of advanced theoretical and critical works/texts. The criticism that cultural studies or work in critical theory is impractical and politically nil is inappropriate, and I believe that it’s influenced by the results and product-oriented cultural climate prevalent in the US in particular. It is a lazy and impatient criticism. I know I’m getting on an impassioned tangent from the subject of blogging here, but I needed to put that out there. There are valid elements to the critique (that academes are not politically involved), and it challenges the field of cultural studies/critical theory to *be* more contextually engaged in society, which is a potentially productive challenge. However, I would caution against passing quick judgment on a process that requires more time than today’s average cultural product to achieve productive maturity.There also needs to be a less literal understanding of what it means to “make a social difference.” Let us not be overly simplistic, nor presumptuous, in claiming to understand fully what it takes to make a social difference. There are micro and macro levels to consider, and particularly in light of theories such as the chaos theory or the notion that a butterfly flapping its wings could be the tipping point leading to a tidal wave (or is that chaos theory?).At risk of sounding overly idealistic, I believe that if students pursue what really interests them, without feeling an obligation to concretely apply it towards social change, the world could actually be a better place.That said, I am in favor of exploring the practice of blogging as a way to de-hermeticize the process of higher learning, and possibly demystify it as well, to the greater public. In being a proponent of gnovis instituting a critical academic blog, my primary hope is that students will carry stimulating class discussions over into the blogosphere. I believe that decontextualizing class discussion is a useful practice in testing the resilience of ideas, as well as gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the subject or idea that one is grappling with.While simple journaling or conversation may achieve the same kind of goal, the blog is a particularly appropriate context, since it takes advantage of the vast network that is the internet, opening up these discussions to an equally vast diversity of differently contextualized responses and reactions, which can help produce a more truly interactive cultural learning experience. That in itself holds beautiful potentials for positive social impact.