It amazes me how when reading something and pointed to a footnote or reference that if I choose to do so a few clicks and the reference is before my eyes. Reading up on the First World War there are books from 1914-18 that are freely available in digital form – the additional insight is when you glance at such a reference is to wonder why an author chose that sentence or paragraph, often I find there is something far more interesting being said.
All of this has me reflecting on ‘interpretation’ and how increasingly, because we can, we should, because we can, check up on authors – certainly take them off their academic pedestals as their word is never absolute, is inevitably biased – and sometimes they get it wrong.
There are two kinds of connectedness here:
1) with references the author has used – how selected, why they thought them of relevance or interest (and the authority and credibility of these references)
2) with fellow readers – which, if you want a response, I increasingly find in Amazon of all places. There are always a few people who have picked through the text, who are willing and able to other a response or to sleuth it out with you.
How does this change things?
The Web puts at anyone’s fingertips resources that until recently were the exclusive domain of university libraries – the older, wealthier universities having the richest pickings and broadest range of references. To ‘look something up’ as we now do in a few moments could take a couple of days. ‘Learning at the speed of need’ is a phrase I like, used in the context of applied learning in business, but just as apt here.
As a consequence, earlier in their careers, students will have a broader and stronger, personal perspective. And as a consequence there will be more people ‘out there’ to join an informed discussion. And as a consequence more new ideas will come to fruition sooner and faster. And as a consequence, collectively, or common understanding will grow and develop faster than before.