Clyde Street

Learning, Teaching, Performing

Leave a comment

Reading, Collections and Good Neighbours

This is brief post to flag two delightful discussions from the ABC’s Book Show (11 October 2010).

Neighbourliness at the Warburg Institute

Anthony Grafton talked about the fight to save the Warburg Institute (see too his article with Jeffrey Hamburger in NYRB and Anna Somers Cock’s article). The trail for the interview on the Book Show notes that “Aby Warburg’s research interests were eclectic and his cataloguing distinctive. Rituals of the Renaissance might sit beside the rituals of the American Hopi Indians in a system he described as neighbourliness.”

I was fascinated by the idea of neighbourliness and when I followed up on Anna Somers Cocks’ article I discovered that Aby “collected books and photographs and arranged and rearranged them according to his ideas of how a library could aid creativity by virtue of the “good neighbourliness” of books: that if you went to a shelf for one book, there should be related subjects close by, so that you were led spontaneously into making new connections. Thus, in the Warburg Institute’s library today, books on secret codes are near emblem books, books on heraldry, the art of memory and short hand.”

Anthony Grafton and Jeffrey Hamburger point out that:

A visionary scholar, Aby Warburg was obsessed with cultural exchanges of all kinds and in all periods, and tinkered throughout his life with new ways to frame and display visual images, in order to reveal their interconnected meanings across time and space (he saw the vital importance of moving images, for example, long before most scholars). His unconventional tool for studying this shifting web of historical relationships was a picture atlas that remained in perpetual flux, and to which he gave the name Mnemosyne, or memory. (The project was unfinished when he died in 1929 and never published, though scholars have attempted to reconstruct versions of it.) For Warburg, cultural memory involved more than the stale invocation of tradition; it demanded heroic struggles with the forces of historical oblivion.

Information about the Warburg Institute Library can be found here and this is a link to the Gateway to the classification scheme.

Libraries of the Literary

In a second interview on the Book Show there was a great link to the collections of literary figures. Craig Fehrman discussed his research into lost libraries. His Boston Globe article provides an introduction to some of the ideas discussed in the Book Show.

Craig points out that:

An author’s library, like anyone else’s, reveals something about its owner. Mark Twain loved to present himself as self-taught and under-read, but his carefully annotated books tell a different story. Books can offer hints about an author’s social and personal life. After David Foster Wallace’s death in 2008, the Ransom Center bought his papers and 200 of his books, including two David Markson novels that Wallace not only annotated, but also had Markson sign when they met in New York in 1990. Most of all, though, authors’ libraries serve as a kind of intellectual biography. Melville’s most heavily annotated book was an edition of John Milton’s poems, and it proves he reread ”Paradise Lost” while struggling with ”Moby-Dick.”

Social Reading

The catalyst for writing this post was Joseph Esposito’s discussion of Bob Stein’s taxonomy of social reading. I liked Joseph’s point that “social reading is as much a part of a work as the text of the work itself”. I think the Warburg discussions and the exploration of lost libraries are celebrations of the social dimensions of text.

Photo Credits

A Neighbour’s Barn

Bookshelf Project 1




Personal Learning

Web Source

I have had a wonderful opportunity to explore personal learning in my new role at the University of Canberra. There are so many colleagues at the University keen to discuss and explore learning and there is a vast array of forums in which to engage. Last week I attended a Gaggle (“an orderly and cheerful group of professional educational advisors”) which led me to think again about personal learning (the topic for the gaggle was wiki development in vocational education). The meeting coincided with my reading of Steve Wheeler’s Dead Personal post.

Steve distinguishes between the personal web (“a collection of technologies that confer the ability to reorganize, configure and manage online content rather than just viewing it”, Horizon 2009) and a personal learning environment that “extends beyond personal web tools to encompass other tools and resources, such as paper based resources and broadcast media such as television and radio, as well as conversations with other people and so on. Having said that, each and every one of the above could be mediated through web tools, but they are not exclusively so”. Whilst reflecting on Steve’s suggestion and re-visiting the Horizon Report I was sidetracked by the delightful way the Horizon report is shared with readers. I managed to spend the next couple of hours looking at CommentPress as a format for my WordPress blog. (But I missed reading the About page!)

3117494285_6f36496d4b_o Source

A week later I was delighted to see that my fascination with a personal web met my personal learning environment when Bob Stein spoke with Ramona Koval on Radio National’s Book Program.  In their discussion there was an exploration of writing as a collaborative process with readers and the Gamer Theory project became a focus for this. Bob raised the question “If a book is a place what is the place of a book” (this post explores these ideas in detail) which lead to an intense discussion of the “broader ecology of reading and writing”. Bob was in Australia to participate in the Melbourne Writer’s Festival (for posts about his participation see here and here.). The promotion literature for his talk on the Future of the Book noted that:

The shift in our world view from individual to network holds the promise of a radical reconfiguraton in culture. Notions of authority are being challenged. The roles of author and reader are morphing and blurring. Publishing, methods of distribution, peer review and copyright – every crucial aspect of the way we move ideas around – is up for grabs. The new digital technologies afford vastly different outcomes ranging from oppressive to liberating. How we make this shift has critical long term implications for human society.

CCK08 opened me up to a wonderful perspective on sharing and collaboration. Many of the participants have added to my personal learning environment in the last year. The growth in Twitter since the start of CCK08 has been remarkable and this is becoming an important filter for me. Although my blog has links to many of the CCK08 participants it was a Twitter exchange between George Siemens and Howard Rheingold that added to my personal learning reflection.

Howard Rheingold has produced some great material this week (social media and mindful infotention) to ignite my revisiting of personal learning.  Seth Simonds in his post encouraged me to think about and clarify why to post (“The internet is not going to die if you feed it less frequently”). When I reached Justin Kistner (via Howard Rheingold) I realised the enormous possibilities for a vibrant personal learning environment (as with Nancy White’s delicious configuration links). This Editis video emphasised for me the possibilities of a ubiquitous personal web meeting the teachable moments created by one’s environment (I noted Tim McCormick‘s point) or as this video demonstrates the lisable qualities of digital technology. Lisa M Lane had two excellent posts this week (here and here) about creating spaces and reflecting on the process of creating these spaces.

Nancy White’s post  about The Social Media Tools I Use brought me back to Steve’ post about the personal web and as ever I was keen to read what Graham Attwell had to say in his posts at Pontydysgu. Fortunately I read Michele Martin’s post about critical thinking so that my decisions about what to consider and share can be enriched by Snopes.

This post is a placeholder for me about incandescent ideas in a week of eclectic reading. It was initiated by a group of colleagues discussing wiki development and concluded at the Melbourne Writers Festival via asynchronous reading and participation. I was trying to write the post whilst listening to the Public Sphere 3 event as a virtual participant. The week reinforces for me the collaborative potential of personal webs and learning environments.