Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Nomadic Gatherers of Knowledge

McLuhan famously claims that electricity changed everything and automation is the final step in the process: "Men are suddenly nomadic gatherers of knowledge, nomadic as never before, free from fragmentary specialization as never before—but also involved in the total social process as never before, since with electricity we our central nervous system globally, instantly interrelating every human experience" (358).

Only one problem knowledge is different from berries or roots. You can't pick it up just like that. Try to "gather" the knowledge of calculus, of C++, or even of RegEx. It takes a lot of concentrated work and "fragmentary specialization." "Nomadic" moving from one field of knowledge to the next does not help understanding—quite apart from the fact that the more interesting "fields" need more cultivating than ever. If anything, we have moved even further away from a "nomadic existence. I do not mean, of course, those who underline with ball point pens or just "capture information on the web" in order to "share it around."

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