My Freshman Year and The Clock of the Long Now

I’ve finished two books in the past couple of weeks that you may be interested in reading.

I had written about Rebekah Nathan’s book, My Freshman Year: What a Professor Learned by Becoming a Student, in an earlier blog entry. The author takes a year sabbatical from teaching sociology at a state university and enrolls as a freshman at her own institution. The results of her ethnographic study are interesting, though not necessarily surprising. She only refers to using a library on a couple of occasions. She does confirm that students are pressed for time and take “short cuts” to get their work done. She did cover the topic of plagiarism pretty well.

I found the sections where she described how international students viewed their peers and instructors to be very interesting as well. She also went into great detail about how college’s are trying so very hard to create communities and that in the end student’s will develop their own friendships/communities with those people that they live with or have a similar schedule with during their Freshman year. This would be a good book to read to get an “insiders” point-of-view on life at college in the 2000s. Reading this reawaked similar experiences I had at Ohio State over a 12 years ago. So, I guess that even though technology has changed dramatically, the freshman experience still is relatively unchanged.

The other book that I just finished is The Clock of the Long Now by Stewart Brand. I found a brief review of this book on one of the blogs I read. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which blog, so I can’t give credit where it is do. This book outlines the vision for long-term responsibility developed by members of the The Long Now Foundation. In essence, this group is trying to educate people to start thinking in a much longer perspective…thousands of years…instead of a month or a year. Their concept is to build a physical clock that would take 10,000 years to complete a cycle. Along with the clock is the concept of a library that would preserve knowledge and also act as collector of data for long-term research projects.

The book does an excellent job of priming the reader in the basics of accelerated time (Moore’s Law) before jumping into what they are proposing. I find the concept to be very intriguing, especially when they talk about what would potentially be kept in the Library. The main point I got out of this book is that we are better planning for long-term library services than worrying about trying to adapt/deploy/co-opt every new technology that is developed.

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