Hello.The deal

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Here's the deal!

Volunteers build A Place to Study to provide cultural resources to persons seeking self-formation and liberal learning in the digital commons.

Persons freely study with these resources to form what they have to say and do in the context of their lives and their world, seeking to fulfill themselves through their place in it.

Together, we seek to make A Place to Study and its uses as free, as unencumbered, as comprehensive, and as open to all as we can make it.

This page should probably be split in two — one page diagnosing the current juncture and a second on strengthening our capacity for agency inthe midst of instability. Or dropped entirely. It's best to keep the inroductory sections short and pungent.

A person can casually enjoy A Place to Study, poking around in it looking for curious or amusing bits, but the design of A Place to Study does not aim at entertaining visitors, holding them between more taxing matters. We design to merit sustained, recurrent attention and effort from a broad spectrum of persons. We are not trying to give people whatever they like and want, or what putative authority says they need and should have. That rules out a lot and leads to an obvious question: What are we trying to do in designing A Place to Study?

From time immemorial, humans have successfully expended their energies and acumen in creating an extensive range of ingenious cultural resources — copious embodiments of purposeful perception and action that facilitate and embellish their lives. From the start, people used states of matter — paint, wood, stone, paper, ink, and much much more — to store, organize, access, and apply these cultural resources for their use in conducting their lives. As these practices have developed, they have immeasurably deepened and expanded the scope and quality of life, while imposing a characteristic spectrum of possible activity attainable with them at any particular time.

Now,[1] with unusual historical rapidity, humans have suddenly been creating novel means to use states of energy to store, organize, access, and apply their existing and emerging cultural resources in the conduct of their lives. As electronic processing displaces material reproduction, the scope and possible uses of human culture change radically, for better and for worse, in ways we can neither fathom nor anticipate. We find ourselves having to manage the human enterprise through this transformation with neither clear precedents nor well-charted direction.

Many are insisting that what's changing amounts to no significant changes at all; others vaguely are foreseeing possibilities emerge that span the gamut from the glorious to the catastrophic. Let us, instead, recognize that our times are churning in confusing ways — perhaps a perennial recognition. Let us start admitting that we neither understand what's happening nor know what to do. That's the state of mind that calls for study, for quite reflections on the uncertainties at hand. Study begins through the recognition of ignorance, and A Place to Study begins in our recognition that we are all radically ignorant about who can do what with existing and emerging cultural resources stored, organized, accessed, and applied in states of energy.[2]

We don't know what's actually taking place. We've seen over several decades an amazing digital network globally emerge, linking together most of us who are alive in potential person-to-person interaction. Most books ever written. most poems composed, songs sung, music played, pictures painted, laws passed, agreements made, and theories thought are there in clear digital representation to be consulted in an instant or two Let's find out what we can do to deal with our fundamental concerns by working hard together as autonomous persons with powerful electronic tools applied to a full, well-organized assemblage of high-quality cultural resources.

But how do we navigate to our goal when we don't know exactly what we are looking for? As we ask that question, we study. When we know what we are looking for, we can ask someone to tell us about it, or look it up and learn about it. When we don't know what we're looking for, we have to ask a lot of questions. That's the purpose of our districts, not to give the answer, but to help us pose our questions

These questions do not result in our knowing something as the answer. They are questions that help us recognize and understand what we're looking for. What we recognize and understand through such questioning culminates, not in the production of knowledge, but in the formation of intention, purpose, and value that we can and should institute in and through our lifeworlds. We question — Who? What? How? Where/When? Why? — not singly, not in a sequence, but in a continuous simultaneity out of which recognition and comprehension emerge.

Confounded by contingency, we loose too easily our sense of agency.

  1. We try on A Place to Study to use many familiar terms with mildly distinctive meaning, now among them. Here, now signifies a category of the understanding that indicates rather variable duration, indicating the span of time within which something to which we are attending is taking place. With many matters of substantial historical significance, this understanding of now requires us to recognize that it started well in the past, continues apace in the present, and will not reach completion until some indefinite time in the future. As we work on A Place to Study, we will see increasingly the value of this recognition in reducing the tyranny of prediction and strengthening the case for acting in the light of valued possibility.
  2. Yes, we could make other statements of fundamental ignorance, and these receive significant attention elsewhere in the world and in specific parts of A Place to Study. We proceed, however, with our ignorance about the historic implications taking place with the advent of electronic processing, not on the basis of foreknowledge of its primacy, but on the hunch that doing so can help bring important uses of cultural activity to fruition.