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Who? seeks the agent at work

United States President Barack Obama bends down to allow the son of a White House staff member to touch his head (cropped).jpg
Jacob spoke first. "I want to know if my hair is just like yours," he told Mr. Obama.... Mr. Obama replied, "Why don't you touch it and see for yourself?" He lowered his head, level with Jacob, who hesitated. "Touch it, dude!" Mr. Obama said.... "So, what do you think?" Mr. Obama asked. "Yes, it does feel the same," Jacob said.[1]

Here on A Place to Study, we ask who? — for instance, "Who studies here?" — not to inventory the identifying characteristics shared by members of a group, but to perceive and recognize others as persons, intentional agents, interacting with us in our experience, as a presence in some way palpable to us. . . . . .

Even Presidents are persons, like all of us. Let's not forget it. We construct and use A Place to Study as a work of persons, for persons, and by persons. Let's think and act with persons in mind. That's not always so easy, for we live in a world populated by many roles — student, teacher, employee, manager, cashier, police officer, doctor or lawyer, pastor, sergeant, sailor, reporter, and many more, Presidents, too. Much of our education, formal and informal, teaches us to embody the various roles that circumstances thrust upon us. But our inner-I thinks and feels as the person that lives — not our behaviors, but our lives.

Persons live, or have lived, or will live; we have inner lives, we feel appetites and drives, we have emotions, we perceive, act, and direct ourselves as best we can, coping imperfectly with real constraints. Persons think and reason, we experience our world, we each suffer, enjoy, fear, and hope. We can understand ourselves and other persons because they and us, because we, all of us, are living or have lived, concrete personal lives.

A person lives an historical, existential actuality, as an “I” that inextricably includes both her “I” and her “circumstances.” I cannot abstract my life from the circumstances within which my life takes place, within which I try to conduct it as best I can. Rarely can I do just what I please; freedom arises as we act uncertain about our abilities and the conditions we will meet through the use of them.

We form ourselves and learn liberally by asking questions when we do not know what we are looking for. We do not answer those questions, but explore how they can clarify our intentions and sense of meaning.

Let's speak infrequently about the individual, which best denotes an abstract construction that exists only in thought as a means to group various descriptors together. In contrast to the person, the abstract “individual” is; it is a conceptual doll, bearing properties, decked out in various outfits like Barbie or Ken, each named with its qualities classified and counted by careful observers, who predict how the stick figures will behave in a world of statistical abstraction, rigidly motivated by a compound causality, the parts of which aggregate to 100%.

Persons come to A Place to Study as persons studying, a student in the very simple sense of the term, a person studying. Literally, we come here studying because we come here, unsure what we come here for. This is to say that everyone interacting on A Place to Study does so as a student, a person studying, and among persons studying, there are no fixed hierarchies, for all are seeking to cope with their ignorance. We meet and interact as peers who interact recognizing our shared intention to clarify our respective sense of agency.

Persons studying can do a lot with A Place to Study simply by using their computer, tablet, or smart phone to interact with the resources here and other persons on it. That's what all of us will be doing most of the time.

To begin with, any student coming to A Place to Study will do so as a visitor, someone visiting the Place temporarily, perhaps one time only, or recurrently ― occasionally or frequently, perhaps even for an intensive or prolonged stay. Visitors can go wherever they want on the Place, copy and download stuff, and interact through the Add comment links. Visitors can come and go as they please to partake in the purposes and activities of A Place to Study.

For some visitors, their time and engagement with the Place may build, and they may come to think of themselves as residents here. In that frame of mind, anyone can [currently, will be able to] request a free account, which will give them some additional powers of interaction, and responsibilities too, roughly equivalent to those of editors on Wikipedia. With those powers, they can start new pages, add resources to our collections, and work voluntarily to maintain and develop the Place and organize activities through it.

Among residents, students living and working on the Place, some will become reflexively engaged with it, a resident student whom we might identify as a steward, a person taking special care for the potential flourishing of A Place to Study. By procedures to be developed, the stewards will direct the {{cll} and implement the consensus goals and policies that the residents at A Place to Study set to guide its long-term development as a place to support self-formation and liberal learning in the digital commons.

An Interlude, if you wish

But if you want to be strictly Open Source, don't click. Do 5 minutes of calisthenics, instead, or just move on as you like.