Around the house whirls energy and productivity, while I myself have been struggling with Sunday’s sermon (alternately concentrating on what I might say, and distracting myself with nonsense). I may need to go sit at the corner coffeeshop for a while to see if I can make some headway; somehow I don’t think I’ll have lots of time for composition tomorrow. Alas, my own energies seem to be depleted by a bug that presumably followed me from Scotland; a sore throat started yesterday morning, and intensified overnight. We’ll see how that develops. In the meantime, though, it’s a tremendous treat to spend time with our family here, whom I not only love but also admire.
All that being said, the tabs are accumulating in my browser window again, so here’s this morning’s linkdump:
• The London Review of Books describes the vile, repressive practice of kettling from some of those caught up in the demonstrations against education cuts last week. Who in government will stand up and call “Shame!” for this horrible misprision of peace-keeping?
• Theory, Culture, and Society interviews John Milbank, and the interview displays both the elements of John’s theology that seem very sound and important to me (I affirm his sense that “universities often work better when they do have a particular ethos,” that it’s an “illusion that there might be a kind of natural, purely human culture that didn’t have religion and myths,” and the importance of “a new alliance between popular religiosity and intellectual reflection”), as well as the aspects of his theology and his self-understanding from which I would have to distance myself (I see no benefit in arguing things such as “Christianity itself is the truest universalism” or getting tangled in claims that “the Enlightenment ideals of freedom and autonomy have got debased” — well, debased relative to what? contemporary exponents of Enlightenment ideals don’t necessarily think of their goals as “debased” — or his antagonism toward the sophists). There’s no need to adulate or revile Milbank; cheerleading or name-calling doesn’t advance any cause worth taking seriously. Let’s push things forward.
• As a home-schooler before home-schooling was even as culturally prominent as it is today (still not very), I’m always pleased when thoughtful people in the public eye recognise and take up the reasons for pursuing the goals we aimed at with our progeny. Caterina Fake — one of the founding developers of the late lamented Game Neverending and Flickr (whose fate Yahoo may have sealed last week), and founder of Hunch — has started blogging about her concerns relative to student-centred learning. (By the way, it’s fun to read about Hunch in David Weinberger’s forthcoming <Too Big To Know; both David and Caterina have been there online long enough to have the perspective to make them interesting participant observers of the technology landscape.)
• Speaking of forthcoming books, is anyone looking forward to reading Steve Himmer’s The Bee-Loud Glade more than Margaret and I? I doubt it. I will arise and go to my nearest bookseller to procure a copy as soon as it’s available!
• And speaking of books and buying, Gary Gibson posts an author’s (sardonic) perspective on the oncoming catastrophic change in the economy of publishing. The principal impediemnt to authors, musicians, filmmakers, and others being paid for their brilliance in this new economy is not “the internet” or “pirates,” it’s the immovable resistance with which most publishers and artists cling to the financial model of the late-nineteenth to late-twentieth centuries. The economy of rewards and support for the arts has always been changing; the notion that one relatively brief, relatively local moment when the material conditions of production, circulation, and acquisition sustained a particularly lucrative system of financing the arts (and even during that interval, there was constant discontent about the ways that the marketplace allotted “success”) will be blotted out in a relatively short while. Beginning several years ago, the mammals of the arts industry has had the opportunity to steal a march on their dinosaur rivals by embracing the internet and learning from the Net how to cultivate a thriving arts economy (and plenty of artists and even publishers/distributors have done so). Authority figures may muster tremendous coercive force and expend vast sums of money to lock the arts economy to a past that’s already failing, disintegrating, eroding before our eyes and ears, but even as the FCC caves to regressive industrial lobbying (for the time being) some quarters will perceive the market opportunity in real net neutrality, in real DRM-free and copyright-sane production and distribution — and will reap the benefits of foresight and agility. The question is neither “But how will we produce this or that?” nor “Who will pay the authors/musicians?”, but “When will our assumptions about production and support shift enough that we can learn how, on a large scale, the arts economy will shape up in a digital environment?” I’ll give you a hint: censoring, DRM, penal enforcement, and ever-expanding claims relative to copyright will not turn out to be the answer.
Happy Christmas Eve!