Mike Sosteric

For me, learning to be an academic and a teacher is a lot like learning to sculpt, but with ideas and theories on paper instead of raw malleable clay. Instead of throwing a lump of clay down on paper, you throw ideas down on paper, and then you spend the rest of your life trying to mould them into shape. In the past, you’d do that in the privacy of your own studio, only giving to the world the ideas and theories that were kiln dried and fully formed. Now, not so much. Now, the internet allows us to throw our ideas out into space before they are completed. This is true whether you are a potter throwing your vid up on Youtube, or an academic spitting ideas and theories onto a page.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can’t speak for potters but for people like me, it’s a mixed blessing. On the one hand, throwing your ideas out to the world democratizes the academy in a big way by opening the door to feedback and guidance from other than the intellectual elite. It also makes your ideas and theories more responsive, since you can see the impact in real-time. On the other hand, it can be hard for those trained in old print-based ways of distributing ideas to understand. They are used to seeing only the finished product and so when they see the interim, they often judge it as a finished piece. But what can you do? Either continue to produce and distribute theories and ideas in the old industrial way, with a plodding scholarly journal and book cycle that even in electronic form takes months and years to unwind, or embrace a more modern, large-scale and democratic Socratic form.

Not to be too dramatic or anything but if we, as sociologists and teachers, want to stay relevant and help save the planet, there’s really only one thing we can do. Out with the old, in with the new.



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