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Research Sample: The Laws of Cool: Knowledge Work and the Culture of Information (Univ. of Chicago Press, 2004), pp. 307-8:
After all, theorists have been intent since at least the time of the Russian Formalists on showing that the humanities can be methodologically technical (raising the ire of those who accept the need for technical “jargon” in every field of contemporary knowledge except the humanities). Ultimately, the harvest of this effort must be to equip educators to reverse the field by addressing the humanity of technique. The best way to do so is to bring to technique an awareness of archaic and historical techniques. The sense of technique and the sense of history can be integral with each other if both can be shown to play upon the perpetual tension between the archaic and the new.
Here are the kinds of questions to be asked in such an approach:
- How might knowledge workers be educated both in contemporary information technique (the collection, verification, and collation of data; comparative and numerical analysis; synthesis and summarization; attribution of sources; use of media to produce, manipulate, and circulate results) and in archaic and historical knowledge technique (e.g., memorization, storytelling, music, dance, weaving and other handicraft, iconography, rhetoric, close reading), with the ultimate goal of fostering a richer, more diverse, less self-centered sense of modern technical identity?
- What and how did people “know,” for instance, when cultures were dominated technically by orality, manuscripts, or print?
- How did aspects of older technical regimes survive, adapt, and even flourish in succeeding knowledge regimes, such that, for example, oral culture today appears not just in the “secondary orality” of audiovisual culture but also in the e-mail, threaded discussions, chat, and other talky media of information culture?
- In what equivalent ways will the culture of literacy survive in the age of browsing?
- How, in other words, is the progress of knowledge constituted from broad, diverse, and always internally rifted negotiations with historical knowledges, such that every “cutting edge” or “bleeding edge” innovation creates in its shadow not just a dark hemisphere of obsolete peoples (“residual,” “subcultural,” “throwaway”) consigned to the social margin, but also a repurposing and recirculation of the knowledges of the people of the margin (the true bleeding edge)?
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