Ways of Learning and Working

Permalink for this paragraph 0 MKG: It seems that the idea of engagement, which is popular now in academic theories of learning — especially concerning interactive media — was important to you, and that the exploration of contextual content in laserdiscs was one way you made your materials more engaging. Earlier, you spoke about your stepson and trying to engage him in a text. Was this related to your own experiences in school? Did you want more but find yourself unable to find it, or was it your own learning style, or was it something that you saw more from the perspective of teaching — that you saw people become more engaged when they started looking at the context of a text?

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BS: I guess I can only trace this all back to the 1960s. We were hungry. We wanted to know everything about the world. And we didn’t want any limits placed on our learning. We certainly didn’t want to have stuff delivered to us in a set piece. It’s interesting to think about the 60s. On the one hand, there was all of this sort of flower-power innocence; on the other hand, we also learned that we were never being told the whole truth, and that the borders that were erected around things were meant to be torn down. Tearing down fences was something that we did. And I think that knowledge is not as neat as the Dick-and-Jane presentation of the world that we got in grade school. We learned that that wasn’t true, and I’ve never quite thought about it in this way before, but in fact, that desire to tear down all the fences, to make everything available, came from that. You know, let’s figure it out from there. But let’s get everything out.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 MKG: So there was a quest for knowledge and maybe also a socio-political impulse behind it?

Permalink for this paragraph 0 BS: I don’t make much of a distinction between those two. I’ve learned over the years that all my work has been profoundly informed by the political outlook I developed in the 60s and 70s.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 MKG: And do you find that to be true of others you’ve worked with along the way?

Permalink for this paragraph 0 BS: For me, there is a strong connection between the outlook I developed in my youth and the product-design decisions I’ve made ever since. But realistically, most of the people I’ve worked with over the past thirty years have come from a younger generation with quite different formative experiences. If the recent work of the Institute [for the Future of the Book] in developing and promoting the concept of social reading is of any value, I think that’s in large part because it’s a synthesis of my outlook with that of some brilliant young people who came of age with the social web.

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