Friday, April 30, 2010

Designer Degrees

In the current university system, you have to pick a pre-established discipline under which to complete your studies. Whether it's as recent as queer studies, as old as history or somewhere in the middle like sociology, you are forced to spend your intellectual life informed by and informing these arbitrary divisions of knowledge.

I believe that learning is at its best when innovation is at its highest, and in my world of information overload and constantly evolving subject matters, interdisciplinary study needs to be the norm, not the exception. I demand the freedom to design my own unique kind of studies. While the current divisions of knowledge have been serving humanity adequately for centuries, I believe that humanity can serve itself brilliantly instead if only we give each other more faith to experiment, realign and transform the lens through which we organise knowledge.

Just as each person is unique, nobody brings the same influences into a study of, say, economics. So instead of trying to fit their wide-ranging interests and flexible self-identity into the narrow confines of a longstanding, one-size-fits-all discipline, a student would have a lot more fun and learn more if they were encouraged to create their own (both general and specific) area of study. They could create their own field as they go, and give it their own name, like perhaps Epiphanie Studies (studies by or about Epiphanie).

Already you can study the psychology of film or the sociology of politics in some of the most progressive institutions (such as the University of East London), but I want to see a world of honourable hybrids, and popular idiosyncrasies, such as Innovation Studies, Postmodern Studies and Meta Studies. Should a university allow me to create a space for myself which celebrates the unique facets of my personality and encourages me to adopt an increasingly inventive outlook, I would go back to university in a flash.

In my case, I am very interested in postmodern texts. That is not to say that I don't find value in texts created prior to the 1960s, it's just that I'm passionate about, and bring the most to my analysis of, postmodernism. Why should I be bored with Chaucer when I could be enlivening myself with Calvino? Why struggle with Dostoyevsky when I could be honing my appreciation of Derrida? I regard texts prior to this age as backward, and I have no time for them.

I have chosen to be an independent intellectual because I like to transform the already established into something new and fresh. I read widely, and my writing represents the diversity of my influences. When a university asks me to think inside a box, I have instinctual disregard for its authority. Yet the boxes sometimes threaten to overwhelm me.

If something does not help me innovate, I have no need for it in my life.

So I keep in touch with the university vibe, the academic verses, the PhD hype and the latest journal articles. But I don't make university design my personal aesthetic. I look to my own self for notions of the uncategorisable, the multivalent, the proliferating streams of thought, which inspire me to keep asking questions and challenging convention. I do this because I am confident about myself, and genuinely care about others.

Remember to play! Stand defiant; be proud of your originality. Leave behind the nay-sayers who would have you conform to mainstream intellectual life. I know that I am happiest when I am at my most questioning, and I wouldn't have it any other way! :o)

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