Friday, December 29, 2006

Scanning the literate lunatic aka genius fringe

Scanning is a common cognitive exercise I focus on as a teacher-librarian, but it's also something I do as a mental magpie, so I was interested to read about scanning in the context of futurist studies.

Yes, I'd read the OCLC's Environmental Scan (re the future of libraries) a few years back, so knew what one generally consisted of, but when I checked out Dr. Wendy Schultz's website (a result of reading her recent delightful offering in the OCLC newsletter re her vision of Library 4.0 as mind gym, idea lab, art salon, and knowledge spa), I was interested to find an essay on the concept of "common, or garden variety, environmental scans", as practiced/professed by futurists like Schultz.

Schultz has her students do what she calls "360 scanning" of anything touching on STEEP (social, technological, economic, ecological, and political) environments. They start by scanning an entire set of (hardcopy) periodicals in a library, no matter what field they are in (e.g., engineers are instructed to not overlook Women's Wear Daily or Art in America), looking for patterns of themes or topics relating to change and new innovations. Then they move onto online resources (and she provides a good list), again, across a wide range of interests.

This type of scanning outside one's forte is exactly what I think all those involved in education should always be doing.

I particularly like her recommendation: "Another strategy is identifying the websites of the literate lunatic fringe -- or genius fringe -- and monitoring their blogs (weblogs)."

Yes, checking out the edge is always interesting. So what websites qualify as the literate genius fringe in the field of teaching and librarianship?? A good basic list of cutting edge mavens in the field of educational technology is on edtechnot. For social software + political philosophy there's Ideant, the blog of Ulises Ali Mejias. In terms of "the book" and adventurous speculations about its future, I love if:book. Of course, for a good collection of geniuses, you can't do better than Edge: The Third Culture.

Must go through my blog list and see who else I would include... Maybe I should make a new category in Bloglines -- "Genius fringe"...

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