Places of Learning

Steven Connor (University of Cambridge), ‘@: Places of Learning’

Things that resist keyword searches can be telling. Search for ‘university architecture’ and you will be provided with an extensive list of university departments of architecture. ‘Harvard architecture’ will take you to accounts of a particular form of computer structure, which is distinguished from von Neumann architecture. The architecture of knowledge has become very largely an abstract or immaterial affair. And yet, no university can be fully ‘open’, for it must always represent a concentration of knowledge as well as a means of distributing it. Even when a university has become ubiquitous, beyond the point of having any local habitation, the institution of the university will still harbour the idea of the concentration of knowing. The internet is not a university.

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Steven Connor is Grace 2 Professor of English in the University of Cambridge. He has written about sound media and technology in Dumbstruck: A Cultural History of Ventriloquism (2000) and in other essays on sound and voice and pneumatic machineries in The Matter of Air: Science and Art of the Ethereal (2010). His Paraphernalia: The Curious Lives of Magical Things (2011) considers our intimate relations with such technological objects as batteries, plugs, keyboards, screens and wires. His latest book, Dream Machines (2017), a history of imaginary machines and the ways in which machines come to be imagined, is now available from Open Humanities Press in the Technographies series.


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