In praise of Gardner

I’m ALWAYS interested in what Gardner Campbell has to say, even when it’s in a realm of which I’m largely ignorant (e.g., Miltonics) or one where I have a different and possibly complementary take on the subject (viz musics). Gardner has a way of putting things that piques and niggles and provokes hmmmmmm, and my chief regret is that my responses don’t see the light of blogging day more often. Today’s case in point is his post on the origins and prospective utility of the RFC. Vintage Gardner, riffing like the bass player he [also] is:

  • begin with a pointer to something one might could have already known about but, well, didn’t (in this case, John Naughton’s A Brief History of the Future: From Radio Days to Internet Years in a Lifetime),
  • extract an essential nubbin of metastuff (here it’s the tale of the origin of the Request For Comment, an essential integral to the evolution of ARPANET, instantiated by Steve Crocker) and labelling it memorably (“a new genre of professional writing”),
  • summarize the intellectual linkages and broader significance in a few trenchant phrases (“a praxis of intellectual discourse”) and offer cogent linkages to familiar domains

    You can see the similarity to blogging right away. At least two primary Network Working Groups are involved: that of all the other people in the world (let’s call that civilization), and that of the network that constitutes one’s own cognition and the resulting “strange loop,” to use Douglas Hofstadter’s language…

  • and then challenge, in the nicest way possible, all of us to rethink what we do and how we’re doing it:

    Why would we not want to produce such a record within the academy and share it with the public? Or are we content with the ordinary, forgotten, and non-riveting so long as the business model holds up?

  • and then close with a rumination on self:

    I yearn for documentation conventions that will produce an extraordinary record of thought in action, with the production shared by all who work within a community of learning. And I wonder if I’m capable of Crocker’s humility or wisdom, and answerable to his invitation. I want to be.

My admiration for Gardner’s Way is unbounded and perpetually renewed with each post at Gardner Writes. AND the bookshelves chez my splendid otium are incremented when the Brown Trucks roll to bring me the volume he’s mentioned…

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