Paradise Gained

For the longest time, I cherished the idea of spending my life in the cozy and stimulating environs of a university campus.  You know, the kind you see in Hollywood movies, as in Princeton or Berkeley or Yale?  Having completed a graduation in Earth Sciences (Geology) from an internationally-reputed college (St. Xavier’s, Bombay), it did not seem like such a far-fetched dream either.  But, life had other plans for me.  And, eight years and an MBA later, I find myself quite well-settled in a mainstream corporate career.

The dream still lives, though.  And, I thoroughly enjoy any glimpse of the life it has to offer, either through interactions with people (Atanu?), movies on DVD (The Beautiful Mind?) or books written by authors who have had such experiences (Richard Feynman?). 

That’s why, when a recent post by Atanu featured a snippet on this subject, I couldn’t help follow the link, and discovered  Brad DeLong’s post entitled: The Invisible College

Right now I’m looking out my office window, perched above the large, grassy, Frisbee-playing, picnicking, and sunbathing area that stretches through Berkeley’s campus. I’m looking straight out at the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a view that I marvel at every day. I wonder why the chancellor hasn’t confiscated such offices and rented them out to hedge funds to improve the university’s finances.

I walk out my door and look around: at the offices of professors who know more about topics like the history of the international monetary system or the evolution of income distribution than any other human beings alive, and at graduate students hanging out in the lounge. It’s a brilliant intellectual community, this little slice of the world that is our visible college. You run into people in the hall and the lounge, and you learn interesting things. Paradise. For an academic, at least.

The best part was that it didn’t end there.  Brad’s take on it was that the blogosphere is merely an extension of his campus… a means to the same end…

But I am greedy. I want more. I would like a larger college, an invisible college, of more people to talk to, pointing me to more interesting things. People whose views and opinions I can react to, and who will react to my reasoned and well-thought-out opinions, and to my unreasoned and off-the-cuff ones as well.

Over the past three years, with the arrival of Web logging, I have been able to add such people to those I bump into — in a virtual sense — every week.

The hope of all of us who blog is that we will become smarter, do more useful work, be happier and more productive, and will also impress our deans so they will raise our salaries.

A great university has faculty members who do a great many things — teaching undergraduates, teaching graduate students, the many things that are “research,” public education, public service, and the turbocharging of the public sphere of information and debate that is a principal reason that governments finance and donors give to universities. Web logs may well be becoming an important part of that last university mission.

Until now, I hadn’t thought of blogging in these terms.  But, Brad’s right.  It is, after all, a way for any one to interact with the world at large, and discuss issues that he/she regards as worthy of discussion, whether they live on campus or not.  For me, the past three years of blogging have resulted in countless new ideas being exhanged and new friendships formed – all of which would not have been possible without such a platform.

It turns out, some dreams do come true!

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