DIY Education

Now, there certainly is something to be said to the merits of a formal education. As a fortunate holder of two undergraduate degrees (and a minor, all in four years, thank you very much), I can attest to the value of having a formal education in the job opportunities afforded to me and the theoretical better salary (still waiting on that one). Overall, if you can get a formal higher education, it is a good idea.

I was, however, reading the most recent edition of Education Life in the New York Times, and I happened upon an article all about free online learning, and I immediately thought of you all here.

The article, An Open Mind, talks about the new movement of placing educational resources and lectures online for free consumption. What an exciting idea. If you want to know more about that movement and how it came about, go ahead and read the article.

But what I discovered specifically for your delight was a small additional information box nestled in the printed article called, How to Learn Something for Nothing.

This article reveals the best of today’s online resources for learning something new. I’m particularly excited about this because I sincerely miss going to lectures and listening to the professors as they challenge my preconceptions of the world. Plus, through this, I’m able to round out some of my education that was not so thoroughly explored for fear of damaging my GPA. I wonder if they have a course on basic Burmese I could watch…

Of these, Academic Earth is my favorite. I tend to respond well to video material when I am learning, so its nice to just kick back and listen to a professor chat while I’m at home in my PJs with a cup of hot tea.

Pull up a lecture and learn something today!

DIY Culture

Today, I was sitting around reading the paper while I was having my breakfast and I happened upon an article in the New York Times from April 18th that I just got around to reading today in their Arts and Leisure Section (It takes me a while to get through a Sunday edition of the Times).

The leading story is about the powers of globalization and how it’s power is being resisted by the very forces expected to squelch difference and promote cultural homogenization. Things like the internet and cable TV, once thought would bring the world together and promote a sort of cultural global norm, has to some extent succeeded in doing that, but the reaction to it has also been the return to localism, tribalism, and subcultures.

The article, called Do-It-Yourself Culture, never explicitly mentions Steampunk, but I thought it a very significant explanation as to why Steampunk exists, why it is gaining in popularity, and why I personally believe that Steampunk will be a powerful subculture for the foreseeable future.

Steampunk economics and politics places high importance on the ability of the individual to conquer the behemoth multinational corporations that attempt to feed us mass-produced garbage made through the exploitative labor of overseas workers (who, mind you, often live and work in deplorable conditions). That’s why I love Etsy and Instructables; it gives us the power as Steampunks to choose a more ethical and greener path to direct our economic power.

Steampunk is about more than just what you buy, though. It’s a subgroup highly influenced by it’s rebellion against authority and it’s respect for, but not reverence of, the past. As a retro-futuristic movement, we can take those gems of Victorian society like fashion and etiquette and integrate them into a modern world where we understand the evils of racism, sexism, homophobia, and imperialism. Imperialism is a key idea here, because many would argue that globalization is just a new word for cultural imperialism. And to me, the reaction to that fact is why the world is more fractured than it ever was.

Steampunk had its supposed peak in the 1980’s. But I an assure you that the internet and its wealth of information is only fueling the fires of the the current Steampunk Renaissance. The demand to conform that globalization has pressed on all of us has resurrected Steampunk and the rebellious spirit in us all.