Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

New Culture of Learning Challenges Knowledge Institutions

March 11, 2011

How do people learn today in a world with unprecedented access to information?

Today's culture of learning flows more, relying less on preexisting stocks of knowledge or fixed cultures of intellectual authority and more on a passion for learning that itself is a form of play, according to Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, the authors of A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change (CreateSpace, January 2011). 

In a review on Amazon’s website, Institute Director Michael Kennedy recounts a discussion of the book in his class this semester on Knowledge Networks and Global Transformation. “As I listened, I wondered whether in fact I was observing just what Thomas and Brown were describing – this different culture of learning in action, and whether, in that assembly, I was seeing in formation that next incarnation of the thing which made Brown University famous more than three decades ago: its new curriculum.”

The book and its class discussion raised several questions for Kennedy, he said. Among them: “How does this new culture of learning combine with traditions in liberal arts? There are complements to be sure, but there are some real tensions that need to be faced.”