Like other democratic processes, the Internet gives us exactly what we want, for good and ill. With digital distractions ever more abundant, attentions spans in free-fall, newspapers collapsing in on themselves, the humanities and liberal arts derided and dismissed, museums worried about long-term survival, the creative class laid off, streaming music cutting artist royalties to pennies, etc. It is not quite the renaissance some of us wanted to see in this age of information...

This presentation is adapted from a talk I gave at Ignite Baltimore in 2010. 

This is Matthew Arnold, the eminent Victorian literary critic and educator. He had magnificent muttonchops and a glorious dream – to enlighten and liberate the masses by disseminating Culture, that is, "the best which has been thought and said in the world."

Arnold outlined a vision for education that would share the sweetness and light that flows from the deep study art and science, literature and history, truth and beauty, theories of justice and liberty... the whole package.

Such things had been the province of aristocrats. People with sufficient wealth and leisure could assemble glorious treasure troves like this "Cabinet of Wonders" or Wunderkammer. This sumptuous Baroque painting from the Walters Art Museum conveys the splendor. Linger and look closely at the art, the ancient texts, intricate scientific devices, and exotic specimens of flora and fauna from abroad.

To enlighten the masses...

The dream is collapsing

Reading is fundamental?

We are doomed

A million little pieces

Ow! My Balls!

This is the way the world ends...

It's your fault/opportunity


Your wunderkammer?

Snarky New Yorkers

Armchair time travel

Light Street

The Internet of Letters

This is your web

The world is yours