The new liberal arts

posted by Jason Kottke Feb 02, 2009

Snarkmarket, one of my favorite WWW homepages, is making a book on the new liberal arts based on the conversation in the comments of a recent post.

It's 2009. A generation of digital natives is careening towards college. The economy is rebooting itself weekly. We have new responsibilities now โ€” as employees, citizens, and friends โ€” and we have new capabilities, too. The new liberal arts equip us for a world like this. But... what are they?

The time is ripe to expand and invigorate our notion of the liberal arts. Is design a liberal art now? How about photography? Food? Personal branding?

My favorite description of the book is that it's "the course catalog for some amazing new school". The book's focus dovetails nicely with my activities here on kottke.org; I can't wait to contribute (hopefully!) and read it. In true Snarkmarket fashion, they're looking for contributors to the project...details here.

BTW, my "liberal arts 2.0" description of kottke.org is generously listed as one of the seeds of the idea. I came up with the term a couple of years ago while concocting an elevator pitch for kottke.org. Liberal arts 2.0 seemed like the sort of thing that the site was about and that someone would understand a bit with little explanation...better than "kottke.org is about all kinds of stuff" anyway. I used the term in a talk I did at MoMA in 2007 with the following as "fields of study" in the new discipline:

Graphic design, freakonomics, photography, programming, film, remixing, video games, food, advertising, internet life skills, journalism, fashion.

The developing thread already contains many more interesting ideas than those, particularly Jennifer's vote for the inclusion of home economics:

Home economics. Cooking for yourself. Growing food for yourself. Making clothing for yourself. Why are these things important enough to be included as a "liberal art"? One word: sustainability. We all need to do our part to shrink our footprint, but many of us have no idea how, and for most people born after 1960 (or so) it's not something they learned in the home, either.

as well as Tim's expansion of the concept:

Let's put the "economics" back in "home economics"! Because it's not really just about the home anymore โ€” you have to think about the broader connections of the organization of your daily life to global operations, histories, labor, politics, geology and ecology. And that is home economics as a liberal art.