Monday, June 1, 2009


"Capsules of Knowledge"

Looking across the room of the reference collection, I see piled high the tomes of dictionaries, encyclopedias, biblical commentaries, historical theology series, Greek lexicons, and Hebrew inter-linear texts. Each of them sought after, found, extracted from the shelves, perused, consulted, used, and returned to a table. I've often heard the expression "capsule of knowledge" or "capsule of information" used to describe books. Perhaps the latter is more accurate in description. But this moniker for the book is a typical attestation to the role that books play in specialized higher education. Even if we are living in a technologically saturated era, that does not mean that the carriers of information must be technologically dominating and, thus the question becomes "what is technologically relevant in this day and age for specialized higher education?"

One of the values of books, as noted by faculty and students in various disciplines of seminary education, is that they are "finite entities," which have a defined character and limit. This idea of limit is very important for many. The finite object is part of how we see and interact with the book, as we see its limits--the limits of the construction of the text, the limits embodied by the author, and the limits of information in this given object called the book. Having limits, for some, may seem restrictive, but for others, the idea of setting limits also means a certain amount of intellectual rigor, vetting, and editing. It means that more thought was put into creating the written object than say something put up on the internet (even a blog such as this!).

But the value of books that may be found in Reference collections is still very high, because reference materials online are few and far between when it comes to the specialized texts in theological education. And the book will continue for a long time to dominate this field of knowledge, despite any presumptions by Kindle-ites or the Google-cosmos.

1 comment:

  1. Dudly,

    Glad to see that you are indulging your obsession with the book object.

    I would suggest that the preference of theological education for book objects will perpetuate the decline of theological education, which is already in the academic toilet.

    The Kindle-ites will win. It's only a matter of time.