Saturday, June 23, 2007

Utopia (Eutopia, Outopia), Dystopia

Having begun this thing, I had to consider what would be worth posting about. It finally occurred to me that, put to best use, a "blog" (I do so hate neologisms, but I guess I have to live with this one) should offer me a place to work through ideas related to my life outside of teaching (art and design history, humanities), with the hope that interested folk might join in a conversation.

Years ago I began a dissertation for a PhD in the History of Ideas. My focus was on the nineteenth-century social philosopher and designer, William Morris, and on his philosophy of technology. The dissertation as such was abandoned due to the pressures of a full-time teaching load at a proprietary design school (far more courses than any human being should have to teach), but I never gave up on Morris and his ideas.

During this time I had also begun playing around with ideas for a novel that would take place in my birthplace (the Owens River Valley in eastern California), and would involve the development of a utopian society based loosely on Morris's principles. I've more or less finished the novel, and at some point may seek a publisher; at the moment bits of it are circulating among friends and students, and I'm flogging some of the ideas whenever it seems appropriate (not often, as it turns out). But questions of sustainability and harmonious living seem more and more to occupy the thoughts of fellow beings, so that as a blog-topic Morris's own notions about "how we live and how we might live" seem not only salient, but also urgent. News From Nowhere itself is much more than a utopian thought experiment; it also provides an intellectual map: a path toward looking at things differently. I refuse to think that human beings are incapable of re-imagining the future.

And so it begins. For my colleagues who have urged me to begin blogging (I'm still not sure I approve of the word, but at least it's better than some recent neologisms), thanks for the kick in the pants. You may live to regret it.

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