The Public Circulation of Ideas


What good are ideas if we don’t share them? As scholars, we research, write and publish in increasingly inaccessible spaces: journals behind paywalls and scholarly books with steep price tags. The fewer individuals who interact with ideas, the more constrained our notion of those ideas. This reminds me of how Lawrence Levine describes the state of cultural curators in the late 19th century in Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America:  “The spokesmen for culture at the turn of the century were less missionaries than conservators, less bent upon eradicating the culture gap between themselves and the majority than on steadfastly maintaining that gap” (218).

In an effort to promote the democratization of knowledge and encourage my own scholarship,  I’ve started a new project that uses one of my Omeka sites to create a searchable, annotated bibliography. It’s called Public Circulation and draws on a concept in architecture that describes connecting elements in a building, such as hallways and galleries, that encourage access to other spaces in the structure. In the same way, Public Circulation will serve to give a measure of access to ideas that inform my own work.

Yes, I know I could use a tool like Zotero to accomplish the same thing with less labor, but I chose to use my Omeka site for a couple of reasons. First, I like how Omeka will let me curate collections of sources, which will also help me connect ideas in the texts that I read.  It will also let me play with Canva to attach files to the items to make them more visually appealing! Most importantly, I can share my growing bibliography with everyone, thereby accomplishing greater access to more ideas.

Be on the lookout for posts from Public Circulation!

Levine, Lawrence W. Highbrow/Lowbrow: The Emergence of Cultural Hierarchy in America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988.