In “Adventures in Horizontal Education,” Travis Mushett opens up an interesting challenge, how to create alternative educational occasions for serious study that flourish outside of the normal academic structures—dynamic, non-hierarchical, and responsive to the interests of participants. Let’s hypothesize that present times are opportune for organizing productive study in novel ways. In a material, logistical sense, open access to quality cultural resources has been broadening both extensively and rapidly. Technical constraints on thoughtful communication that have endured for centuries are fast giving way, examples of how material conditions, once solid, are becoming liquid, as Zygmunt Bauman has been pointing out. We can be quite sure the consequences for pedagogical practice and public communication will be substantial and significant, but no one knows what they will be. That is our opportunity—let’s make Readings a response to that challenge, pursued in an experimental spirit.
One can try shaping an innovation in an indeterminate situation by attempting to do something that is very hard to do under the conditions hitherto prevailing. Within higher education as it currently functions, it is very, very difficult to configure groups for studying daunting works—ones that combine unusual scope, difficulty, and significance—and to do it in a non-hierarchical, generalist spirit while achieving high intellectual standards and expectations. Here is an initial set of guidelines that might serve to initiate and structure a reading, understanding that the group should repeatedly reflect on how well these steps are working and revise them through consensus as seems useful.