InfoMonger, a new intellectual-property consortium of writers, composers, and musicians, is developing a project entitled The Center for Peripheral Studies, the World's First Recreational Think Tank.
Exasperated by pollsters, pundits, and self-anointed prophets who professed to speak for us, and frankly envious of the awe with which their fatuous pronouncements are greeted in the mainstream media, we resolved to create a policy institute *for the rest of us.* Our motto: Thinking is too important to be left to professionals.
The CfPS holds that more often than not the truth is to be found not at the center of things, but out at the edges, where the centrifugal force of our spinning existence has flung the denser particles of meaning, and where they can be easily collected and examined at leisure. The Periphery, therefore, is our bailiwick, our mise en scene, the very heart of our endeavor.
In part what we have in mind is a virtual Chautaqua, "an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer" (-- Robert M. Pirsig, _Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance_), but with two important modifications: 1) our "chaw & talk" will not be bound by time, distance, or seating capacity; and 2) we have a house band.
The proceedings of the CfPS will be presented in a thoroughly interactive World Wide Web site that will serve as a resource center for inquiry and discussion of all those *other* ideas that nag and harry us in our daily lives, the petty anxieties and tiny triumphs that frame the lives we actually *live,* as opposed to all the mediated phantasmagoria that piles up around us wherever we go, or even stay.
Our members (called JollyGoodFellows) will be able to visit any time of the day or night (and there's no dress code!) to deconstruct the Harangue of the Week, contribute a conundrum to the Problem Development Group, recharge their B.S. meters at the Institute for Healthier Skepticism, fill out questionnaires and surveys in the Stuff That Really Matters Department, participate in non-binding, low-impact experiments (currently under development: an extension of the Music Makes You Smarter studies at U. Cal Irvine in 1993), and join discussion threads on such peripheral subjects as Decapitalizing the Days of the Week, Coping with the Gift of Gab, and Millen-o-mania.
In addition, the CfPS will act as the broadcast site for a half-hour streaming-audio magazine providing a regular progress report on developments at the periphery. This "radio show," which is comprised of both spoken-word and recorded music segments, will dedicate each episode to a topic of interest to people like ourselves who like to think in centrifugal fashion. These shows sport such titles as: Science & Technology -- You Owe Us an Apology!, (Love Is) The Ultimate Weapon, The Pomo Sea, and the like; a half dozen episodes exist in outline form at present.
We mentioned a house band. Left Field, a reclusive group of Neo-Romantic Radical Centrist Raccoon Room specialists, has, for the past year and a half, been recording the music for this venture, including not only whole tunes, but also instrumental and vocal material suitable for use as aural wallpaper, bumpers, and transitions (as well as scientific experiments!).
Our goal is to create an ongoing community of like-minded individuals who can entertain themselves. We plan to mobilize every Web contraption we can in order to enable our members to contribute to the proceedings, including e-mail, form submission, dynamic updating, hit-counters, and any other gizmo we can wrest to this purpose. If, once the site is up and running, Input from Out There in fact *becomes* the site's content, we will consider the enterprise a success.
The World Wide Web is the perfect venue for this kind of decentralized, hypertextual discourse: a "place" where people can communicate both personally and publicly at the same time, permitting a degree of intimacy (a term we much prefer to the geekische "interactivity") that simply does not exist elsewhere. We believe that such a full-bodied use of cyberspace -- the new agora -- can in fact illuminate the human psyche in ways that cannot even be conceived by other media.
And that is why we are so grateful for this opportunity.
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Last updated: 6/7/98