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NSDL Director Kaye Howe at JA-SIG, “Ubiquity, Interdependence, and the Age of Collaboration”

Saint Paul, Minnesota was the site of JA-SIG 2008 April 27-30, 2008. With the theme, “Higher Education Solutions: The Community Source Way” it’s no surprise that National Science Digital Library (NSDL) Core Integration Director Kaye Howe was on hand to deliver the closing keynote address entitled, “”Ubiquity, Interdependence, and the Age of Collaboration.” She noted that Prometheus discovered both the power and danger of knowledge when he stole fire from the gods for use by mere mortals. “There is no going back once you have stolen fire,” she said.

“Education is the great activity of the fallen world,” she said. “It is what we need to create a just society,” and yet, she pointed out, “We think of all the difficulties and all the ways we have to reinvent this wheel over and over again.”

Howe is no stranger to pointing out that the legacy of working together to create widely accessible opportunities for education has been one of conflict. These initiatives have at their core the conundrum of both striving for perfection while building on imperfect systems. She noted that the power of collaboration has at its roots a rich scholarly history and tradition with well-known relationships such as the public and private lives of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson as examples of a stormy collaboration with a remarkably successful outcome.

She concluded by noting that “The imperfect is our paradise,” as Wallace Stevens suggests in “The Poems of Our Climate.”THE POEMS OF OUR CLIMATE

Wallace Stevens


Clear water in a brilliant bowl,

Pink and white carnations. The light

In the room more like a snowy air,

Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow

At the end of winter when afternoons return.

Pink and white carnations - one desires

So much more than that. The day itself

Is simplified: a bowl of white,

Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,

With nothing more than the carnations there.


Say even that this complete simplicity

Stripped one of all one’s torments, concealed

The evilly compounded, vital I

And made it fresh in a world of white,

A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,

Still one would want more, one would need more,

More than a world of white and snowy scents.


There would still remain the never-resting mind,

So that one would want to escape, come back

To what had been so long composed.

The imperfect is our paradise.

Note that, in this bitterness, delight,

Since the imperfect is so hot in us,

Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.