There’s an article on Wired about something called a “Camera Restricta,” a prototype developed by Philipp Schmidt for a camera that, if “it identifies more than 35 photos taken in a given location—about 115 feet in any direction from where you’re standing—the camera’s shutter retracts and blocks the viewfinder so you can’t take a photo.” It makes me think about both scholarship and standardized testing.
One day, someone will develop a wordprocessing program that scours the web as we write, locating books and articles on our topics and restricting us from continuing if what we are saying is too similar. Or it will make sure we cite everything related before being allowed to continue. It will first be marketed as a plagiarism preventer, but will expand as an “assistant” until it reaches the point where it controls our research. I shall do it. It will be called “Eruditio Restrictio.”
Or, more appropriately, “it shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream,’ because it hath no Bottom.”
Standardized testing (as opposed to teacher-created evaluations tailored to particular classroom siuations), on the other hand, already does something of the opposite of “Camera Restricta” or, for that matter, my “Eruditio Restrictio.” It tries to make sure that no one “takes a picture” of anything that has not already been pictured, categorized, “formulated, sprawling on a pin.” Knowledge, in that view, is altogether what’s already snapped or published. Our schools want what has been seen and cataloged, not what has yet to be.
It all makes me feel a bit schizophrenic.
Yet it also makes me feel like Miranda in The Tempest:
How many goodly creatures are there here!
How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world,
That has such people in ’t!