Why I'm Creating Hobbyist Academia
Welcome to Hobbyist Academia. To kick things off, I want to talk about what this is, where it came from, and maybe a little bit about where it’s going- though I’m trying not to focus too much on that.
I always loved school, from kindergarten through college. I loved studying and reading and learning. This extended outside of school too- I used to bring home 50 books at a time from the library, which is the most they’ll let you check out at one time.
My undergraduate degree is in media theory, which is the interdisciplinary study of how the media exists within society and culture. It encompasses the bidirectional influence between the media and society, and draws upon principles of sociology, psychology, literature, history, economics, and more.
It can be categorized under an arts, media, and design umbrella but also could fit under social sciences and humanities. It’s the kind of degree that prepares you for everything and nothing at the same time.
It shaped a lot of how I think about people, culture, and society. It taught me how to think critically about the media and to always examine my sources for credibility and bias. And yes, it also left me utterly unable to watch a movie without analyzing it to death. But I digress. I’m really fun at parties.
It was a field that involved a lot of research, a lot of reading, and a lot of paper writing. My honors thesis was about the digitization of print media. I did all the research in one absolutely insane 6 week sprint- stacks of books everywhere, sitting on my living room floor surrounded by lists and notes and outlines. It was pure joy.
I missed school when it was over.
After college, I shifted my focus from part-career, part-school over to full time career. I always sought out roles where I could learn new things, often at startups where it was a lot of learning by doing.
However, I found that I still missed learning by consuming- reading, listening, watching, participating. I missed having syllabi of academic journals and non-fiction books to read. I missed the steady flow of high quality content that kept me thinking critically, learning new ideas and perspectives, and nurturing an interdisciplinary, global, and flexible mindset. I missed school.
Now, bear with me while I state the obvious: you don’t need a college class or a syllabus to read material about a specific topic. You don’t need a formal credential to carry that knowledge with you, apply it, and share it. Learning can be a self-directed, lifelong, continuous practice, just for its own sake. Academia can be a hobby.
One important caveat to note is that anyone can go from content consumer to content creator with the click of a button on the Internet, and that’s a double edged sword. It’s great for democratizing access, but it can become challenging to find quality sources for learning amidst all the noise. And yes, I realize the irony as I click the Publish button myself.
As I build my learning practice and curate my collection of content, I’m always looking through the lens of my media theory degree. I’m mindful of my sources and well versed in the way social media algorithms and news feeds work.
I’ve spent a lot of time and energy curating the precise combination of information I have flowing in, the digital tools I use, and how I use them. I have purposeful opportunities built in for going down rabbit holes and organically discovering new, high quality content.
So here’s Hobbyist Academia.
The best way to describe it is a passion project. True to form, I fretted over what to call it for months.
I do excel at using “it needs a name first” as an excuse to procrastinate doing the thing, but I also think the lack of a name that felt right spoke to my own lack of clarity about what I wanted to create here, and why.
At first I was calling it On My List, as in, a reading list but broader than just books. Then I was calling it If You’re Curious, as in, for an audience of people who are just generally intellectually curious. Then it was Oddly Specific Baskets, as in, baskets of topics in my brain of odd specificity.
Finally I arrived at Hobbyist Academia. It has two layers:
The meta layer is about how to build learning as a hobby into your life- how to structure it, strategies for it, approaches to it. This piece of the puzzle is where I create content, which I’ll share in this newsletter to start.
The specifics layer consists of the actual “media” that I personally consume or aspire to consume. My main topics of interest are digital sociology, design, business, and personal growth.
This piece of the puzzle is where I curate content. It’s my collection of books, newsletters, publications, organizations, conferences, events, festivals, people, podcasts, think tanks, institutes, consultancies, and research labs to read, follow, subscribe to, listen to, join, learn from, and attend. This collection will live on my personal website (link at the end).
The piece that ties it all together is that I’m applying the meta layer to the specifics layer in my own life every day, learning about my learning practice and iterating on it in real time.
For me, learning for its own sake brings me joy and fulfillment, and I want to share that. I want to make something that helps people build a learning practice- while helping to develop my own at the same time.
If you’re into learning, this newsletter is for you. You can apply the principles of continuous learning to any topic of your choice, but if you share my interest in digital sociology, design, business, and personal growth, check out my collection. It’s a work in progress, and probably always will be. That’s kind of the whole point.