Paper towns and why learning is awesome | John Green | Summary and Q&A

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July 22, 2015
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TED
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Paper towns and why learning is awesome | John Green

TL;DR

This talk explores the power of maps and the role of communities in shaping learning in the digital age.

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Questions & Answers

Q: Why is the map of Agloe, New York famous among cartographers?

The map of Agloe, New York is famous among cartographers because it is a paper town, meaning it is a fake place inserted onto the map to protect the mapmaker's copyright. It is also known as a copyright trap.

Q: How did the General Drafting Company discover that Rand McNally had included Agloe, New York on their map?

The General Drafting Company discovered that Rand McNally had included Agloe, New York on their map when people started going to the intersection of two dirt roads in the middle of nowhere, expecting to find the town of Agloe. Someone had actually built a place called Agloe, New York, complete with a gas station, a general store, and two houses.

Q: Why does John Green believe that what we map changes the life we lead?

John Green believes that what we map changes the life we lead because the way we map the world, whether it's through physical maps or mental maps, shapes our understanding of the world and influences the choices we make. Our personal cartographic enterprise shapes the map of our lives, and that in turn shapes our lives.

Q: How did John Green's perspective on education and learning change?

John Green's perspective on education and learning changed when he attended a school called Indian Springs School. He found himself in a community of learners who celebrated intellectualism and engagement, which made learning cool to him. He realized that education was not just a series of arbitrary hurdles, but a way to better understand and map the world around him.

Q: How does John Green compare YouTube to a classroom?

John Green compares YouTube to a classroom because it allows for the instructor and the students to have a conversation. The YouTube page is set up so that the instructor's video and the comments from viewers are all on the same page, allowing for an active and participatory learning experience. YouTube has become a space for intellectual engagement and a community of learners.

Summary

This talk explores the concept of cartography and how it relates to our lives. The speaker discusses the idea of paper towns and how mapmakers insert fake places onto their maps to protect their copyright. He shares the story of Agloe, New York, a paper town that became a real place because people believed it existed. The speaker then reflects on his own experience with education and learning, emphasizing the importance of being part of a community of learners. He talks about the role of the internet, specifically YouTube, in creating spaces for intellectual engagement and learning.

Questions & Answers

Q: What is Agloe, New York?

Agloe, New York is a paper town, also known as a copyright trap, that was inserted onto a map made by the General Drafting Company in 1937. It was created as a fake place to protect the copyright of the map. However, it later became a real place when people started going to the intersection of two dirt roads expecting to find it.

Q: How did the mapmakers react when Agloe, New York appeared on a map made by Rand McNally?

The General Drafting Company, who created the original map with Agloe, New York, called Rand McNally and accused them of using their fake place on their map. They threatened to sue Rand McNally for copyright infringement. However, Rand McNally claimed that Agloe was a real place because someone had actually built a town called Agloe at the intersection of two dirt roads.

Q: What does the speaker find interesting about cartography?

The speaker finds the way that we map the world and the choices we make in mapping it to be more interesting than the overall shape of the world itself. He believes that the manner in which we map the world can actually change the world. Our personal cartographic enterprise, whether it be literal mapping or mapping our own lives, shapes the world in which we live.

Q: How did the speaker's view of education change in high school?

The speaker was not initially a good student because he saw education as a series of arbitrary hurdles that he had to jump over to achieve adulthood. He did not see the purpose in jumping over these hurdles, as it seemed to lead to a life of routine and unhappiness. However, when he attended a small boarding school called Indian Springs School, he found himself in a community of learners who celebrated intellectualism and engagement. This experience transformed him into a learner because he saw the value in learning and the enrichment it brought to his life on a daily basis.

Q: How did the speaker continue his learning journey after high school?

After high school, the speaker attended college and then worked at a magazine called "Booklist." He found himself surrounded by well-read people who further deepened his love for learning. He eventually wrote a book and quit his job, which led to a period of time without a learning community. However, he discovered online communities and YouTube channels like Ze Frank's, which reignited his passion for learning and allowed him to be part of a community of learners once again.

Q: What does the speaker think about YouTube as a learning space?

The speaker believes that YouTube resembles a classroom in many ways. It provides a space for instructors to teach and for students to engage in conversation and ask questions. He mentions several YouTube channels that cover diverse topics like physics, world history, mathematics, and abstract mathematics. These channels have built communities of learners who actively participate in discussions and further explore the subject matter.

Q: What is the significance of YouTube communities for learners?

The speaker believes that YouTube communities have become a valuable space for learning, particularly for a new generation of learners. These communities encourage intellectual engagement and provide opportunities for collaboration and discussion. They offer a sense of belonging, similar to the Parisian salons or the Algonquin Round Table, where people can come together to learn and exchange ideas. The speaker sees these online communities as a continuation of the tradition of intellectual gathering places.

Q: How has the speaker's own learning journey been influenced by online communities?

The speaker has been influenced by online communities in his own learning journey. He mentions that channels like Vi Hart's "Mathematical Doodling" and "Minute Physics" have introduced him to new concepts and expanded his knowledge. By participating in online discussions and engaging with others, he continues to be a learner in his adulthood. These online communities have enriched his life and allowed him to be part of a broader community of learners.

Q: How does the speaker view the value of formal education?

The speaker acknowledges the importance of formal education but emphasizes the need for learning communities beyond the classroom. While formal education has its place, he highlights the significance of being part of a community of learners in fostering continuous growth and intellectual engagement. He believes that both formal and informal learning experiences contribute to one's understanding of the world and the ability to navigate through life.

Q: How does the speaker see learning as cartography?

The speaker views learning as a cartographic enterprise. Just as cartographers sail upon the land and choose to draw certain parts, learning involves exploring and drawing the mental maps of our lives. The process of learning is not about jumping over arbitrary hurdles but about discovering new places and expanding one's map of possibilities. Learning, like cartography, is an ongoing and enriching journey of discovering and understanding the world.

Takeaways

The speaker emphasizes the transformative power of being part of a community of learners. He highlights the value of online platforms like YouTube in creating spaces for intellectual engagement and learning. These communities provide opportunities for collaboration, discussion, and further exploration of diverse subjects. Learning, like cartography, is an ongoing process of mapping one's understanding of the world. By being a part of learning communities, individuals can expand their mental maps and open up new possibilities in their lives.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • The speaker discusses a map made in 1937 that includes a fake town called Agloe, New York. The town was created as a copyright trap by mapmakers.

  • Agloe eventually became a real town when people started going to the intersection where it was placed on the map, leading to the construction of buildings and a community.

  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of learning communities, particularly those found on the internet such as YouTube, in fostering intellectual engagement and lifelong learning.

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