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The Concept of The Ragged University

Ragged University is a concept, an idea which no one individual can control – “everyone is a unique and distinct body of knowledge, accredited by their experience and with a membership of one.”

The Ragged website is a hub for developing an open network of people interested to share knowledge with each other, making life richer and more interesting whilst improving our lots.  The project is informal and knowledge sharing is what we do. With the technology which is easily accessible, the Ragged project aims to recapitulate the some of the principles of the ‘enlightenment’ and embrace renaissance thinking whilst having a bit of fun.  We are all capable of learning any subject and eclecticism is important in learning new ways of thinking.

Ragged University

Since it began around 2010 as an idea in a pub in Hackney, hundreds of different events have been put on by people who love what they do – many talks, music events, sharing food, art displays, and plays. These have been done across the country and cluster around people who voluntarily do the necessary organizing.

  • What has knowledge done in your life ?
  • What have you written, made, seen, thought ?
  • What are you interested in ?
  • What do you want to create ?
  • Who do you want to share?…

These are some of the questions we like… With the idea of developing an ‘open source’ model of free education designed to facilitate self organising communities, several documents are evolving to explore the in-depth issues and complexities of supporting learning wherever it exists.

By bringing together the right tools in the right space with the right people, we are collectively exploring how to facilitate interest, production, outcome and incentive – four basic elements ingrained in Ragged.  There are several basic themes which underlie all of the activities:

  • Free knowledge building as a lens to focusing communities
  • Adapting principles of the Madras and other peer led teaching methods
  • Using available infrastructure – i.e. pubs, libraries, cafes, parks
  • Utilising common technology – i.e. internet, social media, freeware
  • Production rather than exam – i.e. valuing what people have made
  • Realising social capital, dead stock and dead capital
  • Autonomy and accountability

On paper, the project is exploring notions of social capital and inclusion attempting to talk about the importance of socio-cultural interaction for all aspects of living and self improvement.  As a much contested subject itself, several articles have been drawn to build a picture of what this phrase ‘social capital’ expresses in tangible terms as well as in theory. This is all very open to contribution and critique, so get involved if you have something to share…

  • A Crash Course in Social Capital
    So, what is social capital? Jeremy Shearmur describes social capital as loosely as situations where people choose to voluntarily associate with each other and where membership in that group serves as a free resource to those members. Why is it important ? I feel that social capital is important because it helps to express aspects ...
  • Conference: Developing Social Capital; From Promises to Knowledge Exchange
    This paper was written and presented by Alex Dunedin and Susan Brown at the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) Annual Conference 2012.  The theme of the conference was ‘Promises: Crisis and Socio-Cultural Change’.  It was held at Manchester University. We were invited to present the Ragged project at their 8th annual conference and contribute ...
  • Conference: Inequalities in Historical Perspective
    Through working with the Public Engagement Policy of the University of Manchester and working closely with Susan Brown, I was called to do a presentation in University of Manchester on ‘Rethinking Inequality in Historical Perspective’.  Pedro Ramos Pinto and Patrick Joyce were the key organizers and invited me to make a contribution by virtue of ...
  • Disappearing Social Spaces and The Third Place
    Before the core settings of an informal public life can be restored to the urban landscape and re-established in daily life, it will be necessary to articulate their nature and benefit. The core settings of the informal public life must be analyzed and discussed in terms comprehensible to these rational and individualistic outlooks dominant in ...
  • Floating Classrooms: A Model For Mobile Teaching
    The nature of the Floating Classroom project is to develop the affordances around going into communities and opening up spaces which are equipped to cultivate threads of interest which reside in those communities. This means having everything that a classroom might normally have in a higher education context, except on a mobile basis. Like UNICEF created ...
  • It's Who You Know
    An interesting book is Social Capital; Key Ideas by John Field (ISBN-10: 0415433037), Director of the Division of Academic Innovation and Continuing Education at the University of Stirling. Social Capital is a term which has been popularised by the American political scientist Robert D. Putnam, who defined it as: features of social organisation, such as trust, ...
  • Ragged University Events Are Free Events
    All the Ragged University events are free and open to everyone. With the project model having been tested and critiqued widely, Ragged University is now moving forward to explore how many positives can come from doing something so straight forward as open learning events where people talk in social spaces.  Much well intentioned comment has ...
  • Social Capital and Education: A Digest
    What the concept of social capital has brought to the debate is, at bottom, an interest in the pay offs that arise from our relationships. The idea that social capital returns tangible benefits to its holders is obviously open to testing against evidence. Social capital has had a wide range of application, and inevitably the level ...
  • Social Capital and Pierre Bourdieu: A Digest
    Pierre Bourdieu is a sociologist who’s interest focused on social class and stratification along with inequality. His perspectives evolved through trying to develop a cultural anthropology of social reproduction. In the 1960s he described the dynamics of structured sets of values and ways of thinking as forming ‘the habitus’. This alludes to the space between ...
  • The Differences Arise In Group Psychology
    The behaviour of the group is enigmatic. A group acts in our minds as a corporate person in as much as we imagine what the norm is and normalize behaviour to what this imagined person embodies. This gives rise to worrying outcomes in many situations. Throughout history, the madness of crowds has been known to ...
  • The World Bank and Social Capital by Juan Guerra
    Hi, my name is Juan. Many years ago, I fundraised my way into university. I could have missed out because of money and that sparked a fire in me: I decided to dedicate my career to making poverty optional. And so, as a young student, I started researching what tools could be used to tackle poverty. ...

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