Sunday, January 18, 2009


Concepts and Concept Formation

Updated 10 February 2009.

Where do we get our ideas? How do we test and develop those ideas? How do we share them? What effect do ideas have; that is, what difference do they make?

These questions have stirred me for a long time. Mother took me to the public library at an early age, and Dad read aloud to us four children. These routines made me a dedicated reader from childhood, a habit I have not yet abandoned. Reading and other experiences led me to bouts of imagination and questioning. No doubt early discovery of myths and legends led me to wonder and speculate. I asked questions that Dad answered, ‘There is no way to answer that.’ In his 70s, he asked me similar open-ended question. When still young, I had learned to ponder, a trait typical of the very mature, who have lived through considerable history.

Though my first choice of profession was to be some kind of scientist, perhaps a chemist, I was never very good at the messy sciences. I would rather read about biology, chemistry and physics than do them. I read Gods, Graves and Scholars (1951) when I was twelve years old, and suddenly archaeology appealed to me. The possibility of discovering the long-lost past excited my imagination. Subsequently, history, historical novels, and biography preoccupied me. By the time I reached sixteen years, I knew I wanted to be a historian. I majored in history at college, but the environment that I studied in turned me into a philosopher. Why am I as I am? Why are things as they are?

In time, the possibilities of employment forced on me a practicality. History jobs were few. I had taken a library education minor as work insurance, and that choice began my career in the information field for most of the next forty years. By the time I became a university librarian and library educator in my twenties, I saw that my real work was in adult learning. I identified myself as a lifetime learner; my first responsibilities provided for and fostered other people’s continuous learning.

My life as a reader provoked another thread, attention to writing. The Kudor Preference Test (9th grade?) showed that the interests I favored aligned most closely with authors or real estate agents. Another person in the class had the same results. Go figure! Sure enough, I have been scribbling bits and pieces for years, trying novels, poetry and essays. During the years I was a state-level library consultant, I wrote several extensive reports, planning documents, curriculums and policy pieces. I am quick to respond to issues with letters to the newspaper and more extensive commentaries.

For several years, efforts to narrow my attention have focused on the following major interests:
informed conversation for community building and public participation
information-seeking behavior
information policy
philosophy of adult learning
self-directed learning
role of books, reading, libraries in learning

In short, how do ideas originate, become adopted, evolve, and spread?

Thus concepts, their formation and examination are the subject of this blog.

For additional information on Roger Sween, see also the 5-part series of posts "Discovering My Personality Type." They are: My INTJ (1), My LifeKey (2), My Learning (3), My Thinking (4), My Solo (5)

© 2009 by Roger Sween.

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