Research as Leisure Activity

Celine Nguyen:

But this isn’t really about the software. It’s about what software promises us — that it will help us become who we want to be, living the lives we find most meaningful and fulfilling. The idea of research as leisure activity has stayed with me because it seems to describe a kind of intellectual inquiry that comes from idiosyncratic passion and interest. It’s not about the formal credentials. It’s fundamentally about play. It seems to describe a life where it’s just fun to be reading, learning, writing, and collaborating on ideas.

This is a wonderful essay, albeit one which leaves me with a question of how a reader distinguishes between an amateur’s interpretation of what they read, and an expert’s more considered exploration of a topic — something I have wondered about before.

The amateur or non-professional has their place, of course; I am staking mine on this very website. The expert may not always be correct. But adjudicating the information from each is not a realistic assignment for a layperson. Consider the vast genre of multi-hour YouTube essays, or even short but seemingly authoritative TikTok digests of current events. We are ingesting more information than ever before with fewer gatekeepers — for good and otherwise.