Despite Uber and Google Maps there are still hundreds of people studying The Knowledge the famous London taxi exam which sees candidates having to remember every street in London, which direction it runs, any restrictions, and any points of interest that might exist on the route. It amounts to 20,000 streets and over 120,000 points, and takes on average 4 years to pass. It’s an exam so difficult it increases the size of the hippocampus of those who pass.
I have been photographing knowledge schools for over a year and following a few hopefuls in particular. I have also interviewed a team of neuroscientists at UCL who study the brains of Knowledge students and Dr Eric Meyer at the Oxford Internet Institute among others. In the talk I will look at how the Knowledge is an example of the enlightenment belief in the ennobling power of intellectual endeavour and how this is changing in the face of digital technologies. I will also look at whether the Knowledge can survive in the face of UBER and Googlemaps and what this might mean for the people committing years of their lives to studying it.
I think the Knowledge is a metaphor for all knowledge acquisition in the digital age; how digital technologies are fundamentally changing how we learn things and what we understand as knowledge itself.
About the speakers
Barclay Bram ShoemakerAffiliation: Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
Barclay Bram Shoemaker is a DPhil student (Anthropology) in Contemporary China Studies at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies, where his primary research is concerned with mental health awareness campaigns in China. He is also a photo-journalist, which is how he first become interested in the Knowledge. Links to published interviews (and photos) about the project: