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    nmw 14:23:18 on 2016/12/18 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , mission, mission statement, , social, , ,   

    The Rationality of Literacy 

    Over the past couple months, I have worked on developing a mission statement for one of my overarching goals – something like a „life goal“. Initial attempts were quite abstract, and I was greatly helped by the very considerate feedback of friends.

    In the intervening weeks since those first trials, I have kept the general aim present but I have focused on it much less. Over the past several days, I have received several ideas from other sources – more or less haphazardly, which have motivated me to reconsider this particular life goal again from a new perspective.

    For people who have been following my writing for several years, it should be no surprize that literacy is really at the crux of my thinking about many topics, and also with respect to this particular life goal for which I want to craft a mission statement. One thing that has been „bugging“ me for the past year or two is how my focus on literacy is considered by many – indeed, including myself – to be a non-human matter. In this view, reading, writing and arithmetic are technologies and therefore lack the warmth of flesh-and-blood human beings. Code and language are inert, not living things, and they cannot ultimately provide meaning in the same way as interaction with other humans can – as humans (so this argument) we are, after all, social animals.

    This view, however, interprets technology from a very parochial point of view. According to this perspective, technology is merely an artefact, a curiosity, a product… albeit of human ingenuity. We pound nails not because there is anything interesting about doing so, but merely because doing so makes our lives easier from the results of applying such technologies. There is nothing interesting about iron or steel per se, but rather such materials are only interesting insofar as they can be manipulated into helping to make nails, just as nails are only interesting insofar as they can be used to build more things. As an aside: It might make sense to think about how the technologies we use also create threating things – such as global warming, nuclear waste, AIDS and/or many other problems.

    Yet let me not drift away from the current issue – crafting my mission statement. I view language and literacy somewhat differently than most… and over the years, my thinking about these things has also undergone continued development and refinement. While I have long known (or believed) that language cannot be owned (e.g. by a monarch) or dictated (e.g. to the masses), I am now at a point where I feel it may be useful to extrapolate beyond this rather mundane and obvious fact to recognize a „rationality of literacy“, in which people make a rational decision to engage with each other via linguistic technologies. In this vein, literacy is also not simply owned or attained, but rather it is practiced (or – in the case of illiteracynot practiced).

    This is important because it redirects our attention away from the ownership of resources to the actual use of such resources. To give a concrete example: In order to engage with „cars“, it is not necessary to own cars. Engagement with cars can also happen when someone references cars. Statements like „cars are good“ or „cars are bad“ are social expressions insofar as there is agreement within a society regarding what these words (and expressions) mean.

    Likewise, our level of engagement with a topic can be as small or as large as our involvement with various other social institutions related to that topic. We might simply talk about cars with very little engagement, or we might become much more involved with cars by joining organizations that deal with them and associated technologies. Our involvement with „cars“ may lead us to become involved with „pedestrians“, „streets“, „roads“, „highways“, „infrastructure“, „pollution“, „global warming“ and many other topics, too.

    We do not need to become dictators in any of these arenas. It is completely sufficient to simply engage – to participate in the social construction of the reality related to each of these terms. It ought to be quite plain to see that the reality we thereby create in one arena might not be the exact same reality created in another arena. There might be nuanced differences, but there might also be meaningful relationships between and among the various arenas.

    Increased engagement in more and more arenas goes hand in hand with increased literacy. These two phenomena are crucially related: You cannot have one without the other (that is, at least, a hypothesis I am venturing here).

    This thinking is what leads me to venture that the mission statement I need probably goes something like: My mission is to promote literacy – in order to increase community engagement and social cohesion, and also in order to motivate humans more towards alignment and harmony with natural evolution.

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    nmw 17:51:27 on 2016/02/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , confidence, depressed, depression, doubt, doubting, , , , , Galileo, , group dynamics, , , , , , , , , questioning, , , sad, , , , social, social cohesion, social group, social groups, , , , , , , , ,   

    Do You Want To Be Right Or Do You Want To Be Happy? 

    Did anyone ever ask Galileo this question? Why or why not? Why do some people ask other people this question today?

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    nmw 19:53:36 on 2015/09/30 Permalink
    Tags: address, , format, formats, , , , link, , , , , , , social, , , , , , URL, URLs, , ,   

    The King of the New Media Jungle 

    There are many kinds of “new media”. Depending on your time horizon, you might even consider cassette tapes to be new media. Yet now that we have more or less arrived in the new millennium, most people would say the day of the cassette tape is over, maybe even long dead and gone.

    My kids consider their smartphones to be new media. A recent article by Jason Calacanis (“Apple’s brilliant assault on advertising — and Google“) took a deep look at some current developments among the leaders in this space. This and similar articles have been making the rounds for several weeks now and have been one of the focal points of much heated debate. Much of the controversy is about advertising (in particular: online advertising) and the monopolistic hegemony Google holds over advertising on the world-wide web.

    In my opinion, the world-wide web (“www”) is the king of the new media jungle.

    I am not alone in this view, but it seems that there are indeed quite few people who are able to see this clearly. Consider, for example, this comment written on “Hacker News” regarding Jason’s article:

    This [controversy] exemplifies a misunderstanding I see a lot of people make. The web isn’t whatever happens to be rendered by a browser. It’s a shared information space full of linked resources. The protocol and document format aren’t defining characteristics of the web, they are implementation details. It’s the links and distributed nature that are the defining qualities of the web.

    (note the irony of how many people commonly refer to news.ycombinator.com as “Hacker News”: ycombinator.com is ycombinator.com — referring to it [or news.ycombinator.com] as “Hacker News” is simply rather comical nonsense)

    Why is the www the king of the new media jungle? Well, if you wish to take an opposing point of view, then you must be getting your information via some other channel, right? Please: Feel free to share with us how you are reading these words I am writing! 😉

    You may be watching a video. Are you watching via terrestrial television? You may be listening to audio — have you tuned your FM radio to a new channel recently? Are you perhaps reading a newspaper? Dead tree format?

    An often quoted observation is that new media rarely replace old media (although I might generally agree, I feel that mp3 players / recorders are so widespread today that they have pretty much completely replaced cassette tapes). However, today almost all forms of media are consumed via the web… and therefore via a web address (or link) — something like e.g. ycombinator.com or https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10275595.

    I guess every media format has peculiarities that are typical to that particular medium. Books are different than newspapers, mp4 video files are different than VHS (and these are also both different than celluloid film). Some of these differences are in the technology itself, other differences are socially and/or institutionally sanctioned. For example: Copyright is not something inherent to print, ink on paper, or almost any “media” technology. And copyright itself (as a social institution) has changed and evolved over the years. Nonetheless: Today, and also for the foreseeable future, the world-wide web will continue to be the king of the jungle — perhaps even increasingly so.

    In this light the world-wide web deserves special attention. Yet again: How ironic it is that most people view the www as if it were merely a cheap imitation of other forms of media!

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