Posts Tagged ‘external


Donald’s Origins of the Modern Mind

Merlin Donald
Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter Eight: Third Transition: External Symbolic Storage and Theoretic Culture

•    Before the human body could be dissected and catalogued, it had to be demythologized
o    Demytholgoization illustrates the transformation in mythic (narrative) → theoretic (analytic)
•    Rhetoric is a set of skills that controls language use on the level of discourse
•    The Trivium: Rhetoric, Logic, Grammar
273: “Whereas oral-mythic cultures rely heavily on individual biological memory, modern cultures rely much more on external memory devices, mostly on various classes of graphic symbols, from pictures and graphs to ideograms and writing.  Thus, the shift is from internal to external memory storage devices.  As the pattern of memory use shifts toward the external symbolic store, the architecture of the individual mind must change in a fundamental way, just as the architecture of a computer changes if it becomes part of a larger network.”
308:  “As long as future recipients possess the ‘code’ for a given set of graphic symbols, the knowledge stored in the symbols is available, transmitted culturally across time and space.  This change, in the terms of modern information technology, constitutes a hardware change, albeit a nonbiological hardware change.”
309:  External memory is best defined in functional terms: it is the exact external analog of internal, or biological memory, namely, a storage and retrieval system that allows humans to accumulate experience and knowledge.”
314:  “The major locus of stored knowledge is out there, not within the bounds of biological memory.  Biological memories carry around the code, rather than a great deal of specific information.  Monads confronted with a symbolic information environment are freed from the obligation to depend wholly on biological memory; but the price of this freedom is interpretative baggage.”
344:  “the result was that, for the first time in history, complex ideas were placed in the public arena, in an external medium, where they could undergo refinement over the longer term, that is, well beyond the life-span of single individuals.  This meant that the EXMF could be fully exploited for the first time; where its use had been restricted to analog models, lists, and a few simple narratives, it was not the field of more elaborate symbolic structures.”


Donald’s A Mind So Rare

Merlin Donald
A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter 7: The First Hybrid Minds on Earth

•    The minute you embed a brain into a cognitive community, you change what you must do in order to remember, think, and represent reality
•    The relationship between consciousness and culture is a reciprocal one
o    Immersion in culture that defines our human modes of consciousness
•    Subdivided working memory into self and other
o    Even in simple two person interaction, it’s important to control and monitor the attention of the other person
Chapter 8: The Triumph of Consciousness
•    The literacy brain is a cultural add-on to the normal pre-literate state of the brain
•    Literacy skills are the response to the invention of external symbols
•    Symbolic technology allows readers to think thoughts that were previously impossible for them to conceive
•    The mirror arrangement also changes the reflective power of the conscious mind, because the external memory field gives working memory a much more solid display system for representations
•    Our most challenging symbolic representations deliberately exceed capacity
o    Ex: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel plans
302:  “The most important of these is literacy.  Literacy skills change the functional organization of the brain and deeply influence how individuals and communities of literate individuals perform their cognitive work.  Mass literacy has triggered two kinds of major cognitive reorganizations, one in individuals and the other in groups
309: “Although this arrangement constitutes a very ordinary work environment in our highly literate society, it is an extraordinary historical development because it changes the long-standing relationship of consciousness to its representations.  We can arrange ideas in the external memory field, where they can be examined and subjected to classification, comparison, and experimentation, just as physical objects can in a laboratory.  In this way, externally displayed thoughts can be assembled into complex arguments much more easily than they can in biological memory.”
311: “The external memory field is not just another sector of working memory.  IT taps directly into the neural networks of literacy, located in brain regions that are distinct from those of working memory.  Working memory and the external memory field thus complement each other, and this allows the brain to exploit their distinct storage and retrieval properties.  This gives awareness a much richer structure.”
316:  “The external memory field is really a sort of Trojan Horse into the brain, a device that invades the innermost personal spaces of the mind.  It can play out cognitive instrument, directing our mind toe predetermined end states along a set course.”


Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist

A.R. Luria
The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Synaesthesia: “S” could remember because all his senses were incorporated in each memory
•    Problem of forgetting:
o    56-7: “During the early stages, his attempts to work out a technique of forgetting were of an extremely simple nature.  Why, he reasoned, couldn’t he use some external means to help him forget—write down what he no longer wished to remember?  […] As he saw it, once he had written a thing down, he would have no need to remember it; but if he were without means of writing it down, he’d commit it to memory […] Tried burning the slips of paper so that he’d forget the useless contents of them, but this didn’t work. Not even fire could wipe out the traces he wanted to obliterate!”


Auerbach’s Mimesis

Erich Auerbach
Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature
Area: Rhetorical and Critical Theory
From class

•    Bible: God is the effect, not the cause, of Jewish idea
o    Lack of classical idea in Jewish tradition
o    Bible: chosen—personal fate
•    Serious Realism
•    Objective Seriousness
•    Modern Realism
•    Jubilant background and putting people into this
•    Post-Reality from recalling consciousness: Proust
From: David Carroll’s “Mimesis Reconsidered”
•    Concept of reality is problematical
•    Distrust of “systems”: historical explanation/product of the times
o    Absence of authentic communities of thought
•    “All have been destroyed and replaced by preconceived ideological systems which no longer serve a positive function but only serve the interests of particular factions.”
•    No confidence in systems, but complete confidence in man
o    “Man, free of al constraints, al ideologies and philosophies, man as a product of his time but still able to understand others ‘spontaneously,’ man as a concept which is not part of any system but ‘natural’—it is this ‘man’ that one finds throughout Mimesis” (6).
•    Randomness: the changeability of the real
•    The real becomes “externalized,” that is spatialized, so that it can be seized as a full presence.  The eye is supposedly able to capture immediately this externalization of what is.
7: “The real will be defined in each essay as ‘random’ and be characterized by its difference from what is defined as unreal.  Its principal characteristic will be change: imitation of reality is “imitation of the sensory experience of life on earth—among the most essential characteristics of which would seem to be its possessing a history, its changing and developing.  Whatever freedom the imitating artist may be granted in his work, he cannot be allowed to deprive reality of this characteristic, which is its very essence.”  The sense of this ‘randomness,’ the changeability of the real, will become clear as Auerbach proceeds and opposes the ‘random’ to all the pitfalls of philosophy and ideology.  A work is considered to be realistic, therefore, only when it is able to fulfill a series of negative conditions.”
9: “That the senses are free and have an immediate and original contact with the real is a philosophical argument, however, and not a statement of ‘common sense,’ a natural, unquestioned truth.  It should not be impossible to find, therefore, the system which organizes and makes sense out of phenomena, which logically precedes and thus ‘determines’ the moment in which the sense are in contact with the real.”
9: “At each step along the way an immediacy is argued for which would eliminate any difference or distance between the ‘original’ perception and its repeated representation. What Auerbach’s theory of the real posits is the continual repetition of the Same.”
10: “The real as a concept tends to function in Mimesis in the same way that Derrida contends other ‘metaphysical’ concepts (such as being, identity, self, etc.) work: to deny the complexity of the written, to deemphasize the process of interpretation by finalizing it, to dismiss the existence of other levels of meaning and of a plurality of senses for the unity of a single sense—in other words, to reduce in this instance the different levels of historical reality and the problematic nature of the real (the stated goal of Mimesis being to capture this complexity) to a unity, to an acceptable level of comprehension in order for it to be grasped immediately in the plenitude of a full present.”


Piperno’s “Technological Innovation and Sentimental Education”

Franco Piperno, “Technological Innovation and Sentimental Education”
Area: Digital Media

•    Cybernetic machines “reduce the work of the human body, living labor, to a simple element of this process: the conscious organ, the observing eye that serves to avoid interruption”
•    “The liberation of human labor from factory production, a condition that was intuited by Marx and that today is becoming real before our very eyes, seems to bring about a mutation of common affect and sentiments, a different deployment of common sense, a semantic alteration of key words for daily life—words such as time, truth and memory.”
•    The characteristic time of the computer is the shortest temporal interval
o    The machine has a duration that is virtually boundless: an almost infinite time, magically long
•    Is it infinite, or none?
•    As long as the machine is a tool of human labor, it follows the rhythm of the human body
o    So, memory, al though machininc, will always be following the body
•    The realm of the artificial conforms with the time that is conferred on it by humans
o    Humans still make time
•    The time of the machine builds a nest in the body of the worker
•    “The advent of the computer, finally, introduces a time that escapes the very possibility of experience.  The machine can carry out and write out calculations in a time so short that it cannot be captured in thought.”
o    There is no time to experience an event
o    If there’s no time to experience an event, no time to ‘relish,’ then we only have mnemosyne to rely on—only the forgotten, the recalled
•    Is this the affective turn, then??
•    “Time unveils itself to be a linguistic convention, a verbal construction, not a fixed quality of reality.”
o    We have the freedom to redefine time, to change the meaning of the word “time”
•    There’s not an absence of time, but it is something else now
•    Signifies a reorganization of an ideology of technology
•    “Corresponding to this final completion, to this touching of the limit, is a leap of human awareness, a different way of conceiving the relation between the human and the natural.”
•    Speakers of written culture think by means of categories, whereas those of oral culture think instead by means of situations
•    “The mnemotechnic obsession of oral culture lost its meaning and narration ceased to hold hegemony over transmittable knowledge”
•    “With the advent of writing memory detaches itself from the individual as it does from the community.  Knowledge is congealed in written words: it is there, available, consultable, and comparable.  This sort of objective memory disjoins knowledge from the individual or collective corporeity.  Knowledge is no longer what nurtures the human being, what forms it as part of a given linguistic community.  It has become an analyzable, criticizable, and verifiable object. […]  The need for truth is a collateral effect of the partial necrosis of corporeal memory.”
•    For moderns, writing directly realizes a mute thought that acquires body and voice through the one who writes ≠ the reader
•    The computer diffuses a third mode of knowledge—information knowledge
o    Distinguishes itself by way of its operative nature.
•    Cybernetics involves the manipulation of a discrete number of signs according to well-defined operative rules
•    Second aim Is the characteristic of storing information for operative ends
o    “The central aim of information knowledge is not the completeness and coherence of facts and judgements on the world, but rather the optimization of procedures, be they for decisions, diagnosis, management, or planning.  Information knowledge incessantly transforms procedures so that the action may be more effective and, above all, faster”
•    Databases do not gather all of the truths on a given question, but only the whole of the knowledge useable for a certain paying client
•    The reason we use databases is to obtain the most trustworthy information as soon as possible, to make the most effective decision
o    Databases are much less memory than they are mirrors
•    The declarative language permits the enrichment and modification of the system without having to begin again at the top.
•    “Here knowledge is no longer congealed in writing; on the contrary, it is possessed by an incessant movement, changing continuously so as always to be current and ready for use.  Here memory is so entrusted to automatic devices, so much object of manipulation and elaboration, so extraneous to the bodies of individuals and collective habits as to merit another name, another meaning”
•    “Information knowledge is this free from the human activity of ‘remembering’ […] truth can cease to be the fundamental aim of knowledge, in favor of operativeness and speed”
•    “Transformations of mentality are correlated with, not caused by, technological innovations”

July 2017
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