Posts Tagged ‘literacy


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.”


Ong’s Orality and Literacy

Walter Ong
Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word
Area: Digital Media

•    Difference between orality and literacy
o    Developed in electronic age, not earlier (second orality)
Chapter One: The Orality of Language
•    No one has figured out a way to write all the languages—orality is permanent
•    “Oral expression can exist and mostly has existed without any writing at all, writing never without orality.”
•    Aristotle’s “Art of Rhetoric”—rhetoric was/had to be a product of writing
•    After delivering a speech, nothing remained to work over
o    Disgracefully incompetent to recite text prepared in advance
o    Orally composed speeches treated as written texts
•    Primary Orality: culture untouched by knowledge of writing/text
•    Secondary Orality: present-day high-technology culture—depend on writing and print for their existence
•    Written words are residue ≠ orality has only the potential to be retold
•    “A literate person cannot fully recover a sense of what the word is to purely oral people”
•    Can’t describe a primary phenomenon by starting with a secondary one
•    Literacy, unless carefully monitored, destroys and restores memory
9: “Thus writing from the beginning did not reduce orality but enhanced it, making it possible to organize the ‘principles’ or constituents of oratory into a scientific ‘art,’ a sequentially ordered body of explanation that showed how and why oratory achieved and could be made to achieve its various specific effects.”
12: “Thinking of oral tradition or a heritage of oral performance genres and styles as ‘oral literature’ is rather like thinking of horses as automobiles without wheels.”
14-5: “Nevertheless, without writing, human consciousness cannot achieve its fuller potentials, cannot produce other beautiful and powerful creations.  In this sense, orality needs to produce and is destined to produce writing.  Literacy, as will be seen, is absolutely necessary for the development not only of science but also of history, philosophy, explicative understanding of literature and of any art, and indeed for the explanation of language.”
Chapter Three: Oral Memory
•    No way to verify the correctness of oral texts unless recited with someone
•    Twentieth Century bards: don’t repeat the same thing twice, but instead use the standard formulas in connection with standard themes
•    When retelling a story, it’s a recitation of themes and formulas variously built
o    (Joni: “Paint a Starry Night again, man!”)
•    When demand for printed book declines, presses stop but books remain (residue)
o    When market for oral genealogy disappears, so does the genealogy itself
•    Oral Memory: high somatic component
Chapter Four: Writing Restructures Consciousness
•    Writing has established autonomous or context-free discourse: detached from author
•    Plato: Phaedrus: “Writing is inhuman, pretending to establish outside the mind what in reality can only be in the mind”
o    Weaken the mind and memory
•    “Writing is passive.  So are computers.”
•    Idea/form is visually based
•    Oral: natural
•    Writing: artificial
•    Writing as leaving a mark (i.e. animal waste)
o    Development of coded system for exactness
•    Writing was/is most momentous of all technological inventions
•    The alphabet represents sound as a thing
•    High literacy = truly written composition = precisely a text
•    Orality knows no lists, charts, or figures
•    Texts assimilate utterance to the human body
•    Writing is an imitation of talking (diary = talking to myself)
•    “Art” of rhetoric, though concerned with oral speech, is a product of writing
78: “What functionally literate human beings really are: beings whose thought processes do not grow out of simply natural powers but out of these powers as structured, directly or indirectly, but the technology of writing.”
81: “Intelligence is relentlessly reflexive, so that even the external tools that it uses to implement its workings become ‘internalized,’ that is, part of its own reflexive process.”
91: “For the alphabet operates more directly on sound as sound than the other scripts, reducing sounds directly to spatial equivalents, and in smaller, more analytic, more manageable units that a syllabary: instead of one symbol for the sounds ba, your have two, b plus a.”
105: “By separating the knower from the known, writing makes possible increasingly articulate introspectivity, opening the psyche as never before not only to the external objective world quite distinct from itself but also to the interior self against whom the objective world is set.”
110-1: “From at least the time of Quintilian, loci communes was taken in two different senses.  First it referred to the ‘seats’ of arguments, considered as abstract ‘headings’ in today’s parlance, such as definition, cause, effect, opposites, likenesses, and so on. […]  Secondly, loci communes or commonplaces referred to collections of sayings (in effect, formulas) on various topics – such as loyalty, decadence, friendship, or whatever – that could be worked into one’s own speech-making or writing.  In this sense the loci communes can be styled ‘cumulative commonplaces.’
Chapter 7: Some theorems
•    Barthes: meaning of text is outside, in the reader
•    Derrida: writing isn’t a supplement to the written word, but a different performance altogether
o    In this way, Derrida aligns with McLuhan
•    Language and thought for the Greeks grew out of memory


Gee’s What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy

James Paul Gee, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy
Area: Digital Media
Chapter 1: Introduction: 36 Ways to Learn a Video Game
•    Book Deals with learners/players embedded in a material and social world
•    8: Three important areas of current research:
o    “One of these areas is work on ‘situated cognition’ (i.e. thinking as tied to a body that has experiences in the world).  This work argues that human learning is not just a matter of what foes on inside people’s heads but is fully embedded in (situated within) a material, social, and cultural world.”
o    “Another one of these areas is the so-called New Literacy Studies, a body of work that argues that reading and writing should be viewed not only as mental achievements going on inside people’s heads but also as social and cultural practices with economic, historical, and political implications.”
o    “The third area is work on so-called connectionism, a view that stresses the ways in which human beings are powerful pattern-recognizers.  This body of work argues that humans don’t often think best when they attempts to reason via logic and general abstract principles detached from experience.  Rather, they think best when they reason on the basis of patterns they have picked up through their actual experiences in the world, patterns that, over time, can become generalized but that are still rooted in specific areas of experience.”
•    10: “Debate over violence in video games is one more way in which we want to talk about technology (or drugs, for that matter) doing things to people rather than talking about the implications of people’s overall social and economic contexts.”
Chapter 2: Semiotic Domains: Is Playing Video Games a ‘Waste of Time’?
•    When people learn a video game, they are learning a new literacy
•    Literacy is not unitary, but a multiple matter
•    Key question: not to get producer-like learning and knowledge, but in a reflective and critical way
•    In the modern world, print literacy is not enough
•    Problem of context
•    Active learning: experiencing, affiliations, preparations
•    To produce meaning, the individual must situate the world amongst experiences
o    Meaning is both situation and domain specific
•    Understanding meaning is an active affair
•    External design grammar (i.e. adding keyboards to gaming platforms) will alter internal design grammar
•    Video games = privilege
•    13: “In fact, in many high school and college textbooks in the sciences images not only take up more space, they now carry meanings that are independent of the words in the text.  If you can’t read these images, you will not be able to recover their meanings from the words in the text as was more usual in the past.”
•    21: “Important knowledge (now usually gained in school) is content in the sense of information rooted in, or, at least, related to, intellectual domains or academic disciplines like physics, history, art, or literature.  Work that does not involve such learning is ‘meaningless.’  Activities that are entertaining but that themselves do not involve such learning are just ‘meaningless play.’  Of course, video games fall into that category.”
•    33: “But things work in the world in certain ways because people make them do so or, at the very least, are willing to accept them as such.  Then, when they work that way, people come to expect them to do so and build values and norms around them working that way.”
•    43: “Critical learning, as I am defining it here, involves learning to think of semiotic domains as design spaces that manipulate us in certain way and that we can manipulate in certain ways.”
•    48: “The content of video games, when they are played actively and critically, is something like this: They situate meaning in a multimodal space through embodied experiences to solve problems and reflect on the intricacies of the design of imagined worlds and the design of both real and imagined social relationships and identities in the modern world.”
Chapter 5: Telling and Doing: Why Doesn’t Lara Croft Obey Professor Von Croy?
•    Video games offer a “bottom up” approach to learning—gamers can start off on a low-level game and advance when ready
•    124: “The first strategy, calling on a previous experience, is an example of what learning theorists call ‘transfer.’ An example of transfer at work would be a case where a student applies something he or she has learned about reasoning in biology to a new problem faced in a social studies class.  Transfer does not always work and can be dangerous.  Transfer requires active learning and, if it is not to be dangerous, critical learning.”
•    127: “The learner learns that, while school sometimes sets up problems so that the earlier solutions transfer directly to later ones, this rarely happens in real life.  The learner adapts and transforms the earlier experiences to be transferred to the new problem through creativity and innovation.”
•    127: “The learner also uses (and is prepared to use) what he or she discovers—often ‘by accident’—on the spot, on the ground of practice, while implementing the new transformed strategy.  This requires reflection not after or before action but in the midst of action.  The learner remains flexible, adapting performance in action.”
Chapter 8: Conclusion: Duped or Not?
•    Readers identify, not distance themselves, from characters in books—just like what happens in video games
o    Projection
36 Learning Principles
1. Active, critical learning; 2. Design; 3. Semiotic; 4. Semiotic domains; 5. Metalevel thinking about semiotic domains; 6. “Psychosocial moratorium”; 7. Committed learning; 8. Identity; 9. Self-knowledge; 10. Amplification of input; 11. Achievement; 12. Practice; 13. Ongoing learning; 14. “Regime of competence”; 15. Probing; 16. Multiple routes; 17. Situated meaning; 18. Text; 19. Intertextual; 20. Multimodal; 21. “material intelligence”; 22. Intuitive knowledge; 23. Subset; 24. Incremental; 25. Concentrated sample; 26. Bottom-up basic skills; 27. Explicit information on-demand and just-in-time; 28. Discovery; 29. Transfer; 30. Cultural Models about the world; 31. Cultural models about learning; 32. Cultural models about semiotic domains; 33. Distributed; 34. Dispersed; 35. Affinity group; 36. Insider


Kress’ Literacy in the New Media Age

Gunther Kress
Literacy in the New Media Age
Area: Digital Media
Chapter 1: The futures of literacy: modes, logics, and affordances

• Language-as-writing will increasingly be displaced by image
• The world told is different than the world shown
• Writing = logic of time; Image (genre of display) = logic of space
• While the image’s reading path is open, the image itself is filled with meaning
o ≠ writing where’s there’s no leeway
• New technologies have changed unidirectionality into bidirectionality
• Authorship is no longer rare: no selection, no authority
• “Books” are acted upon and not simply “read”
Chapter 2: Preface
• There are four changes occurring simultaneously: social, economic, communicational, and technological
o Social changes are unmaking the structures and frames which had given a relative stability to forms of writing over the last two hundred years or so.
o Economic changes are altering the uses and purposes of the technology of writing.
o Communicational change is altering the relations of the means by which we represent our meanings, bringing image into the center of communication more insistently than is has been for several hundred years, and thereby challenging the dominance of writing.
o Technological change is altering the role and significance of the major media dissemination.
• The book has now been superseded by the screen
• Presence, seen semiotically is not absence or distance, but temporal co-presence
• Restructuring of power—a question of who has access to and control of the media
Chapter 3: Getting into a different world
• The chapter begins with a general questioning of a unified system of spelling and sound
• Sounds—large-sound units: syllables; meaning-units: words
• Cannot remain at the use of the letter alone
Critical moments in the text
1: [Two distinct factors] are the broad move from the now centuries-long dominance of writing to the new dominance of the image and, on the other hand, the move from the dominance of the medium of the book to the dominance of the medium of the screen.”
4: “Reading paths may exist in images, either because the maker of the image structured that into the image – and it is read as it is or it is transformed by the reader, or they may exist because they are constructed by the reader without prior construction by the maker of the image.”
5: “Interactivity has at least two aspects: one is broadly interpersonal, for instance, in that the user can ‘write back’ to the producer of a text with no difficulty – a potential achievable only with very great effort or not at all with the older media, and it permits the use to enter into an entirely new relation with all other texts – the notion of hypertextuality. The one has an effect on social power directly, the other has an effect on semiotic power, and through that on social power less immediately.”
10: “Writing which is tied still to sound via the alphabet is different to writing which is not lined to sound, as in those writing systems which use ‘characters’ and are oriented much more to representing concepts through conventionalized images, rather than through sounds transcribed imperfectly in letters.”
13: “The book will have something to say about the stuff of writing, its materiality, and its relation to the stuff of speech. This is a necessary step at the time when there threatens a new separation of the human body and technology.”
• I’m not sure why he’s suggesting that there’s a “threat” in the separation, especially since there’s less and less of a noticeable distinction…
19: ‘The free movement of cultural commodities has been as significant in unmaking the formerly relative stabilities and distinctiveness of cultural forms and values as have the effects of economic globalization, even if differently so. Cultural globalization has been the servant of economic globalization in two ways. It has provided the conditions of the appearance of ‘naturalness’ to the globalization of capital. […] Cultural globalization has prepared the ground for a global market for commodities which are in any case now more and more ‘cultural.’”
21: “Writing is undergoing changes of a profound kind: in grammar and syntax, particularly at the level of the sentence, and at the level of the text/message. Writing now plays one part in communicational ensembles, and no longer the part. Where before all information was conveyed in writing, now there is a decision to be made: which information, for this audience, is best conveyed in image and which in writing?”

July 2017
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