Ali Hashemi wrote:
> Dear Ontolog,
> I apologize for the length of this message, I am generally internetted
> only through phone, so I am being thorough in my intermittent access. I
> have tried to make the last section of the message more relevant to the
> ontology mission.
> Dear John, Dan and Pat,
> Thanks for that ... response. Perhaps as an exercise, we can reflect on
> the very fact that you and I are able to have such a conversation.
> For fun, let's briefly devolve the history of languaged communication.
> Before internet, we could phone. Assuming we'd had met or exchanged
> information, either you or I would have had to call the other.
> Additionally, if you made the call, I'd have to happen to have the time
> to talk (or pre the cell phone, had physically been in the same location
> that you were calling).
> And before the phone? We could try to carry on this conversation via
> what, a telegraph? I suppose each day, we would excitedly go to the
> telegraph station to see the short, dotted response. You know, Twitter,
> but old school.
> And before that? Well we could mail, I guess airmail or before that,
> rail or boat or perhaps horse, or lights along an imperial road. It
> might take days, weeks or months, but I guess it'd make the anticipation
> of how this conversation would evolve all the more intriguing.
> Let's also consider the act of writing. Imagine instead of typing, at
> what, 40-120 words per minute, we had to grasp a pen and write these
> messages on paper. For me at least, the type of thought that comes out
> through pen is profoundly different than when on the computer. Imagine
> if we had to use a quill and ink, refreshing the tip every few minutes?
> And what if we had to use stone? To communicate our ideas, you and I,
> living in different locale would either have to send each other stone
> carvings or happen upon one another in some fair town, a port most
> likely, and sit down to an enlightening discussion. If I were on another
> continent, to carry out this conversation, would require a commitment of
> months to travel to a common physical location. I would certainly hope
> that the results of said conversation would be worth that time!
> Now, were you actually suggesting that the way we consider space has not
> changed? That the way we form, exchange, communicate and shape our
> thought has not fundamentally changed?
> Our agency in space has increased. Our projection of mind, ability to
> share and engage has been transformed.
> Our understanding of a social network has changed. The very notion of
> what it means to be a productive, living human being is radically different.
> The fact that you and I take this projection of thought and language
> through space for granted – the fact that it is so trivial, trite and
> assumed that we, one located in Quebec, the other in Florida can so
> easily converse at near instantaneous speed is exactly the point. Remind
> me again, how is this all complete fantasy?
> It is incontrovertible that different senses, different sense modalities
> are more suited to different types of knowledge. Even if I turn my
> speaker upside down, sound still comes at me right side up... I can
> stare at sheet music all day, but I at least, won't really appreciate
> Bach's Cello Suite No.6 in D Major unless I hear it.
> Now I certainly am not taking the strong position. I won't deny that
> there are other routes to such appreciation, but obviously, certain ones
> are better suited. And our lifestyles reinforce these choices and have
> other attendant effects...
> As this email is long, I won’t go into the details of the rest of your
> post, but if you like, I can do so… I do have to however remark on the
> attack on Postman (I don't recall McLuhan proclaiming "the world is
> going to hell, or at least to some undesirable place, in a handbasket.")
> I wish I had Postman’s book physically with me (it’s been lent out to a
> friend), or that I had a pdf copy, but alas, my everyday assumptions of
> this work in space and time are challenged.
> I have become so used to thinking of text as remotely accessible, that
> it is only in the absence of such access, I can appreciate that it is
> quite remarkable what was once considered an intimately physically bound
> artefact has been transformed into “mere” electricity…
> Let's quickly unpack the implicit assumptions in McLuhan and Postman.
> 1) Our interaction with the world is mediated by our senses
> 2) Depending on what we are doing, we are engaging our senses in
> different ratios (i.e. watching TV, we are more aware of what our eyes
> see; playing basketball, we are more aware of our sense of touch;
> listening to music, we are more aware of our hearing...)
> 3) Habitual, repetition of the same types of actions affects one's
> And here's the "leap"
> 4) Different media, technologies, lifestyles will draw out and engender
> biases in those who repeatedly engage in them
> Does the above acceptable to you?
> Now extend this basic premise to public discourse. Simply because of the
> over exuberant tone of your post, I'm tempted to ask if you've been
> hiding under a rock for the past 20 years. However, I’ll leave that as a
> voiced temptation.
> More relevantly, consider a news broadcast in 2010 vs. one in 1960.
> Consider a "serious" interview today, to one 30 years ago. Is it even
> conceivable we might have a televised Chomsky - Foucault debate today
> (irrespective of whatever one thinks about their ideas)?
> About the most complex message that the current US presidential election
> affords (quite literally), is "hope and change."
> Policy is reduced to soundbites. Public awareness of issues is (with
> many many exceptions) dominated by knee-jerk reactions and cartoonish
> television personalities. Voters are spend inordinate amounts of time
> trying to decide whether evolution should be taught in school, or
> whether two men or two women should be allowed to enjoy the same rights
> as others.
> I could go on and on… Again, due to my limited internetting, I would
> need to physically go to a library to access the requisite research, and
> I am not very inclined to do so right now. I'm sure you can see what I'm
> saying :D, but if you need more convincing, I suggest you consult the
> reading list of nearly any Public Relations, Media Studies or Critical
> Theory or any number of other related graduate level programs.
> John and Dan,
> I believe our misunderstanding if at all, hangs on the phrase
> “fundamental change.” See below for what I’m calling “fundamental
> change.” The Pirahá culture is indeed quite remarkable, and as Dan
> pointed out in the reference to Nisbett, there are indeed well
> demonstrated cultural effects. I would also add this recent study,
(Daniel Casasanto, Olga
> Fotakopoulou, Lera Boroditsky, “Space and Time in the Child's Mind:
> Evidence for a Cross-Dimensional Asymmetry (p 387-405)” Cognitive
> Science (2010). ) Now it would be interesting for a follow up study to
> see if children from societies which read right to left also look at the
> timeline right to left.
> More recently, these works by Gianquinto provide some interesting
> insight to the differences that visual thinking affords:
> And in the interest of making this post more relevant to ontolog in a
> direct way, I would recommend the following two papers:
> Eugene Wigner, “The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the
> Natural Sciences.” Communications in Pure and Applied Mathematics, 1960.
> ( http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html