|From:||Ali Hashemi <ali.hashemi+ontolog@xxxxxxxxxxx>|
|Date:||Sun, 11 Apr 2010 22:07:48 -0400|
Dear John and Pat,|
[JS]This is the kind of thread that can go on indefinitely without making
Agreed. I've just never come across a coherent criticism of McLuhan that wasn't a severe misinterpretation, and I've looked very hard. This will be my last response on this topic. Note though, there can be a very real connection to how one develops an ontology, but i'll leave that to the side for now.
[JS]I'm sorry that I stated my original point without enough qualification
I agree with this. The basic cognitive machinery is relatively stable. However, like the weather, there are enormous variations in its manifestation. How we choose to, and in what contexts we employ which cognitive machineries is highly dependent on the technologies / frame of mind we are in. When writing on the computer, with access to the internet, the type of thought that comes out, with all the attendant references, links etc, is very different than a conversation conducted say by letters over a several month period. Of course, we being humans, the net results of our thoughts would be accessible in both, but more likely, flow more easily in one vs the other.
Imagine we spoke what you just said. The "content" is the same, but I'd have to have a pretty good memory to remember what your point #2 was. With symbolic representation, it's there, plain for me to refer to. How I think about, process and use what you said has changed...
When I am engaged in argument with my friends, a general rule of thumb we employ is to interpret each others' remarks in the most reasonable manner. We get to the crux of our disagreements much more quickly in this way.
There are several comments of yours which completely baffle me. Do you really think so lowly of me(?) to think that I'm making such absurd claims. Hilarious... Anyway, see below.
On Sat, Apr 10, 2010 at 3:37 AM, Pat Hayes <phayes@xxxxxxx> wrote:
I think you are misreading what I mean by "consider space." The laws of physics are still the same. Our idea of what it means for a person to be at a particular location in space is completely different! You in Florida can communicate with me. You can be here in a matter of minutes. I am at a loss how you do not see how this changes how I think about space.
!!! How in the world did what I say come to mean "because we think of space, communication, etc. in different ways, reading Homer would be incomprehensible". ? This is beyond absurd and a complete red herring.
Nowhere does the claim that "the activities and technologies one engage in affect and alter our employed patterns of thinking" lead one to conclude that "these changes render artifacts and experiences from the past inaccessible." The absurdity of this example makes me think you have not really understood the point at hand.
Let me go back to an example you "debunked" in an earlier email:
[AH] 3) Which brings me to the last example. Consider communities where the predominant form of transport is:
Aside from the fact that this is a specious argument (just because someone using a hammer broke a glass doesn't mean hammers don't work...), what you write is not only consistent with what i've been arguing, but demonstrates the point quite well.
For one, the car (and railroad) decreased the abstraction of space-at-a-distance. Whereas long distances (say 500km) when walking were serious impediments, a car contracted what it meant to traverse this space. Bringing entities in the car-driving range into roughly the same conceptual store as those when walking.
But more acutely, the rules of what movement is in space changed too, which is also why there weren't all these accidents. The way people understood space when walking (or riding, but lets stick to walking for brevity) were completely altered. When walking, the wind is generally enjoyable, I can walk quite closely behind another, I can swerve immediately. What it means for me to be in space is quite different than when I'm driving, people are abstracted to their cars. I need to follow only at a safe distance. I rarely care about the visages of other drivers, but of their tools.
Not only that, but consider the implications of what space means to an urban planner. An urban planner, emphasizing a car wrt to space might design cities on grids. It might also lead one to centralize shopping into malls, and delegate the pedestrian use of space to small, unwelcoming sidewalks on busy thoroughfares. The ontology of space and roads for an urban planner who considers only cars will be vastly different than one who considers other forms.
Or more importantly, a planner who actually has experience / engages in significant walking will be able to better understand how to translate the understanding of space and time via walking much better into a city design than one who mainly commutes by car.
I can't imagine how much more obvious this point could be.
Not at all. The content of the music is ostensibly the same. Access to this information is mediated by our senses. I'm surprised that the first example wasn't picked up. Note, orientation of sound source does not affect my interpretation of said sound - i.e. sound in its raw form is less suited for communicating that "something is upside down" -- it just isn't supported by the medium. Of course you could use sound to make that claim in language, but that's a different medium.
I spoke loosely. You are attending more to your eyes that say your sense of touch. The fact that you are sitting on your couch (unless it is uncomfortable etc..) is not something you will generally notice...
I mean to imply that watching is an action (the rest of the body is relatively passive, the brain functions differently than when reading etc.)...
Disposition i mean the attitudes. I.e the fact that eating fast food makes one impatient changes that person's disposition. Hence, if that person were to be required to consider something, they will be less likely to use those parts of their cognitive machinery that is employed for careful consideration. Instead, said person will likely use the parts of their cognitive machinery that is more rash, abrupt and immediate. Hence how this person thinks in this context is fundamentally different than if they were not impatient.
It would really help if you stopped thinking I was arguing some sort of exclusive / strong position. If I am habituated to watching "30 minute" television programs which are themselves interrupted every 7-9 minutes with 30 - 180 seconds of commercials (which contain "emotional conclusion / association" messages). And if the vast majority of these 21 minute programs contain a very similar story arcs, the same level of content complexity (aimed at the perceived "average joe"), and generally resolve all the issues / conflicts that arise very neatly so that everything can be reset for the next week. Then you will be biased to perhaps not expect, but appreciate this type of thinking more often. It will be far easier to understand an argument in this form than one which breaks these norms.
By Jove - your experience proves exactly my point; if you would only care to interpret it reasonably instead of as a cheesy strawman... :D
The same way that the cultural shock you experienced was discomforting and dizzying, and after a bit of time, habitual exposure to said phenomena made the parsing of such content "second nature." Now think about it going in reverse. You are habituated to rapid-fire, quick conclusions etc. Might not then long arguments, complexity etc. be dizzying? Would you not be "biased" against arguments employed / communicated in said form? Especially if you weren't in an environment which habituated you to these complexities, would you not be more suspicious of arguments in this form?
Would you not prefer the argument presented in a familiar form, in a familiar style? Especially if it is packaged and delivered to you via a pseudo-authority figure that you empathize with on some level? This is exactly and only what I mean by bias and fundamental shift. Your cognitive machinery is still all there, though obviously you do not make use of all of it. Indeed, which aspects of it you choose to employ are largely (tho not completely) dependent on your culture. And let's be clear, culture includes very immediately, how you choose to express your thoughts (an essay written on a cellphone is much different than one on a computer!).
In Japan, novels written on cell phones have become very popular. Are you arguing that the same types of ideas are communicated in these ( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/world/asia/20japan.html ).
Of last year’s 10 best-selling novels, five were originally cellphone novels, mostly love stories written in the short sentences characteristic of text messaging but containing little of the plotting or character development found in traditional novels.
Forget about the "this will ruin writing." That's an interpretation based on the very basic observation that different forms/types of thought are generated / disseminated. Feel free to disagree with Postman's conclusion (I disagree with many parts of his work too), but the basic chassis of analysis is quite apt.
This is all I, and indeed, McLuhan (and Postman's analytic technique) are laying claim to. I have no idea what makes you so upset.
Indeed. This seems to be crux of the problem...
Anyway, see below for one last attempt.
Incidentally, Jon Stewart makes a very similar point here:
It's a curious thing when sometimes the most honest news is in a satirical comedy show...
I'll additionally cite one more study and one more article.
Nothing conclusive, but yet another drop in the ever increasing bucket for the fact that the tools we use alter how we think. Again, not the base cognitive machinery, but which parts of it are employed / emphasized / focused upon. This is a key distinction that seems to be consistently.... forgotten.
[CD] I believe -- really believe -- in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can't open it, you don't own it. Screws not glue. The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+.
This is another prime example. The implicit message in the ipad is that one should simply purchase one's problems. That is part of the indirect message of this medium. In contrast, as the writer notes, the implicit message in the Apple ][+ was, if you have a problem, you dive in and figure out what to do.
Imagine I grow up in a culture where linear connections are emphasized. I will be more likely to look for and recognize said types of patterns. This doesn't mean it's impossible for me to learn other ways of thinking. However, I will be primed / biased to look for these patterns.
Alas, if you reject that these two products don't bias one towards different types of thinking, if you reject that the patterns of thought, the dominant metaphors do not affect how we employ our cognitive machinery, then there is no hope for this conversation.
I wish you well Pat. My friends have suggested that you have no interest in understanding what I've been trying to communicate and that I ought not bother to engage further. I have had difficulty appreciating why this simple point has been so arduous to communicate.
If you wish, we can continue this offline. I only as that you:
(a) state what you think I'm claiming
(b) state what evidence would be compelling for you
At that point, it'll be abundantly obvious if I should throw in the towel.
Founding Director, www.reseed.ca
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