selected quotes: - In August, the company that owns Reader’s Digest filed for bankruptcy protection. … Reader’s Digest both identified and shaped a peculiarly American approach to reading, one that emphasized convenience, entertainment, and the appearance of breadth. An early issue noted that it was “not a magazine in the usual sense, but rather a co-operative means of rendering a time-saving device.” … In his renowned 1962 book The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America, Boorstin used Reader’s Digest as an example of what was wrong with a culture that had learned to prefer image to reality, the copy to the original, the part to the whole. Publications such as the Digest, produced on the principle that any essay can be boiled down to its essence, encourage readers to see articles as little more than “a whiff of literary ectoplasm exuding from print,” he argued, and an author’s style as littered with unnecessary “literary embellishments” that waste a reader’s time. … Over time, this attitude undermines our commitment to the kind of “deep reading” that researcher Maryanne Wolf, in Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (2007), argues is important from an early age, when readers learn to identify with characters and to “expand the boundaries of their lives.” … As Boorstin surveyed the terrain nearly half a century ago, his overarching concern was that an image-saturated culture would so distort people’s sense of judgment that they would cease to distinguish between the real and the unreal. He criticized the creation of what he called “pseudo-events” such as politicians’ staged photo-ops, and he traced the ways in which our pursuit of illusion transforms our experience of travel, clouds our ability to discern the motivations of advertisers, and encourages us to elevate celebrities to the status of heroes. “This is the appealing contradiction at the heart of our passion for pseudo-events: for made news, synthetic heroes, prefabricated tourist attractions, homogenized interchangeable forms of art and literature (where there are no ‘originals,’ but only the shadows we make of other shadows),” Boorstin wrote. “We believe we can fill our experience with new-fangled content.” … Boorstin wrote The Image before the digital age, but his book still has a great deal to teach us about the likely future of the printed word. Some of the effects of the Internet appear to undermine Boorstin’s occasionally gloomy predictions. For example, an increasing number of us, instead of being passive viewers of images, are active participants in a new culture of online writing and opinion mongering. … We have embraced new modes of storytelling, such as the interactive, synthetic world of video games, and found new ways to share our quotidian personal experiences, in hyperkinetic bursts, through microblogging services such as Twitter. … Our screen-intensive culture poses three challenges to traditional reading: distraction, consumerism, and attention-seeking behavior. … The “common reader” Virginia Woolf prized, who is neither scholar nor critic but “reads for his own pleasure, rather than to impart knowledge or correct the opinions of others,” is a vanishing species. Instead, an increasing number of us engage with the written word not to submit ourselves to another’s vision or for mere edification, but to have an excuse to share our own opinions. … Of greater concern was the attitude students expressed about the usefulness of writing: Most of them judged the quality of writing by the size of the audience that read it rather than its ability to convey ideas. … What Boorstin feared—that a society beholden to the image would cease to distinguish the real from the unreal—has not come to pass. On the contrary, we acknowledge the unique characteristics of the virtual world and have eagerly embraced them, albeit uncritically. But Boorstin’s other concern—that a culture that craves the image will eventually find itself mired in solipsism and satisfied by secondhand experiences—has been borne out. … The screen offers us the illusion of participation, and this illusion is becoming our preference. As Boorstin observed, “Every day seeing there and hearing there takes the place of being there.”
The book, that fusty old technology, seems rigid and passé as we daily consume a diet of information bytes and digital images. The fault, dear reader, lies not in our books but in ourselves.
“This book is a feast not just for hip hop specialists but for all those interested in the interfaces between music, language and society. The chapters illustrate the diversity of contexts where this music is enjoyed, but also the common features found in the hip hop production of various cultures… Thanks to the range of materials studied (Norway, Egypt, Cyprus, South Korea and more) and the detail provided in the individual analyses, the book represents a key contribution to work in this fascinating field, and will be essential reading for future research.”
Abdelali Bentahila and Eirlys Davies, Abdelmalek Essaadi University, Tangier, Morocco
“The book examines the origins of language and grammar and also looks at the nature of being human. As a species, we have a long history of trying to find aspects of ourselves that are exclusively human. Some of the features of humanity thought to be solely the realm of the spiritual - for example cognition and emotion - are increasingly being explained in terms of physical effects. Exclusive physical functions are now questioned too - bipedality, dexterity, socialisation, delayed gratification. Could the differences between the human and animal kingdom be a matter of degrees rather than absolutes? Language, and language grammar, is one territory that might provide an answer.
Martin Edwardes builds a story examining the evolutionary sources of our self-recognition, of human culture and social institutions and of the cognitive forms that lie behind our linguistic grammatical forms. He covers the current thinking in the field of language origins and goes on to develop an essential new theory of the origins of grammar.
“Martin Edwardes has written a knowledgeable and thoughtful book on the origins of grammar. I am happy to say that Edwardes’ book complements my own book of the same title, taking a similar view on central issues such as the importance of meaning, of social interaction and a gradualist view of evolution. Valuably, Edwardes approaches the topic from an anthropological viewpoint, as his subtitle makes clear. Together, both books offer innovative and thorough coverage of the field. ” James R. Hurford, Professor (Emeritus), University of Edinburgh, Scotland
“Martin Edwardes has written a wonderfully clear book that sets out the central issues in linguistics that are pertinent to the evolution of grammar and brings them into contact with psychological and anthropological concerns. The style is accessible and will meet a broad audience but the thesis will set academics thinking, arguing and reaching for their pens.” Tom Dickins, Reader in the School of Psychology, University of East London, UK”
Here’s my informal list of people and/or books:
Laurence Lessig The Future of Ideas
Jonathon Zittrain The Future of the Internet
Arjun Appadurai “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Economy” This essay is 20 years old but it remains a…
Thank you! And that was really fast (thank you Internet - tumblr in particular - for delivering once more). I will hunt down the items on this list. Cheers!
No matter how much you learn about something, there will always be something else that adds on to it or contradicts it. This was demonstrated today during phonology when our professor introduced to the wonderful world of neutralization rules. I can safely say that I had never heard about these rules in phonology before. My previous exposure to the subject had focused on the presence of allophonic rules where we needed to determine which sounds in a language occurred in complementary distribution and were therefore allophones of one phoneme. I guess that I had just supposed that these rules applied to all languages one way or the other, but like I said, I hadn’t really given it much thought. One recurring theme that I did notice with allophonic rules was that they always showed the way in which unmarked sounds were changed to marked sounds. They explained, for example, why voiceless consonants become voiced or why high vowels get lowered in their respective contexts. We started to see some example in class this week that challenged the ease of applying allophonic rules to sounds changes in a language. We saw cases where assigning an allophonic rule would violate the three criteria of simplicity, assimilation, and markedness. Sometimes it seemed easier to go the other way around and suggest that the marked features become unmarked instead. That was when Dr D dropped the bomb that this was wholly possible. Using these new things called neutralization rules, we are able to account for the alternation of sounds in which, for example, voiced consonants become unvoiced…marked to unmarked. There will surely be more on this to come once I figure out the hows and whys for myself.
Natural logic says that talking is merely an incidental process concerned strictly with communication, not with the formulation of ideas. Talking, or the use of language, is supposed only to “express” what is essentially already formulated nonlinguistically. Formulation is an independent process, called thought or thinking, and is supposed to be largely indifferent to the nature of particular languages. Languages have grammars, which are assumed to be merely norms of conventional and social correctness, but the use of language is supposed to be guided not so much by them as by correct, rational, or intelligent thinking.
Thought, in this view, does not depend on grammar but on laws of logic or reason which are supposed to be the same for a!l observers of the universe–to represent a rationale in the universe that can be “found” independently by all intelligent observers, whether they speak Chinese or Choctaw. In our own culture, the formulations of mathematics and of formal logic have acquired the reputation of dealing with this order of things: that is, with the realm and laws of pure thought. Natural logic holds that different languages are essentially parallel methods for expressing this one-and-the-same rationale of thought and, hence, differ really in but minor ways which may seem important only because they are seen at close range.
if a rule has absolutely no exceptions it is not recognized as a rule or as anything else; it is then part of the background of experience of which we tend to remain unconscious. Never having experienced anything in contrast to it we cannot isolate it and formulate it as a rule until we so enlarge our experience and expand our base of reference that we encounter an interruption of its regularity. The situation is somewhat analogous to that of not missing the water until the well runs dry, or not realizing that we need air until we are choking.
Scientific linguists have long understood that ability to speak a language fluently does not necessarily confer a linguistic knowledge of it, that is, an understanding of its background phenomena and its systematic processes and structure, any more than ability to play a good game of billiards confers or requires any knowledge of the laws of mechanics that operate upon the billiard table.
The situation here is not unlike that in any other field of science. All real scientists have their eyes primarily on background phenomena that cut very little ice, as such, in our daily lives; yet their studies have a way of bringing out a close relation between these unsuspected realms of fact and such decidedly foreground activities as transporting goods, preparing food, treating the sick, or growing potatoes, which in time may become very much modified, simply because of pure scientific investigation in no way concerned with these brute matters themselves. Linguistics presents a quite similar case; the background phenomena with which it deals are involved in all our foreground activities of talking and of reaching agreement, in all reasoning and arguing of cases, in all law, arbitration, conciliation, contracts, treaties, public opinion, weighing of scientific theories, formulation of scientific results. Whenever agreement or assent is arrived at in human affairs, and whether or not mathematics or other specialized symbolisms are made part of the procedure, this agreementisreached by linguistic processes, or else it is not reached.
Formulation of ideas is not an independent process, strictly rational in the old sense, but is part of a particular grammar and differs, from slightly to greatly, among different grammars. We dissect
nature along lines laid down by our native languages. The categories and types that we isolate from the world of phenomena we do not find there because they stare every observer in the face; on the contrary, the world is presented in a kaleidoscopic flux of impressions which has to be organized by our minds– and this means largely by the linguistic systems in our minds. We cut nature up, organize it into concepts, and ascribe significances as we do, largely because we are parties to an agreement to organize it in this way–an agreement that holds throughout our speech community and is codified in the patterns of our language. The agreement is, of course, an implicit and unstated one, but its terms are absolutely obligatory; we cannot talk at all except by subscribing to the organization and classification of data which the agreement decrees.
When Semitic, Chinese, Tibetan, or African languages are contrasted with our own, the divergence in analysis of the world becomes more apparent; and, when we bring in the native languages of the Americas, where speech communities for many millenniums have gone their ways independently of each other and of the Old World, the fact that languages dissect nature in many different ways becomes patent. The relativity of all conceptual systems, ours included, and their dependence upon language stand revealed.
What surprises most is to find that various grand generalizations of the Western world such as time, velocity, and matter are not essential to the construction of a consistent picture of the universe. The psychic experiences that we class under these headings are, of course, not destroyed; rather, categories derived from other kinds of experiences take over the rulership of the cosmology and seem to function just as well. Hopi may be called a timeless language. It recognizes psychological time, which is much like Bergson’s “duration,” but this “time” is quite unlike the mathematical time, T, used by our physicists. Among the peculiar properties of Hopi time are that it varies with each observer, does not permit of simultaneity, and has zero dimensions (i.e., it cannot be given a number greater than one).
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