Search This Blog

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Immedia versus Social Media

I am reading The Washington Post article:

13, right now
This is what it's like to grow up in the age of likes, lols and longing
Story by Jessica Contrera
Photos by Victoria Milko
She slides into the car, and even before she buckles her seat belt, her phone is alight in her hands. A 13-year-old girl after a day of eighth grade...

And once again I ask myself whether Social Media brings us closer together, farther apart, or is neutral as to immediacy.

As I think it, I create the word "Immedia" which seems in my brain to stand for immediate and intimate activity between persons; of course, it brings to mind Heidegger's being-in-the-world versus what I had called having-in-the world.

In this article, the young girl has vastly more connection with large numbers of people than individuals did in the pre-iPhone days and the pre-Internet days. And rather than asking about the effect of such a large amount of communications, I only ask if these communications - even considered singly one at a time - may have the same effect of face-to-face interaction.

It seems to me the answer in in the subtitle; it is the acronym "lol".

Electronic Communication lacks gesture, touch, deep affect: for example, we usually cannot see the face of those to whom we speak. But even with Skype and camera, the experience of facial recognition is flat and bland.

LOL was devised due to the ambiguity of internet chat and emails, for language alone often leaves it unclear whether one is happy, mad, sarcastic, solicitous, etc. Those emotions are more easily conveyed in person.
So LOL was devised in order to let the recipient know the sender was happy and laughing... at least the sender wanted the recipient to believes so.

So new modular expressions come into being to attempt to fill the voids left by electronic communication, thereby demonstrating that there are many such voids in the first place, and these empty spaces are like interstellar dust between us and distant galaxies, obscuring the far - and near - brilliance.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

High-Context Vs. Low-Context

Edward T. Hall in his book Beyond Culture (Doubleday, 1976) made a distinction between "high" and "low-context" cultures.
I quote from a discussion in the 3rd edition of John A. Hostetler's Amish Society, p. 18:

A high-context culture is one in which people are deeply involved with one another. Awareness of situations, experience, activity, and one's social standing is keenly developed. Information is widely shared.Simple messages with deep meaning flow freely. There are many levels of communication - overt and covert, implicit and explicit signs, symbols, and body gestures, and things one may and may not talk about. Members are sensitive to a screening process that distinguishes outsiders from insiders...

Low-context cultures emphasize literacy and rationality. Highly bureaucratized segments of culture within American life are "low" in context because information is restricted primarily to verbal communication. Other levels of awareness are underdeveloped or dormant. Ways of perceiving are restricted primarily to linear systems of thought, a way of thinking that is considered synonymous with truth. Logic is considered the only road to reality. Low-context cultures use primarily mathematical models to explain nature and environment. People are highly individualistic and somewhat alienated in contexts that require little involvement with other people...
People in low-context cultures are prone to use manipulation to achieve their goals and are also prone to be manipulated... In times of crisis, individuals expect help from institutions, not from persons.

I find this imprecise, but extremely interesting and full of promise in understanding.

Washington Post
I pushed my pre-K students toward reading. And I feel guilty about it.
It’s a Tuesday morning in Room 132, and standing before me is a 4-year-old boy asking for a graham cracker. I’ll call him Josue. His swinging arms are about to topple a crayon cup on my desk, so I steady the cup with one hand and reach for the crackers with the other.

“Ggg — graham cracker. What letter is that, Josue?” I ask, because in the public pre-kindergarten program where I taught for four years, a graham cracker was never just a snack. Every detail, from ceiling to circle-time rug, pulled double duty in pursuit of our mission: to battle the achievement gap. I had just one school year to fill in an early-literacy spreadsheet with categories in uppercase and lowercase letters, letter sounds, rhyming and writing. When Josue went to kindergarten, he would be expected to read.

I am prideful about my completed spreadsheets. A neat row of good scores next to a child’s name reassured parents, lightened the load on my kindergarten-teaching colleagues, and made it easier and less stressful for my students to meet the next round of assessments.

At the same time, I am deeply troubled about the way I pushed Josue and many other children. Early-childhood education studies suggest that hurrying kids to read doesn’t really help them. As Defending the Early Years and the Alliance for Childhood put it in an elegantly simple report this month: “No research documents long-term gains from learning to read in kindergarten.” And all the time spent discreetly drilling literacy skills to meet standards imposes a huge opportunity cost. It crowds out the one element in early-childhood classrooms proven to bolster learning outcomes over time: play.

Play isn’t wasting time when you are little. It’s sense-making and experience-building. More important than performance on lowercase-letter assessments is time spent in the block area, working out differences of opinion with other kids. As they create a city together, they solve self-selected problems of engineering, resource-sharing, consensus-building, language and friendship...

Here we see that Play is a learning of many things, one of which is being actively involved in a high-context situation... the completed spreadsheets are the low-context awards for the teacher.

In another column,
This ed-reform trend is supposed to motivate students. Instead, it shames them.
A third-grade teacher on why "data walls" don't work.
My third-graders tumbled into the classroom, and one child I’d especially been watching for — I need to protect her privacy, so I’ll call her Janie — immediately noticed the two poster-size charts I’d hung low on the wall. Still wearing her jacket, she let her backpack drop to the floor and raised one finger to touch her name on the math achievement chart. Slowly, she traced the row of dots representing her scores for each state standard on the latest practice test. Red, red, yellow, red, green, red, red. Janie is a child capable of much drama, but that morning she just lowered her gaze to the floor and shuffled to her chair.

In our test-mired public schools, those charts are known as data walls, and before I caved in and made some for my Northern Virginia classroom last spring, they’d been proliferating in schools across the country — an outgrowth of “data-driven instruction” and the scramble for test scores at all costs. Making data public, say advocates such as Boston Plan for Excellence, instills a “healthy competitive culture.” But that’s not what I saw in my classroom.

The data walls concept originated with University of Chicago education researcher David Kerbow, who in the late 1990s promoted visual displays to chart students’ progress in reading. Kerbow called these displays “assessment walls,” and he meant them to be for faculty eyes only, as tools for discussion and planning. But when that fundamentally sound idea met constant anxiety over test scores in K-12 schools across the United States, data walls leaked out of staff-room doors and down the halls. Today, a quick search on Pinterest yields hundreds of versions of children’s test scores hung in public view.

“Diving Into Data,” a 2014 paper published jointly by the nonprofit Jobs for the Future and the U.S. Education Department, offers step-by-step instructions for data walls that “encourage student engagement” and “ensure students know the classroom or school improvement goals and provide a path for students to reach those goals.” The assumption is that students will want to take that path — that seeing their scores in relationship to others’ will motivate them to new heights of academic achievement. They are meant to think: “Oh, the green dots show my hard work, yellow means I have more work to do, and red means wow, I really need to buckle down. Now I will pay attention in class and ask questions! I have a plan!”

How efficient it would be if simply publishing our weaknesses galvanized us to learn exactly what we’re lacking.

That late night when I got out my markers and drew the charts, I rationalized that it was time to drop all pretenses. Our ostensible goal in third grade was similar to what you’d hear in elementary schools everywhere: to educate the whole child, introduce them to a love of learning and help them discover their potential. We meant that wholeheartedly. But the hidden agenda was always prepping kids for the state’s tests. For third-graders, Virginia has settled on 12 achievement standards in reading and 20 in math, each divided further into subsections. And once blossoms were on the trees, we were just a few weeks from the exams that would mark us as passing school or a failing one. We were either analyzing practice tests, taking a test or prepping for the next test. Among the teachers, we never stopped talking about scores, and at a certain point it felt disingenuous not to tell the kids what was really going on.

I regretted those data walls immediately. Even an adult faced with a row of red dots after her name for all her peers to see would have to dig deep into her hard-won sense of self to put into context what those red dots meant in her life and what she would do about them. An 8-year-old just feels shame.

Psychologists Todd Kashdan and Robert Biswas-Diener point out in their book “The Upside of Your Dark Side ” that while some uncomfortable feelings can be useful, shame is not productive. Guilt, they say, can encourage people to learn from their mistakes and to do better. In contrast, “people who feel shame suffer. Shamed people dislike themselves and want to change, hide, or get rid of their self."...

"Test-mired public schools..."  are a symptom of the low-context approach to education.

And it seems so obvious that this is a form a marginalization verging on abuse.
Why was it not immediately apparent?
I think low-context culture may be more prone to abuse because there is so little awareness of others are people instead of objects of desire or education or commercialization, etc.


The Bridge At Deir Ez-Zor

This is the bridge at Deir ez-Zor, Syria, over the Euphrates river taken sometime in 2006-2009 by two Canadian bikers.
Deir-ez-Zor: Notes For Bike Tourists

Recently it has been in the middle of the war.
AhlulBayt News Agency - Deir ez-Zor province in eastern Syria includes the three cities of the capital Deir ez-Zor, Al-Mayadin and AL-Bukamal. Over 90 percent of the territory of Deir ez-Zor was seized by ISIS terrorist group in mid-December 2014. It is located between Raqqa, the self-acclaimed capital of ISIS terrorists in Syria, and other ISIS-held areas in the neighboring Iraq. ISIS has one of the most significant sources of income now that it holds a majority of the province’s oilfields and produces and sells oil. Meanwhile, the forces of the government of President Bashar al-Assad still hold control of Deir ez-Zor’s center and also its airport.

During the past two years, Deir ez-Zor witnessed limited clashes between the Syrian armed forces and the terrorists of ISIS, but ISIS’ militants failed to usurp control of the remaining areas of the city from the Syrian forces.

Since August 2015, Deir ez-Zor has been under the tight siege of the ISIS fighters, with over 200,000 Syrian civilians in the city are now trapped in encirclement. The Russian and Syrian planes regularly airdrop aid facilities and food crates to the civilians trapped in some parts of Deir ez-Zor as the only way of access to the besieged city.

Recently, especially since May 7, 2016, ISIS terrorists launched a new wave of efforts, aiming at capturing what remained of Deir ez-Zor province. During the initial assaults, they managed to take control of the whole roads leading to the airport, al-Thayem Oil Refinery and a couple of districts inside the capital city...

This photo of the bridge at night ran with the story about the fight with ISIS. The name of the town has been misspelled;   you can have some leaway with the definite article "al" and the word "zor":
al zor, az-zor, el-zor, ez-zor, ezzor, even ezor, I suppose, although that single "z" would be quite wrong.
It seems to be a photo from quieter times.

The world never seems to have gotten over World War I and its aftermath, thinking Sykes-Picot Agreement here, although the 1917 Balfour Declaration has also had its place.
The results of WWI led to WWII. WWII led to a continuous Cold War, and that has led to a state of constant war, a ceaseless questing for supremacy by the sole superpower.

If you recall during the Bush years, we also claimed the infinity of Space.


Dasein und Dahaben?

What shall I talk about?

The Memorial Day weekend approaches, my mum is in the hospital and actually enjoying herself enormously, and I am trying to get her planned Memorial Day weekend party together and get ready to take off to Maryland myself Monday morning.
And it is a lot more complicated that it appears.

That is what is so interesting about language: it can take the most horrendously complex things and set them down on a piece of foolscap, and they do not seem as weighty and overwhelming - but they are, really! - and one may crumple up that scrap paper and toss it.

So where am I in re the complexity of Life? Infinite detail versus clearly-cut linear rational language chit-chat?

I think I shall start with Martin Heidegger...

 Martin Heidegger

Heidegger and the concept of Celebrity as it exists today in our society.
For I had recently read again of a celebrity who said that they found it hard to believe that they were a celebrity, that they felt as if they should pinch themselves to determine whether they were dreaming, that they were wretchedly fearful that it would all disappear.

The main point here is whether one has achieved a celebrated status due to one's great and continued acts, or whether one has actually done little, but has accrued a media-endowed celebrated status.

In the second case, one may well fear the sudden cessation of celebrity.

Acts, action, being, living; these refer to Heidegger's Dasein: Being-In-The-World.
(compounded of da [there] and sein [to be].)
It is an intimate life within the world, not a detached pseudo-Cartesian subject who views the objects of the world from a privileged viewpoint outside the rough-and-tumble, and this privileged viewpoint endows the subject observer with a dispassionate view and almost total "objectivity".

The pseudo-Cartesian is not an example of being-in-the-world, rather they are outside the world.
What is it to be outside the world? To be that perfect observer?

 "Rainy Day" Cartes

It is somewhat like that celebrity who has actually done little themselves to attain their high status, rather it is the work of media and press agents and publicists and talking-heads.

In essence, the celebrity who does little does not Act; they are not acting totally in the world, and our study of them is not a study of being-in-the-world, rather they "have" celebrity status thrust upon them.

They are a study of Dahaben:  Having-In-The-World.
(compounded of da [there] and haben [to have]....  Apologies all around, not only to Prof. Heidegger, but to anyone who speaks German.)

I play with this notion.
I wonder if our society tends to be more of a Dahaben society which values Having rather than Being?
For example, we tend to "have" religious beliefs rather than "live" and "act" religiously.
It is a matter of talking the talk rather than walking the walk, if you will. How simple it is to sit back and talk, smoke a pipe, nibble lembas and sip miruvor rather than walking a long journey. Ask Bilbo Baggins.