robertogreco + language   1225

Going Home with Wendell Berry | The New Yorker
[via: https://twitter.com/annegalloway/status/1150867868696772608 ]

[Too much to quote, so here’s what Anne quoted:]

“Lancie Clippinger said to me, and he was very serious, that a man oughtn’t to milk but about twenty-five cows, because if he keeps to that number, he’ll see them every day. If he milks more than that, he’ll do the work but never see the cows! The number will vary from person to person, I think, but Lancie’s experience had told him something important.”
via:anne  wendellberry  rural  slow  small  empathy  kindness  georgesaunders  relationships  neighbors  amish  care  caring  maintenance  human-animalrelations  human-animalrelationships  culture  farming  agriculture  local  locality  place  trees  history  multispecies  morethanhuman  language  restorativejustice  justice  climatejustice  socialjustice  johnlukacs  environment  sustainability  kentucky  land  immigration  labor  work  gender  ownership  collectivism  conversation  lancieclippinger  god  faith  religion  christianity  submission  amandapetrusich  individualism  stewardship  limits  constraints  memory  robertburns  kafka  capitalism  corporations  life  living  provincialism  seamusheaney  patrickkavanagh  animals  cows  freedom  limitlessness  choice  happiness  davidkline  thomasmerton  service  maurytilleen  crops  us  donaldtrump  adlaistevenson  ezrataftbenson  politics  conservation  robertfrost  pleasure  writing  andycatlett  howwewrite  education  nature  adhd  wonder  schools  schooling  experience  experientiallearning  place-based  hereandnow  presence 
2 days ago by robertogreco
Day'von Hann is just the latest black child robbed of his life — and then robbed of his youth or even the perception of innocence - Mission Local
"Yes. Let’s be honest. Despite connotations that any “teen” or “juvenile” out in the Mission in the wee hours was up to no good and obviously had it coming, violent crime rates in this and nearly every city are a fraction of what they were a generation ago. “Helicopter parenting” is a thing now, but it wasn’t then. And, back then, the nation’s violent crime rates were more than double what they are now. You wouldn’t know about it based on how news stories are written and framed, but San Francisco doesn’t even crack the nation’s Top-100 most dangerous cities, as measured by violent crime per capita.

A lot of Mayberry-type towns do, though. Chicago, which Donald Trump claimed “there are those who say” is worse than Afghanistan, cracks the list at No. 91. Muskogee, Okla. — a place where even squares can have a ball; we still wave Old Glory down at the courthouse; and white lightnin’s still the biggest thrill of all — is nearly 30 slots higher at No. 62.

So, that’s a fact. But Day’von Hann had an apostrophe in his name. And that’s a fact, too.

“There is no black innocence,” Taylor says. “When you are a victim, it’s almost like a sort of twist on double jeopardy. You become involved in the community’s violence; the act of being shot makes you connected to ‘urban violence.’ The particulars of your innocence are trivial. You were there where the violence was and these communities were long ago dismissed as ‘bad neighborhoods.’”

The presumption of culpability and guilt attached to young people of color like Hann does not tend to apply to white youths. Studies have shown that law-enforcement officials perceive black children to be both older than and more likely guilty than white contemporaries.

This is pervasive and systemic and transcends mere first impressions. How else to interpret why the black girl caught licking cartons of ice cream in a Texas Wal-Mart was initially threatened with a 20-year incarceration while a New Jersey judge argued that a white boy accused of rape deserved leniency because he hailed from “a good family”?

Crime rates aren’t lower than they’ve ever been, but they’re far, far lower than they were even during the so-called good times. And yet people seem to be more scared than they’ve ever been. This month in Arizona, a white man stabbed a 17-year-old black boy in the neck at a Circle-K, killing him. The rationale? The boy was playing rap music, and the man said rap music makes him feel unsafe.

I don’t know about you, but getting stabbed in the neck makes me feel unsafe.

Taylor sees all of this — the victim-blaming, the denial of innocence and youth, the pervasive fear in the face of quantitatively better crime numbers — as part of a continuum.

“The way in which our political narratives function tend to give peace of mind to the portion of society that feels like it cannot wrestle with larger issues like urban violence or gun violence or youth violence,” he says. The people parsing the term “child” in a story about a brutal homicide “can sleep better at night living in a society where an innocent black boy is shot down like a dog in the street and the takeaway is ‘he’s older than you’re saying he is.’”

In photos, Day’von “Day Day” Hann is quick to smile. He’s short and scrawny in a way only kids are and, seen through older eyes, appears to be in that transitional phase. He’s 15, at the cusp of moving from what he was to what he’d be.

The man who held Day Day’s hand and tried to ease his pain didn’t ask his age. He learned from our story that Hann was just 15. “I sat with this young man as he died, in the dark, on the sidewalk,” wrote the neighbor. “I didn’t know his age, but my impression was, he was just a kid.”

And he was."
joeeskenazi  language  sanfrancisco  children  media  race  racism  2019  missiondistrict  themission  day'vonhann  jamestaylor  innocence  jeffreyepstein 
7 days ago by robertogreco
The Voices of Birds and the Language of Belonging – Emergence Magazine
"As we listen and seek to connect, we should remember and honor this difference. At the same time, let us not allow otherness to bar the door to kinship, curiosity, and imagination. There is a bridge. That bridge is made from the gift of our attention. Sometimes attention is focused into science, but mostly it is an opening to the languages of birds in the everyday.

What do we hear in the bird voices of our homes? Every species has a sonic signature, and individuals within species have their own unique voices. In this diversity of acoustic expression are embedded many meanings.

First, the particularities of species, each with its own cadence and tempo. House wren. Bald eagle. Song sparrow. Raven. By noticing and naming, we take the first step into friendship and understanding, crossing the gulf between species. Sound is a particularly powerful connector because it travels through and around barriers, finding us and calling us out of inattention. We walk across town and notice our avian cousins. Kinship and community are no longer just ideas, but are lived, sensual relationships."

...

"With some attention and perhaps the help of a recording device, we can hear the individuality of birds around our homes. But understanding the meanings embedded in these sounds is harder. In the human realm, I can learn the singular voices of people speaking in a foreign tongue, but I’ll completely fail to understand what they say and mean. How much more difficult is the task with creatures separated from us by hundreds of millions of years of evolution.

Yet, attentive bird-listeners hear the edges of meaning. Individuality in bird sounds is not random or accidental; it reveals the personality of each bird. In the society of chickadees, some birds have open and exploratory personalities, others are more careful and precise. The rattle of kingfishers and the wood thrushes’ evening song take on new inflections when birds court and pair. At the nest, we hear information flowing in a stream of sound between mated birds. No two phoebe nestlings beg for food in the same way. When sparrow youngsters babble and practice their songs, they explore acoustic spaces in ways that parallel human speech: improvisational, repetitive, refined by listening to elders. In the trees at dusk, crows warble softly to themselves as they preen. A raven’s call is filled with mocking irony as the bird mimics for its companions the call of a sandhill crane. Parrots laugh, causing those around them to frolic and play. As robins gather on a lawn, a blue jay screams a red-shouldered hawk call, a deception that the bird repeats with great gusto when humans walk under its tree. These are not the dead clankings of machines, nor are they the mere utilitarian grunts of feeding or social tokens of sexual union. These sounds are intricate, layered, responsive, generative, and humorous.

Laboratory studies reveal that bird utterances are imbued with understanding, full of representation, organized by rules, powered by creativity, and shaped by culture and context. Bird sound-making has internal grammatical rules. Their brains learn and innovate. Birds hear and remember nuances of sound, connecting abstract acoustic patterns to the physicality of their ecological and social worlds. They listen to the voices of other species and understand what is meant. Social interaction with kin and neighbors molds the shape of individual sounds and the organization of these parts into a whole.

These scientific studies, valuable as they are in expanding our understanding, have queried bird language in only a handful of species, often with the goal of testing whether specific rules of human grammar also manifest in birds. Thus far, science alone is insufficient to the task of hearing birds. A few dozen experiments conducted by a handful of researchers will not open the ears of the human species to the voices of our cousins. Language-learning is for everyone.

When we understand the meanings of a sound made by a bird, nerves in two different brains touch and signal. The link between nerve cells is made from vibrating air, a connection as strong and real as the chemical links among nerves in a single brain. Bird sounds, then, are sonic neurotransmitters that leap across species boundaries.

When we understand the meanings of a sound made by a bird, nerves in two different brains touch and signal."
birds  sound  listening  multispecies  morethanhuman  2019  language  nature  davidhaskell  understanding  intelligence  biology  communication  wildlife  meaning  kinship 
7 days ago by robertogreco
The Book That Made Me: An Animal | Public Books
"The Lives of Animals was the first book I read in college—or at least the first book I read in a strange, amazing seminar that rewired my brain in the first semester of freshman year. The course was about animals, and I signed up for it probably because it was a course my dad, who had been advising me on all things college, would have taken himself. He kept animal effigies all over the apartment: portraits of a donkey and a marmot in the bathroom; a giant poster of “The External Structure of Cock and Chicken” in the living room; dog figures of many breeds; pigs, his favorite, in all shapes and sizes, in every single nook and cranny. In the dining room he had a huge pig sculpture made of leather, which in retrospect was a strange and morbid combination: one animal skinned to make an image of another. Our cocker spaniel had chewed its face beyond recognition by the time my mom got around to throwing it out.

My dad passed away in 2016, two years after they got divorced, and I faced the monumental task of disposing of his menagerie. I kept many things, of course, but couldn’t keep them all. It was so easy to throw out or donate clothes, housewares, furniture, even books. I didn’t know what to do with the creatures, who seemed to contain his spirit more than anything else. I laughed when I found a key chain in a random drawer: a little brass effigy of one pig mounting another. That was his humor. That was his mind, his way of seeing, his culture—which was based, like all cultures, in certain ideas about nature. Frankly, he was a difficult man to know even when he was alive. The animals offered me a way in, as they probably did for him.

Anyway, he was the one who saw the listing for a course named “Zooësis” and thought I might like it. And I really did, from the moment our indefatigably brilliant professor, Una Chaudhuri, asked us to read J. M. Coetzee’s weird, hybrid book. The Lives of Animals is a novella, but Coetzee delivered it as a two-part Tanner Lecture at Princeton in 1997, and it centers, in turn, on two lectures delivered by its aging novelist protagonist, Elizabeth Costello. During her visit to an obscure liberal arts college, she speaks hard-to-swallow truths about the cruelties we visit upon animals, making a controversial analogy between industrialized farming and the Third Reich. But the content of her lectures is almost less important than the reactions they generate and the personal consequences she incurs, which Coetzee shows us by nesting the lectures within a fictional frame. People get incensed; the academic establishment rebukes her argument, her way of arguing, everything she represents. Even her family relationships buckle under the weight of a worldview that seems to reject reason.

Her first lecture is about the poverty of philosophy, both as a basis for animal ethics and as a medium for thinking one’s way into the mind of another kind of creature. But her second lecture is about the potential of poetry, and it’s captivating in its optimism about the ability of human language to imagine radically nonhuman forms of sensory experience—or, perhaps more radically, forms of sensory experience we share with other species.

As a person who has worked within the field commonly known as animal studies but has never worked with real animals (unlike so many great boundary-crossing thinkers: the late poet-philosopher-veterinarian Vicki Hearne, the philosopher-ethologist Vinciane Despret, et al.), I often find myself bummed out by the inadequacy of representation: Specifically, what good are animals in books? Are they not inevitably vessels of human meaning? In Flush, her novel about the inner life of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s cocker spaniel, Virginia Woolf has another way of putting the problem: “Do words say everything? Can words say anything? Do not words destroy the symbol that lies beyond the reach of words?” To which I would add: Do they not destroy, or at least ignore, the creature beyond the symbol as well?

Coetzee has a different view. Or Costello, at least, has some different ideas about what poetry can do. She celebrates poems like Ted Hughes’s “The Jaguar” and Rainer Maria Rilke’s “The Panther”—“poetry that does not try to find an idea in the animal, that is not about the animal, but is instead the record of an engagement with him.” She finds value in poems that try to capture the fluid complexity of a moment of contact across species, rather than try to preserve an imagined essence of the animal in amber. She also defends the human imagination as something more powerful than we give it credit for. My favorite line from the book is her response to Thomas Nagel’s famous essay “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” Nagel insists that it’s impossible for a human to know the answer to his titular question. Costello rebuts: “If we are capable of thinking our own death, why on earth should we not be capable of thinking our way into the life of a bat?” I think it takes an effort of heart, more than mind, to follow her train of thought.

The novella reflects her resistance to the imperious voice of human reason—and her embrace of the messiness of the subjective imagination—on many levels. She’s uneasy at the bully pulpit, as was Coetzee himself. For the longest time I thought that the narrator was omniscient—an impersonal God figure aligned with Coetzee’s own position at that Princeton lectern. But then I read the novella again, preparing to teach it in a lit class where we were also reading Jane Austen. I realized that the narrator filters everything through the perspective of John Bernard, Costello’s son, who has a strange tendency to obsess over his mother’s body (paging Dr. Freud: “Her shoulders stoop; her flesh has grown flabby”) and profoundly ambivalent feelings about her. He is torn between sympathy and repulsion, connection and alienation. He is torn, also, between her perspective, which persuades him to an extent, and the perspective of his wife, Norma, a philosophy professor who loathes her and has no patience for her anti-rationalist message.

The question this novella raises is always that of its own construction: Why is it a novella in the first place? What does Coetzee communicate through fiction that he couldn’t have communicated through a polemic? I think the technique of focalization, which grounds everything in John’s perspective, shows us exactly what an abstract polemic about animals couldn’t: the impossibility of speaking from a position outside our embodiment, our emotions, our primordial and instinctual feelings toward kin. In other words, the impossibility of speaking about animals as though we were not animals ourselves.

Every time I read the book—definitely every time I teach it—the potentialities of its form grow in number. I find new rooms in the house of fiction that reveal how grand a mansion it is. I display it proudly, in the center of a bookshelf lined with animal books like Marian Engel’s Bear, Woolf’s Flush, J. R. Ackerley’s My Dog Tulip, Kafka’s stories, and John Berger’s Pig Earth. The shelf is my own version of my father’s menagerie, brimming with all manner of complex and contradictory creatures. All of them are representations, but that doesn’t make them feel any less real, or any less alive.

I regard my father with some of the ambivalence that John, the son in Coetzee’s story, feels toward his own mother and her thoughts on animals. But I encounter the creatures he left behind with warmth, solidarity, and hope."
via:timoslimo  jmcoetzee  multispecies  morethanhuman  senses  writing  howwewrite  language  whywewrite  fiction  animals  bodies  unachaudhuri  philosophy  elizabethbarrettbrowning  virginiawoolf  vincianedespret  animalrights  vickihearne  rainermariarilke  tedhughes  narration  thomasnagel  imagination  messiness  janeausten  perspective  novellas  kafka  johnberger  marianengel  jrackerley  hope  solidarity  communication  embodiment  emotions  persuasion  mattmargini  canon  books  reading  howweread  teaching  howweteach  farming  livestock  sensory  multisensory  animalstudies  poetry  poems  complexity  grief  literature  families  2019 
15 days ago by robertogreco
Why Do Japanese Still Use Kanji? Complicated Writing System... - YouTube
"Why Do Japanese Use Kanji? Japanese is known for its complicated writing system, but why do we use kanji? Can't we just use hiragana and katakana? Is it possible to abolish kanji?

- Hiragana and Katakana are phonetic characters.
- Kanji (literally meaning Chinese letters) is like a symbol.
- Japanese has a lot of homophones and homographs and kanji helps to distinguish them.
- We have a set of official kanji on the joyo kanji list.
- There has been a number of attempts to abolish kanji in Japanese history.
- Once, John Pelzel from the Allied occupation of Japan tried to completely romanise Japanese after WWII.

[Here's a bit of history of people who tried to abolish kanji]

1866 - Hisoka Maejima, a Japanese statesman, was said to send a proposal to the shogun, insisting on abolishing kanji.
1872 - Yukichi Fukuzawa, Japan's prominent figure featured in the current 10,000 yen bill, wrote about his idea of abolishing kanji.
1881 - A group of people started a movement to promote the use of kana letters in place of kanji.
1946 - Naoya Shiga, a famous Japanese novelist, suggested that Japan should adopt French as the official language.
1946 - The Yomiuri Shimbun, one of the most popular Japanese newspapers, published an editorial arguing that adopting Roman alphabet would be key to democratise the country."
japanese  kanji  hirgana  katakana  srg  2015  history  languages  language 
15 days ago by robertogreco
Spanish has never been a foreign language in the United States - Los Angeles Times
"Video recordings in very different settings caught two incidents of Spanish speakers being harassed or detained as perceived undocumented immigrants this month.

In midtown Manhattan, an attorney, Aaron Schlossberg, berated a restaurant owner after he heard workers speaking in Spanish. He ranted that they should speak English in “his country” and threatened to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

A world away in Montana, two American citizens, Ana Suda and Mimi Hernández, recorded as they confronted a U.S. Border Patrol agent about why he asked for their identifications. He responded plainly that he wanted their IDs when he “saw that you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.” He detained them for 40 minutes in a parking lot.

The call to “speak English” in America has a long history that often drowns out our even longer history of diverse language use. Spanish especially is a language with deep roots in the United States.

The Southwest was originally part of Mexico. When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848, it also granted the remaining Mexican settlers citizenship. The treaty did not require that they learn English.

Quite the opposite is true: Over the decades that followed, the federal government permitted local governments in the Southwest to use Spanish in official capacities.

California’s first state Constitution required that “all laws, decrees, regulations, and provisions, which from their nature require publication, shall be published in English and Spanish.” Some California counties received session laws and operated their courts in Spanish.

The use of Spanish in New Mexico was especially widespread. Just five years after taking over the territory, the United States recognized that it needed to pay for translators in the legislative chambers. Federal officials embraced Spanish as a necessary way to fairly govern this new group of citizens.

In some parts of New Mexico, election results, loyalty oaths, session laws, letters to elected officials, speeches by both political parties, court transcripts and many other official documents were written in Spanish. These are merely the recorded uses of Spanish and don’t include its widespread oral use.

Senators visiting New Mexico in 1902 concluded that they could not conduct their official business without an interpreter. They encountered school teachers, judges and a census supervisor who were monolingual Spanish speakers.

When the senators asked a former justice of the peace, José María García, why he continued to use Spanish, he replied: “I like my own language better than any other, the same as I like the United States better than any other country in the world.” For García, there was no contradiction in being both an American and a Spanish speaker.

Spanish remained an official language of politics and government in much of the Southwest throughout the 19th century, but that changed in the first decades of the 20th century. Increasing immigration from Mexico, a push for school segregation and other “Americanization” efforts helped turn the tide. As the historian Paul J. Ramsey has shown, 26 states, including California, had outlawed the teaching of languages other than English in public primary schools by 1921. California outlawed it in private schools that year.

Anti-Mexican sentiment peaked in the early 1930s, coinciding with cruel repatriation campaigns that forced hundreds of thousands of Mexican citizens and Mexican Americans over the border into Mexico. Los Angeles County was especially effective at these tactics. Nevertheless, Spanish remained the preferred language in many parts of the Southwest during this period, and more than a thousand civic organizations promoted Spanish in the interest of Pan-Americanism.

Spanish speakers also settled well beyond the Southwest, of course. As early as 1891, the Cuban poet and journalist José Martí, then living in New York City, was writing of “Nuestra América,” or “Our America,” in an effort to unite Spanish speakers across the hemisphere. Tens of thousands more Cubans arrived in the early 20th century, well before the Cuban Revolution.

Congress created many Spanish-speaking Americans when it gave Puerto Ricans their citizenship in 1917 through the Jones Act, which also did not have an English-language provision. By the 1950s, nearly 200,000 Puerto Ricans had moved to New York City. Spanish has now been a part of everyday life in New York for over a century.

Forty-one million native Spanish speakers reside in the U.S. today, and this figure does not include the millions more who have learned Spanish by choice. In fact, the U.S. has the second-largest number of Spanish speakers in the world, outnumbered only by Mexico, according to the Instituto Cervantes.

Not only does the U.S. have no official language, but Spanish is not a fringe language here. It plays a much deeper role in this country than either of this month’s news-making videos suggest. Its use is neither new nor an anomaly. Spanish is an American language.

Lozano is an assistant professor of history at Princeton University and the author of “An American Language: The History of Spanish in the United States.”"
rosinalozano  spanish  español  us  2018  language  english  history  newmexico  california  mexico  spain  españa  law 
16 days ago by robertogreco
Magic and the Machine — Emergence Magazine
"Indeed, it is only when a traditionally oral culture becomes literate that the land seems to fall silent. Only as our senses transferred their animating magic to the written word did the other animals fall dumb, the trees and rocks become mute. For, to learn this new magic, we had to break the spontaneous participation of our eyes and ears in the enfolding terrain in order to recouple those senses with the flat surface of the page. I remember well, in first grade, the intensity with which I had to train my listening ears and my visual focus upon the letters in order to make each letter trigger a specific sound made by my mouth, such that now whenever I see the letter K, I instantly hear “kah” in my mind’s ear, and whenever I see an M, I hear “mmm.” If my ancestors once engaged in animistic participation with bent twigs, animal tracks, cliff-faces, and cloud shapes, I learned an analogous participation with the letter shapes upon the page. But notice: while a thundercloud or a raven might utter strange sounds and communicate strange sensations, the written letters always speak with a human tongue.

Hence, far from enacting a clear break with animism, alphabetic literacy can be recognized as a particularly potent form of animism, one which shifts the locus of magic—or meaning—away from our interactions with the more-than-human surroundings to the relation between ourselves and our own signs. Only as alphabetic literacy comes into a previously oral culture (often through Christian missionaries teaching how to read the Good Book) does that culture get the curious idea that language is an exclusively human property. The living land is no longer felt to hold and utter forth its own manifold meanings; the surrounding earth soon comes to be viewed as a mostly passive background upon which human history unfolds."




"For animism—the instinctive experience of reciprocity or exchange between the perceiver and the perceived—lies at the heart of all human perception. While such participatory experience may be displaced by our engagement with particular tools and technologies, it can never entirely be dispelled. Rather, different technologies tend to capture and channel our instinctive, animistic proclivities in particular ways."



"Despite the flimsy gesture toward a kind of magical reality, the fact is that we’re still speaking only to ourselves, to things that we have programmed to talk back to us. And so, after the initial novelty, which maybe lasts about twenty minutes, there’s nothing here that can surprise us, or yield a sense that we’re in communication with beings strangely different from ourselves."



"And maybe this attempt to recreate that primal experience of intimacy with the surrounding world will actually succeed. Certainly it’s giving rise to all sorts of fascinating gizmos and whimsical inventions. But it’s also bound to disappoint. The difficult magic of animistic perception, the utter weirdness and dark wonder that lives in any deeply place-based relation to the earth, is the felt sense of being in contact with wakeful forms of sentience that are richly different from one’s own—the experience of interaction with intelligences that are radically other from one’s own human style of intelligence. Yet when interacting with the smart objects that inhabit the always-online world of the internet of things, well, there’s no real otherness there. Of course, there’s the quasi-otherness of the program designers, and of the other people living their own wired lives; although just how other anybody will be when we’re all deploying various forms of the same software (and so all thinking by means of the same preprogrammed algorithms) is an open question. My point, however, is that there’s no radical otherness involved: it’s all humanly programmed, and it’s inhabited by us humans and our own humanly-built artifacts; it’s all basically a big extension of the human nervous system. As we enter more deeply into the world of ubiquitous computing, we increasingly seal ourselves into an exclusively human zone of interaction. We enter into a bizarre kind of intraspecies incest."



"Yet it’s the alterity or otherness of things—the weirdly different awareness of a humpback whale sounding its eerie glissandos through the depths, or an orb-weaver spider spinning the cosmos out of her abdomen; or the complex intelligence of an old-growth forest, dank with mushrooms and bracket fungi, humming with insects and haunted by owls—it’s the wild, more-than-human otherness of these powers that makes any attentive relation with such beings a genuine form of magic, a trancelike negotiation between outrageously divergent worlds.

Without such radical otherness, there’s no magic. Wandering around inside a huge extension of our own nervous system is not likely to bring a renewal of creaturely wonder, or a recovery of ancestral capacities. It may keep us fascinated for a time but also vaguely unsatisfied and so always thirsty for the next invention, the next gadget that might finally satisfy our craving, might assuage our vague sense that something momentous is missing. Except it won’t."



"Western navigators, long reliant on a large array of instruments, remain astonished by the ability of traditional seafaring peoples to find their way across the broad ocean by sensing subtle changes in the ocean currents, by tasting the wind and reading the weather, by conversing with the patterns in the night sky. Similarly, many bookish persons find themselves flummoxed by the ease with which citizens of traditionally oral, place-based cultures seem always to know where they are—their capacity to find their way even through dense forests without obvious landmarks—an innate orienting ability that arises when on intimate terms with the ground, with the plants, with the cycles of sun, moon, and stars. GPS seems to replicate this innate and fairly magical capacity, but instead of this knowledge arising from our bodily interchange with the earthly cosmos, here the knowledge arrives as a disembodied calculation by a complex of orbiting and ground-based computers."



"There is nothing “extra-sensory” about this kind of earthly clairvoyance. Rather, sensory perception functions here as a kind of glue, binding one’s individual nervous system into the larger ecosystem. When our animal senses are all awake, our skin rippling with sensations as we palpate the surroundings with ears and eyes and flaring nostrils, it sometimes happens that our body becomes part of the larger Body of the land—that our sensate flesh is taken up within the wider Flesh of the breathing Earth—and so we begin to glimpse events unfolding at other locations within the broad Body of the land. In hunting and gathering communities, individuals are apprenticed to the intricate life of the local earth from an early age, and in the absence of firearms, hunters often depend upon this richly sensorial, synaesthetic clairvoyance for regular success in the hunt. The smartphone replicates something of this old, ancestral experience of earthly acumen that has long been central to our species: the sense of being situated over Here, while knowing what’s going on over There."



"And so we remain transfixed by these tools, searching in and through our digital engagements for an encounter they seem to promise yet never really provide: the consummate encounter with otherness, with radical alterity, with styles of sensibility and intelligence that thoroughly exceed the limits of our own sentience. Yet there’s the paradox: for the more we engage these remarkable tools, the less available we are for any actual contact outside the purely human estate. In truth, the more we participate with these astonishing technologies, the more we seal ourselves into an exclusively human cocoon, and the more our animal senses—themselves co-evolved with the winds, the waters, and the many-voiced terrain—are blunted, rendering us ever more blind, ever more deaf, ever more impervious to the more-than-human Earth.

Which brings us, finally, back to our initial question: What is the primary relation, if there is any actual relation, between the two contrasting collective moods currently circulating through contemporary society—between the upbeat technological optimism coursing through many social circles and the mood of ecological despondency and grief that so many other persons seem to be feeling? As a writer who uses digital technology, I can affirm that these tools are enabling many useful, astounding, and even magical possibilities. But all this virtual magic is taking a steep toll. For many long years this techno-wizardry has been blunting our creaturely senses, interrupting the instinctive rapport between our senses and the earthly sensuous. It’s been short-circuiting the spontaneous reciprocity between our animal body and the animate terrain, disrupting the very attunement that keeps us apprised of what’s going on in our locale—the simple, somatic affinity that entangles our body with the bodies of other creatures, binding our sentience with that of the local earth. Today, caught up in our fascination with countless screen-fitted gadgets, we’re far more aloof from the life of the land around us, and hence much less likely to notice the steady plundering of these woodlands and wetlands, the choking of the winds and the waters by the noxious by-products of the many industries we now rely on. As these insults to the elemental earth pile up—as the waters are rendered lifeless by more chemical runoff, by more oil spills, by giant patches of plastic rotating in huge gyres; as more glaciers melt and more forests succumb to the stresses of a destabilized climate—the sensorial world of our carnal experience is increasingly filled with horrific wounds, wounds that we feel in our flesh whenever we dare to taste the world with our creaturely senses. It’s too damned painful. Hence … [more]
animism  davidabram  technology  language  alphabet  writing  oraltradition  secondaryorality  smarthphones  gps  multispecies  morethanhuman  canon  literacy  listening  multisensory  senses  noticing  nature  intuition  alterity  otherness  object  animals  wildlife  plants  rocks  life  living  instinct  internet  web  online  maps  mapping  orientation  cities  sound  smell  texture  touch  humans  smartdevices  smarthomes  internetofthings  perception  virtuality  physical 
6 weeks ago by robertogreco
Critical Media Practice
"a secondary field for Harvard University graduate students

The Graduate School in Arts and Sciences offers a secondary field in Critical Media Practice (CMP) for Harvard PhD students who wish to integrate media creation into their academic work. CMP reflects changing patterns of knowledge dissemination, especially innovative research that is often conducted or presented using media practices in which written language may only play a part. Audiovisual media have relationships to the world that are distinct from exclusively verbal sign systems and are able to reveal different dimensions of understanding.  They are inherently interdisciplinary and frequently engage a broader audience than the academy alone.

Students interested in creating original interpretive projects in still or moving images, sound, installation, internet applications, or other media in conjunction with their written scholarship may apply to pursue the CMP secondary field. It connects students with courses, workshops, and advising on production of media in different formats. Critical Media Practice is overseen by the Film Study Center."



"In areas across the disciplinary map — from Anthropology to Science Studies, from Sociology, Psychology, and Government to Architecture, Literature, Engineering, and Public Health — a growing number of students and faculty are seeking to integrate media creation into their academic work. The goal of the interdepartmental GSAS secondary field in Critical Media Practice is to offer graduate students across Harvard’s various schools the opportunity to make original interpretive, creative projects in image, sound, and interactive technologies in tandem with their written scholarship.

Our students work across many disciplines and in a variety of media. They span a continuum from those using artistic practices to conduct or present their scholarly research to those whose work finds its place in the art world itself. All share an excitement for art as research. They are furthering Harvard’s prominence as a place where academic inquiry can take compelling forms beyond the written word.

The human subject is constituted by imaging as well as by language and – as C.S. Peirce, Nelson Goodman, and others have demonstrated – language alone cannot be taken as paradigmatic for meaning. Aural and visual experience is as integral to culture and social relations as is language. Recent developments in neuroscience and evolutionary psychology have emphasized that consciousness itself consists of multi-stranded networks of signification that combine fragments of imagery, sensation, and memory alongside language, both propositional and non-propositional in form.

The Critical Media Practice secondary field is designed to take advantage of the fact that audiovisual media have a distinct, unique relationship to the world than exclusively verbal sign systems. It also exploits their inherent interdisciplinarity and their broader reach beyond the academy into the public intellectual sphere.

From stunning anthropological films documenting cultural traditions to interactive databases to installations exploring engineering and design, CMP projects push the boundaries of scholarship.

CMP integrates art-making within the cognitive life of the university, and specifically the graduate curriculum. Because media practice is the central component of CMP, it is distinct from a Ph.D. program in film studies, cultural studies, or any of the particular humanities or social sciences. Instead, CMP is intended to complement — to broaden and enrich — the teaching and research being undertaken in our graduate degree programs."
harvard  criticalmediapractice  sensoryethnographylab  film  interdisciplinary  media  mediacreation  cspeirce  nelsongoodman  meaning  audio  aural  visual  multisensory  multiliteracies  consciousness  sensation  memory  language  audiovisual  srg  luciencastaing-taylor  jeffreyschnapp 
7 weeks ago by robertogreco
Data for Social Good: Crisis Text Line CEO Nancy Lublin | Commonwealth Club
[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tRlCX597JhA ]

"Suicide and mental health are hard subjects—so Crisis Text Line leveraged the power of the data it collects to help their counselors determine the best way to talk about the topics with those in need. The nonprofit, founded in 2013 by CEO Nancy Lublin, has provided a free text-based and human-driven service to support those experiencing mental health stress, gathering data points from more than 75 million text messages sent and maximizing the impact of their information to better train counselors and support their community. Its innovative and data-driven methodology for tackling hard conversations can also be applied to more than the mental health space, including to Lublin’s latest venture: Loris.ai. 

Lublin’s entire career has focused on initiatives addressing social issues, and she founded Dress for Success and Do Something prior to Crisis Text Line. With her technology lens on big challenges, she continues to iterate on innovative mechanisms and creative solutions to sticky problems. At INFORUM, she’ll be joined in conversation by DJ Patil, head of technology at Devoted Health and former U.S. chief data scientist in the Obama administration, to dig into the power of data to effect change. Come curious!"
data  mentalhealth  socialgood  crisistext  nancylubin  djpatil  2019  nonprofit  nonprofits  911  socialmedia  suicide  society  government  crisiscounseling  emoji  language  communication  responsiveness  texting  sms  stress  funding  fundraising  storytelling  technology  siliconvalley  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  philanthropy  charity  startups  capitalism  importance  charitableindustrialcomplex  canon  noblesseoblige  humanism  relationship  courage  racism  connection  humanconnection  loneliness  pain 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Alexandra Bell
"Alexandra Bell (b. 1983, Chicago, IL) is a multidisciplinary artist who investigates the complexities of narrative, information consumption, and perception. Utilizing various media, she deconstructs language and imagery to explore the tension between marginal experiences and dominant histories. Through investigative research, she considers the ways media frameworks construct memory and inform discursive practices around race, politics, and culture.

Her work has been exhibited at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery, Charlie James Gallery, MoMA PS1, We Buy Gold, Koenig & Clinton Gallery, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, Atlanta Contemporary, Pomona College Museum of Art, Spencer Museum of Art, and Usdan Gallery at Bennington College. She received the 2018 International Center of Photography Infinity Award in the applied category and is a 2018 Soros Equality Fellow. She is a 2019 CatchLight Fellow.

Bell holds a B.A. in interdisciplinary studies in the humanities from the University of Chicago and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. She lives and works in Brooklyn, NY."

[See also:
https://www.instagram.com/yesitsalex/ ]

[via: https://www.instagram.com/p/Bxh5ZQylaib/ ]
art  artists  alexandrabell  information  perception  history  counternarratives  language  imagery  media  narrative 
8 weeks ago by robertogreco
Semantic Drain and the Meaninglessness of Modern Work
"Stop calling your social media manager a "guru""

"When I was on staff at the International Business Times in 2015, I had an editor who hated jargon. "If you use the word 'space,'" he said once, "you better fucking be talking about outer space." I did my part by creating a Jargon Jar. Into the jar clanked coins every time one of us used "content" or "space" or whatever dumb MBA or tech neologism had been handed to us by sources who sounded like—and were mostly nothing more than—hucksters."

[image: @Galadriel1971: "Trust is changing. Companies like Uber are changing the paradigm by distributing trust @rfordonsecurity @ForcepointSec #ForcepointCLF #cybersecurity @fedscooop"]

Really, jargon isn't all that far off from slang—vocabulary in use within a particular industry, as opposed to a more organic culture. Jargon is the reason air traffic control memes are funny in a bewildering sort of way; it is how an industry talks to itself, creating what feels like a subculture in an environment where the elements of real culture are often prohibited. The gradual creep of jargon outside of its intended industries, though, has heralded an even more unsettling linguistic phenomenon: semantic drain.

Languages mutate constantly; the meanings of words can shift dramatically over the course of just a few years. Take the word "stan," which came into popular use as a derogatory term for creepily obsessive fans thanks to an Eminem song about a creepily obsessed fan named Stan.* Creepily obsessed fans, offended, began to use the term themselves, ironically, and now usage in general is borderline positive. It's weird, and I'm not particularly happy about this particular change, but, well, what are you gonna do.

In the last four or five years, though, I have been seeing more and more words permeating the vernacular that do not have any real meaning—or, worse, words that once had a specific, tactile meaning being drained of that meaning by "corporate culture."

"Content" is the offender that springs most readily to mind. It's a catch-all now, hardly better than "stuff," for one-way communication: the listicle, the 6-second video, the 3,000-word article, the 45-minute video essay, the season of television. I use "content" as an insult, to designate writing I do that has no value. It's not the word's fault. Blame the steady descent of journalism into a hell where you're lucky to make $20 for a 300-word post, and the concomitant rise of advertising as the dominant form of communication in our world.

It's no longer enough to be a reporter, an editor—these titles carry with them the feel of specialization, as though their bearers are capable of doing "only" one thing. A "content strategist," though—that implies flexibility, a knowledge of a multitude of disciplines, the fortitude to work with brands, the ability to create video content that brings in far more ad dollars per 1,000 viewers than words alone on a web page.

You can see a couple different etymologies for this new usage. Most online publications have a content management system that contains text and photos and other elements used in stories; journalists love inflicting their jargon onto the public (I am as guilty of this as any). Or take juicy-mummy capitalist Sumner Redstone’s famous declaration that “Content is king”—referring to the actual content of a movie or TV series, as opposed to the delivery method or format. Journalists and analysts and people on television love quoting juicy mummies, and a game of linguistic telephone ensues.

That's how you go from the "contents may be hot" warning to people seriously talking about "content networks." You see the same phenomenon with "solution," "space," and "product;" with "brand," with "talent." The phrase "corporate culture" is a devilish oxymoronic weed, draining the word "culture" of all its vibrancy and significance. Companies offer “solutions” to problems that don’t exist, because there is no other way to describe that they are offering nothing of value. Even "trust" is being slowly marched toward the gaping maw of late-capitalistic semantic drain, thanks to companies like Facebook and Uber.

[image: "The Unlikely Rise of the Pastel de Nata, and Why It’s Suddenly Everywhere]

"Late-capitalistic semantic drain" sounds like its own uniquely hellish bullshit neologism. But I swear it does mean something: the lack of meaning spreading through English, driven by a corporate monoculture devoted solely to profit.

I have a hypothesis that this semantic drain is tied to the meaninglessness of modern work: These companies are co-opting words with tangible meanings and draining them of such to obscure the fact that they rarely produce anything of value to society, and that their employees are spending most of their waking hours performing labor with no meaning.

The plural of "anecdote" is hardly "data," but I find myself overwhelmed by the number of people in my social circle who are having constant work-related breakdowns, or who are chucking aside any notion of having a "career," because they have seen exactly how much of a crock of shit careerism is. That's aside from the number of people I know or have simply spoken to over the last several years who hate their job, who find waking up to go to their job an increasingly unbearable proposition even if it comes with "perks," even if they desperately need the health insurance. It's not just because their boss sucks, or their coworker eats their lunch: Everywhere in America—I won't speak to the rest of the world; but America, I've been all around—you will find people completely alienated from their labor. That is, they find no meaning in half their waking hours,** the ones they spend "working."

I put "working" in quotation marks because the kind of work I'm talking about isn't really work, is it? When you spend three business days creating a PowerPoint presentation using work done by someone else, only to be told by your boss that you fucked up by making the arrows blue instead of red, do you feel any sense of ownership of the thing you've created, or do you simply repeat to yourself that you need this job to make your student loan payments? When you're on your feet for 8 hours carefully re-folding t-shirts that shitty people looked at and then tossed on the floor like some naughty child, or being berated by someone whose credit card was declined thrice, do you feel as though you've "put in a hard day's work"—or that you've spent half your waking hours being slowly crushed by the weight of the service economy? This feels more like toil than work, doesn't it?

This isn't just a feeling held by me and a few of my more radical friends. Anthropologist David Graeber wrote an entire book on the subject of "Bullshit Jobs." Graeber talks a lot in this book about how most jobs are "pointless," and while objective pointlessness is a hallmark of a lot of modern work, I prefer to talk about meaninglessness, because a job can be objectively pointless but still have some meaning or non-monetary value for the person doing it; a job can also be objectively necessary and not provide any meaning to the person doing it. (Not everyone's cut out to be a nurse.)

William Morris' "Useful Work vs. Useless Toil" essay from the late 1800s shows that the Industrial Revolution was raising the specter of meaningless work, so this isn't exactly a brand-new phenomenon. "As to the hope of product, I have said that Nature compels us to work for that," Morris wrote. "It remains for us to look to it that we do really produce something, and not nothing, or at least nothing that we want or are allowed to use."

Yet modern white-collar work is often completely removed from any sort of end product; it's not hard to see why this distance results in a profound sense of alienation. That alienation is exacerbated when the end "product" is consulting services, or "financial services," or denying a person coverage for a medical procedure, or marketing materials that literally less than a dozen people outside the company will read.

[image: @mgoldst: "Design job description red flags:

"ninja"
"unicorn"
"high-pressure environment"
"magic"
"rock star"
"family"
"wear multiple hats"
"disrupt"
"earning potential"
"possibility of becoming full-time"
"guru"
"must know (insert ridiculously long list of stuff here)"]

To counteract this alienation, to obscure the fact that these jobs are, as Graeber points out, "pointless," HR departments and startup founders, in particular, have begun to co-opt plenty of perfectly fine words: "Rock star." "Family." "Guru." "Wizard." "Hero." All they really mean is that you need to have a working knowledge of some system or another and no sense of dignity. The job descriptions that involve these words are most frequently found in the tech sector.

"Looking for a rock star coder to join our family," the HR enchantress writes. "Must be a high-performer who wants to disrupt and can wear multiple hats in a fast-paced environment. Free meals and laundry service!"

This description really means the company wants control over every moment of your day, has no idea what it’s actually hiring you to do, and will never reward you for exceeding expectations, because firstly there aren’t any and secondly you’re supposed to be a rock star, and so should always be exceeding expectations as a matter of course. The HR enchantress is attempting to blind you to this reality with words for things you aspire to in your life, but which you will never achieve (rock star-dom, family), especially if you take this job at a company attempting to create an app that performs the emotional labor your mother used to perform (Mothr).

Let me reiterate: These job descriptions are meaningless because the jobs themselves have no meaning.

[image: @Lucas_Shaw: "Pretty odd to see Hulu, owned by companies with a combined $400B, welcoming "rebels" to a carefully orchestrated advertising event."]

This semantic drain goes far beyond… [more]
2019  orianaschwindt  language  jargon  siliconvalley  words  titles  absurdity  latecapitalism  hucksters  gurus  late-capitalisticsemanticdrain  semantics  work  labor  corporatism  corporations 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
The Creative Clamor of Igiaba Scego’s ‘Beyond Babylon’ | by Jhumpa Lahiri | NYR Daily | The New York Review of Books
"Beyond Babylon is a variegated tapestry that unfurls over more than 400 pages and weaves together myriad stories, voices, settings, and time periods. But red and gray, and the contradictory realms they symbolize, are the two dominant threads. Red: a primary color on the spectrum, representative of life and death, of anger and love, of communism, of Catholic cardinals, of brides in the East. Gray, on the other hand, is absent from the color wheel. A singular shade that has no opposite, it is the color of in-betweenness, of imprecision, of shadows. A mixture of black and white, gray may be seen as a compromise, as ambiguity, as a meeting point between extremes. Gray is the color of cities, of asphalt and cement. Of sobriety but also impurity, given that it is not an independent tone, but a meeting point of both.

Colors have always been freighted with meaning: political, aesthetic, psychological, emotional. They are linked, in almost every culture, to rites of passage and to ceremonies of all kinds. In the Middle Ages, when each panel of a fresco told a separate story, each color had a value. Color, in this sense, stands for language itself. And, of course, there are the colors that we human beings are born with: the various shades of our skin, distinctive and indelible, that also tell a story, that indicate our genetic heritage and mark us from birth to death.

Beyond Babylon is a novel that interrogates language, race, and identity from beginning to end. Both Zuhra and Mar—the other central protagonist in the novel—are Italian women who are black. Zuhra is of Somali origin. Mar is half Somali and half Argentine. Both deal with color as a marker of race. Both struggle with what it means for them. As black women in a predominantly white country, they stand out and also feel invisible. If the inability to see colors is a source of frustration for Zuhra, her spirited telling of the story—in a series of red notebooks, she makes a point of saying—opens the reader’s eyes to what it means to be a black Italian woman: an element of Italian society that few see clearly, and some don’t recognize at all.

Like most literary quests, the search to regain color involves a journey, in this case, from Rome to Tunisia, where Mar and Zuhra have been sent to learn classical Arabic. This destination is itself described as a sort of “gray” in both the geographic and cultural sense, a nether-zone between Italy and Africa. But nearly everything in this novel is the product of mixture, of convergence, of hybridity, also of doubling. Everything is itself and also its counterpart. Mar and Zuhra are two sisters. They have two mothers. The two pairs of women occupy the center of two stories that themselves intersect in the novel. Interestingly, there is only one principle male figure, and he is connected, albeit in absentia, to all four of these women."



"There is no better time than now to bring this novel into English. Now, when women’s voices are being heard in a new way, when the silence surrounding sexual abuse is being shattered, articulated, exposed. Now, when the question of Italy’s identity in relation to the rest of Europe is increasingly in peril because of growing populism, growing xenophobia, and racially motivated crimes. Now, when those in power in Italy call to keep out foreigners and close its borders—an attitude unfortunately mirrored in other parts of the world—is the moment to read Beyond Babylon, a book that insists on all that is open and flowing, coalescent and coexistent. For the babel of plurilingualism, far from a condemnation, is in fact what enriches and ennobles our natural state. This is a novel not only about the importance of living astride more than one language, but about a woman writing herself, with her own words, and thus her own language, into being. The word babel has come to mean “incoherence” in English, but it is Hebrew for “confusion.” And Scego has written a novel that takes the act of confusion—literally, the melding together of disparate elements—to its highest and most articulate level."
igiabascego  jhumpalahiri  2019  italy  race  migration  feminism  racism  identity  xenophobia  language  color 
10 weeks ago by robertogreco
Pico Iyer Reflects on a Quarter-Century of Life in Japan - The New York Times
"In Japan, he notes, people accommodate themselves to small spaces, and so he and Hiroko have for a quarter-century. The transposition from a bustling office tower in Manhattan to a suburb of “the sleepy old city” of Nara has felt to him “as if I’ve walked out of a cluttered warehouse into a simple bare room with a scroll on the wall, everything so singular that emotion is brought to a pitch.” All this is part of what Iyer sees as an aesthetic of enhancement through subtraction, “the Japanese art of taking more and more away to charge the few things that remain.”

The book attempts a similar paring down, composed as it is of brief ruminations, notations, vignettes, descriptions. What holds everything together, besides Iyer’s elegantly smooth prose style and gift for detailed observation, is a circling around the theme of autumn in Japan and this autumnal period in his life. Self-described as having a restless “‘birdlike’ traveler’s temperament,” he spends half the year tending to his aging mother in California or reporting on subjects like “the warlords of Mogadishu,” but tries to get back to Japan each fall. This season teaches him the lesson of impermanence, the inevitability of decay, and “how to hold on to the things we love even though we know that we and they are dying.” Not much plot to speak of here: We watch Iyer going through his daily rounds, dropping in on his Ping-Pong club, visiting his mother-in-law in her nursing home, recalling scenes from the past. His wife, questioning him apprehensively, says, “Like Ozu movie? … Your book, nothing happening?” “Not exactly nothing,” he replies. “It’s in the spaces where nothing is happening that one has to make a life.” And indeed, he references Ozu films numerous times, particularly the way that cinematic master will cycle through the seasons as a metaphor for the changelessness of the nonhuman world within stories of human change and suffering. Of course, it’s harder to pull off on the page, without sublime actors like Chishu Ryu and Setsuko Hara to embody the effect.

Iyer’s wife makes for a marvelous presence, zooming away on her motorbike to her job in a boutique, cleaning the house briskly like a tornado or dashing off to honor dead ancestors at shrines and grave sites. Hiroko is the book’s motor, and Iyer is in awe of her energy, even as he says, a bit condescendingly: “It’s one of the qualities I most admire in her: She doesn’t stop to think” and “I have a wife who reminds me with every gesture that the only impulses to trust are the ones that arise without thought.” Hiroko strikes me as more quick-witted than thoughtless, but perhaps Iyer is aspiring, on her behalf, to the Buddhist ideal of the blank mind.

His own self-portrait is dimmer. He comes across as a modest, kind, gentle man, somewhat colorless, as though trying to practice spiritual erasure of the ego. He had moved to Japan “to learn how best to dissolve a sense of self within something larger and less temporary” — an admirable pursuit, though problematic for autobiographical writers. He admits he finds “belief” in general difficult, and says he doesn’t consider himself a Buddhist, but treats with fascinated respect his wife’s conviction that spirits and ghosts exist. He’s a big proponent of his own ignorance, saying he doesn’t choose to learn more than a smattering of Japanese because he needs mystery and “a sense of open space in life, something to offset the sense of the familiar.”

In a way, his attraction to Japan can be seen as an attempt to hold onto its exotic, eternal appeal — to his partly idealized picture of what the East has to offer a Western man in the way of healing. “Autumn Light” isn’t the book to turn to for an account of the political, social and economic problems of today’s Japan. Now in his 60s, Iyer feels free to communicate his tentative revelations about life. There’s much wisdom in what he says, though some of it comes close to platitude. But then, perhaps it’s the nature of hard-earned wisdom to sound like something we’ve heard many times before."
2019  picoiyer  japan  autumn  seasons  fall  impermanence  small  japanese  language  familiarity  ozu  buddhism  spirits  ignorance  familiar  subtraction 
11 weeks ago by robertogreco
k'eguro on Twitter: "(people who write about humans, what words do you use instead of "worth" and "value" and "potential" I've been trying to come up with different terms, but I'm dry)"
“(people who write about humans, what words do you use instead of "worth" and "value" and "potential" I've been trying to come up with different terms, but I'm dry)”

[some of the answers:

"Flourish/human flourishings is a personal favorite for replacing "potential""
https://twitter.com/robertramaswamy/status/1116692851616882688

"Heart/love for worth, Wisdom for value and imagination for potential. Generally like electric, energy, soul and magic."
https://twitter.com/Afrowomanist/status/1116781830156500992

"Muchness.
Or
Sparkle"
https://twitter.com/aleyakassam/status/1116732206829985794 ]
keguromacharia  language  english  words  humanism  capitalism 
april 2019 by robertogreco
The UX design case of closed captions for everyone // Sebastian Greger
"Are video subtitles really chiefly for users who cannot hear or lack an audio device? A recent Twitter thread on “closed captions for the hearing” triggered a brief qualitative exploration and thought experiment – there may well be a growing group of users being forgotten in the design of closed captions.

Most commonly perceived as an auxiliary means for the hearing impaired, video subtitles, a.k.a. closed captions (CC), have only recently started to be widely considered as an affordance for users in situations with no audio available/possible (think mobile devices in public settings, libraries, shared office spaces); the latter to the extend that contemporary “social media marketing guidelines” strongly recommend subtitling video clips uploaded to Facebook, Twitter et al.

So: subtitles are for those who cannot hear, or with muted devices?

Who else uses closed captions?

I’m personally a great fan of closed captions, for various reasons unrelated to either of the above, and have often noticed certain limitations in their design. Hence, the user researcher inside me just did a somersault as I randomly encountered a Twitter thread [https://twitter.com/jkottke/status/1091338252475396097 ] following Jason Kottke asking his 247.000 followers:
After seeing several photos my (English-speaking, non-deaf) friends have taken of their TV screens over the past week, I’m realizing that many of you watch TV with closed captions (or subtitles) on?! Is this a thing? And if so, why?

The 150+ replies (I guess this qualifies as a reasonable sample for a qualitative analysis of sorts?) are a wonderful example of “accessibility features” benefiting everybody (I wrote about another instance recently [https://sebastiangreger.net/2018/11/twitter-alt-texts-on-db-trains/ ]). The reasons why people watch TV with closed captions on, despite having good hearing abilities and not being constrained by having to watch muted video, are manifold and go far beyond those two most commonly anticipated use cases.

[image: Close-up image of a video with subtitles (caption: "Closed captions are used by people with good hearing and audio playback turned on. An overseen use case?")]

Even applying a rather shallow, ex-tempore categorisation exercise based on the replies on Twitter, I end up with an impressive list to start with:

• Permanent difficulties with audio content
◦ audio processing disorders
◦ short attention span (incl., but not limited to clinical conditions)
◦ hard of hearing, irrespective of age
• Temporary impairments of hearing or perception
◦ watching under the influence of alcohol
◦ noise from eating chips while watching
• Environmental/contextual factors
◦ environment noise from others in the room (or a snoring dog)
◦ distractions and multitasking (working out, child care, web browsing, working, phone calls)
• Reasons related to the media itself
◦ bad audio levels of voice vs. music
• Enabler for improved understanding
◦ easier to follow dialogue
◦ annoyance with missing dialogue
◦ avoidance of misinterpretations
◦ better appreciation of dialogue
• Better access to details
◦ able to take note of titles of songs played
◦ ability to understand song lyrics
◦ re-watching to catch missed details
• Language-related reasons
◦ strong accents
◦ fast talking, mumbling
◦ unable to understand foreign language
◦ insecurity with non-native language
• Educational goals, learning and understanding
◦ language learning
◦ literacy development for children
◦ seeing the spelling of unknown words/names
◦ easier memorability of content read (retainability)
• Social reasons
◦ courtesy to others, either in need for silence or with a need/preference for subtitles
◦ presence of pets or sleeping children
◦ avoiding social conflict over sound level or distractions (“CC = family peace”)
• Media habits
◦ ability to share screen photos with text online
• Personal preferences
◦ preference for reading
◦ acquired habit
• Limitations of technology skills
◦ lack of knowledge of how to turn them off

An attempt at designerly analysis

The reasons range from common sense to surprising, such as the examples of closed captions used to avoid family conflict or the two respondents explicitly mentioning “eating chips” as a source of disturbing noise. Motivations mentioned repeatedly refer to learning and/or understanding, but also such apparently banal reasons like not knowing how to turn them off (a usability issue?). Most importantly, though, it becomes apparent that using CC is more often than not related to choice/preference, rather than to impairment or restraints from using audio.

At the same time, it becomes very clear that not everybody likes them, especially when forced to watch with subtitles by another person. The desire/need of some may negatively affect the experience of others present. A repeat complaint that, particularly with comedy, CC can kill the jokes may also hint at the fact that subtitles and their timing could perhaps be improved by considering them as more than an accessibility aid for those who would not hear the audio? (It appears as if the scenario of audio and CC consumed simultaneously is not something considered when subtitles are created and implemented; are we looking at another case for “exclusive design”?)

And while perceived as distracting when new – this was the starting point of Kottke’s Tweet – many of the comments share the view that it becomes less obtrusive over time; people from countries where TV is not dubbed in particular are so used to it they barely notice it (“becomes second nature”). Yet, there are even such interesting behaviours like people skipping back to re-read a dialogue they only listened to at first, as well as that of skipping back to be able to pay better attention to the picture at second view (e.g. details of expression) after reading the subtitles initially.

Last but not least, it is interesting how people may even feel shame over using CC. Only a conversation like the cited Twitter thread may help them realise that it is much more common than they thought. And most importantly that it has nothing to do with a perceived stigmatisation of being “hard of hearing”.

CC as part of video content design

The phenomenon is obviously not new. Some articles on the topic suggest that it is a generational habit [https://medium.com/s/the-upgrade/why-gen-z-loves-closed-captioning-ec4e44b8d02f ] of generation Z (though Kottke’s little survey proves the contrary), or even sees [https://www.wired.com/story/closed-captions-everywhere/ ] it as paranoid and obsessive-compulsive behaviour of “postmodern completists” as facilitated by new technological possibilities. Research on the benefits of CC for language learning, on the other hand, reaches back [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/19388078909557984 ] several decades.

No matter what – the phenomenon in itself is interesting enough to make this a theme for deeper consideration in any design project that contains video material. Because, after all, one thing is for sure: closed captions are not for those with hearing impairments or with muted devices alone – and to deliver great UX, these users should be considered as well."

[See also: https://kottke.org/19/04/why-everyone-is-watching-tv-with-closed-captioning-on-these-days ]
closedcaptioning  subtitles  closedcaptions  text  reading  genz  generationz  audio  video  tv  film  dialogue  listening  howweread  2019  sebastiangreger  literacy  language  languages  ux  ui  television  ocd  attention  adhd  languagelearning  learning  howwelearn  processing  hearing  sound  environment  parenting  media  multimedia  clarity  accents  memory  memorization  children  distractions  technology  classideas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Language Is Migrant - South Magazine Issue #8 [documenta 14 #3] - documenta 14
"Language is migrant. Words move from language to language, from culture to culture, from mouth to mouth. Our bodies are migrants; cells and bacteria are migrants too. Even galaxies migrate.

What is then this talk against migrants? It can only be talk against ourselves, against life itself.

Twenty years ago, I opened up the word “migrant,” seeing in it a dangerous mix of Latin and Germanic roots. I imagined “migrant” was probably composed of mei, Latin for “to change or move,” and gra, “heart” from the Germanic kerd. Thus, “migrant” became “changed heart,”
a heart in pain,
changing the heart of the earth.

The word “immigrant” says, “grant me life.”

“Grant” means “to allow, to have,” and is related to an ancient Proto-Indo-European root: dhe, the mother of “deed” and “law.” So too, sacerdos, performer of sacred rites.

What is the rite performed by millions of people displaced and seeking safe haven around the world? Letting us see our own indifference, our complicity in the ongoing wars?

Is their pain powerful enough to allow us to change our hearts? To see our part in it?

I “wounder,” said Margarita, my immigrant friend, mixing up wondering and wounding, a perfect embodiment of our true condition!

Vicente Huidobro said, “Open your mouth to receive the host of the wounded word.”

The wound is an eye. Can we look into its eyes?
my specialty is not feeling, just
looking, so I say:
(the word is a hard look.)
—Rosario Castellanos

I don’t see with my eyes: words
are my eyes.
—Octavio Paz

In l980, I was in exile in Bogotá, where I was working on my “Palabrarmas” project, a way of opening words to see what they have to say. My early life as a poet was guided by a line from Novalis: “Poetry is the original religion of mankind.” Living in the violent city of Bogotá, I wanted to see if anybody shared this view, so I set out with a camera and a team of volunteers to interview people in the street. I asked everybody I met, “What is Poetry to you?” and I got great answers from beggars, prostitutes, and policemen alike. But the best was, “Que prosiga,” “That it may go on”—how can I translate the subjunctive, the most beautiful tiempo verbal (time inside the verb) of the Spanish language? “Subjunctive” means “next to” but under the power of the unknown. It is a future potential subjected to unforeseen conditions, and that matches exactly the quantum definition of emergent properties.

If you google the subjunctive you will find it described as a “mood,” as if a verbal tense could feel: “The subjunctive mood is the verb form used to express a wish, a suggestion, a command, or a condition that is contrary to fact.” Or “the ‘present’ subjunctive is the bare form of a verb (that is, a verb with no ending).”

I loved that! A never-ending image of a naked verb! The man who passed by as a shadow in my film saying “Que prosiga” was on camera only for a second, yet he expressed in two words the utter precision of Indigenous oral culture.

People watching the film today can’t believe it was not scripted, because in thirty-six years we seem to have forgotten the art of complex conversation. In the film people in the street improvise responses on the spot, displaying an awareness of language that seems to be missing today. I wounder, how did it change? And my heart says it must be fear, the ocean of lies we live in, under a continuous stream of doublespeak by the violent powers that rule us. Living under dictatorship, the first thing that disappears is playful speech, the fun and freedom of saying what you really think. Complex public conversation goes extinct, and along with it, the many species we are causing to disappear as we speak.

The word “species” comes from the Latin speciēs, “a seeing.” Maybe we are losing species and languages, our joy, because we don’t wish to see what we are doing.

Not seeing the seeing in words, we numb our senses.

I hear a “low continuous humming sound” of “unmanned aerial vehicles,” the drones we send out into the world carrying our killing thoughts.

Drones are the ultimate expression of our disconnect with words, our ability to speak without feeling the effect or consequences of our words.

“Words are acts,” said Paz.

Our words are becoming drones, flying robots. Are we becoming desensitized by not feeling them as acts? I am thinking not just of the victims but also of the perpetrators, the drone operators. Tonje Hessen Schei, director of the film Drone, speaks of how children are being trained to kill by video games: “War is made to look fun, killing is made to look cool. ... I think this ‘militainment’ has a huge cost,” not just for the young soldiers who operate them but for society as a whole. Her trailer opens with these words by a former aide to Colin Powell in the Bush/Cheney administration:
OUR POTENTIAL COLLECTIVE FUTURE. WATCH IT AND WEEP FOR US. OR WATCH IT AND DETERMINE TO CHANGE THAT FUTURE
—Lawrence Wilkerson, Colonel U.S. Army (retired)


In Astro Noise, the exhibition by Laura Poitras at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the language of surveillance migrates into poetry and art. We lie in a collective bed watching the night sky crisscrossed by drones. The search for matching patterns, the algorithms used to liquidate humanity with drones, is turned around to reveal the workings of the system. And, we are being surveyed as we survey the show! A new kind of visual poetry connecting our bodies to the real fight for the soul of this Earth emerges, and we come out woundering: Are we going to dehumanize ourselves to the point where Earth itself will dream our end?

The fight is on everywhere, and this may be the only beauty of our times. The Quechua speakers of Peru say, “beauty is the struggle.”

Maybe darkness will become the source of light. (Life regenerates in the dark.)

I see the poet/translator as the person who goes into the dark, seeking the “other” in him/herself, what we don’t wish to see, as if this act could reveal what the world keeps hidden.

Eduardo Kohn, in his book How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human notes the creation of a new verb by the Quichua speakers of Ecuador: riparana means “darse cuenta,” “to realize or to be aware.” The verb is a Quichuan transfiguration of the Spanish reparar, “to observe, sense, and repair.” As if awareness itself, the simple act of observing, had the power to heal.

I see the invention of such verbs as true poetry, as a possible path or a way out of the destruction we are causing.

When I am asked about the role of the poet in our times, I only question: Are we a “listening post,” composing an impossible “survival guide,” as Paul Chan has said? Or are we going silent in the face of our own destruction?

Subcomandante Marcos, the Zapatista guerrilla, transcribes the words of El Viejo Antonio, an Indian sage: “The gods went looking for silence to reorient themselves, but found it nowhere.” That nowhere is our place now, that’s why we need to translate language into itself so that IT sees our awareness.

Language is the translator. Could it translate us to a place within where we cease to tolerate injustice and the destruction of life?

Life is language. “When we speak, life speaks,” says the Kaushitaki Upanishad.

Awareness creates itself looking at itself.

It is transient and eternal at the same time.

Todo migra. Let’s migrate to the “wounderment” of our lives, to poetry itself."
ceciliavicuña  language  languages  words  migration  immigration  life  subcomandantemarcos  elviejoantonio  lawrencewilkerson  octaviopaz  exile  rosariocastellanos  poetry  spanish  español  subjunctive  oral  orality  conversation  complexity  seeing  species  joy  tonjehessenschei  war  colinpowell  laurapoitras  art  visual  translation  eduoardokohn  quechua  quichua  healing  repair  verbs  invention  listening  kaushitakiupanishad  awareness  noticing  wondering  vicentehuidobro  wounds  woundering  migrants  unknown  future  potential  unpredictability  emergent  drones  morethanhuman  multispecies  paulchan  destruction  displacement  refugees  extinction  others  tolerance  injustice  justice  transience  ephemerality  ephemeral  canon  eternal  surveillance  patterns  algorithms  earth  sustainability  environment  indifference  complicity  dictatorship  documenta14  2017  classideas 
march 2019 by robertogreco
David Bowles – Medium
[via: Mexican X Part X: What the Hex a ‘Latinx’?
https://blog.usejournal.com/mexican-x-part-x-what-the-hex-a-latinx-706b64dafe22 ]

[some of the contents:

Mexican X Part I: Why Is México Pronounced Méjico?
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/why-is-m%C3%A9xico-pronounced-m%C3%A9jico-266278c73e11

Mexican X Part II: ¡Hijo de su Mexica Equis!
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-ii-hijo-de-su-mexica-equis-76342d845176

Mexican X Part III: Dude, Where’s My Xocolate?
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-iii-dude-wheres-my-xocolate-b7998439b111

Mexican X Part IV: You Say “Tomato,” I Say You’re Missing a Syllable, Bro!
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-iv-you-say-tomato-i-say-youre-missing-a-syllable-bro-1f002f4f110c

Mexican X Part V: Rise of the Bruxa
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-v-rise-of-the-bruxa-df3d2b2abc4f

Mexican X Part VI: And the Xicanos, Ese?
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-vi-and-the-xicanos-ese-91534614ad1c

Mexican X Part VII: The Curse of Malinalxochitl
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-vii-the-curse-of-malinalxochitl-71be0cde6e95

Mexican X Part VIII: ¿Qué Onda, Xavo?
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-viii-qu%C3%A9-onda-xavo-4f46c7ad674c

Mexican X Part IX: True Chiefs and False Friends in Texas
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-ix-true-chiefs-and-false-friends-in-texas-5e8763b10db9

Mexican X Part X: What the Hex a ‘Latinx’?
https://blog.usejournal.com/mexican-x-part-x-what-the-hex-a-latinx-706b64dafe22

Mexican X Part XI: Rise of a New X
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-xi-rise-of-a-new-x-4c30c0f74ad8

Mexican X Part XII: Xochihuah and Queer Aztecs
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-part-xii-what-did-a-xochihuah-possess-3784532d8023



Mexican X-plainer: Tolkien, Sephardim, and Northern Mexican Spanish
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-tolkien-sephardim-and-northern-mexican-spanish-e7235c0f9585

Mexican X-plainer: Tacos, Not Tlahcos
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-tacos-not-tlahcos-62f7a72826fb

Mexican X-plainer: Al-Andalus & the Flour Tortilla
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-al-andalus-and-the-flour-tortil-5a7d10346b8f

Mexican X-plainer: Is “Cigarette” Mayan?
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-is-cigarette-mayan-771475b58dce

Mexican X-plainer: The Aztec Calendar(s)
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-the-aztec-calendar-s-8a7757bf8389

Mexican X-Plainer: Mustachioed Racists?
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-mustachioed-racists-800644589804

Mexican X-plainer: Balls, Nuts & Avocados
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-balls-nuts-avocados-6611eab0a64f

Mexican X-plainer: Chiclets & Aztecs
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/mexican-x-plainer-chiclets-smacking-gum-cf204c6d9c67



Nahuatl, the Past, and the Future
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/nahuatl-the-past-and-the-future-9e54bc1f6586

Nahuatl’s Lack of Grammatical Gender
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/nahuatls-lack-of-grammatical-gender-5896ed54f2d7

Feminist Nahuatl Lexicon, Part I
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/feminist-nahuatl-lexicon-part-i-85207604f796

Anti-Trump Nahuatl Lexicon
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/anti-trump-nahuatl-lexicon-c13cacfc0978




Retranslating Nezahualcoyotl
https://medium.com/@davidbowles/retranslating-nezahualcoyotl-3a868eeb4424 ]
davidbowles  x  latinx  mexico  language  spanish  nahuatl  español  2017  2018  2019  history  etymology  aztec  linguistics 
march 2019 by robertogreco
They call me Stacy on Twitter: "I wrote an article last year about how we underdefine "diversity" in LIS (and just about everywhere else) and how that underdefinition is a subtle & critical part of upholding white supremacy and the status quo. So let's go
"I wrote an article last year about how we underdefine "diversity" in LIS (and just about everywhere else) and how that underdefinition is a subtle & critical part of upholding white supremacy and the status quo.

So let's go ahead and define it so I can keep procrastinating.

Dr. Joyce Bell has described “diversity” as “happy talk”—a vague, superficial concept tossed about for its optimism and more importantly for its ambiguity. It obscures social inequities in favor of platitudes about the enrichment of unspecified difference.

And just a small note to add here: do not use “diversity” as shorthand for black and brown folks or any other marginalized identities. If you mean race or racism, say it. If you mean gender or transmisia, say it. If you mean disability or ableism, say it. Say what you mean.

Dr. D-L Stewart says diversity is rhetoric that asks insufficient questions—“who’s in the room?” rather than “who can’t get into the room?” It celebrates numbers increases while ignoring harmful and abusive systems. *cough* ALL of higher ed *cough cough*

This what we get when we frame diversity as a strategy—the thing we should focus on to fix the fact that we lack diversity. On the surface it makes sense: “I don’t have any toast in the house; the best way to fix this is to find toast and bring it in—toastify the house!”

But this strategy completely ignores and doesn’t address the actual issue—you don’t have a toaster.

When we think of adding diversity as the solution to our homogeneity, we fall into what Lorna Peterson calls the “interior design theory.” Add a little color, a queer lamp, a neurodivergent chair, and the environment is vastly improved without challenging the underlying structure

A Jez Humble quote has been floating around lately, and though they were discussing software development systems & workflows, the sentiment applies pretty much universally.

“If you bring good people into broken cultures, you don’t fix the culture, you break the people.”

Diversity is not a strategy; it’s an outcome. Diversity is the sunshine that brightens a room when we open the curtains and clean the grime off the windows. It is the heat that warms the house when we unclog our furnace and improve our insulation (yes i hate winter).

Diversity is one result when we dismantle systemic barriers in our fields and institutions. It is one metric (and an important one) of our anti-oppression and equity work as we progress towards lasting systemic change.

Now back to my review of a book coincidentally produced by the white cis-heteropatriarchy dominated children's & YA publishing industry. ttfn🖖🏾

Wow y'all, this got way more attention than I was expecting. Folks have been asking about how to find the article so here:

Collins, A. M. (2018). Language, Power, and Oppression in the LIS Diversity Void. Library Trends 67(1), 39-51.

It's behind a paywall, so DM me if you don't have institutional access.

Also I HIGHLY recommend reading the entire Summer 2018 issue of Library Trends--Race and Ethnicity in Library and Information Science: An Update @LibraryNicole, Issue Editor

1) diversity and even equity have been underdefined or flat out defined incorrectly in LIS and elsewhere, but that doesn't mean they don't, in fact, have definitions or that they aren't essential concepts for anti-racism & anti-oppression.

2) These terms are not "hard to define;" they are hard to define without disrupting white supremacy and other systems of oppression. Making these concepts of systemic change work for a status quo agenda takes a lot of linguistic effort, but wow are we good at it.

3) I have also seen a rampant misuse of "intersectionality." This isn't the same as misdefining "diversity" and is directly in service of systemic racism. Using it without understanding it is not okay; appropriating it to twist or soften its meaning is not okay. Please don't.

If you want a better understanding of intersectionality, I'm attaching @kat_blaque's excellent thread on it. You can also Google any of Kimberlé Crenshaw's amazing TEDTalks.

TL; DR diversity is not how we get equity; equity is how we get diversity.

Don't tell me how you're diversifying your institution; tell me how you're dismantling barriers. Don't tell me how you're "evening the playing field" in LIS; tell me how you're changing the game."
diversity  inclusion  inclusivity  exclusion  race  racism  gender  sexism  transmisia  disability  ableism  dlstewart  amcollins  language  equity  oppression  whitesupremacy  change  statusquo 
march 2019 by robertogreco
Why the Spanish Dialogue in 'Spider-Verse' Doesn't Have Subtitles
"While watching the new animated feature Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse – featuring Miles Morales’ big screen debut as the arachnid superhero – it’s reassuring to notice the subtle, yet transcendent details through which the creators ensured both parts of his cultural identity are present.

Miles (voiced by Shameik Moore), an Afro-Latino teen who lives in Brooklyn and first appeared in Marvel’s comics back in 2011, is the son of a Puerto Rican mother and an African-American father. The protagonist’s significance – when it comes to representation – cannot be overstated, making the fact that he and his mother (Rio Morales who’s voiced by Nuyorican actress Luna Lauren Velez) speak Spanish throughout the action-packed narrative truly momentous.

Although brief, the Spanish phrases and words we hear connote the genuine colloquialisms that arise in bilingual homes as opposed to the artificiality that sometimes peppers US-produced movies and feels like the result of lines being fed through Google Translate. It might come as a surprise for some that Phil Lord, known for writing and directing The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street with his close collaborator Christopher Miller, was not only one of the main scribes and a producer on Spider-Verse, but also the person in charge of the Spanish-language dialogue.

“I grew up in a bilingual household in the bilingual city of Miami where you hear Spanish all over the place, and it’s not particularly remarkable,” he told Remezcla at the film’s premiere in Los Angeles. Lord’s mother is from Cuba and his father is from the States. As part of a Cuban-American family, the filmmaker empathized with Miles’ duality: “I certainly understand what it’s like to feel like you’re half one thing and half something else,” he noted.

[image]

Despite the massive success of Pixar’s Coco, including Spanish-language dialogue in a major studio’s animated release is still rare – doing so without adding subtitles, even for some of the longer lines, is outright daring. “It was important for us to hear Spanish and not necessarily have it subtitled,” said Lord. “It’s just part of the fabric of Miles’ community and family life.”

For Luna Lauren Velez, whose character speaks mostly in Spanish to Miles, Lord and the directors’ decision to not translate her text in any way helped validate the Latino experience on screen. “That was really bold, because if you use subtitles all of a sudden we are outside, and we are not part of this world anymore. It was brilliant that they just allowed for it to exist,” she told Remezcla. Her role as Rio Morales also benefited from the production’s adherence to specificity in the source material, she is not portrayed as just generically Latina but as a Puerto Rican woman from Brooklyn.

With the help of a dialect coach, Velez and Lord were also partially responsible for getting Shameik Moore (who has roots in Jamaica) to learn the handful of Spanish-language expressions Miles uses during the opening sequence were he walks around his neighborhood. “[Luna] has been getting on me! I need to go to Puerto Rico, and really learn Spanish for real,” Moore candidly told Remezcla on the red carpet.

Aside from Rio and Miles, the only other Spanish-speaking character is a villain named Scorpion. The insect-like bad guy who speaks only in Spanish is voiced by famed Mexican performer Joaquín Cosio. “He is an actor from Mexico City who was using slang that we had to look up because we didn’t understand it! I had never heard some of the words he used,” explained Lord.

[video: "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - "Gotta Go" Clip"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Q9foLtQidk ]

For Lord, having different Spanish accents represented is one of the parts of Into the Spider-Verse he’s the most proud of. He wanted to make sure Miles and Rio didn’t sound alike to indicate how language changes through different generations. Being himself the child of a Cuban immigrant, the parallels were very direct. “Miles is second-generation, so he speaks different than his mother.”

Velez, who like Miles is born in New York, identifies with what it’s like to communicate in both tongues. “Growing my parents spoke to us in Spanish and we responded in English. Now this happens with my nieces and nephews,” she said. “You want to make sure kids remember their culture and where they come from.” In playing Rio, she thought of her mother who instilled in her not only the language but appreciation for her Latinidad.

Clearly, casting Velez was essential to upholding the diversity and authenticity embedded into Miles Morales’ heroic adventure since not doing so would have been a disservice to an iteration of an iconic figure that is so meaningful for many. “If Spider-Man’s Puerto Rican mom had been played by somebody who isn’t Latino I’d have a problem with that,” Velez stated emphatically."
language  translation  spanish  español  bilingualism  bilingual  srg  edg  glvo  carlosaguilar  2018  spider-verse  spiderman  miami  losangeles  nyc  coco  subtitles  specificity  puertorico  cuba  immigration  via:tealtan  accents  change  adaptation  latinidad 
february 2019 by robertogreco
An Essay by Miho Nonaka | Kenyon Review Online
[So good. There's really no good way to quote this one, so here are just a few sections.]

"Heavenly Worm

Mrs. Itō, our fourth-grade teacher, drew a new kanji character on the board: 蚕. “Worm from heaven,” she announced, “as you can see.” Heaven splits open like a curtain (天) and inside it dwells the worm (虫). For each student, she took out five worms from her basket and put them in a small paper box to take home. Having just hatched from their eggs, these worms were still covered in little black hairs. That’s why at this stage they are called kego (hairy baby), Mrs. Itō told us. To feed these dark babies, julienne your mulberry leaves first."



"Platinum Boy, 2006

After decades of research, Japanese silkworm breeders discovered a reliable method of hatching exclusively male silkworms. Female silkworms eat more, sleep more, take up more space, and are measurably less efficient in transforming mulberry leaves into silk. The verdict was clear: female silkworms are inferior for silk production.

Silk spinners and kimono weavers are unanimous in their praise of male silk: their thread is consistently finer, sturdier, glossier, whiter, and their cocoons are easier to harvest when boiled.

The birth site of Platinum Boy is literally black and white. When you look at a piece of paper where silkworm eggs are laid, white eggs are the empty shells from which male larvae have already hatched. They will thrive on the diet of tender mulberry shoot which, combined with their spit, will eventually turn into raw silk, translucent like frosted glass. The dark eggs contain female larvae that will never hatch and only keep darkening."



"Ten Thousand Leaves I

Compiled in the mideighth century, Man’yōshū (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves) is the oldest Japanese anthology: more than forty-five hundred poems in twenty books. In the sweltering heat of the attic, I wasn’t looking for any particular motif when I happened on poem No. 2495, composed by Kakinomoto no Hitomaro, a low rank courtier and one of the “Saints of Japanese Poetry”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
how can I see my love
who lives secluded at home?

Poem No. 2991 is almost the same poem by another poet, simply tagged “unknown”:
like my mother’s
silkworms confined
inside cocoons,
sadness clouds my heart
when I cannot see her

The motif of a silk cocoon as the inaccessible, lyrical interior goes back to the dawn of Japanese poetics. The cocoon encases the image of the beloved, the poet’s longing that keeps building inside, and in my poem it holds the mother as a mythical seamstress, stitching blue in each wrist of her unborn daughter."



"職人 I

I used to blame my grandmother on my father’s side, who was described to me as fierce, frantic, funny, a destructive visionary and unsuccessful business entrepreneur during the critical times of the Second World War. When I felt defeated by the radical pull of my own emotion, I would attach them to the face of the woman I had never met in person, only in a fading picture where she stands next to my young father without glasses, still a student with surprisingly gentle eyes.

My father recently told me during one of our late-night international calls from Tokyo: “Your grandfathers were both shokunin (craftsman), remember? It’s in your DNA, too.” His father had come from a large family of silk farmers. After he left home, adopting the newly introduced Singer sewing machines, he began manufacturing Japanese cloven-toed socks, the traditional kind that used to be hand-sewn, and during the war, he took the assignment to sew parachutes for the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force. While he worked under dimmed light, my young father put up his primitive drawing of warplanes on the wall, covered in fine grains of sand."



"Small Things

They say (I love the convenience, but who are “they”?) that attention to detail is a characteristic of the Japanese. I am drawn to small things: tadpoles, silica beads, star sands in a vial, a notebook the size of a thumbnail, fish scales, a nativity scene inside half a walnut shell. I am terribly myopic like my father, and I like things that are near. Large things loom over and terrify: airports, Costco, churches in Texas, the Tokyo Skytree, Mount Rushmore (those granite faces I once believed had surfaced in response to the historic atomic bombing), and that elusive word “global.”"



"Komako

It didn’t occur to me until I tried translating a few passages from Snow Country that the young geisha’s name Komako (駒子) means Pony Child. What inspired the author Kawabata to portray his heroine as a woman of equine grace? We don’t know her family name. On the other hand, we don’t know the first name of Shimamura, who is referred to only by his last name.

I imagine if your family name is a gate to the house, your first name must be its interior. In the days when the first book of Man’yōshū was composed, asking a maiden’s first name was synonymous with proposing to her. Knowing it meant possessing the person.

Komako’s body is translucent like a silkworm, and an unearthly room encloses her fruitless passion like a white cocoon. While writing Snow Country, Kawabata says he distanced himself from Shimamura, who serves merely as a foil to Komako. “As an author, I entered deep inside the character of Komako, but casually turned my back to Shimamura,” he writes in the afterward. “Especially in terms of emotion—Komako’s sadness is nothing other than my own sadness. . . .” And so it is; his heart has become subsumed into her heart."



"Body

I find it impossible to talk about the body (mine and everyone else’s) without sounding embarrassed or oddly distant. I don’t mean to self-deprecate, but it has been almost too fashionable, too charged a topic for me to feel safe around. (A cowardly thing to say—the truth is, no one is safe.)

I won’t pretend my body is a plain blockhouse, or a slab of flesh aching with desire or lack thereof. Who could have taught me to stay at home in my own body all the while I traveled from one country to another, turning from the spontaneous, if careless, music of my mother tongue to the cautious economy of English, reaching out, in the hope of actually reaching and being reached?

For the subjects most critical to me, I find no teachers. Perhaps there is not enough demand? I believe I am badly behind everyone and that I missed an opportunity to ask questions long ago. People my age in this country sound fluent in the body, discussing it with just the right amount of sarcasm and laughter without revealing much, like they have been on intimate terms with it since they learned to speak. I suppose I should have listened to the body harder, without ulterior motives."
mihononaka  silk  essays  canon  howwewrite  2017  silkworms  multispecies  japan  japanese  language  gender  via:ayjay  poetry  writing  fabric  textiles  srg  glvo  insects  history  cocoons  craft  translation  languages  childhood  change  materials  process  form  details  weaving  texture  morethanhuman  shinto  bodies  body  small  slow 
february 2019 by robertogreco
On Instagram, Seeing Between the (Gender) Lines - The New York Times
"SOCIAL MEDIA HAS TURNED OUT TO BE THE PERFECT TOOL FOR NONBINARY PEOPLE TO FIND — AND MODEL — THEIR UNIQUE PLACES ON THE GENDER SPECTRUM."



"Around the same time, Moore became aware of a performance-and-poetry group (now disbanded) called Dark Matter. Moore became transfixed by videos of one of its members, Alok Vaid-Menon, who was able to eloquently dismiss conventional notions of gender, particularly the idea that there are only two. Seeing people like Vaid-Menon online gave Moore the courage to reconsider how they approached gender. Moore began experimenting with their outward appearance. Before Moore changed the pronoun they used, Moore had favored a more masculine, dandy-like aesthetic — close-cropped hair, button-down shirts and bow ties — in large part to fit in at work. Moore began wearing their hair longer and often chose less gender-specific clothing, like T-shirts or boxy tops, which felt more natural and comfortable to them. Vaid-Menon’s assuredness, Moore said, “boosted my confidence in terms of defining and asserting my own identity in public spaces.”

A shift in technology emboldened Moore, too. In 2014, Facebook updated its site to include nonbinary gender identities and pronouns, adding more than 50 options for users who don’t identify as male or female, including agender, gender-questioning and intersex. It was a profound moment for Moore. “They had options I didn’t even know about,” Moore told me. That summer, Moore selected “nonbinary,” alerting their wider social spheres, including childhood friends and family members who also used the site. For Moore, it saved them some of the energy of having to explain their name and pronoun shift. Moore also clarified their gender pronouns on Instagram. “I wrote it into my profile to make it more explicit.” To some, the act might seem small, but for Moore, their identity “felt crystallized, and important.”

Several societies and cultures understand gender as more varied than just man or woman, but in the United States, a gender binary has been the norm. “In our cultural history, we’ve never had anything close to a third category, or even the notion that you could be in between categories,” said Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Risman, who recently published a book called “Where the Millennials Will Take Us: A New Generation Wrestles With the Gender Structure,” contrasted her early research with what she is seeing now. Few of the people she interviewed for the book in 2012 and 2013 were openly using nongendered pronouns, if they even knew about them. Just four years later, she began researching nonbinary young adults because the landscape had changed so radically. “It was reflexive with their friends at school, social groups. Many colleges classes start out with ‘Name, major and preferred pronouns,’ ” Risman told me. In Risman’s experience, it used to take decades to introduce new ideas about sex, sexuality or gender, and even longer for them to trickle upstream into society. “What’s fascinating is how quickly the public conversation has led to legal changes,” Risman said. California and Washington, among others, now allow people to select “x” as their gender, instead of “male” or “female,” on identity documents. “And I am convinced that it has to do with — like everything else in society — the rapid flow of information.”

Helana Darwin, a sociologist at the State University of New York at Stony Brook who began researching nonbinary identities in 2014, found that the social-media community played an unparalleled role in people’s lives, especially those who were geographically isolated from other nonbinary people. “Either they were very confused about what was going on or just feeling crushingly lonely and without support, and their online community was the only support in their lives,” Darwin told me. “They turned to the site to understand they aren’t alone.” Most of her subjects said social media was instrumental in deepening their understanding of their identities. “A 61-year-old person in my sample told me that they lived the vast majority of their life as though they were a gay man and was mistaken often as a drag queen after coming out. They didn’t discover nonbinary until they were in their 50s, and it was a freeing moment of understanding that nothing is wrong. They didn’t have to force themselves into the gay-man or trans-woman box — they could just be them. They described it as transcendent.”

When Darwin began her study four years ago, she was shocked to discover that the body of research on nonbinary people was nearly nonexistent. “Even as nonbinary people are becoming increasing visible and vocal, there were still only a handful of articles published in the field of sociology that were even tangentially about nonbinary people and even fewer that were explicitly about nonbinary people.” What little research there was tended to lump the nonbinary experience into trans-woman and trans-man experience, even though all signs pointed to deep differences. The void in the field, she thinks, was due to society’s reliance on the notion that all humans engage in some sense of gender-based identity performance, which reaffirms the idea that gender exists. “There was an academic lag that isn’t keeping with the very urgent and exponentially profound gender revolution happening in our culture.”

Her research found that social media is a gathering place for discussing the logistics of gender — providing advice, reassurance and emotional support, as well as soliciting feedback about everything from voice modulation to hairstyles. The internet is a place where nonbinary people can learn about mixing masculine and feminine elements to the point of obscuring concrete identification as either. As one person she interviewed put it, “Every day someone can’t tell what I am is a good day.”

Nearly everyone Darwin interviewed remarked about the power of acquiring language that spoke to their identity, and they tended to find that language on the internet. But Harry Barbee, a nonbinary sociologist at Florida State University who studies sex, gender and sexuality, cautioned against treating social media as a curative. “When the world assumes you don’t exist, you’re forced to define yourself into existence if you want some semblance of recognition and social viability, and so the internet and social media helps achieve this,” Barbee said. “But it’s not a dream world where we are free to be you and me, because it can also be a mechanism for social control.” Barbee has been researching what it means to live as nonbinary in a binary world. Social media, Barbee said, is “one realm where they do feel free to share who they are, but they’re realistic about the limitations of the space. Even online, they are confronted by hostility and people who are telling them they’re just confused or that makes no sense, or want to talk to them about their genitals.”"



"Psychologists often posit that as children, we operate almost like scientists, experimenting and gathering information to make sense of our surroundings. Children use their available resources — generally limited to their immediate environment — to gather cues, including information about gender roles, to create a sense of self. Alison Gopnik, a renowned philosopher and child psychologist, told me that it’s not enough to simply tell children that other identities or ways of being exist. “That still won’t necessarily change their perspective,” she said. “They have to see it.”

In her 2009 book, “The Philosophical Baby,” Gopnik writes that “when we travel, we return to the wide-ranging curiosity of childhood, and we discover new things about ourselves.” In a new geographic area, our attention is heightened, and everything, from differently labeled condiments to streetwear, becomes riveting. “This new knowledge lets us imagine new ways that we could live ourselves,” she asserts. Flying over feeds in social media can feel like viewing portholes into new dimensions and realities, so I asked Gopnick if it’s possible that social media can function as a foreign country, where millions of new ideas and identities and habitats are on display — and whether that exposure can pry our calcified minds open in unexpected ways. “Absolutely,” she said. “Having a wider range of possibilities to look at gives people a sense of a wider range of possibilities, and those different experiences might lead to having different identities.”

When we dive into Instagram or Facebook, we are on exploratory missions, processing large volumes of information that help us shape our understanding of ourselves and one another. And this is a country that a majority of young adults are visiting on a regular basis. A Pew study from this year found that some 88 percent of 18-to-29-year-olds report using some form of social media, and 71 percent of Americans between ages 18 and 24 use Instagram. Social media is perhaps the most influential form of media they now have. They turn to it for the profound and the mundane — to shape their views and their aesthetics. Social media is a testing ground for expression, the locus of experimentation and exploration — particularly for those who cannot yet fully inhabit themselves offline for fear of discrimination, or worse. Because of that, it has become a lifeline for many people struggling to find others just like them."



"Although social media generally conditions users to share only their highlights — the success reel of their lives — Vaid-Menon thinks it’s important to share the reality of living in a gender-nonconforming body; they want people to understand what the daily experience can be like. “The majority of nonbinary, gender-nonconforming cannot manifest themselves because to do so would mean violence, death, harassment and punishment,” Vaid-Menon told me. … [more]
jennawortham  2018  instagam  internet  web  online  gender  gendernonconforming  culture  us  alisongopnik  maticemoore  alokvaid-memon  barbararisman  helanadarwin  psychology  learning  howwelearn  nonbinary  sexuality  jacobtobia  pidgeonpagonis  danezsmith  akwaekeemezi  jonelyxiumingaagaardandersson  ahomariturner  raindove  taylormason  asiakatedillon  twitter  instagram  children  dennisnorisii  naveenbhat  elisagerosenberg  sevaquinnparraharrington  ashleighshackelford  hengamehyagoobifarah  donaldtrump  socialmedia  socialnetworks  discrimination  fear  bullying  curiosity  childhood  identity  self  language 
february 2019 by robertogreco
Between Two Languages: An Interview with Yoko Tawada
"Among the finest of Tawada’s works are short stories about adapting to new cultures, both physically and linguistically. The daughter of a nonfiction translator and academic bookseller, Tawada learned to read in over five languages; she speaks English, but doesn’t write it. “I feel in between two languages, and that’s big enough,” she told me. Her stories often turn on feeling outside the culture, as an immigrant, as a citizen witnessing great national change, or even as a tourist."



"I look like a person who cannot think when I wake up, because I’m still quite between the sleep and the dream and the waking, and that’s the best time for business."



"Being multilingual is tricky. I feel more as though I am between two languages, and that feels like enough. To study that in-between space has given me so much poetry. I don’t feel like one of those international people who juggles many tongues."
yokotawada  language  languages  bilingualism  2018  interviews  japan  japanese  howwewrite  dreams  sleep  liminality  betweenness  littoralzone  liminalspaces  multilingualism  dualism  srg 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Translation Blogs We Think You Should Be Reading | Center for the Art of Translation | Two Lines Press
"Here are some of our favorite translation blogs (listed alphabetically). And we need your help! Which ones are we missing?

• Arablit was founded by M. Lynx Qualey and covers Arabic literature in (and not yet in) translation. There you can find roundups of forthcoming books translated from Arabic, book reviews, resources for teachers of Arabic literature in translation, and so much more. Plus, it’s the home of the ArabLit Story Prize.
https://arablit.org/

• Asymptote’s blog has a regular circulation of reviews, essays, and translations, as well as a weekly roundup of world literature news.
https://www.asymptotejournal.com/blog/
https://arablit.org/category/teaching-with-arabic-literature-in-translation/
https://arablit.org/2018/02/11/sunday-submissions-announcing-the-2018-arablit-story-prize/

• Biblibio is the blog of Meytal Radzinski, the founder of the Women in Translation movement and WITMonth. As Radzinski herself describes: “Biblibio is not a review blog. What does that mean? It means that the humble figure behind the veil sees the purpose of this blog as discussing a life in books in general, not only through reviews (though obviously somewhat). Bibli – book. Bio – life. This is a life in letters.”
https://biblibio.blogspot.com/
https://twitter.com/Read_WIT

• The Complete Review and its accompanying blog, The Literary Saloon, are run by M. A. Orthofer. Go here for reviews of books both popular and obscure, as well as international literary news that is rarely covered elsewhere. A great resource!
http://www.complete-review.com/main/main.html
http://www.complete-review.com/saloon/index.htm

• Conversational Reading is the blog of our own Publicity Director and Senior Editor, Veronica Scott Esposito. While not exclusively translation, the blog is largely translation-focused, including lists of interesting new and forthcoming books, Q&As with translators and authors, essays, and other related news in the field.
http://conversationalreading.com/
http://conversationalreading.com/category/interviews/

• Lizok’s Bookshelf is the blog of award-winning Russian translator Lisa Hayden. This is the go-to place for those interested in Russian literature. Lisa will let you know what is going on in the world of Russian literary prizes, tell you about interesting books coming out in Russia, books she’s reading, and, of course, books she’s translating.
https://lizoksbooks.blogspot.com/

• Reader@Large is the blog of Tara Cheesman-Olmsted, a freelance book critic, National Book Critic Circle member, and 2018 Best Translated Book Award fiction judge. The blog began as a general book review blog, but Tara currently only reviews books by international authors and translations, with a preference for small presses!
https://readeratlarge.com/

• Three Percent is the translation blog of the University of Rochester. Chad Post delights us with in-depth blog posts on a wide range of topics within the translation field. Home to book reviews, the Best Translation Book Award, and updates on trends in the translation field (including graphs and all kinds of fancy data analysis)!
https://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent/

• Tony’s Reading List is the blog of a true international literature aficionado. Dive into the expansive book review archives (spanning back to 2009) or, if you’re feeling adventurous, dig into something a little different.
https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.com/
https://tonysreadinglist.wordpress.com/something-a-little-different/

• Translationista is the blog of Susan Bernofsky, German-language translator extraordinaire. She’ll keep you up-to-date on the latest literary prizes, as well as other news in the field. Make sure you check out: “Getting the Rights to Translate a Work: A How-To Guide” and “Tips for Beginning Translators.”
http://translationista.com/
http://translationista.com/2017/02/getting-rights-translate-work.html
http://translationista.com/2017/08/tips-beginning-translators.html

• WWB Daily, the blog of Words Without Borders, features a monthly watchlist of books coming out that month, in-depth essays by translators, excerpts from forthcoming books in translation.
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/tarsila-do-amaral-translating-modernism-in-brazil-elisa-wouk-almino
https://www.wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/article/first-read-from-lion-cross-point-masatsugu-ono-angus-turvill "
blogs  translation  writing  language  languages  books  arabic  srg 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Center for the Art of Translation | Two Lines Press
"MISSION

The Center for the Art of Translation champions literary translation.

We are dedicated to finding dazzling new, overlooked, and underrepresented voices, brought into English by the best translators, and to celebrating the art of translation. Our publications, events, and educational programming enrich the library of vital literary works, nurture and promote the work of translators, build audiences for literature in translation, and honor the incredible linguistic and cultural diversity of our schools and our world.

HISTORY

The Center for the Art of Translation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, was founded in 2000 by Olivia Sears, an Italian translator and editor who serves as the Center’s board president. In 1993, prior to forming the Center, Sears helped to establish the literary translation journal Two Lines: World Writing in Translation at a time when there were very few venues for translated literature in English, and those handful rarely paid much attention to the translator beyond a brief acknowledgment. Two Lines set out to challenge that trend—to make international literature more accessible to English-speaking audiences, to champion the unsung work of translators, and to create a forum for translators to discuss their craft. In this way, Two Lines serves as the Center’s cornerstone, and the journal’s spirit radiates through all of the Center’s work today.

OUR PROGRAMS

Two Lines Press is an award-winning press committed to publishing outstanding literature in translation.

With the rich publication history of Two Lines serving as its foundation, Two Lines Press specializes in exceptional new writing and overlooked classics that have not previously been translated into English. With books such as Naja Marie Aidt’s Baboon (translated by Denise Newman), which won the 2015 PEN Translation Prize, and Marie NDiaye’s Self-Portrait in Green (translated by Jordan Stump), which won the 2015 CLMP Firecracker Award, Two Lines Press seeks to publish daring and original voices in striking editions.

The biannual journal Two Lines amplifies the aims of the press by capturing the most exciting work being done today by the world’s best translators—and by forging a space to celebrate the art of translation. Within our pages you’ll find work by writers such as Yuri Herrera, Kim Hyesoon, Christos Ikonomou, Rabee Jaber, Emmanuel Moses, Anne Parian, Chika Sagawa, Enrique Vila-Matas, and Jan Wagner—in translations by Lisa Dillman, Don Mee Choi, Karen Emmerich, Kareem Abu-Zeid, Marilyn Hacker, Emma Ramadan, Sawako Nakayasu, Margaret Jull Costa, and David Keplinger, respectively. You’ll also encounter arresting insights on language, literature, and translation from the point of view of writers such as Lydia Davis, Johannes Göransson, Wayne Miller, and Jeffrey Yang.

***

The Two Voices event series hosts international writers and translators for original and provocative conversations about literature and language.

Recent events include Yoshimasu Gozo in conversation with Forrest Gander, Best Translated Book Award-Winner Yuri Herrera in conversation with Daniel Alarcón, Eka Kurniawan in conversation with Annie Tucker, Horacio Castellanos Moya in conversation Katherine Silver, and Malena Mörling in conversation with Pulitzer Prize-Winner and former Poet Laureate Robert Hass.

For our salon series we speak with superior translators, many of whom join us via Skype from far beyond the Bay Area, about their work. Recent conversations have featured Chris Andrews on César Aira, Bela Shayevich on Nobel Prize-Winner Svetlana Alexievich, Ottilie Mulzet on International Man Booker Prize-Winner László Krasznahorkai, Ann Goldstein and Michael Reynolds on the ineffable Elena Ferrante, and Valerie Miles on Enrique Vila-Matas.

Whenever possible, we offer post-event audio online.

***

Poetry Inside Out is a collaborative language arts curriculum that celebrates classroom diversity, builds literacy skills, improves critical thinking, and unlocks creativity by teaching students to translate great poetry from around the world.
As a cross-cultural literacy program, Poetry Inside Out embraces—and relies upon—cultural and linguistic differences in classrooms in schools. It is also a world literature program that treats great poets as teachers and their work as models.

Students who participate in Poetry Inside Out come to understand how close reading heightens comprehension, precise writing enhances communication, and attentive listening builds new knowledge. By practicing the art of translation, students become familiar with the building blocks of language and the full range of expression available to them as readers, writers, speakers, poets, thinkers, and world citizens. Student translations reflect profound responses to language, society, and one another’s personal experiences."
translation  sanfrancisco  poetry  literture  language  events  srg 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Stanford linguist: prejudice toward African American dialect can result in unfair rulings
"Linguistics professor John R. Rickford contends justice was not served in the Trayvon Martin shooting, in part because testimony in the African American vernacular was discredited."
johnrickford  2014  trayvonmartin  language  linguistics  race  racism  justice  law  aave  georgezimmerman  racheljeantel  sociolinguistics 
january 2019 by robertogreco
All Things Linguistic: LSA 2016 - John Rickford's Presidential Address (with images, tweets) · drswissmiss
"John Rickford gave an amazing Presidential Address at the LSA in Washington DC about how people who speak marginalized dialects face discrimination in the courtroom, especially speakers of African American English. (Key quote: “Jeantel’s dialect was found guilty before Zimmerman was found innocent.“)"
johnrickford  linguistics  language  english  2016  trayvonmartin  georgezimmerman  racheljeantel  sociolinguistics 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Founders Day Honoree John R. Rickford - YouTube
"One of the world's experts on African-American Vernacular English, Stanford linguistics professor John R. Rickford (Stevenson 71) was honored for his work studying language spoken by poor and marginalized communities and the application of that research to solve educational problems."
johnrickford  ucsc  language  sociolinguistics  2009  aave  ebonics  linguistics  english  creole 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Raising Free People | Raising Aware People #LRC2018 - YouTube
"What are your experiments with the intersection of Unschooling / Self Directed Education and Social Justice. And your understanding of this intersection. While, hey are inextricably linked, the practice of unschooling as social justice and raising aware people isn't widely understood, spoken about or shared.

So at Learning Reimagined 2018, we hosted an interactive panel discussion as an introduction to the relationship and practice of the two, with the hope that this will help participants and now viewers to think around these issues and to then discuss and share further in their communities and here with us online so we can learn too.

The panel consisted of a mix of young unschoolers and featured speakers (Akilah Richards, Bayo Akomolafe, Teresa Graham Brett) at Learning Reimagined 2018."

[from the Learning Reimagined 2018: Unschooling As Decolonisation conference conference: https://www.growingminds.co.za/learning-reimagined-conference-2018/ ]
unschooling  education  socialjustice  self-directed  self-directedlearning  akilahrichards  bavoakomolafe  teresagrahambrett  liberation  justice  zakiyyaismail  deschooling  learning  politics  southafrica  us  difference  scaffolding  parenting  poc  howwelearn  decolonization  2018  race  racism  inclusivity  conferences  lrc2018  bias  inclusion  community  privilege  kaameelchicktay  elitism  schools  schooling  indigeneity  class  classism  humanism  language  english  africa  colonization  agilelearningcenters  agilelearning 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Contra* podcast — Mapping Access
"a podcast about disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play, or play from our website."

[See also:
https://www.mapping-access.com/podcast/2018/12/29/episode-1-contra-design-with-sara-hendren

"In this first episode of the podcast, we talk to design researcher Sara Hendren, who teaches at Olin College of Engineering, about disability, critical design, and poetic creation.

Show notes and transcription

++++

Themes:

Critical Design

Theory of critical design revised by disability

Writing as/part of critical design

Disability politics in relation to design

Translational work and science communication; critical design as a “friendly Trojan horse”

Things as an index of ideas

STEAM, knowledge, and power

Links:

Sara Hendren (https://sarahendren.com)

Abler blog (https://ablersite.org/)

Adaptation and Ability Lab (http://aplusa.org/)

Wendy Jacob and Temple Grandin, Squeeze Chair (https://patient-innovation.com/post/1047?language=en)

Sketch Model project at Olin College (http://www.olin.edu/collaborate/sketch-model/)

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/253076.Tools_for_Conviviality)

Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway (https://www.dukeupress.edu/Meeting-the-Universe-Halfway/)

Aimi Hamraie, Building Access: Universal Design and the Politics of Disability (https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/building-access)

++++

Introduction Description:

The podcast introductory segment is composed to evoke friction. It begins with sounds of a wheelchair rhythmically banging down metal steps, the putter of an elevator arriving at a person’s level, and an elevator voice saying “Floor two, Floor three.” Voices begin to define Contra*. Layered voices say “Contra is friction…Contra is…Contra is nuanced…Contra is transgressive…Contra is good trouble…Contra is collaborative…Contra is a podcast!…Contra is a space for thinking about design critically…Contra is subversive…Contra is texture…”

An electric guitar plays a single note to blend out the sound.

The rhythmic beat of an electronic drum begins and fades into the podcast introduction.

++++

Episode Introduction:

Welcome to Contra*: the podcast about disability, design justice, and the lifeworld. This show is about the politics of accessible and critical design—broadly conceived—and how accessibility can be more than just functional or assistive. It can be conceptual, artful, and world-changing.

I’m your host, Aimi Hamraie .  I am a professor at Vanderbilt University, a designer and design researcher, and the director of the Critical Design Lab, a multi-institution collaborative focused on disability, technology, and critical theory.  Members of the lab collaborate on a number of projects focused on hacking ableism, speaking back to inaccessible public infrastructures, and redesigning the methods of participatory design—all using a disability culture framework. This podcast provides a window into the kinds of discussions we have within the lab, as well as the conversations we are hoping to put into motion. So in coming episodes, you’ll also hear from myself and the other designers and researchers in the lab, and we encourage you to get in touch with us via our website, www.mapping-access.com or on Twitter at @criticaldesignl

In this first episode of the podcast, we talk to design researcher Sara Hendren, who teaches at Olin College of Engineering, about disability, critical design, and poetic creation.

Sara and I talk about her work in the fields of critical design and assistive technology, including how she came to this work, how she is thinking about strategy and practice, and also her current work on bridging the humanities with STEM education."]
accessibility  disability  aimihamraie  ableism  podcasts  disabilitystudies  criticaldesign  olincollege  assistivetechnology  technology  poeticcreation  creativity  sarahendren  ivanillich  toolsforconviviality  wendyjacob  templegrandin  stem  knowledge  power  karenbarad  adaptation  materialculture  socialimagination  art  design  thinking  inclusivity  capitalism  howwewrite  howwethink  making  communication  academia  scholarship  ethics  politics  difference  jargon  language 
january 2019 by robertogreco
It's Nice That | "I'm not a designer – I was just an activist": how The Smiling Sun became one of history's most iconic logos
"The Smiling Sun is well known across the world as the face of the anti-nuclear power movement. Worn as badges, stuck on lampposts or held aloft as flags its gleeful grin has become synonymous with the fight for a world powered by renewable energy. Despite its widespread popularity, the logo’s designer has remained largely aloof. It’s Nice That managed to track down The Smiling Sun’s creator, Anne Lund – now a university lecturer – to find out more about how it came to be and how she feels looking back on it, four decades later."
symbols  history  nuclearpower  activism  denmark  1970s  smilingsun  1975  communication  annelund  language 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Gay Love Stories of Moomin and the Queer Radicality of Tove Jansson | Autostraddle
"In 1955, Tove Jansson asked Tuulikki Pietilä to dance. They had sat all night around the gramophone together, guarding it whilst they played their records so that nobody could change the music. But Pietilä said no: same-sex relationships were still illegal in Finland — and would be until 1971 — and – the threat of judgement from peers and colleagues was intense. Queer people know well the hollow of panic, deep in the gut, when you think that your disguises may have failed. It is why, historically, we have avoided large displays of affection; why our histories take the form of private letters, fragments hidden inside books and diaries. The story of Tove and Tuulikki is no different; soon after she refused to dance, Tuulikki sent Tove a card with a cat, fat and striped, hand-drawn on the front. A code that meant: I am thinking of you. After telephone calls over the holidays, Tove finally set off to Tuulikki’s studio. It was March, and snowing, when she walked over; the streets were dark and the fat flakes fell in drifts that made the roads shine. When she got there, the studio warm and light like a ship’s cabin at sea, they drank wine and played French records.

Jansson’s queerness is often left out in stories of her life. Puffin editions of Moomin books talked about how she lived alone on her Finnish island; documentaries still talk of Pietilä as a lifelong friend. Jansson is no
 misnomer, rather, she fits in neatly with the trend of avoiding the personal lives of gay people
 – particularly lesbians – that exists to this day. Society dissolves queer realities: erases the two bodies sharing a bed, wrapped around each other, the two bodies fucking, the moments and hours and days, the holding hands and arguing and kissing and small talk. As seen throughout history, gayness is coded as dangerous for children. It is portrayed something purely sexual or purely chaste, rarely afforded the complexity and nuance afforded to heterosexual relationships. For Jansson to be a successful children’s writer she was portrayed as sexless, loveless. It’s particularly egregious when queerness informs the work of a writer to that extent that it did for Jansson. Not only do the themes of loneliness, family and love shape her work for adults and children, but she included characters based on her female lovers in many of her works.

Before meeting Pietilä, Jansson had been in a creative crisis. She knew the demand was high for another Moomin book, but dreaded the thought of repeating herself – she longed for new ground to tread, for the freedom of inspiration. As her fame had increased, so had her awareness that the Moomins were no longer hers alone; they now appeared on waste paper baskets and brooches and wrapping paper, and the public always wanted more. In 1955 she wrote of her conflicting feelings, saying, “I can’t recall exactly when I became hostile to my work, or how it happened and what I should do to recapture my natural pleasure in it.” The knowledge that she had to write another Moomin book loomed large in her mind. It was precisely Pietilä’s influence that helped overcome her writer’s block: “That I was able to write Moominland Midwinter was entirely due to Tooti,” Jansson stated to biographer Boel Westin in Tove Jansson: Life, Art Words. Out of their love letters the character of Too-tikky had been formed, first as an inky doodle of her lover’s likeness (‘My Tootikki!’, she nicknamed Pietilä), and then slowly as a fleshed-out form.

Moominland Midwinter was a radical departure from the sun-drenched summers of the Moomin valley that readers had seen before — sailing boats framed by orange-slice suns, picnics on the terrace, dances in the woods. Instead, Moomin wakes up from hibernation in the cold dark of a Finnish winter, pine trees blanketed with snow. He is disoriented and scared, eager to wake up his mother for comfort. However, when she turns away from him in her sleep he realises he must deal with this new world — and his yearning for spring — on his own. There to help him is Too-tikky, as no-nonsense as her flesh and blood counterpart, who describes to him the dancing colours of the Northern Lights, states “One has to discover everything for oneself.” Moomin realises that the winter is needed, for after it follows the spring, lush and bright and alive. It’s hard not to read this as a mirror of Jansson and Pietilä’s relationship, blooming out of the snow and cold — in Moominland Midwinter, our narrator states “There are such a lot of things that have no place in summer and autumn and spring. Everything that’s a little shy and a little rum. Some kinds of night animals and people that don’t fit in with others and that nobody really believes in.” The winter gives us as queer people the chance to show ourselves, to claim the world as ours.

This wasn’t the first lover she had included in her stories: Vivica Bandler, the married theatre director with whom Jansson had an affair in 1946, became the character of Bob. Bob’s counterpart, Thingumy, was Tove, who wrote to Bandler, “No one understands their language, but that doesn’t matter so long as they themselves know what it’s all about… Do you love me? Of dourse you coo! Sanks and the thame to you!” This exchange ended up almost entirely complete in Jansson’s next Moomin book, Finn Family Moomintroll, where Thingumy and Bob are introduced as intertwined, inextricable creatures, their names better known in conjunction than when on their own. They even look the same, only differentiated by the hat Bob wears. By placing them, idiosyncratic and unmissable, at the centre of the story, Jansson was able to make a public declaration of love in a private manner. Her passion – her willingness to depict their relationship for anybody who could decipher the code – led Bandler to warn her to be secretive. Not only was their love illegal, but it was classed as a psychiatric condition, and its reveal would have cost both women their livelihoods and families.

Queerness is Jansson’s works is never as simplistic as direct representation of lovers. It’s something that seeped into the pages, flowing along the lines in the illustrations. In a letter to Bandler, Jansson talks of how “everything has changed since I met you! Every tone is more vivid, every colour cleaner, all my perceptions are sharper.” Already so occupied with “pure, fresh colours” – fleshy greens and cornflower blues and sherbet yellows – Jansson’s passion for Bandler allowed her to utilise them further in her work, encouraging her to use them with a giddy joy on the front cover of Finn Family Moomintroll. Her renewed passion for colour around this time is also prominent in the murals she painted in Helsinki Town Hall, into which she painted Bandler, a tiny Moomintroll and herself; fan in one hand, cigarette in the other, turning her blue eyes away from the viewer’s gaze.

Throughout Finn Family Moomintroll there is a presence, cold and dark and flat, sucking the light from the sun, wilting the flowers. The Groke is the closest the Moomin books get to an antagonist, although even she is treated with sympathy. She is grey as a storm cloud, and wherever she goes the plants and creatures die. She is the antithesis of Thingumy and Bob’s happiness, the embodiment of loneliness to their companionship. It is they who get to keep suitcase of rubies in the end of the story, a treasure many long for but one whose dazzling contents are only available to those who have ‘the right’ to own it — their love makes them the only ones suitable for the honour. It’s tempting to read the Groke as an allegory for the bigotry of a society that seeks to separate lovers, and for the misery that follows. In typical Tove fashion, however, the Groke is not a figure of hatred or derision, but one of pity.

It is Too-Ticky who, in Moominland Midwinter, encourages us to empathise with the Groke — to consider how desperately lonely a life untouched by love must be. This is not to say that Jansson did not face the isolation that is inherent in the lives of most queer people — although she remained with Pietilä for the rest of her life, and although they shared connected apartments and their island cottage, she could never discuss her love with her family. Jansson was open with her friends, telling them that she the “happiest and most genuine solution for me will be to go over to the spook side;” a wonderfully matter-of-fact way of resolving her own conflicts over her sexuality. But both her father and her mother were unable to discuss it with her — Jansson describes how her father tried to speak with her after he had heard gossip, but ultimately, he could not say the “difficult word homosexual.” Jansson suspected that her mother knew, but never raised the subject, writing “I can accept this […] But it feels lonely.”

Only after her parents had died did Jansson write Fair Play, a collection of short stories that fictionalised her relationship with Pietilä. The characters in the book, Jonna and Mari, live as Jansson and Pietilä do – in adjoining apartments with connecting studios. They are – respectively – an artist, and an illustrator and writer. The stories are quiet: Jonna and Mari watch westerns together, try to protect their fishing nets from a storm, bicker over the way paintings hang on the wall. They travel to America, as their real-life counterparts did, and sleep in a tent when a guest stays in their island cottage. But it’s everyday-ness is precisely what makes it so calmly radical. It is a portrait of a lifelong lesbian couple, allowing us to see into their daily lives, the minutiae of how they live, and on display at the centre of everything is their love for one another. In her introduction Ali Smith brilliantly summarises it as “affectionate discretion […] a good-working love, a homage to the kind of coupledom that rarely receives such homage.” No longer forced to be… [more]
tovejansson  tuulikkipietilä  2018  moomins  sexuality  writing  hannahilliams  queerness  relationships  creativity  finland  love  boelwestin  1955  1946  vivicabandler  language  groke  empathy  literature  howwerite  homosexuality  alismith  affection  discretion 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Studying Humpback Whales to Better Communicate with Aliens
"In this video, a pair of scientists talk about their work in studying the communication patterns of humpback whales to learn more about how we might someday communicate with a possible extraterrestrial intelligence. No, this isn’t Star Trek IV. For one thing, whales have tailored their communication style to long distances, when it may take hours to received a reply, an analog of the length of possible interplanetary & interstellar communications. The scientists are also using Claude Shannon’s information theory to study the complexity of the whales’ language and eventually hope to use their findings to better detect the level of intelligence in alien messages and perhaps even the social structure of the alien civilization itself."

[video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CIcIZzz8B4 ]
animals  biology  communication  whales  2018  multispecies  morethanhuman  sound  audio  via:lukeneff  intelligence  informationtheory  seti  complexity  language  languages  structure  anthropology  social 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Black Socialists of America on Twitter: "Black American vs. “black” American... Ethnicity vs. race... Let’s break it down."
"Black American vs. “black” American...

Ethnicity vs. race...

Let’s break it down.

People have been reaching out to us over the last couple of months asking us to define the “Black” in “Black Socialists of America,” and the responses we have given have been described as both “enlightening” and “the EXACT answer I was hoping for,” so we figured we should share.

We want to help shift the popular dialogue when it comes to how people (not even just Black people) commonly identify in terms of ethnicity, and we think we're going to be able to do that, simply because there is an easy way to break down the nuance of this discussion.

We identify as "Black Americans" because we are a part of the African diaspora that ended up in what we now call “America”; the languages, diets, family structures, and overall cultures of our ancestors were completely decimated when they were brought to this land centuries ago.

Since that time, we have developed our own shared history, culture(s), and beliefs, and this is something that shapes every element of our being.

This is our ethnic identity.

For now, we use the term “Black” in identifying ourselves because that is all we have been to the colonialists of the world; one day, we will emerge with a new name that is not defined by the labeling of our historical oppressors.

"Race" is a social construct that has nothing to do with shared histories, cultures, or beliefs, and everything to do with outward appearances. It is something that is still used today by white supremacists in order to maintain divisions and hierarchal structures of power.

We are not "African Americans" because there are actual first, second, or third generation Africans in America whose ethnic histories have virtually nothing to do with ours, but they're "black" (lowercase "b") in the context of “race” because we share similar physical features.

This is uppercase "B" (ethnicity) vs. lowercase "b" (race).

Black American (one ethnicity) vs. "black" American (multiple ethnicities).

We refer to “race” as a “social construct” because the tiny genetic differences between humans are really only shaped by historical differences in geographical location, diet, and overall lifestyle; from a scientific standpoint, there is only ONE “race,” and it is the HUMAN race.

Ignoring conversations about “race” and/or “ethnicity” will not help bring human beings together; we must understand ourselves and our histories in order to be able to effectively confront the divisive identity politics of the day.

This is precisely why we stress the importance of working THROUGH the ethnic divides of America in an effort to bring people of all ethnicities to a multi-ethnic plane of Socialist action."
race  ethnicity  blacksocialistsofamerica  identity  language  2018  oppression  us  bsa 
november 2018 by robertogreco
The National Book Awards Haul Translators Out of Obscurity - The Atlantic
"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America."



"Some of the first stories you remember reading or hearing read aloud were probably translations, though chances are you didn’t realize it. “The Emperor’s New Clothes”? That was from the Danish. “Sleeping Beauty”? French. One Thousand and One Nights? Arabic. “Hansel and Gretel”? German. “Pinocchio”? Italian. “Cinderella”? French—or, depending how far you back you want to go, German, Italian, or even Greek. As you grew up, if you read The Swiss Family Robinson or The Count of Monte Cristo, did you notice who translated it?

Not so long ago, it was rare for a translator’s name to appear on a book’s title page, let alone a cover, or for a review of a foreign novel to mention its translator. With a handful of exceptions (Robert Fitzgerald’s Aeneid, anyone’s Proust), if a book originated in a language other than English, that fact was downplayed. Behind this disappearing act lay an assumption that readers would recoil from a book if they realized it was translated, fearing it would be “tricky or complicated or inaccessible,” as Samantha Schnee, the founding editor of the translation journal Words Without Borders, put it.

This is changing. In the span of about 15 years, foreign provenance, once treated almost like a guilty secret, has become a source of allure. As blockbusters from foreign lands invaded American best-seller charts in the first decade of the 21st century—Suite Française, The Elegance of the Hedgehog, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo—independent and nonprofit presses that specialized in translated literature sprang up from coast to coast; among them Archipelago Books (2003), Europa Editions (2005), Open Letter (2008), New Vessel Press (2012), and Restless Books (2013) in New York; Deep Vellum (2013) in Texas; and Transit Books (2015) in California. On November 14, the National Book Foundation, recognizing this shift in relevance, will award a Translated Literature prize—the first category added to the National Book Awards in more than two decades.

Lisa Lucas, the foundation’s executive director, sees the prize as “a lens. It’s a spotlight … It’s not about a distillation of all the works that are meritorious; the point is that you’re celebrating.”

There are a few possible explanations for this metamorphosis from near-invisibility to celebration. One is that in the late-20th century, a craze arose for retranslating the classics. Critics, always fascinated by what’s difficult and eager to spot a trend, took note, raising the profile of translators in the process. Perhaps the most prominent in this cohort are Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a husband-and-wife team who embarked in the 1980s on the audacious project of retranslating much of the Russian canon—which they are still doing, three decades on. Every time they let fly a new Slavic doorstop, a critical explosion ensues. Today the release of any new translation of a famous work—by Homer, Proust, Kafka, Flaubert—tends to elicit a passionate reaction from the literary elite, even if the translator is relatively unknown.

A complementary trend at the turn of the century heightened interest in the lived experience of people in or from other nations. A generation of American writers born outside of this country were coming of age: Chang-Rae Lee and Edwidge Danticat, Jhumpa Lahiri and Gary Shteyngart, Khaled Hosseini and Junot Díaz. In their books, they reached into other lands—Korea, Haiti, India, England, Russia, Afghanistan, and the Dominican Republic—braiding imported history, attitudes, and priorities into American narratives. Although they wrote in English, they were translating foreign cultures through their fiction. In the process, they created a flourishing literary hybrid that broadened domestic reading tastes.

Even as the identity of American fiction took on an international flavor, technological advances in machine translation demystified foreign languages for monolingual Americans, making the outside world more legible. Cellphones can translate street signs, notice boards, and menus into English (or German, or Chinese, or French) with the click of a button; internet translation engines can convert foreign-language news stories into readable English in seconds. Philipp Koehn, a computer scientist at Johns Hopkins University who wrote the book on machine translation (literally, it’s called Statistical Machine Translation), recalls that when he started out in this field, 20 years ago, “all that these machines produced was gibberish. We were amazed when something came out that you could almost read.” Now, however, “if you find a newspaper article in good languages—by which I mean the ones we have enough data on, like French or English—and run it through Google Translate, you actually have to look for errors.”"



"In 2018, American literature no longer means literature written by Americans, for Americans, about America. It means literature that, wherever it comes from, whatever nation it describes, American readers recognize as relevant to them, as familiar. Foreign is no longer foreign.

That said, the question of how “foreign” a translation should “feel” provokes fierce disagreement. When you open a translated novel from overseas, do you want to sense its author’s French, German, Swedish, Spanish, or Italian sensibility, even if that breaks the spell of your reading experience? Or do you want to feel as if the book has magically converted itself into flawless, easeful English, attuned to your own idiom? (This is called the “foreignization versus domestication” debate.) And should a translation hew closely to the language and structure of the original, or should it re-craft the language to appeal to the target audience? (This is the “faithfulness” question.) Hardly anyone agrees—not editors, not scholars, not translators, and not readers. This makes it difficult even for experts to reach a consensus on which translated new books by unfamiliar authors and translators should be singled out for praise. Another difficulty is that few have read the translated books in the original language, which means that most base their assessments on their opinion of the English, not knowing to what extent it reflects the urtext.

That’s why Lucas prefers to avoid using the word best when she discusses the prize contenders. “There are always going to be people who object to which books are chosen,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘This should have been on the long list, this should have been on the finalists list, this or that book should have won.’” To her mind, all the books win because the act of nominating them “generates energy, conversation, and critique.” The prize is not a competition, but an affirmation.

Collectively, the five titles on the National Book Foundation’s shortlist for the Translated Literature prize demonstrate the transformation and continuity of America’s investment in international voices. Three of the books come from two houses that formed only in the past 15 years—Archipelago, with Love, by Hanne Orstavik, translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken; and Europa, with Disoriental, translated from the French by Tina Kover, and Trick, by Domenico Starnone, translated from the Italian by Jhumpa Lahiri. A fourth title, The Emissary, by Yoko Tawada, translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani, comes from the venerable independent house New Directions. Only one of the books, Flights, by Olga Tokarczuk, translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft, comes from one of New York’s “big five” houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster). It was published by Riverhead, a division of Penguin Random House.

Still, there is room for progress. All five of the shortlisted books feature the translator’s name on the title page, but only two put it on the cover. One of these, Trick, presumably does so because its translator, Lahiri, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist, is better known in the United States than its author. Imagine that: reading for the translator."
2018  literature  translation  us  language  languages  chang-raelee  edwidgedanticat  jhumpalahiri  garyshteyngart  khaledhosseini  junotdíazphilippkoehn  lieslschillinger  machinetranslation  karloveknausgaard 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Frankétienne, Father of Haitian Letters, Is Busier Than Ever - The New York Times
"Frankétienne has had prophecies of death (his own) and destruction (Haiti’s).

The earthquake that wrecked this country in January 2010? It was foreseen, said Frankétienne, the man known as the father of Haitian letters, in his play “The Trap.” It was written two months before the disaster and depicts two men in a postapocalyptic landscape, now a familiar sight in his Delmas neighborhood here.

“The voice of God spoke to me,” said Frankétienne, 75, later noting he had also long dwelt on the ecological ruin he believes the planet is hurtling toward. As for his death, that will come in nine years, in 2020, he says, at age 84. He is not sick, he says, but he has learned to “listen to the divine music in all of us.”

And so the prolific novelist, poet and painter — often all three in a single work — hears his coda. He is vowing to complete a multivolume memoir “before I leave, physically,” while keeping up an increasingly busy schedule of exhibitions and conferences.

“I am going to talk about everything I have seen from age 5 or 6,” he said recently at his house-cum-museum and gallery. “And stuff that hasn’t happened yet because I am a prophet.”

Eccentric. Abstract. A “spiralist,” who rejects realism and embraces disorder. Frankétienne — he combined his first and last names years ago — embraces chaos as a style he believes befits a country with a long, tumultuous history birthed in a slave revolt more than 200 years ago and scarred by a cascade of natural and man-made disasters.

In chaos he finds order.

“I am not afraid of chaos because chaos is the womb of light and life,” he said, his baritone voice rising as it does when he gets worked up over a point. “What I don’t like is nonmanagement of chaos. The reason why Haiti looks more chaotic is because of nonmanagement. In other countries it is managed better. Haiti, they should take as reference for what could happen in the rest of world.”

Scholars widely view Frankétienne as Haiti’s most important writer. He wrote what many consider the first modern novel entirely in Haitian Creole, “Dezafi,” in 1975, and a play well known here that challenged political oppression, “Pelin Tet.” It is a biting work from 1978 that is aimed, not so subtly, at Jean-Claude Duvalier, the son of the dictator François Duvalier and himself a former dictator known as Baby Doc, who returned here from exile in January.

Although not well known in the English-speaking world, Frankétienne has star status in French- and Creole-speaking countries and was rumored to be on the short list for a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2009.

After the quake, his works gained more international attention, particularly in Canada and France. “The Trap” debuted in March 2010 at a Unesco forum in Paris that named him an artist for peace; galleries in New York have organized shows featuring his artwork. Still, he also holds informal Sunday workshops with young artists in Haiti to talk about and critique their work.

“He is not only a major Haitian writer, he is probably the major Haitian writer, forever,” said Jean Jonassaint, a Haitian literature scholar at Syracuse University.

Frankétienne’s output, about 40 written works and, by his count, 2,000 paintings and sketches, comprises dense, baroque affairs. He invents new words, blending French and Haitian Creole. Long digressions are de rigueur. His paintings, which he says are selling particularly well these days, blur swirling blacks, blues and reds, often covered with poems.

He admires James Joyce, and it shows. “ ‘Finnegan’s Wake’ was like a crazy book, just like I write crazy books,” he said.

Still, the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat said Frankétienne remained popular among Haitians, in part because some of his plays had been videotaped and passed around in Haiti and in immigrant communities in the United States.

“Pelin Tet,” in which the grim life of two Haitian immigrants in New York deliberately echoes the oppression of the Duvalier era on the island, is a touchstone for many Haitians, said Ms. Danticat, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Frankétienne and was, in part, inspired to write by his rise to the top.

“His work can speak to the most intellectual person in the society as well as the most humble,” she said. “It’s a very generous kind of genius he has, one I can’t imagine Haitian literature ever existing without.”

Frankétienne was born as Franck Étienne on April 12, 1936, and raised in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, the son of a Haitian farmworker and an American businessman, who later abandoned her.

Frankétienne’s mother worked as a street vendor — selling cigarettes, charcoal, candies, moonshine — while raising eight children.

“Since I was 5 or 6 I was smoking or drinking, but my mother never knew,” he recalled. He was the oldest, and she strove to send him to school (he, in turn, tutored his younger siblings, leading him to establish his own school).

The school he attended was French-speaking. Frankétienne initially did not know a word of French, but angered at being teased by other students, he set about mastering the language and developing an affinity for words and artistic expression.

His best-known works came in the 1960s and ’70s, and he ranks his novel “Dezafi” as one of his most cherished. Set in a rural Haitian village, it weaves cockfighting, zombification, the history of slavery and other themes into an allegory of the country’s pain and suffering.

“It is the challenge of finding the light to liberate everyone,” he said. He wrote it in Creole, he said, because that was the voice of the characters he imagined.

But Frankétienne also felt a need to assert his Haitian identity, as people often look at his fair skin, blue eyes and white hair and doubt he is from this predominantly black country.

“They might think I am white or mulatto or whatever, but I am not,” he said. “I have black features, Negro features. My mother was an illiterate peasant and she had me when she was 16. She was taken in by an American, a very rich American. The American was 63 and my mother was 16 at the time.”

Switching from Creole to English, which he is usually too timid to speak, he added, “You understand who I am now?”

After completing “Dezafi,” he was frustrated that so few of his compatriots could read it, with nearly half the adult population illiterate. He switched to plays, even if that meant irritating the dictatorship.

“Dictators are mean but not necessarily stupid, so they knew I didn’t have any readers,” Frankétienne said. “What really gave them a problem was when I started with plays.”

Other writers and artists left Haiti during the dictatorship, but he stayed as his reputation grew outside the country and human rights groups closely followed him, providing, he believes, some cover from Mr. Duvalier.

Later, he joined other intellectuals in denouncing Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the first democratically elected president after Jean-Claude Duvalier was overthrown. Mr. Aristide, he said, became fixated on power and tolerated corruption and thuggery in his administration.

“He is a ghost, too,” Frankétienne said of Mr. Aristide’s return in March after seven years in exile.

His only regret, he said, is that his work is not widely translated and better known. If he knew Chinese, Japanese, Italian or other languages, he said, he would put them in his works.

“Everything is interconnected,” he said. “We are connected to everything, everyone.”

Frankétienne added, “The only thing not chaotic is death.”"
frankétienne  haiti  2011  literature  chaos  death  writing  form  theater  poetry  creole  language  identity  education  zombies  voodoo  vodou  voudoun  slavery  history  jeanjonassaint  edwidgedanticat  babdydoc  papadoc  jean-claudeduvalier  françoisduvalier  disorder  order  nonmanagement 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Unschooling Unpacked – A Semantic Musing | Growing Minds
"IN DEFENSE OF UNSCHOOLING

Unschooling on the other hand represents my resistance to the dominant model and the resulting dominant mindset of compulsory schooling and all that it represents.

For me, schooling is THE most potent agent of continued colonialism. It is the master’s tool to keep the master’s empire intact. It is where we learn to live in and uphold empire. It is colonizing by nature: the pedagogy; the coercive nature; the content and mindset that speaks to white-heteropatriarchal-capitalist power, planetary destruction, creative destruction, competition, adultism, epistimicide, cultural extinction and language extinction.

And so unschooling is resistance: It is by nature decolonizing, it is more in tune with nature, open to all knowledge systems, embracing of the multitude ways of learning, nurturing, cooperative, culturally regenerating, child honoring and consent based!

Of course there are and always will be the dissenters and disruptors that emerge from the industrial schooling system, swimming against the tide and resisting the effects of schooling (lf you’re reading this then you’re most likely one of the dissenters!). But by and large, as we all exit the schooling system, we exit with our minds colonised into a particular understanding of the world, of what constitutes knowledge and learning and how learning looks. This is not something we can simply shrug off. It takes considerable work to deschool from this and potentially a lifelong process of deschooling. In the meantime communities, children, families and the earth suffer.

While I was working on this piece I was going to suggest that maybe our native unschoolers, as the next generation, can shrug off the word as Wendy proposes. But then I got a massage from Ben Draper that debunked that thought. He writes about the influence of those schoolish messages that now show up for him as a father, even though he grew up relatively free of the coercive schooling institutions. The influence of the school mindset extends to even those that have lived and learned outside of it!

Finally, schooling epitomises social injustice. Its compulsory nature takes away the right of a child to have any say in her education. It is adultism in action, laying the foundation for the other kinds of oppressive practices, like racism; classism; sexism; cissexism; heterosexism and ableism. It would make sense that schools should be the agents of change instead of agents of entrenchment. They aren’t. Unschooling begins with social justice. First for the child, which by its nature requires us to investigate and then resist the systems that perpetuate the multitude of societal oppressions that is supported by the schooling structure.

And that is why I can’t give up on the word unschooling. That is why it resonates with me. That is why I am comfortable with the word schooling being there. It needs to be there. In the same way that colonization makes up the bulk of the word decolonization – which serves to name that system that fundamentally changed our psyches and cultures and societies and continues to do so, I want to understand it , name it rather than erase the source of how I came to be. Similarly, I don’t want to erase the role and responsibility of schooling in how I now think, act and feel and that thanks to schooling I am in need of constant introspection to safeguard myself from reverting to patterns of thought and actions dictated by my constantly lurking schooled mindset. Schooling has a significant historical and contemporary role to play in how society functions. It is ever present and therefore the need for the word unschooling is ever present. For me.

Maybe John Holt didn’t envision this word unschooling to represent decolonization and social justice in this way, But I am claiming it for myself. That is the nature and evolution of words.

As long as schooling is around and it influences how we see children, learning and is instrumental in creating and upholding this unjust society , I will be using this word uschooling. Despite Ursula K Le Guin’s warning that “To oppose something is to maintain it”.

I fear I am unable to take heed of her words just yet."
2018  unschooling  deschooling  zakiyyaismail  education  howwelearn  learning  children  johnholt  language  english  homeschool  resistance  colonialism  decolonization  ursulaleguin  opposition  adultism  agesegegation  cissexism  injustice  socialjustice  ableism 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Rethinking Learning to Read, by Harriet Pattison — A Book Review | Alliance for Self-Directed Education
[via: https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/1056254550397485056 ]

"Parents in the sample drew on a diversity of approaches and practices when supporting their children in learning to read. Perhaps unsurprisingly parents’ views in the sample were heavily influenced by phonics. However what was significant was that not all families used phonics based methods, some were openly critical of it and some of the children did not respond well and resisted a phonics based approach. Families shared: “No phonics, no flash cards, no traditional teaching methods were used in our home – for reading or anything else” and “Phonics doesn’t suit every child – as a very strong visual learner my daughter finds the individual sounds in words meaningless ... she hears words as a single sound.”

Some families drew on whole word learning approaches, some an eclectic mix, while others acknowledged the limitations of using methods and a number preferred to use no methods at all because this is what they felt was the best approach for their particular child and that they would learn to read naturally by engaging in everyday life. “Living a life style of literacy”; “Living life in a world where words are everywhere” and “Given time and exposure children will learn to read and will enjoy it.”

Some children also developed their own methods which drew on word recognition, memorisation and guessing, or together with a parent they co-created a unique approach which suited them. It was apparent that what suited one child may not suit another and this included children within the same family, one parent said: “There is not a “one-size-fits-all” magic formula” and another family: “often requiring different resources to be available at different times rather than following a single ‘method’ throughout.”

Away from phonics families were actively and pragmatically choosing methods and approaches with the best fit for the child and they were using those methods in ways that were facilitative of their relationships, the child’s learning and their emotional well being. In taking this open and flexible approach families were placing the child at the centre of the learning experience. For example, a parent said “Go with what works for that particular child” and another “The method is not important; the important [thing] is that the child likes it.“

The sample was characterised by a diversity of accounts, there was no one singular approach that could be used to describe the theoretical positions adopted by this group of parents. In fact as a home educating parent and also as a researcher Pattison explains that it is not necessary for a parent to hold an understanding of what reading is or how reading happens for it is precisely this “not knowing”, questioning and flexible state of mind that enables a parent to be reflexive and responsive to their child, putting the relationship first and re-thinking what reading actually is."
howweread  reading  education  unschooling  phonics  pedagogy  2017  emmaforde  harrietpattison  children  language  deschooling  schooling  schools  homeschool 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Dodie Bellany: Academonia
"In this lively, entertaining collection of essays, Dodie Bellamy has written not only a helpful pedagogical tool, but an epic narrative of survival against institutional deadening and the proscriptiveness that shoots the young writer like poison darts from all sides. By the 90s funding for the arts had dwindled and graduate writing programs—“cash cows”—had risen to fill the slack. Simultaneously, literary production moved from an unstable, at times frightening street culture where experiment was privileged beyond all else, to an institutionalized realm—Academonia!—that enforces, or tends to enforce, conservative aesthetic values.

Among the questions Bellamy raises: how does the writer figure out how to write? How will she claim her content among censorious voices? Can the avant-garde create forms that speak to political and spiritual crisis? Can desire exist in a world of networking structures? To the keepers of the status quo, what is so goddamned scary about experimental writing? Bellamy’s textual body morphs through sex, ravenous hunger, aging, displacement, cuddling with animals. Along the way she invokes Levi Strauss, Kurosawa, Marvin Gaye, Christiane (the faceless daughter in Georges Franju’s 1959 horror classic Eyes Without a Face), Alice Munro, Michael Moore, Quan Yin, Cinderella, and the beheaded heroine Lady Jane Grey. On Foucault’s grid of invisible assumptions, Academonia casts a blacklight vision, making it glow in giddy FX splendor.

*****

There are the institutions that are created without our input and the institutions that we create with others. Both sorts of institutions define us without our consent. Dodie Bellamy’s Academonia explores the prickly intersection among these spaces as it moves through institutions such as the academy, the experimental writing communities of the Bay Area, feminist and sexual identities, and group therapy. Continuing the work that she began in The Letters of Mina Harker pushing memoir and confession out of its safety zones and into its difficulties, this book provokes as it critiques and yet at the same time manages to delight with its hope.

--Juliana Spahr

Way back in the seventies, and before Bellamy, pastiche and bricolage as applied to literature made me yawn. Smug attacks on linear narrative through the use of tired language games aroused my contempt. As far as I was concerned, theory had ruined fiction by making critic and artist too intimate. Then Bellamy’s pioneering graftings of storytelling, theory and fractured metaphor changed all that, giving birth to a new avant-garde. Her writing sweeps from one mode of thought to another in absolute freedom, eviscerating hackneyed constructs about desire and language and stuffing them with a fascinating hodgepodge of sparkling sensory fragments. The result is true postmodernism, not the shallow dilettantism of the “postmodern palette.” She sustains it on page after page, weaving together sex and philosophy, fusing trash with high culture, injecting theory with the pathos of biography and accomplishing nothing less than a fresh and sustained lyricism. What is more, her transfiguration of the trivial details of life by the mechanisms of irony, fantasy, disjunction, nostalgia and perverse point of view prove that it’s not the life you live that matters, but how you tell it.

--Bruce Benderson"
writing  howwewrite  books  dodiebellany  institutions  proscriptiveness  academonia  academia  highered  highereducation  akirakurosawa  levistrauss  marvingaye  alicemonroe  michaelmoore  quanyin  cinderella  ladyjanegrey  foucault  institutionalization  julianaspahr  brucebenderson  bricolage  literature  linearity  form  feedom  structure  language  senses  sensory  postmodernism  dilettantism  culture  bayarea  experimental  experimentation  art  arts  funding  streetculture  2006 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Carol Black on Twitter: "I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author ali
"I'm sorry, but this is delusional. If you don't read the book the first time for rhythm and flow, just *read* it, you haven't read the book. You have dissected it. This is like the vivisection of literature. There is no author alive who would want their book read this way."



"Look, the reality is that most people do not want to analyze literature. It's a specialty interest, a niche thing. There is absolutely no reason all people should have to do this. By forcing it we just create an aversion to books.

[@SOLEatHome "Would you consider someone re-reading a book they love and noticing things they missed the first time analysis? It at least fits what has come to be known as "close reading""]

Kids who become writers (or filmmakers, or musicians) re-read, re-watch, re-listen to their favorite things repetitively, obsessively. They internalize structure, rhythm, characterization, language, vocabulary, dialogue, intuitively, instinctively.

Close reading & analysis is a separate activity, it requires a whole different stance / attitude toward the book. It can enhance this deeper intuitive understanding or it can shut it down, turn it into something mechanical & disengaged.

I think it's a huge mistake to push this analytical stance on children when they are too young. I was an English major, & I don't think I benefited from it until college. Younger kids should just find things they love & process them in ways that make sense to them.

This is one of the many delusional things about the way literature is taught in HS. The reality is you have to read a book at the *bare minimum* twice in order to do meaningful analysis. But there is never time for this. So we just club the thing to death on the first reading.

One of the principal things a writer does is to work incredibly hard at refining the way one sentence flows into the next, one chapter springboards off the last. To experience this as a reader you have to immerse yourself, turn off the analytical brain, just *read* the damn book.

To insert analysis into this process on a first reading is like watching a film by pausing every couple of minutes to make notes before continuing. It's fine to do that in later study, but if you do it the first time through you've destroyed everything the filmmaker worked for."

[@irasocol: How a teacher destroys not just reading but culture. Can we let kids experience an author's work without dissection? How I tried to address this in 2012... http://speedchange.blogspot.com/2012/11/why-do-we-read-why-do-we-write.html "]



[This was in repsonse to a thread that began with:
https://twitter.com/SOLEatHome/status/1053338882496958465

"This thread details a real school assignment that was asked of a high school student to do while reading a book they hadn't read before. I assure you this is is not something isolated to one school:

Annotate.

Inside front cover: major character with space for...

...character summaries, page reference for key scenes or moments of character development. Evidently these are enormous books.

Inside Back Cover: list of themes, allusions, images, motifs, key scenes, plot line, epiphanies, etc. Add pg. references or notes. List vocab words...

...if there's still room. (big books or small writing?)

Start of each chapter: do a quick summary of the chapter. Title each chapter as soon as you finish it, esp. if the chapters don't have titles.

Top margins: plot notes/words phrases that summarize. Then go back...

...and mark the chapter carefully (more on these marks to come)

Bottom and side margins: interpretive notes, questions, remarks that refer to the meaning of the page (???). Notes to tie in w/ notes on inside back cover

Header: Interpretive notes and symbols to be used...

...underline or highlight key words, phrases, sentences that are important to understanding the work
questions/comments in the margins--your conversation with the text
bracket important ideas/passages
use vertical lines at the margin to emphasize what's been already marked...

...connect ideas with lines or arrows
use numbers in the margin to indicate the sequence of points the author makes in developing a single argument
use a star, asterisk, or other doo-dad at the margin--use a consistent symbol--(presumably to not mix up your doo-dads?) to...

...be used sparingly to emphasize the ten or twenty most important statements in the book.
Use ???for sections/ideas you don't understand
circle words you don't know. Define them in the margins (How many margins does a page have?)
A checkmark means "I understand"...

...use !!! when you come across something new, interesting or surprising
And other literary devices (see below)

You may want to mark:
Use and S for Symbols: a symbol is a literal thing that stands for something else which help to discover new layers of thinking...

Use an I for Imagery, which includes words that appeal to the five senses. Imagery is important for understanding an authors message and attitudes
Use an F for Figurative Language like similes, metaphors, etc., which often reveal deeper layers of meaning...

Use a T for Tone, which is the overall mood of the piece. Tone can carry as much meaning as the plot does.
Use a Th for Theme: timeless universal ideas or a message about life, society, etc.
Plot elements (setting, mood, conflict)
Diction (word choice)

The end. ::sighs::"]
carolblack  irasocol  howweread  reading  literature  closereading  2018  school  schooliness  education  absurdity  literaryanalysis  writers  writing  howwewrite  filmmaking  howwelearn  academia  academics  schools  unschooling  deschooling  analysis  understanding  repetition  experience  structure  rhythm  characterization  language  vocabulary  dialogue  noticing  intuition  instinct  film  flow 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Progressive Labels for Regressive Practices: How Key Terms in Education Have Been Co-opted - Alfie Kohn
[via: https://twitter.com/cblack__/status/1052629222089359361

"So here's the cycle:

1. Educators create valid term for needed reform.
2. Corporate/political forces co-opt term to sell bullshit to schools.
3. Regressive educators equate needed reform with bullshit "reform."
4. Needed reform is defeated & forgotten.

Example:

1. Educators advocate for differentiated/personalized learning as humane, relationship-based alternative to standardization.
2. Corporations co-opt term to sell algorithm-based-ed-tech bullshit.
3. Popular bloggers equate 'personalized learning' with edtech bullshit.
4. Public impression is created that 'personalized learning' is a negative, corporate-driven, bullshit concept.
5. Standardization prevails."

[my reply]

"“a dark commentary on how capitalism absorbs its critiques”" (quoting https://twitter.com/amandahess/status/1052689514039250945 ) ]

"“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

— Lewis Caroll, Through the Looking Glass

“Whole language” (WL), a collaborative, meaning-based approach to helping children learn to read and write, emerged a few decades ago as a grassroots movement. Until it was brought down by furious attacks from social conservatives, academic behaviorists, and others, many teachers were intrigued by this alternative to the phonics fetish and basal boom that defined the field. More than just an instructional technique, WL amounted to a declaration of independence from packaged reading programs. So how did the publishers of those programs respond? Some “absorbed the surface [features] of WL and sold them back to teachers.” Others just claimed that whatever was already in their commercial materials — bite-size chunks of literature and prefabricated lesson plans — was whole language.[1]

Until you can beat them, pretend to join them: WL is literally a textbook illustration of that strategy. But it’s hardly the only one. For example, experts talk about the importance of having kids do science rather than just learning about it, so many companies now sell kits for easy experimenting. It’s branded as “discovery learning,” except that much of the discovery has been done ahead of time.

A teacher-educator friend of mine, a leading student of constructivism, was once treated to dinner by a textbook publisher who sought his counsel about how kids can play an active role in the classroom and create meaning around scientific ideas. The publisher listened avidly, taking careful notes, which my friend found enormously gratifying until he suddenly realized that the publisher’s objective was just to appropriate key phrases that could be used in the company’s marketing materials and as chapter headings in its existing textbook.

Or consider cooperative learning. Having students spend much of their classroom time in pairs or small groups is a radical notion: Learning becomes a process of exchanging and reflecting on ideas with peers and planning projects together. When we learn with and from one another, schooling is about us, not just about me. But no sooner had the idea begun to catch on (in the 1980s) than it was diluted, reduced to a gimmick for enlivening a comfortably traditional curriculum. Teachers were told, in effect, that they didn’t have to question their underlying model of learning; students would memorize facts and practice skills more efficiently if they did it in groups. Some writers even recommended using grades, certificates, and elaborate point systems to reinforce students for cooperating appropriately.[2]

In short, the practice of “co-opting” potentially transformative movements in education[3] is nothing new. Neither, however, is it just a historical artifact. A number of labels that originally signified progressive ideas continue to be (mis)appropriated, their radical potential drained away, with the result that they’re now invoked by supporters of “bunch o’ facts” teaching or a corporate-styled, standards-and-testing model of school reform.[4]

A sample:

* Engaging doesn’t denote a specific pedagogical approach; it’s used as a general honorific, signifying a curriculum that the students themselves experience as worthwhile. But these days the word is often applied to tasks that may not be particularly interesting to most kids and that they had no role in choosing. In fact, the value of the tasks may simply be ignored, so we hear about student “engagement,” which seems to mean nothing more than prompt or sustained compliance. Such children have internalized the adults’ agenda and are (extrinsically) motivated to complete the assignment, whatever it is. If the point is to get them to stay “on task,” we’re spared having to think about what the task is — or who gets to decide — even as we talk earnestly about the value of having engaged students.[5]

* Developmental originally meant taking our cue from what children of a given age are capable of doing. But for some time now, the word has come to imply something rather different: letting children move at their own pace . . . up an adult-constructed ladder. Kids may have nothing to say about what, whether, or why — only about when. (This is similar to the idea of “mastery learning” — a phrase that hasn’t really been co-opted because it was never particularly progressive to begin with. Oddly, though, it’s still brandished proudly by people who seem to think it represents a forward-thinking approach to education.[6])

* Differentiated, individualized, or personalized learning all emerge from what would seem a perfectly reasonable premise: Kids have very different needs and interests, so we should think twice about making all of them do the same thing, let alone do it in the same way. But there’s a big difference between working with each student to create projects that reflect his or her preferences and strengths, on the one hand, and merely adjusting the difficulty level of skills-based exercises based on students’ test scores, on the other. The latter version has become more popular in recent years, driven in part by troubling programs such as “mass customized learning”[7] and by technology companies that peddle “individualized digital learning” products. (I have more to say about the differences between authentic personal learning and what might be called Personalized Learning, Inc. in this blog post.)

* Formative assessment was supposed to be the good kind — gauging students’ success while they’re still learning rather than evaluating them for the purpose of rating or ranking when it’s too late to make changes. But the concept “has been taken over — hijacked — by commercial test publishers and is used instead to refer to formal testing systems,” says assessment expert Lorrie Shepard.[8] Basically, an endless succession of crappy “benchmark” standardized tests — intended to refine preparation for the high-stakes tests that follow — are euphemistically described as “formative assessment.” Too often, in other words, the goal is just to see how well students will do on another test, not to provide feedback that will help them think deeply about questions that intrigue them. (The same is true of the phrase “assessment for learning,” which sounds nice but means little until we’ve asked “Learning what?”) The odds of an intellectually valuable outcome are slim to begin with if we’re relying on a test rather than on authentic forms of assessment.[9]

* A reminder to focus on the learning, not just the teaching seems refreshing and enlightened. After all, our actions as educators don’t matter nearly as much as how kids experience those actions. The best teachers (and parents) continually try to see what they do through the eyes of those to whom it’s done. But at some point I had the queasy realization that lots of consultants and administrators who insist that learning is more important than teaching actually have adopted a behaviorist version of learning, with an emphasis on discrete skills measured by test scores.

You see the pattern here. We need to ask what kids are being given to do, and to what end, and within what broader model of learning, and as decided by whom. If we allow ourselves to be distracted from those questions, then even labels with a proud progressive history can be co-opted to the point that they no longer provide reassurance about the practice to which the label refers."
alfiekohn  2015  progressive  education  schools  schooling  schooliness  lesicarroll  humptydumpty  wholelanguage  cooption  language  words  buzzwords  pedagogy  differentiation  teaching  business  capitalism  formativeassessment  assessment  learning  howweetach  howwelearn  development  engagement  grassroots 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Christi Belcourt on Twitter: "Education in schools is not the only form of education. The land has been my teacher for 25 years. I will never graduate and will always be an apprentice to her. The animals educate. The stars educate. Not everything can be t
"Education in schools is not the only form of education. The land has been my teacher for 25 years. I will never graduate and will always be an apprentice to her. The animals educate. The stars educate. Not everything can be taught in a brick box. Not everything should be.

Education from and on the land is needed for children. We need the next generation to be free thinkers. Unintentionally, the structures within the current education system are contributing in assimilating all children into a form of thinking that teaches them to conform.

Education in schools is affecting Indigenous nations. It’s not all positive. Hardly any of our kids knows the lands like the back of their hands any more. Hardly any knows animal traditional laws, protocols. Hardly any can survive on the land. And almost all are taught in English

Without intending it, by sending ALL our children to school, we are creating a society of dependence. Because unable to survive on the land means a dependence on goods and services. It also means a continued decline in our languages as the day is spent in English.

Even communities once entirely fluent not long ago are noticing their young people conversing in English. I was just in a community where the teenagers were fluent. But pre-teens weren’t. How can communities compete w/ English when their children are emmersed in it all day?

I don’t want to offend educators. Educators are some of the most selfless and kind people I’ve met. They go above and beyond for kids every day. My observations are about some of the long term boarder effects re: institution of education and its detrimental effects on our nations

The late Elder Wilfred Peltier once wrote that the education system harms children in a few ways. He was speaking specifically about Indigenous kids but his thoughts could be applied to all I suppose. He said it sets kids up with a skewed sense of self. (Con’t)

Elder Wilfred Peltier said children are taught early in school to be graded. He said the harm isn’t only in the child who gets low grades and is made to feel less than. The worse harm is to kids who get higher grades and are made to feel better than others.

He also said the structure of the classroom is problematic. It implies the teacher knows everything and the student knows nothing. In Indigenous communities we talk about how children are teachers and each one has unique gifts. But schools don’t nurture those gifts.

A child might be gifted in reading the stars or knowing traditional medicines. Schools eliminate that as a possibility to be apprenticed in those things. And they take up so much time in a child’s life there is no time left over for language and apprenticing in their gifts.

We will need scientists and people who have gone through school. But we also need medicine apprentices, land knowledge, language keepers and star readers. We need experts of the lakes and animals. This come from apprentiships w/ kokums and moshoms. It comes from the land itself.

In this time of climate change the world needs Indigenous knowledge more than ever. It’s in our lands and langusges. It can’t come from school. So we have to question this. And really look at it to suss out the good and the bad in a non emotional and non judgemental way.

Is there a way to have half of all Indigenous kids apprenticed full time with kokums or moshoms in land/water based education? Is there a way to identify what gifts kids will have early on and give them the life long training to nurture those gifts?

My concluding thought is the tendency will be towards “improving” or “fixing” schools to allow for more Indigenous languages or teachings etc without fundamentally changing anything. My point is the kind of education I’m talking about cannot be within the school system."
education  unschooling  deschooling  indigeneity  schooling  wilfredpeltier  christibelcourt  2018  inequality  children  authority  experience  apprenticeships  kokums  moshoms  multispecies  land  morethanhuman  canon  climatechange  experientiallearning  gifted  language  languages  landscape  colonialism  heterogeneity 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Quote by Warsan Shire: “give your daughters difficult names. give your ...”
“give your daughters difficult names. give your daughters names that command the full use of tongue. my name makes you want to tell me the truth. my name doesn’t allow me to trust anyone that cannot pronounce it right.”
warshanshire  names  naming  girls  daughters  women  truth  language  pronunciation 
october 2018 by robertogreco
Black Twitter: American Twitter gets its new terms from Black Twitter — Quartz
"African American English may be America’s greatest source of linguistic creativity.

A new study, led by Jack Grieve, a professor of corpus linguistics at the University of Birmingham in the UK, analyzed nearly 1 billion tweets to find out how new terms emerge on the platform. By looking at words that go from total obscurity to mainstream usage on Twitter in a short period of time, the research can begin to answer questions like: Is one part of the country more linguistically creative than the others? And do new words spread from a geographical origin outward, or does the internet allow them to emerge everywhere, simultaneously?

To some extent, the answer to both questions is “yes,” as I have written previously. But the study points out the particular importance of one community on Twitter in particular, concluding, “African American English is the main source of lexical innovation on American Twitter.”

To get to that result, the authors extracted billions of words from tweets by users in the United States. They then identified the words that were very uncommon around October 2013, but had become widely used by November 2014. After getting rid of proper nouns and variations of the same term, they settled on 54 “emerging words,” including famo, tfw, yaas, and rekt.

Identifying those terms allowed the researchers to analyze out how new words spread. That pointed to five “common regional patterns” of lexical creation: the West Coast, centered around California; the Deep South, around Atlanta; the Northwest and New York; the Mid-Atlantic and DC; and the Gulf Coast, centered on New Orleans.

Of those five, the Deep South is exceptional in the way it brings about new terms. Usually, a term starts in a densely populated urban area, then spreads to urban areas in other parts of the country. In the case of the West Coast, for example, terms tend to start in Los Angeles and San Francisco, then make their way to Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix.

That doesn’t happen as much in the Deep South. There, the spread of creative new words appears to be driven more by culture than population density. Atlanta, the authors point out, is small relative to urban powerhouses like LA and New York. And terms that originate in the South do not spread by jumping to other cities; instead, they spread via areas with large black populations.

The map below shows the different regions the study uncovered; each county in the US is colored based on the pattern of spread it is most closely associated with. As you can see, the West Coast map shows several red hotspots well beyond California, popping up as far away as Seattle, Florida, and the Northeast. Several other maps look like that, too—the Northeast pattern has green splotches in Louisiana, the South, and Southern California; the Mid-Atlantic map shows deep purple in Chicago, Texas, and elsewhere. The Deep South, on the other hand, spreads straight out from the area around Atlanta, with only a very faint blue on top of San Francisco.

[maps]

That alone wouldn’t be enough to say that African American English is the “main source” of new terms on American Twitter. But the paper adds that three of the five patterns above seem to be “primarily associated with African American English.” That is to say, these patterns reflect the distribution of the black population in the US. Often, the study finds, the percentage of a county that is black appears to be more important than just the number of people living there in fueling linguistic creativity. In Georgia and North Carolina, for example, linguistically innovative areas “are not necessarily more populous but do generally contain higher percentages of African Americans.” This, they conclude, shows “the inordinate influence of African American English on Twitter.”

Many of the Black Twitter terms identified in the study will be familiar to any frequent Twitter user. Among the ones most associated with the Deep South region are famo (family and friends), fleek (on point), and baeless (single). But the fastest-emerging terms come from other places and cultures, too. Waifu, for example, a Japanese borrowing of the English word “wife,” is associated with the West Coast and anime."
blacktwitter  language  english  communication  invention  culture  2018  2013  nikhilsonnad  jackgrieve  linguistics  deepsouth  sandiego  portland  oregon  seattle  lasvegas  phoenix  westcoast  losangeles  sanfrancisco  california  atlanta  nyc  washingtondc  nola  neworleans  chicago 
september 2018 by robertogreco
The Tangled Language of Jargon | JSTOR Daily
"What our emotional reaction to jargon reveals about the evolution of the English language, and how the use of specialized terms can manipulate meaning."



"How Jargon Can Exclude and Obscure

It turns out that, far from being objective, jargon—outwardly a sober, professional kind of talk for experts from different occupational fields—has always carried with it some very human impulses, placing power and prestige over knowledge. A doctor, for example, might inappropriately use jargon in explaining a diagnosis to a patient, which prevents the patient from participating in their own care. This quality of jargon attracts those that might want to obscure biases, beef up simplistic ideas, or even hide social or political embarrassments behind a slick veneer of seemingly objective, “scientific” language without being challenged.

Latinate forms happen to lend themselves well to new terminology like this, especially technical jargon, for those very perceptions of precision and prestige, as well as detachment. But this detachment comes with a price. The alienness and incomprehensibility of new jargon words we’re unfamiliar with might sometimes make us a mite uncomfortable. It can sound inauthentic, compared to other innovative language change, from slang to secret languages. There are all kinds of innovative speech used by certain groups not just to share information easily, or to talk about new ideas, but also to show belonging and identity—and to keep outsiders out.

It’s one of the reasons people hate jargon with a passion and have been railing against it for years, centuries even. H. W. Fowler called it “talk that is considered both ugly-sounding and hard to understand.” L.E. Sissman is a little more subtle. Sissman defines jargon as “all of these debased and isolable forms of the mother tongue that attempt to paper over an unpalatable truth and/or to advance the career of the speaker (or the issue, cause or product he is agent for) by a kind of verbal sleight of hand, a one-upmanship of which the reader or listener is victim.”

Jargon, as useful as it is in the right contexts, can end up being socially problematic and divisive when it hides and manipulates meanings from those who need to receive the information. This negative reception hasn’t stopped jargon that apes scientific language from being widely produced, by economists, academics, entrepreneurs, journalists… and probably even poets. Jargon has now become the devil’s corporate middle management’s language, making information harder to share and receive. It has seeped into almost every facet of a complex modern life, giving us new buzzwords not even a mother could love, with terms like self-actualization, monetize, incentivize, imagineering, onboarding, synergize, and the like. And there’s so much more where that came from.

When Jargon Becomes Dangerous

William D. Lutz talks about how jargon and doublespeak can often be carefully designed to cover up embarrassing or secret information. For example, a commercial airline that had a 727 crash, killing three passengers, was able to pass off the resulting three million dollar insurance profit on its books as “the involuntary conversion of a 727,” which was unlikely to be questioned by confused shareholders whose eyes would probably have glazed over from the cumbersome legal jargon.

Words aren’t equal just because they mean the same thing, especially when the stakes are high. It’s not simply a matter of knowing or not knowing the meaning of these words, or if they accurately describe facts, but what Sally McConnell-Ginet calls the conceptual or cultural baggage, the hidden background assumptions the language carries with them, the ‘ologies and ‘isms that pretend to be something they’re not. Most recently in politics, the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings showed how deftly legal terminology can be wielded to avoid or plausibly deny or confuse clear facts. For example, denying knowledge of stolen documents is literally not a lie if you steadfastly assume they aren’t stolen, despite textual evidence to the contrary. The statement “I am not sure that all legal scholars refer to Roe as the settled law of the land” literally defers to a fact, the meaning of which is true. The conceptual baggage the statement carries with it, however, strongly suggests the writer does not disagree with the opinion.

Linguist Dwight Bolinger suggests that this is exactly the kind of heinous abuse of meaning that makes linguistic activism critical, shining a spotlight on these egregious cases where lies are hidden by omission or avoidance of the truth in jargon, euphemism, doublespeak, and other linguistic trickery."
jargon  language  specialization  2018  chiluu  communication  manipulation  english  synonyms  williamlutz  georgeorwell  styleguides  writing  linguistics  words 
september 2018 by robertogreco
John McWhorter: How Texting ‘LOL’ Changed Communication - The Atlantic
[on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hA6V_th9rQw ]

"“Today, communication is much more fluid, much more varied, much subtler—it's better,” says John McWhorter, professor of linguistics at Columbia University, author, and frequent contributor to The Atlantic, in a new video from the 2018 Aspen Ideas Festival. A big reason for this advancement in communication is, McWorther argues, the advent of texting—and even more specifically, the proliferation of the acronym “LOL.”

In the video, McWorther explains how LOL “ended up creeping in and replacing involuntary laughter,” and what meant for the new era of informal, nuanced communication. “It used to be that if you were going to write in any real way beyond the personal letter, there were all these rules you were afraid you were breaking—and you probably were,” he says. “It wasn't a comfortable form. You can write comfortably now.”"
johnmcwhorter  texting  texts  lol  2018  communication  language  linguistics  mobile  phones  change  flirting  fluidity  informal  informality  comfort  nuance  optimism 
september 2018 by robertogreco
All Things Linguistic
"prokopetz [https://prokopetz.tumblr.com/post/176881897102/honestly-its-not-even-multiple-exclamation-point ]:
Honestly, it’s not even multiple exclamation point that get me.

It’s the double exclamation specifically.

Ending a sentence with one exclamation point: very good, nice emphasis.

Ending a sentence with three or more exclamation points: okay, we’re going dramatic, right on.

Ending a sentence with exactly two exclamation points: I have no idea what’s going on.

It’s like sentences that conclude with a double bang occupy some sort of semiotic liminal space between the emphatic and the histrionic, and I just don’t know how to respond.

I’ve been using double exclamation marks recently for like a hybrid sincerity/enthusiasm feel, when one exclamation mark doesn’t feel sincere enough but three would be overdoing it. Like “thanks!” is just basic politeness at this point, so “thanks!!” is a genuine note of enthusiasm but not quite as excited as “thanks!!!”.

But I’m pretty sure I’m still in flux with multiple exclamation points, so maybe I’ll upgrade to three for this purpose in a few more months."
punctuation  internet  linguistics  srg  2018  davidprokopetz  language  exclamationpoints  web  online  communication  gretchenmcculloch  change  via:tealtan 
august 2018 by robertogreco
Can we hope to understand how the Greeks saw their world? | Aeon Essays
"The Greek colour experience was made of movement and shimmer. Can we ever glimpse what they saw when gazing out to sea?"
color  history  language  mariamichelasassi  ancientgreece  perception  2017  at  culture 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The Legendary Language of the Appalachian "Holler" | JSTOR Daily
"Is the unique Appalachian dialect the preserved language of Elizabethan England? Left over from Scots-Irish immigrants? Or something else altogether?"



"The AAVE Connection
Many have noticed strong similarities between white southern speech and AAVE, although AAVE isn’t necessarily tied to the south. For example, Wolfram highlights language from a KKK pamphlet which reads “Look out liberals: Wallace power gonna get you” showing a similar grammatical construction to AAVE with a missing copula be (e.g. you ugly).

If it’s true that the two dialects have slightly different linguistic sources as their origins, how did they come to be so similar? As we’ve seen, white southern speech has a Scots-Irish origin, sharing some of unusual grammatical structures yet is missing many other distinctive features of those dialects. Meanwhile, though most linguists agree that AAVE originated from the same British dialects as white southern speech, some argue that there was some linguistic influence from an English-based creole formed when millions of Africans speaking many different languages were forced, through slavery, to communicate with each other.

Wolfram suggests that the missing copula is a characteristic sign of creole influence from AAVE. The question is, how did this feature get into white southern speech, especially if the grammar was inherited mostly intact from its monoculture immigrants? It seems likely that while both dialects came from similar sources, AAVE had a significant impact on how the white southern evolved. White southern speech could have adopted and assimilated certain features of AAVE through white children spending formative time with slave caregivers and their children, for example. In a social context where white southerners and black southerners were closely interacting, many elements of African American Vernacular English, from grammar to accent, were likely to have been major influences on how southern speech developed into its own distinctive dialect. The writer of the KKK pamphlet might could have been driven plumb crazy had they known that.

So the theory of the poor, white, rural Appalachian mountain men going it alone, preserving a pure and unchanging strain of archaic British English, isolated in a hardscrabble place far from civilization, could not be further from the truth. Without the influence of diverse communities of other Appalachians such as African American Appalachians, the southern Appalachian speech and culture simply would not be what it is today. To ignore their contributions to culture and language means Appalachia will always be a distant story, burdened by the myths and legends written by others, left half told."
language  us  english  appalachia  chiluu  2018  dialects  linguistics  srg 
august 2018 by robertogreco
MuirMcNeil's New Typeface Is As Fragmented and Malleable As Memory | | Eye on Design
"Name: Bisect
Designer: Natasha Lucas in collaboration with MuirMcNeil
Foundry: MuirMcNeil
Release Date: July 2018

Back Story: While still a student at the London College of Communication, graphic designer Natasha Lucas began designing Bisect as a part of a larger project based on Harold Pinter’s mid-career “memory plays.” In a memory play, a lead character narrates events drawn from memories that may or may not be factually accurate. Pinter’s Old Times (1971), No Man’s Land (1975), and Betrayal (1978) question how faulty memory and false perception lead us to harmful conclusions and personal betrayals.

Lucas developed the Bisect type system as a visual expression of the progressive fragmentation of language as it erodes through the selective, faulty nature of memory. At the same time, she wanted to create a coherent visual type system that would work across a range of print and digital media. She developed a subtly modulated grid for the construction of Bisect’s letterforms, governed by a playful exchange between separate segments. Subsequently, MuirMcNeil developed a full character set and cut Bisect in three versions.

Why’s it called Bisect? The word bisect means “to divide into two usually equal parts,” and this typeface does just that with its letterforms, carving each one into vertical and horizontal segments that register precisely with one another in layers to offer a wide range of visual possibilities.

What are its distinguishing characteristics? Bisect is a monospaced geometric type system, and all its letters occupy squares. The designer constructed the letterforms using a meticulous, subtle relationship of vertical, horizontal, and curved segments along with extremely tight letter spacing. The characters look as if they’re formed from Modernist ribbons, with well-deployed uses of negative space; the P, for instance, does not have a completed stroke for its spine and verges on the abstract, yet somehow maintains its integrity and legibility as a letter. Bisect is available in Opentype encoding for Macintosh.

What should I use it for? Just ask Paul McNeil, partner in the foundry bearing his name: “Big settings/strong settings/short settings/brand identity designs/posters/typographic animations/play/fun/exploration.”

What other typefaces do you like to pair it with? “We don’t. The notion of ‘font pairing’ brings us out in a rash—but Bisect contrasts well with just about anything,” says McNeil. Skin ailments aside, geometric sans serifs such as London are logical companions thanks to their visually obvious mathematical roots. "
fonts  typography  muirmcneil  2018  srg  language  natashalucas  memory  malleability  fragmentation  geometry 
august 2018 by robertogreco
The logic of Buddhist philosophy goes beyond simple truth | Aeon Essays
"When Western philosophers look East, they find things they do not understand – not least the fact that the Asian traditions seem to accept, and even endorse, contradictions."



"An abhorrence of contradiction has been high orthodoxy in the West for more than 2,000 years. Statements such as Nagarjuna’s are therefore wont to produce looks of blank incomprehension, or worse. As Avicenna, the father of Medieval Aristotelianism, declared:
Anyone who denies the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as not to be burned.


One can hear similar sentiments, expressed with comparable ferocity, in many faculty common rooms today. Yet Western philosophers are slowly learning to outgrow their parochialism. And help is coming from a most unexpected direction: modern mathematical logic, not a field that is renowned for its tolerance of obscurity."



"Functions give a unique output; relations can give any number of outputs. Keep that distinction in mind; we’ll come back to it a lot."
buddhism  science  philosophy  language  logic  2014  grahampriest  contradiction  betweeness 
august 2018 by robertogreco
M.I.A. and the Defense of Nuance | Affidavit
"Cancelling people is exhilarating, especially when it’s done by marginalized folks, those who so often experience the world through white supremacy—sometimes as a soft and subtle barrage, other times through vicious and terrifying means. The ability to dictate someone’s fate, when you’ve long been in the shadows, is a kind of victory. Like saying “Fuck You” from underneath the very heavy sole of a very old shoe. But while outrage culture has its merits, nuance has evaporated. So often it involves reducing someone to their mistakes, their greatest hits collection of fuck-ups.

In her song “Best Life,” Cardi B raps:

“That’s when they came for me on Twitter with the backlash/ "#CardiBIsSoProblematic" is the hashtag/ I can't believe they wanna see me lose that bad...”

This is her response to being cancelled for a now-infamous Twitter thread detailing her colorism, orientalism, and transphobia. Most recently, after her song “Girls” with Rita Ora was also deemed problematic, she made a statement: “I know I have use words before that I wasn’t aware that they are offensive to the LGBT community. I apologize for that. Not everybody knows the correct ‘terms’ to use. I learned and I stopped using it.”

Cardi brings up something that I keep coming back to: How accessibility to political language is a certain kind of privilege. What I believe Maya is trying to say is that American issues have become global. What she lacks the language to say is: how do we also care about the many millions of people around the world who are dying, right now? Why does American news, American trauma, American death, always take center-stage?

There are things we need to agree on, like the permutations of white supremacy, but are we, societally, equipped for social media being our judge, jury and executioner? I started to realize that the schadenfreude of cancelling was its own beast. It erases people of their humanity, of their ability to learn from experience.

This brings up the politics of disposability. How helpful is distilling someone into an immovable misstep, seeing them not as a person but as interloper who fucked up, and therefore deserves no redemption? How helpful is to interrogate a conversation, but not continue it? Is telling someone to die, and sending them death threats, or telling them they’re stupid or cancelled the way to do it? Who, and what, are we willing to lose in the fire?

M.I.A. and Cardi are similarly unwilling to conform to polite expectation. They both know that relatability is part of their charm. They are attractive women who speak their mind. This, in essence, is privilege, too—which then requires responsibility. The difference is that Cardi apologized."



"“Is Beyoncé or Kendrick Lamar going to say Muslim Lives Matter? Or Syrian Lives Matter? Or this kid in Pakistan matters?”

In 2016, when Maya made these comments in an ES Magazine interview, I remember being frustrated that she only accentuated the divide between non-black people of color and black folks, partially because so often we (Asians) say dumb shit.

The dumb shit I’m referring to w/r/t Maya is not only her tunnel vision when it comes to the complexity of race (plus the void and difference between black and brown folks’ experience) but also the incapacity—or stunted unwillingness—to further self-reflect on her positioning.

Because of her insolence, I had considered Maya undeserving of my alliance. Her lack of inclusivity and disregard of the complexity of political identity, especially in North America, was abominable. As a woman who had found success within the black mediums of rap and hip-hop, her smug disregard felt brash. It felt lazy.

But, as I watched the documentary on her life, I also began to see her complexity. One thing that strikes me about Maya is her personal perseverance. Her family went through hell to get the U.K. Her father’s political affiliations forced them to flee Sri Lanka. Arular was a revolutionary, and thus deemed a terrorist. He was absent her whole childhood. At one point in the film she describes riding on a bus in Sri Lanka with her mom. When the bus jerks forward, the policemen standing alongside casually sexually assault them in broad daylight. Her mother, Mala, warns Maya to stay silent, lest they both be killed. Her reality—of physical threats, of early loss—is stark. As she recalls the details in her candid, detached drawl, you imagine her grappling with the past like a lucid dream.

Herein lies Maya’s dissonance. She is the first refugee popstar, which allows her to subsume a state of Du Bois’ double consciousness. She is neither this nor that, she is a mixture of both East and West. Her experience seeps into her music like a trance, and these definitions are vital to understanding her.

She is agonized by the realities of war, of being an unwanted immigrant who fled from genocide into the frenzied hells of London, only to be pushed into a mostly-white housing estate system, replete with Nazi skinheads. “A tough life needs a tough language,” Jeanette Winterson writes in Why Be Happy When You Can Be Normal?, her memoir about her abusive stepmother. As I watch the documentary, I wonder, again, if what Maya lacks most is language.

In the current political climate, where Syrian refugees are denied entry into the U.S., and the Muslim Ban, or “Travel Ban,” is an attack on the very notion of being different in America, I began to understand this other part of Maya. How angry she might be for the lack of articulation when it came to refugees, when it’s still very much an issue. She came to music to survive. Art was a way to dislocate from the trauma, to inoculate herself from the past, and provide a new, vivid reality that was both about transcending where she came from, whilst also creating a platform to speak to her roots, to her lineage, to her people.

Tamil is one of the oldest languages in the world. The people that speak it are, right now, being wiped out.

Her understanding of race comes from the victim’s perspective. She not only experienced white supremacy in her work, but was forced out of the country where she was born. Someone like her was never supposed to succeed. But, whether it’s Bill Maher mocking her “cockney accent” as she talks about the Tamil genocide, or the New York Times’ Lynn Hirschberg claiming her agitprop is fake because she dare munch on truffle fries (which were ordered by Hirschberg), Maya has been torn apart by (white) cultural institutions and commentators. You can see how these experiences have made her suspicious in general, but also particularly suspicious of me, a journalist.

Thing is, she’s been burnt by us too—by South Asians. So many of us walked away, attacking her instead of building a dialogue. Her compassion, therefore, is partially suspended. It’s as if she’s decided, vehemently—because she’s deemed herself to not be racist, or anti-black—that the conversation ends. She feels misheard, misrepresented. For her, it’s not about black life mattering or not mattering. It’s about prioritizing human life, about acknowledging human death. But, in America, that gets lost.

You can understand Maya’s perspective without agreeing with her, but I had another question. How do you hold someone you love accountable?

*

The talk itself was many things: awkward, eye-opening, disarming. When I asked about her alleged anti-blackness, she brought up Mark Zuckerberg as evidence that she was set up... by the internet. That her online fans should know that she’s not racist, so that perhaps her one-time friendship with Julian Assange was why she was being attacked online. Her incomprehension that people could be upset by her remarks reflected her naivety about how the internet kills its darlings. Two weeks prior to our meeting, Stephon Clark was murdered, shot twenty times in the back by two police officers. To this she responded: “Yeah, well no-one remembers the kid in Syria who is being shot right now either. Or the kid that’s dying in Somalia.” It made me wonder if she was unwell, not on a Kanye level, but just enough to lack the mechanisms it takes to understand perspective.

Backstage after the talk, she said, “I don’t know why you asked me those questions.” I told her that I thought critique, when done with care, was an empowering act of love. I needed clarity for our community’s sake—many of whom felt isolated by her, a cherished South Asian icon. We need answers from her because we are all trying to grapple with our love and frustration with her.

I don’t want to absolve Maya. What I’m more interested in is how we can say “problematic fave” while acknowledging that we are all problematic to someone. Is there compassion here? Is there space to grow?

*

In They Can’t Kill Us Until They Kill Us, Hanif Abdurraqib writes, “There are people we need so much we can’t imagine turning away from them. People we’ve built entire homes inside of ourselves for, that cannot stand empty. People we still find a way to make magic with, even when the lights flicker, and the love runs entirely out.”

In the recent months, I’ve re-examined Maya with sad enthusiasm. The beginning riff of “Bad Girls”: a women in full niqab racing a car through side swept dunes. Without question, it’s an aching kind of visibility, but the tenor is different. Listening to her now it feels weighted, changed.

Laconic and aloof, I remind Maya on stage that anti-blackness is not an American issue, it’s universal. Perhaps it’s ego, or shameful anger, but I know she cares. Before she begins to speak I realize that you have to build empathy when someone fails you. That they’re not yours to own. You have to try your best to talk to them, and that it’s never helpful to reduce them to a punchline. I believe in Maya’s possibility to grow. I believe in the possibility of change. Maybe that’s my own naivety, but it’s also my political stance. It’s not about … [more]
mia  fariharóisín  2018  privilege  language  cancelling  marginalization  colorism  transphobia  orientlism  cardib  socialmedia  disposability  whitesupremacy  race  racism  apologies  learning  power  islamophobia  islam  socialjustice  noamchomsky  modelminorities  modelminority  nuance  complexity  perseverance  srilanka  silence  refugees  politics  tamil  victims  compassion  blacklivesmatter  julianassange  yourfaveisproblematic  us  australia  anti-blackness  growth  care  caring  dialog  conversation  listening  ego  shame  anger  change  naivety  howwechange  howwelearn  hanifabdurraqib  visibility  internet  problemematicfaves 
july 2018 by robertogreco
In What Language Does Rain Fall Over Tormented Cities? – Raiot
"Text of The W. G. Sebald Lecture on Literary Translation by Arundhati Roy
5 June 2018, The British Library, London."

[more excerpts coming soon]

"Twenty years after the publication of The God of Small Things, I finished writing my second novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but if a novel can have an enemy, then the enemy of this novel is the idea of “One nation, one religion, one language.” As I composed the cover page of my manuscript, in place of the author’s name, I was tempted to write: “Translated from the original(s) by Arundhati Roy.” The Ministry is a novel written in English but imagined in several languages. Translation as a primary form of creation was central to the writing of it (and here I don’t mean the translation of the inchoate and the prelingual into words). Regardless of which language (and in whose mother tongue) The Ministry was written in, this particular narrative about these particular people in this particular universe would had to be imagined in several languages. It is a story that emerges out of an ocean of languages, in which a teeming ecosystem of living creatures—official-language fish, unofficial-dialect mollusks, and flashing shoals of word-fish—swim around, some friendly with each other, some openly hostile, and some outright carnivorous. But they are all nourished by what the ocean provides. And all of them, like the people in The Ministry, have no choice but to coexist, to survive, and to try to understand each other. For them, translation is not a high-end literary art performed by sophisticated polyglots. Translation is daily life, it is street activity, and it’s increasingly a necessary part of ordinary folks’ survival kit. And so, in this novel of many languages, it is not only the author, but the characters themselves who swim around in an ocean of exquisite imperfection, who constantly translate for and to each other, who constantly speak across languages, and who constantly realize that people who speak the same language are not necessarily the ones who understand each other best.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has been—is being—translated into forty-eight languages. Each of those translators has to grapple with a language that is infused with many languages including, if I may coin a word, many kinds of Englishes (sociolects is perhaps the correct word, but I’ll stay with Englishes because it is deliciously worse) and translate it into another language that is infused with many languages. I use the word infused advisedly, because I am not speaking merely of a text that contains a smattering of quotations or words in other languages as a gimmick or a trope, or one that plays the Peter Sellers game of mocking Indian English, but of an attempt to actually create a companionship of languages.

Of the forty-eight translations, two are Urdu and Hindi. As we will soon see, the very fact of having to name Hindi and Urdu as separate languages, and publish them as separate books with separate scripts, contains a history that is folded into the story of The Ministry. Given the setting of the novel, the Hindi and Urdu translations are, in part, a sort of homecoming. I soon learned that this did nothing to ease the task of the translators. To give you an example: The human body and its organs play an important part in The Ministry. We found that Urdu, that most exquisite of languages, which has more words for love than perhaps any other language in the world, has no word for vagina. There are words like the Arabic furj, which is considered to be archaic and more or less obsolete, and there are euphemisms that range in meaning from “hidden part,” “breathing hole,” “vent,” and “path to the uterus.” The most commonly used one is aurat ki sharamgah. A woman’s place of shame. As you can see, we had trouble on our hands. Before we rush to judgment, we must remember that pudenda in Latin means “that whereof one should feel shame.” In Danish, I was told by my translator, the phrase is “lips of shame.” So, Adam and Eve are alive and well, their fig leaves firmly in place.

Although I am tempted to say more about witnessing the pleasures and difficulties of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness being translated into other languages, more than the “post-writing” translations, it is the “pre-writing” translation that I want to talk about today. None of it came from an elaborate, pre-existing plan. I worked purely by instinct. It is only while preparing for this lecture that I began to really see how much it mattered to me to persuade languages to shift around, to make room for each other. Before we dive into the Ocean of Imperfection and get caught up in the eddies and whirlpools of our historic blood feuds and language wars, in order to give you a rough idea of the terrain, I will quickly chart the route by which I arrived at my particular patch of the shoreline."



"So, how shall we answer Pablo Neruda’s question that is the title of this lecture?

In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?7

I’d say, without hesitation, in the Language of Translation."
arundhatiroy  language  languages  translation  literature  2018  india  colonialism  nationalism  authenticity  elitism  caste  nativism  identity  culture  society  inbetween  betweenness  multilingual  polyglot  everyday  communication  english  hindi  nationstates  imperialism  urdu  persian  tamil  sinhala  bangladesh  pakistan  srilanka  canon 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Harvest of Empire – Harvest of Empire
[Available on YouTube, for now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyncOYTZfHE ]

[See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvest_of_Empire:_A_History_of_Latinos_in_America ]

"The Untold Story of Latinos in America

“We are all Americans of the New World, and our most dangerous enemies 
are not each other, but the great wall of ignorance between us.”
Juan González, Harvest of Empire

At a time of heated and divisive debate over immigration, Onyx Films is proud to present Harvest of Empire, a feature-length documentary that reveals the direct connection between the long history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and the immigration crisis we face today.

Based on the groundbreaking book by award-winning journalist and Democracy Now! Co-host Juan González, Harvest of Empire takes an unflinching look at the role that U.S. economic and military interests played in triggering an unprecedented wave of migration that is transforming our nation’s cultural and economic landscape.

From the wars for territorial expansion that gave the U.S. control of Puerto Rico, Cuba and more than half of Mexico, to the covert operations that imposed oppressive military regimes in the Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador, Harvest of Empire unveils a moving human story that is largely unknown to the great majority of citizens in the U.S.

As Juan González says at the beginning of the film “They never teach us in school that the huge Latino presence here is a direct result of our own government’s actions in Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America over many decades — actions that forced millions from that region to leave their homeland and journey north.”

Harvest of Empire provides a rare and powerful glimpse into the enormous sacrifices and rarely-noted triumphs of our nation’s growing Latino community. The film features present day immigrant stories, rarely seen archival material, as well as interviews with such respected figures as Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Rigoberta Menchú, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Junot Díaz, Mexican historian Dr. Lorenzo Meyer, journalists María Hinojosa and Geraldo Rivera, Grammy award-winning singer Luis Enrique, and poet Martín Espada."
film  documentary  us  history  immigration  latinamerica  puertorico  mexico  guatemala  honduras  juangonzález  cuba  nicaragua  elsalvador  rigobertamenchú  jessejackson  anthonyromero  junotdíaz  lorenzomeyer  maríahinojosa  geraldorivera  2011  martínespada  luisenrique  dominicanrepublic  latinos  imperialism  politics  policy  foreignpolicy  braceros  wwii  ww2  civilrights  race  racism  migration  communism  redscare  centralamerica  caribbean  colonialism  socialism  capitalism  fidelcastro  rafaeltrujillo  spanish-americanwar  inequality  exploitation  sugar  cotton  revolution  resistance  fulgenciobatista  dictatorships  oppression  deportation  texas  california  newmexico  arizona  mexican-americanwar  nevada  colorado  florida  nyc  óscarromero  harrytruman  democracy  jacoboárbenz  unitedfruitcompany  eisenhower  cia  intervention  maya  ethniccleansing  land  ownership  civilwar  iran-contraaffair  ronaldreagan  sandinistas  contras  war  bayofpigs  refugees  marielboatlift  1980  jimmycarter  language  spanish  español  miami  joaquínbalaguer  hectortruji 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Mr. Rogers's Simple Set of Rules for Talking to Kids - The Atlantic
"Per the pamphlet, there were nine steps for translating into Freddish:

1. “State the idea you wish to express as clearly as possible, and in terms preschoolers can understand.” Example: It is dangerous to play in the street. ​​​​​​

2. “Rephrase in a positive manner,” as in It is good to play where it is safe.

3. “Rephrase the idea, bearing in mind that preschoolers cannot yet make subtle distinctions and need to be redirected to authorities they trust.” As in, “Ask your parents where it is safe to play.”

4. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate all elements that could be considered prescriptive, directive, or instructive.” In the example, that’d mean getting rid of “ask”: Your parents will tell you where it is safe to play.

5. “Rephrase any element that suggests certainty.” That’d be “will”: Your parents can tell you where it is safe to play.

6. “Rephrase your idea to eliminate any element that may not apply to all children.” Not all children know their parents, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play.

7. “Add a simple motivational idea that gives preschoolers a reason to follow your advice.” Perhaps: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is good to listen to them.

8. “Rephrase your new statement, repeating the first step.” “Good” represents a value judgment, so: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them.

9. “Rephrase your idea a final time, relating it to some phase of development a preschooler can understand.” Maybe: Your favorite grown-ups can tell you where it is safe to play. It is important to try to listen to them, and listening is an important part of growing."
children  communication  fredrogers  language  parenting  2018 
june 2018 by robertogreco
Nick Farmer
"Nick Farmer is a writer and linguist based in Oakland, CA. He created the Belter conlang for Syfy’s The Expanse, contributed to the best-selling introductory linguistics textbook published by MIT Press, and works to support endangered and indigenous languages. Raised by his MIT trained linguist mother, and inspired by his godfather, Ken Hale, Nick has long been fascinated by languages and the cultures of those who speak them. When he’s not writing or studying, he loves spending time outdoors, lifting weights, listening to music, puttering around in his mess of a garden, and watching baseball."

[See also:

"How to Teach Yourself a Language (Part 1)"
https://medium.com/@nfarmerlinguist/how-to-teach-yourself-a-language-part-1-484da99cb76b

"How to Teach Yourself a Language (Part 2)"
https://medium.com/@nfarmerlinguist/how-to-teach-yourself-a-language-part-2-f6ae3b0d4777

"Linguistics: An Introduction to Language and Communication"
https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/linguistics

"The Expanse’s Belter Language Has Real-World Roots: That Cool Dialect on The Expanse Mashes Up 6 Languages"
https://www.wired.com/2017/04/the-expanse-belter-language/

Belter Creole
http://expanse.wikia.com/wiki/Belter_Creole ]
nickfarmer  linguistics  theexpanse  language  languages  sciencefiction  scifi  srg 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The surprising pattern behind color names around the world - YouTube
"In 1969, two Berkeley researchers, Paul Kay and Brent Berlin, published a book on a pretty groundbreaking idea: that every culture in history, when they developed their languages, invented words for colors in the exact same order. They claimed to know this based off of a simple color identification test, where 20 respondents identified 330 colored chips by name. If a language had six words, they were always black, white, red, green, yellow, and blue. If it had four terms, they were always black, white, red, and then either green or yellow. If it had only three, they were always black, white, and red , and so on. The theory was revolutionary — and it shaped our understanding of how color terminologies emerge.

Read more on the research mentioned in this video:

Cook, Kay, and Regier on the World Color Survey: goo.gl/MTUi9C
Stephen C. Levinson on Yele color terms: goo.gl/CYDfvw
John A. Lucy on Hanunó'o color terms: goo.gl/okcyC3
Loreto, Mukherjee, and Tria on color naming population simulations: goo.gl/rALO1S

To learn more about how your language's color words can affect the way you think, check out this video lecture: goo.gl/WxYi1q "
color  classideas  perception  language  languages  paulkay  brentberlin  anthropology  linguistics  red  yellow  blue  green 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Why Nouns Slow Us Down, and Why Linguistics Might Be in a Bubble | The New Yorker
"Writers and language geeks inherit a ranking system of sorts: verbs good, adjectives bad, nouns sadly unavoidable. Verbs are action, verve! “I ate the day / Deliberately, that its tang / Might quicken me into verb, pure verb,” Seamus Heaney writes, in “Oysters.” A sentence can be a sentence without nouns or adjectives, but never without a verb. For the most part.

But nouns deserve more cognitive credit. A study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that nouns actually take longer to spit out than verbs do, presumably because they require more thought to produce. In the study, researchers led by Frank Seifart, a linguist at the University of Amsterdam, and Balthasar Bickel, of the University of Zurich, analyzed hundreds of recordings of spontaneous speech from nine very different languages from around the world: English and Dutch, as well as several others from as far afield as Amazonia, Siberia, the Kalahari, and Tibet. They picked out and compared the spoken renditions of the nouns and verbs, focussing not on how long it took for each word to be spoken but on what was happening in the half-second preceding each word. That tiny window is informative: cognitive scientists have concluded that it takes the brain about that long to formulate its next word, which happens even as a current word or phrase is being spoken.

Which is to say, the future word casts a shadow over the present one. And that shadow is measurable: the researchers found that, in all nine languages, the speech immediately preceding a noun is three-and-a-half-per-cent slower than the speech preceding a verb. And in eight of nine languages, the speaker was about twice as likely to introduce a pause before a noun than before a verb—either a brief silence or a filler, such as “uh” or “um” or their non-English equivalents. That future word, when it’s a noun, is more of a footfall than a shadow, creating a hole in the phrase right before it.

Seifart and Bickel think that this has to do with the different roles that nouns and verbs play in language. Nouns require more planning to say because they more often convey novel information, Seifart told me—that’s one reason why we quickly transition from nouns to pronouns when speaking. Listeners are sensitive to those tiny pauses before a noun, and interpret them as indicating that what follows will be something new or important.

Unlike nouns and pronouns, verbs don’t have “proverbs” to pick up the pace, although we cheat a little with sentences such as, “Susan drank wine and Mary did, too.” Verbs are grammatically more complex than nouns but have less to reveal. When you’re about to say a verb, you’re less likely to be saying something new, so your brain doesn’t have to slow down what it’s already doing to plan for it.

Oddly enough, the one language that doesn’t seem to pre-think its nouns as thoroughly as its verbs is English, Seifart and Bickel found. Although English speakers do slow down their speech immediately before a noun, they use fewer pauses beforehand, not more, when compared to verbs.

“English is peculiar,” Seifart said. English is less useful than we might imagine for understanding what our speech has to say about how we think: “It can never be representative of human language in general,” he said. “To make claims about human language in general, we need to look at much broader array of them.”

In recent years, scientists have grown concerned that much of the literature on human psychology and behavior is derived from studies carried out in Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic countries. These results aren’t necessarily indicative of how humans as a whole actually function. Linguistics may face a similar challenge—the science is in a bubble, talking to itself. “This is what makes people like me realize the unique value of small, often endangered languages and documenting them for as long as they can still be observed,” Seifart said. “In a few generations, they will not be spoken anymore.” In the years to come, as society grows more complex, the number of nouns available to us may grow exponentially. The diversity of its speakers, not so much."
language  languages  weird  nouns  verbs  communication  linguistics  2018  alanburdick  action  frankseifart  balthasarbickel  future  present  speed  speaking  english 
may 2018 by robertogreco
From pointing to nodding: is gesture a universal language? | Aeon Essays
"Across vast cultural divides people can understand one another through gesture. Does that make it a universal language?"
gestures  human  humans  communication  language  psychology2018  kensycooperrider 
may 2018 by robertogreco
The respect of personhood vs the respect of authority
"In April 2015, Autistic Abby wrote on their Tumblr about how people mistakenly conflate two distinct definitions of “respect” when relating to and communicating with others.
Sometimes people use “respect” to mean “treating someone like a person” and sometimes they use “respect” to mean “treating someone like an authority”

and sometimes people who are used to being treated like an authority say “if you won’t respect me I won’t respect you” and they mean “if you won’t treat me like an authority I won’t treat you like a person”

and they think they’re being fair but they aren’t, and it’s not okay.

This is an amazing & astute observation and applies readily to many aspects of our current political moment, i.e. the highest status group in the US for the past two centuries (white males) experiencing a steep decline in their status relative to other groups. This effect plays out in relation to gender, race, sexual orientation, age, and class. An almost cartoonishly on-the-nose example is Trump referring to undocumented immigrants as “animals” and then whining about the press giving him a hard time. You can also see it when conservative intellectuals with abundant social standing and privilege complain that their ideas about hanging women or the innate inferiority of non-whites are being censored.

Men who abuse their partners do this…and then sometimes parlay their authoritarian frustrations & easily available assault weapons into mass shootings. There are ample examples of law enforcement — the ultimate embodiment of authority in America — treating immigrants, women, black men, etc. like less than human. A perfect example is the “incel” movement, a group of typically young, white, straight men who feel they have a right to sex and therefore treat women who won’t oblige them like garbage.

You can see it happening in smaller, everyday ways too: never trust anyone who treats restaurant servers like shit because what they’re really doing is abusing their authority as a paying customer to treat another person as subhuman."
culture  diversity  language  respect  personhood  authority  jasonkottke  kottke  status  hierarchy  patriarchy  gender  race  racism  sexism  lawenforcement  humanism  humans 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Kilauea: A Beginner’s Guide to Hawaii’s Sublime Lava - The Atlantic
"But Western scientists were not the first people to encounter Hawaii’s volcanoes. Native Hawaiians have lived on the islands, and among the volcanoes, for more than 900 years. And their history, literature, and culture all recognize the reality of living near such a powerful phenomenon.

(A brief language note: Everyone who lives in the archipelago is called a “Hawaii resident.” The term “Hawaiian” is reserved for someone with native Hawaiian ancestry. This distinction is regularly made on the islands, including in the state constitution.)

“There’s aʻa or pahoehoe, the rough lava or the smooth lava,” said Kuʻualoha Hoʻomanawanui, a professor of literature at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “But the word for both of them is Pele.”

Pele is the Hawaiian deity of volcanoes, lava, and fire—but deity in its Western sense doesn’t quite describe the scope of Pele’s power. Many Hawaiian families trace their lineage back to Pele, meaning they count her as an ancestor.

“Pele is not just the goddess of lava. Lava is Pele,” Hoʻomanawanui told me. “The lava flows basically reaffirm what our literature tells us—that the land is alive, that Pele is alive. When we talk about the lava being alive, it’s a metaphor for the earth itself being alive. The lava is Pele, the magma is Pele, the lava flow and then when the lava hardens—each you can just replace the word with Pele.”

Even the site of the new eruption makes sense within Hawaiian culture. The current eruption has focused primarily on a subdivision called Leilani Estates. But Leilani Estates is a new name, and the subdivision sits within a larger area that Hawaiians traditionally called Keahialaka, which means “the fire of Laka.” Laka is the goddess of hula and one of Pele’s daughters.

“The Hawaiians watching are looking at the names of these places and saying, ‘Oh yeah!’” said Noelani M. Arista, a professor of Hawaiian history at the University of Hawaii. “It’s like, sometimes people are amazed that a flood will hit a flood zone. But we’ve got place names that say flood zone.”

“Anyone can come and slap a new name on any thing: ‘Let’s call it Leilani Estates!’ And Leilani is a generic name. But that won’t take away from the mana, the spiritual power and characteristics of that place, that the old place name embodies,” agreed Hoʻomanawanui.

These new names “lull people into a sense of complacency,” she said. “[They think,] I’m not actually buying property and building a house in an active lava rift zone, but I’m buying a piece of paradise.”

But sometimes these new names can be ironic. Kilauea is surrounded by rainforest, and people in Hawaii customarily link its lava flows to the Kool-Aid-red lehua flowers that grow around it. So when Hoʻomanawanui read that one of the first lava fissures in Leilani Estates opened up on Mohala Street, she laughed. “Well, of course!” she said. “Mohala means ‘to blossom,’ or ‘to bloom.’ In a way, it’s all interconnected.”

Pele’s story takes many forms—Hoʻomanawanui has studied 14 different serialized newspaper versions of it, all of which first appeared in the 19th century. But many describe a similar journey: how Pele and her family came up from an island in the South Pacific, how they found the Hawaii archipelago, and how Pele traveled to every island, looking for a place to keep her fire. She visited every island, and dug a hole in every island, until she eventually found Hawaii Island and placed her fire in Kilauea. (Hoʻomanawanui recommended that mainland Americans watch Holo Mai Pele, a PBS-filmed hula about Pele, for a credible summary of her story.)

“The story of Pele is a poetic, literary telling of what scientists would maybe call the Ring of Fire, and how volcanic activity gets to the Hawaiian islands from other parts of the Pacific,” said Hoʻomanawanui. “It’s an ideological explanation for why we don’t have volcanic activity occurring now on the other islands.”

But it’s more than a just-so story. Arista, the Hawaiian historian, contrasts how non-native Hawaii residents and native Hawaiians have discussed the recent lava flow. Much of the national media attention has focused on an American-centric understanding of the destruction, she said—for instance, by talking about the extent of property loss.

“But then you’ve got Hawaii residents saying, how amazing is the presence of this in my life,” she said. “Native people who live in the subdivision are largely saying, ‘Yes, I knew I was living in this space where volcanic activity is a huge factor, because I’ve lived my life here. And because we have this respect for Pele, I wanted to live here.’”

Hoʻomanawanui said she saw many native Hawaiians greeting the lava flow not with dread, but with acceptance. “When the flows start, you clean the house, you open the door, and you say: ‘Tūtū Pele, this is your land, take it,’” she said.

(Since Hoʻomanawanui’s family tracks its lineage back to Pele, they call her Tūtū, or grandmother. But other Hawaiians and non-Natives will call her Tūtū Pele out of respect, even if she is not an ancestor to them. “They acknowledge she’s a special force of nature—literally,” she said. Others, including non-Natives, may call her Madame Pele for the same reason.)

Hoʻomanawanui and Arista told me that seeing the lava as Pele didn’t detract from the scientific understanding of it. Instead, Pele anchors the experience of the lava, envelops it, and connects it to the lives of people who came before.

“Through dance, through costuming, through specific flowers—there’s layers of representation that I think really evoke a sensory experience beyond just knowledge, beyond just understanding as a Western scientific geological process,” Hoʻomanawanui said. “It’s a complete experience that is inclusive of that [scientific] knowledge but goes way beyond it.”

“We don’t have the words for belief or faith in this stuff,” she said. Instead, she said, Westerners should see Hawaiian customary belief as a practice and as a way of understanding the world."
hawaii  lava  science  names  naming  knowledge  volcanoes  complacency  indigeneity  2018  culture  language  languages  morethanhuman  geography  local  classideas  placenames 
may 2018 by robertogreco
My Classroom Win: Scribing for Students - Long View on Education
"Even though I always tell students that I want to hear their ideas, that works against their conditioning. I have a huge sign on the wall telling them that I trust them to go to the bathroom, get a drink, stretch, or eat a small snack without asking me. Yet, they still ask me. Can I open the window? I tell them to ask their classmates.

This kind of conditioning – doing the grammar of school – can be difficult to overcome. And it’s not just that they err on the side of being polite or have somehow abandoned the self-centeredness that all teenagers (and adults, of course) contend with. I find students want affirmation that they have permission to do things that they have long been told that they must seek approval for. Can I write in the first person? Can I give my own opinion? Nothing would make me happier. 

My writing instruction is heavily influence by the writer’s workshop (Columbia Teacher’s College) and culturally sustaining pedagogies. There is a strong and powerful role for direct instruction and using model texts, but this must take place inside a larger liberatory project that aims to undo deficit theories of language use. “Abundant linguistic research has demonstrated, however, that youth, especially those from economically, racially, and/or linguistically marginalized communities, are in fact innovative, flexible, and sophisticated language users, and that language is central to young people’s creation of their identities.” (Mary Bucholtz, Dolores Ines Casillas, and Jin Sook Lee) Scribing for students can be one way to show them that they are thinkers and writers, that they have a story to tell, and that someone wants to listen."
pedagogy  writing  teaching  conditioning  schools  schooling  schooliness  benjamindoxtdator  scribing  education  learning  howwewrite  directinstruction  language  2018  unschooling  deschooling  lcproject  cv 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Isis Lecture (Lecture given at the Oxford Literary festival in 2003 ) - Philip Pullman
[from this page: http://www.philip-pullman.com/writings

"This was the first extended piece I wrote about education. I wanted to say what I thought had gone wrong with it, and suggest some better ways of doing things. The lecture was given during the Oxford Literary Festival in 2003."]

"I’m going to talk about culture this afternoon, in the widest sense; about education and the arts, especially literature. It’s my contention that something has gone bad, something has gone wrong in the state of education, and that we can see this very clearly in the way schools deal with books, and reading, and writing – with everything that has to do with literature, and the making of it. When more and more good teachers are leaving the profession in disillusion and disappointment; when the most able undergraduates are taking one look at a career in teaching, and deciding that it offers no scope for their talents, and turning away to do something else; when school headships are proving harder and harder to fill – then we’re doing something wrong.

I think it boils down to this: that education now is suffused with the wrong emotion. Somehow, over the past quarter of a century, ever since James Callaghan’s famous Great Debate speech, we have seen confidence leaking away, and something else slowly seeping in to take its place. What that something else is, I shall come to near the end. No doubt some of the confidence was misplaced; no doubt we needed a Great Debate. But I think the benefits that came from it have long since been exhausted. It’s time for another way of doing things.

So first of all, I’m going to look at what’s happening now, and I’m going right in to the glowing, radioactive core at the heart of the engine that drives the whole thing: the National Curriculum and the SATs. I won’t spend too long on these things, but we do need to look at the actual stuff to get a flavour of the thought behind it, and this is what the Qualifications Curriculum Authority says about the Reading part of the English tests at Key Stage 2 – that means, in human language, at age 11.

They think that reading consists of using a range of strategies to decode, selecting, retrieving, deducing, inferring, interpreting, identifying and commenting on the structure and organisation of texts, identifying and commenting on the writer’s purposes and viewpoints, relating texts to the social, cultural and historical contexts.

That’s it. That’s all. Nothing else. That’s what they want children of 11 to do when they read. They don’t seem to know that reading can also be enjoyed, because enjoyment just doesn’t feature in the list of things you have to do.

Mind you, it’s just as well that they don’t have to enjoy it, because they’re not likely to have a copy of the books anyway. In another unit of work – 46 pages, to get through in a fortnight – they are to study Narrative Structure. The work’s built around two short stories and part of a novel. It’s not expected – this is interesting – that the children will have their own copies of the complete texts, though some pages may be extracted and photocopied.

But the whole book doesn’t matter very much either, because books exist in order to be taken apart and laid out in pieces like Lego. One of the things the children have to do in this unit of work is to make a class list of “the features of a good story opening.” This is where it stops being merely tedious, and starts being mendacious as well. The teacher is asked to model the writing of an alternative first paragraph for one of the stories. The instructions say “Read through the finished writing together. Check this against the criteria for a good opening – does it fulfil all of these?”

I can’t say it clearly enough: this is not how it works. Writing doesn’t happen like this. What does happen like this is those Hollywood story-structure courses, where there are seven rules for this, and five principles of that, and eight bullet-points to check when constructing the second-act climax. You cannot write a good story by building up a list of effective openings. It is telling children a lie to say that this is the way you write stories. Apart from anything else, it’s profoundly vulgar.

Then there is the Reading Journal, which children have to keep. Among other things, they have to:

List the words and phrases used to create an atmosphere

Write a fifty word summary of a whole plot

Pick a descriptive word from the text and, using a thesaurus, write down five synonyms and antonyms for that word

And so on. What concerns me here is the relationship this sets up between child and book, between children and stories. Stories are written to beguile, to entertain, to amuse, to move, to enchant, to horrify, to delight, to anger, to make us wonder. They are not written so that we can make a fifty word summary of the whole plot, or find five synonyms for the descriptive words. That sort of thing would make you hate reading, and turn away from such a futile activity with disgust. In the words of Ruskin, it’s “slaves’ work, unredeemed.”

Those who design this sort of thing seem to have completely forgotten the true purpose of literature, the everyday, humble, generous intention that lies behind every book, every story, every poem: to delight or to console, to help us enjoy life or endure it. That’s the true reason we should be giving books to children. The false reason is to make them analyse, review, comment and so on.

But they have to do it – day in, day out, hour after hour, this wretched system nags and pesters and buzzes at them, like a great bluebottle laden with pestilence. And then all the children have to do a test; and that’s when things get worse."



"So said Ruskin in 1853. Again, we didn’t listen. Ruskin went on to point out that when you do trust people to act for themselves, they are free to make mistakes, to blunder and fail; but there is the possibility of majesty too. Do we want human beings teaching our children, with all their faults and follies and limitations, but with all their depth and grandeur as well? Or do we want managers, who are glib and fluent in the language of audits and targets and performance indicators and mission statements, but who are baffled by true originality, who flinch and draw back from it as if it were deadly poison?

The extraordinary thing is that they are the same people. They could all be free, if they chose. Some of the young people who come into teaching may be timid and narrow-minded, but don’t think for a moment that I think that they’re not capable of courage and curiosity. They’ve never had a chance to show it; their teachers are afraid themselves. Marilyn Mottram of the University of Central England in Birmingham, who has been studying the way the National Curriculum and the Literacy Strategy work in schools, wrote to me last month: “When I work with teachers on developing ways of using texts I’m frequently asked ‘… but are we allowed to do that?’ This sort of continuing anxiety about literacy teaching,” she goes on, “suggests that a culture of conformity has been quite securely established among our primary teachers and, like many others, I find this deeply disturbing.”

These young people are tigers born in cages, and kept caged until they think that being caged is a natural condition; and they look down at themselves, and they see their magnificent stripes, and the only way they can understand them is to think that they themselves must be made of bars: they are their own cage; they dare not move outside the little space they occupy. But they are tigers still, if only they knew."



"So here are five steps we should take, starting right now.

Do away with these incessant tests; they only tell you things you don’t need to know, and make the children do things they don’t need to do.

Abolish the league tables, which are an abomination.

Cut class sizes in every school in the country. No child should ever be in a class bigger than twenty.

Make teaching a profession that the most gifted, the most imaginative, the most well-informed people will clamour to join; and make the job so rewarding that none of them will
want to stop teaching until they drop.

Make this the golden rule, the equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: Everything we ask a child to do should be something intrinsically worth doing.

If we do those five things, we will not bring about a golden age, or an earthly paradise; there are more things wrong with the world than we can cure by changing a system of schooling. But if we get education right, it would show that we were being serious about living and thinking and understanding ourselves; it would show that we were paying our children the compliment of assuming that they were serious too; and it would acknowledge that the path to true learning begins nowhere else but in delight, and the words on the signpost say: “Once upon a time …”"
philippullman  education  canon  teaching  writing  howwelearn  howweread  howweteach  howwewrite  reading  literature  management  unschooling  deschooling  schooliness  schooling  policy  curriculum  culture  society  meaning  johnruskin  learning  schools  pedagogy  literacy  purpose  life  living  pleasure  via:derek  storytelling  stories  fear  intrinsicmotivation  children  self-esteem  self-confidence  language  communication  time  slow  results  accountability  measurement  testing  standardizedtesting  standardization  2003 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Vadik Marmeladov
"I design the most beautiful products. Before scrolling down to the pictures, please read our Codes of Practice:

1. Wear the uniform
2. Think long term (like 30 years from now)
3. Build stories and languages, not things
4. Create your own universe (or join ours)
5. Collect samples
6. Be a sample for somebody else 
7. Look for loyalty, not for a skill set
8. Do not build utilitarian products. However, use them as a medium to express yourself
9. Do not exploit introverts — doesn't work long term. Learn to be an introvert yourself 
10. Travel more
11. Do not work for corporations. Old corporations were meaningful when their founders were alive, but now, they have outlived their relevancy. They exist only to keep their numbers growing
12. New corporations are no better. They have scaled up features, and today’s founders want hyper-growth for growth’s sake (it seems like every line of code, every feature deserves its own corporation — it sure doesn't)
13. So, fuck the corporations
14. Tell the truth (bullshit never works long term)
15. Study and research fashion
16. Your phone is a temporary feature — don’t spend your life on it (like you wouldn’t spend it on a fax machine)
17. Fuck likes, followers, fake lives, fake friends
18. Remake your environment. Build it for yourself, and people will come 
19. Only trust those who make things you love
20. Move to LA 
21. Don’t buy property
22. Don’t go to Mars (just yet)
23. Use only one font, just a few colors, and just a few shapes
24. Use spreadsheets, but only to map out 30 cells — one for each year of the rest of your life
25. The next three are the most important
26. The past doesn’t exist — don’t get stuck in it
27. Don’t go to Silicon Valley (it’s not for you if you’re still reading this)
28. Remind yourself daily: you and everyone you know will die
29. We must build the most beautiful things
30. We are 2046 kids"

[via Warren Ellis's Orbital Operations newsletter, 8 April 2018:

"LOT 2046 [https://www.lot2046.com/ ] continues to be magnificent. This is actually a really strong duffel bag. You just never know what you're going to get.

Incidentally, culture watchers, keep an eye on this - the LOT 2046 user-in-residence programme [https://www.lot2046.com/360/11/875c4f ]. This feels like a small start to a significant idea. Vadik thinks long-term. He once had the following Codes Of Practise list from his previous business on his personal website, preserved by the sainted Wayback Machine:"]
vadikmarmeladov  codesofpractice  uniforms  longterm  stories  language  languages  worldbuilding  loyalty  skills  samples  examples  corporations  corporatism  losangeles  property  2046  beauty  part  present  siliconvalley  fonts  mars  trust  love  environment  like  follows  followers  fakeness  relevancy  features  numbers  scale  scalability  fashion  research  attention 
april 2018 by robertogreco
Novels Are Made of Words: Moby-Dick, Emotion, and Abridgment
"Paul Valéry tells the story: The painter Edgar Degas was backhanded-bragging to his friend Stéphane Mallarmé about the poems that he, Degas, had been trying to write. He knew they weren’t great, he said, “But I’ve got lots of ideas—too many ideas.” “But my dear Degas,” the poet replied, “poems are not made out of ideas. They’re made of words.”

Paintings, for that matter, are not made of pretty ballerinas or landscapes: they’re made of paint.

Which brings us to Syuzhet, Matthew Jockers’s new program that analyzes the words of a novel for their emotional value and graphs the sentimental shape of the book. Dan Piepenbring has explained it all here and here on the Daily, with links to the original postings and the various outcries, some of them in the comments, that have blown up around Jockers.

Many people apparently find Jockers’s research the latest assault of technocratic digitocracy on the citadel of deep humanistic feelings, but that’s not how I see it. What the graphs reveal about potboiler narrative structure versus high-literary arcs, for instance—Dan Brown’s higher average positivity than James Joyce’s, and his more regular cycle of highs and lows to force the reader through the book—is insightful, useful, and great.

In some ways, it’s hard for me to even see what the fuss is about. “It’s not that it’s wrong,” one commenter writes. “It’s just that it’s an extremely poor substitute for reading, enjoying, and discussing literature.” But who said anything about a substitute? Does this commenter not notice that the discussions of the graphs rest on having read the books and seeing how the graphs shed light on them? Another: “Okay, fuck this guy for comparing Dan Brown to James Joyce.” Well, how else can you say Joyce is better and Brown is worse? That’s what’s known as a comparison. Or do you think Joyce can’t take it?

Freak-outs aside, there are substantive rebuttals, too. What seems to be the most rigorous objection is from SUNY professor and fellow digital-humanities scholar Annie Swafford, who points out some failures in the algorithm. “I am extremely happy today” and “There is no happiness left in me,” for example, read as equally positive. And:

Longer sentences may be given greater positivity or negativity than their contents warrant, merely because they have greater number of positive or negative words. For instance, “I am extremely happy!” would have a lower positivity ranking than “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again.”

But let’s actually compare “Well, I’m not really happy; today, I spilled my delicious, glorious coffee on my favorite shirt and it will never be clean again” to “I’m sad.” The positivity or negativity might be the same, assuming there could be some kind of galvanometer or something attached to the emotional nodes of our brain to measure the “pure” “objective” “quantity” of positivity. But the first of those sentences is more emotional—maybe not more positive, but more expressive, more histrionic. Ranking it higher than “I’m sad” or even “I am very happy” makes a certain kind of sense.

“There is no happiness left in me” and “I am all sadness from now on” are the same seven words to a logician or a hypothetical emotiomometer, but not to a novelist or a reader. Everyone in advertising and political wordsmithing knows that people absorb the content of a statement much more than the valence: to say that something “is not horrific and apocalyptic” is a downer, despite the “not.” Or consider: “Gone for eternity is the delight that once filled my heart to overflowing—the sparkle of sun on the fresh morning dew of new experience, soft envelopments of a lover’s thighs, empyrean intellectual bliss, everything that used to give my life its alpenglow of hope and wonder—never again!” and “I’m depressed.” An algorithm that rates the first piece of writing off-the-charts positive is a more useful quantification of the words than one that would rate the emotional value of the two as the same.

Some years back, Orion Books produced a book called Moby-Dick in Half the Time, in a line of Compact Editions “sympathetically edited” to “retain all the elements of the originals: the plot, the characters, the social, historical and local backgrounds and the author’s language and style.” I have nothing against abridgments—I’ve abridged books myself—but I felt that what makes Melville Melville, in particular, is digression, texture, and weirdness. If you only have time to read half the book, which half the time is more worth spending? What elements of the original do we want to abridge for?

Moby-Dick in Half the Time seemed like it would lose something more essential than would Anna Karenina in Half the Time or Vanity Fair in Half the Time or Orion’s other offerings. I decided to find out. So I compiled every chapter, word, and punctuation mark that Orion’s abridger cut from Melville’s original Moby-Dick; or The Whale, and published the result, with its inevitable title, as a book of its own: a lost work by Herman Melville called ; or The Whale.

Half the Time keeps the plot arc of Ahab’s quest, of course, but ; or The Whale arguably turns out closer to the emotional ups and downs of Melville’s novel—and that tells us something about how Melville writes. His linguistic excess erupts at moments of emotional intensity; those moments of intensity, trimmed as excess from Half the Time, are what make up the other semibook. Chapter sixty-two, for example, consists of a single word, “hapless”—the only word Orion’s abridger cut from the chapter, trimming a 105-word sentence to 104, for some reason. That’s a pretty good sentiment analysis of Melville’s chapter as a whole. Reading ; or The Whale is a bit like watching a DVD skip ahead on fast forward, and it gets at something real about Melville’s masterpiece. About the emotion in the words.

So I would defend the automated approach to novelistic sentiment on different grounds than Piepenbring’s. I take plot as seriously as he does, as opposed to valorizing only the style or ineffable poetry of a novel; I also see Béla Tarr movies or early Nicholson Baker novels as having plots, too, just not eventful ones. Jockers’s program is called Syuzhet because of the Russian Formalist distinction between fabula, what happens in chronological order in a story, and syuzhet, the order of things in the telling (diverging from the fabula in flashbacks, for instance, or when information is withheld from the reader). It’s not easy to say how “plot” arises out of the interplay between the two. But having minimal fabula is not the same as having little or no plot.

In any case, fabula is not what Syuzhet is about. Piepenbring summarizes: “algorithms assign every word in a novel a positive or negative emotional value, and in compiling these values [Jockers is] able to graph the shifts in a story’s narrative. A lot of negative words mean something bad is happening, a lot of positive words mean something good is happening.” This may or may not be true, but novels are not made of things that happen, they are made of words. Again: “When we track ‘positive sentiment,’ we do mean, I think, that things are good for the protagonist or the narrator.” Not necessarily, but we do mean—tautologically—that things are good for the reader in the warm afternoon sunshine of the book’s positive language.

Great writers, along with everything else they are doing, stage a readerly experience and lead their readers through it from first word on first page to last. Mapping out what those paths might look like is as worthy a critical approach as any."
paulvaléry  edgardegas  writing  novels  mobydick  mattherjocker  2015  digital  words  language  hermanmelville  reading  howwewrite  automation  emotions  algorithms  narrative  nicholsonbaker  bélatarr  moby-dick 
april 2018 by robertogreco
How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch | Poetry Foundation
"Curious about poetry, but don't know where or how to begin? We've reprinted the first chapter from the book How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch. Its 16 sections provide strategies for reading poems, and each section has plenty of links to examples of poems in our archive to illustrate the points.

Heartland
Poems are like messages in a bottle sent out with little hope of finding a recipient. Those of us who find and read poems become their unknown addresses.

To the Reader Setting Out
The reader of poetry is a kind of pilgrim setting out. To read a poem is to depart from the familiar, to leave all expectations behind.

In the Beginning is the Relation
A lyric poem is a special communiqué between an I and a You. It speaks out of a solitude to a solitude; it begins and ends in silence.

Stored Magic
The lyric poem seeks to mesmerize time. It crosses frontiers and outwits the temporal. It can bridge the gulf between people otherwise unknown to each other.

The Immense Intimacy, the Intimate Immensity
The experience of reading poetry and the kind of knowledge it provides cannot be duplicated elsewhere.

Mere Air, These Words, but Delicious to Hear
From syllable to word to phrase to sentence, the sound of poetry is the source of its primitive pleasures.

In Plain American Which Cats and Dogs Can Read!
A lyric poem walks the line between speaking and singing. Poetry is not speech exactly and yet it is always in relationship to speech, to the spoken word.

Give a Common Word the Spell
The medium of poetry is language, our common property. It belongs to no one and to everyone. The precision of poetry restores language. It also defamiliarizes words by wrenching them from familiar or habitual contexts.

Metaphor: A Poet is a Nightingale
Metaphor drives the engine of poetry. Figurative language—figures of speech and thought—guides the interaction between poet and reader.

Epic, Drama, Lyric: Be Plentiful Like the Universe
Poems may be epic, lyric, dramatic, or a mixture of the three. Most poems find a way to defy these conventional categories.

Harmonious Sisters, Voice, and Vers
The lyric poem began as a work to be performed, to be sung or read aloud. Over time, the lyric transformed into a work for the page, for the reader to imagine in visual terms.

Winged Type
The poem appeals to the eye. It has a shapely dimension and thus relates to the plastic arts, especially painting. The poem is something to look at as well as to recite.

Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking
Rhythm is a form cut into time, as Ezra Pound said in ABC of Reading. It is the combination in English of stressed and unstressed syllables that creates a feeling of fixity and flux, of surprise and inevitability.

The Wave Always Returns
The poem is a muscular and composed thing. It moves like a wave, dissolving the literal. We participate in its flow as it moves from the eye to the ear, to the inner ear, the inner eye.

Help Me, O Heavenly Muse
Where does a poem come from? The sources of inspiration are many, from reason to a touch of madness.

It Is Something of an Accident That You Are the Reader and I the Writer
Reading poetry calls for an active reader. The reader must imaginatively collaborate with a poem to give voice to it."
edwardhirsch  poems  poetry  classideas  tutorials  howto  literature  words  meaning  meaningmaking  language 
april 2018 by robertogreco
On how to grow an idea – The Creative Independent
"In the 1970s, a Japanese farmer discovered a better way to do something—by not doing it. In the introduction to Masasobu Fukuoka’s One-Straw Revolution, Frances Moore Lappé describes the farmer’s moment of inspiration:
The basic idea came to him one day as he happened to pass an old field which had been left unused and unplowed for many years. There he saw a tangle of grasses and weeds. From that time on, he stopped flooding his field in order to grow rice. He stopped sowing rice seed in the spring and, instead, put the seed out in the autumn, sowing it directly onto the surface of the field when it would naturally have fallen to the ground… Once he has seen to it that conditions have been tilted in favor of his crops, Mr. Fukuoka interferes as little as possible with the plant and animal communities in his fields.


Fukuoka’s practice, which he perfected over many years, eventually became known as “do nothing farming.” Not that it was easy: the do-nothing farmer needed to be more attentive and sensitive to the land and seasons than a regular farmer. After all, Fukuoka’s ingenious method was hard-won after decades of his own close observations of weather patterns, insects, birds, trees, soil, and the interrelationships among all of these.

In One Straw Revolution, Fukuoka is rightly proud of what he has perfected. Do-nothing farming not only required less labor, no machines, and no fertilizer—it also enriched the soil year by year, while most farms depleted their soil. Despite the skepticism of others, Fukuoka’s farm yielded a harvest equal to or greater than that of other farms. “It seems unlikely that there could be a simpler way of raising grain,” he wrote. “The proof is ripening right before your eyes.”

One of Fukuoka’s insights was that there is a natural intelligence at work in existing ecosystems, and therefore the most intelligent way to farm was to interfere as little as possible. This obviously requires a reworking not only of what we consider farming, but maybe even what we consider progress.

“The path I have followed, this natural way of farming, which strikes most people as strange, was first interpreted as a reaction against the advance and reckless development of science. But all I have been doing, farming out here in the country, is trying to show that humanity knows nothing. Because the world is moving with such furious energy in the opposite direction, it may appear that I have fallen behind the times, but I firmly believe that the path I have been following is the most sensible one.”

The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka

✶✶

In my view, Fukuoka was an inventor. Typically we associate invention and progress with the addition or development of new technology. So what happens when moving forward actually means taking something away, or moving in a direction that appears (to us) to be backward? Fukuoka wrote: “This method completely contradicts modern agricultural techniques. It throws scientific knowledge and traditional farming know-how right out the window.”

This practice of fitting oneself into the greater ecological scheme of things is almost comically opposite to the stories in John McPhee’s Control of Nature. There, we find near-Shakespearean tales of folly in which man tries and fails to master the sublime powers of his environment (e.g. the decades-long attempt to keep the Mississippi river from changing course).

Any artist or writer might find this contrast familiar. Why is it that when we sit down and try to force an idea, nothing comes—or, if we succeed in forcing it, it feels stale and contrived? Why do the best ideas appear uninvited and at the strangest times, darting out at us like an impish squirrel from a shrub?

The key, in my opinion, has to do with what you think it is that’s doing the producing, and where. It’s easy for me to say that “I” produce ideas. But when I’ve finished something, it’s often hard for me to say how it happened—where it started, what route it took, and why it ended where it did. Something similar is happening on a do-nothing farm, where transitive verbs seem inadequate. It doesn’t sound quite right to say that Fukuoka “farmed the land”—it’s more like he collaborated with the land, and through his collaboration, created the conditions for certain types of growth.

“A great number, if not the majority, of these things have been described, inventoried, photographed, talked about, or registered. My intention in the pages that follow was to describe the rest instead: that which is generally not taken note of, that which is not noticed, that which has no importance: what happens when nothing happens other than the weather, people, cars, and clouds.”

Attempt at Exhausting a Place in Paris by George Perec

✶✶

I’ve known for my entire adult that going for a walk is how I can think most easily. Walking is not simply moving your thinking mind (some imagined insular thing) outside. The process of walking is thinking. In fact, in his book Spell of the Sensuous: Perception and Language in a More-than-Human World, David Abram proposes that it is not we who are thinking, but rather the environment that is thinking through us. Intelligence and thought are things to be found both in and around the self. “Each place is a unique state of mind,” Abram writes. “And the many owners that constitute and dwell within that locale—the spiders and the tree frogs no less than the human—all participate in, and partake of, the particular mind of the place.”

This is not as hand-wavy as it sounds. Studies in cognitive science have suggested that we do not encounter the environment as a static thing, nor are we static ourselves. As Francisco Varela, Evan Thompson, and Eleanor Rosch put it in The Embodied Mind (a study of cognitive science alongside Buddhist principles): “Cognition is not the representation of a pre-given world by a pre-given mind but is rather the enactment of a world and a mind… “ (emphasis mine). Throughout the book, the authors build a model of cognition in which mind and environment are not separate, but rather co-produced from the very point at which they meet.

[image]

“The Telegarden is an art installation that allows web users to view and interact with a remote garden filled with living plants. Members can plant, water, and monitor the progress of seedlings via the tender movements of an industrial robot arm.”

✶✶

Ideas are not products, as much as corporations would like them to be. Ideas are intersections between ourselves and something else, whether that’s a book, a conversation with a friend, or the subtle suggestion of a tree. Ideas can literally arise out of clouds (if we are looking at them). That is to say: ideas, like consciousness itself, are emergent properties, and thinking might be more participation than it is production. If we can accept this view of the mind with humility and awe, we might be amazed at what will grow there.


breathing [animation]

✶✶

To accompany this essay, I’ve created a channel on Are.na called “How to grow an idea.” There you’ll find some seeds for thought, scattered amongst other growths: slime molds, twining vines, internet gardens, and starling murmurations. The interview with John Cage, where he sits by an open window and rejoices in unwritten music, might remind you a bit of Fukuoka, as might Scott Polach’s piece in which an audience applauds the sunset. The channel starts with a reminder to breathe, and ends with an invitation to take a nap. Hopefully, somewhere in between, you might encounter something new."
intelligence  methodology  ideas  jennyodell  2018  are.na  masasobufukuoka  francesmoorelappé  farming  slow  nothing  idleness  nature  time  patience  productivity  interdependence  multispecies  morethanhuman  do-nothingfarming  labor  work  sustainability  ecosystems  progress  invention  technology  knowledge  johnmcphee  collaboration  land  growth  georgesperec  walking  thinking  slowthinking  perception  language  davidabram  cognitivescience  franciscovarela  evanthompson  eleanorrosch  buddhism  cognition  johncage  agriculture 
april 2018 by robertogreco
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