Things I’m Thinking About

In this month’s Wired magazine regular contributor and comic book writer Warren Ellis entitles his column ‘Five things I’m thinking about right now.’

Whilst I often share what I’ve been thinking about in my weeknotes, I thought I’d share what’s been on my mind more generally recently:

1. Standardisation

Innovation seems to be predicted upon standardisation. This can either be distributed (in the case of Open Source Software) or due to an individual or small group’s previous efforts that have led to a core of good practice.

2. The atomisation of society

Even when events are held and people are gathered together they are increasingly not interacting with others who are physically present. Whilst there is some mediated interaction via social networks most of the interactivity is, in fact, controlled by brands and organisers. These exert power and control even in seemingly-informal situations, such is the power of mediated communication.

That’s not to say that there is anything new to this, per se. It has ever been so through television, books and the power of institutions. People seem to like hierarchies.

3. The media

Whilst a lack of gatekeepers and the extremely low cost of entry allows blogs like this to reach a modest number of people it can, depending on the critical faculties and method of presentation, lead to a situation where all ‘news’ is seen as equal.

Perhaps the zenith of this is newsmap.jp, a service that constructs an uncritical visual representation of the top stories from Google News. Stories from the barrel-scraping TV show ‘X-Factor’ are juxtaposed and, depending on the time of day/week, sometimes overwhelm events of immense historical, political and economic importance.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the public broadly considered believe news to be apolitical and unbiased. One has only to witness the number of people in obviously well-paid jobs crucial to the country’s successful functioning who eschew quality news reporting for the fast-food ‘reporting’ of free newspapers.

4. Metaphors

There’s a paucity of historical metaphor, especially within the educational sphere. As I hope to point out in a forthcoming post, grasping for new metaphors and making seemingly-tenuous connections is vital for sustaining and enriching language.

I’m currently at the stage of laughing at authors whose imaginations (or perhaps basic knowledge) cannot stretch further than hunter-gatherer or industrial revolution metaphors. That laughter may well give way to frustration sooner rather than later.

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2 thoughts on “Things I’m Thinking About

  1. On the topic of metaphors in educations see:

    Lynne Cameron – Metaphor in Educational Discourse
    Donald Schon – The Displacement of Concepts
    Paul Ricoeur – The Rule of Metaphor

    Sorry pressed for time, but there is a lot of interesting writing on metaphor!

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