Friday, October 10, 2008

Ways of Knowing

A book called Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger discusses how our ways of organizing knowledge have changed due to hyperlinking capabilities. Knowledge is not longer a "thing" that we store in one place. This reduces the primacy of hierarchy.

I think this is true, and it is exciting, but we may be ignoring other realities. Using my old pre-Internet hyperlinking system (memory + pulling a book off the shelf) plus the synchronicity between our thoughts and what grabs our attention led to these three connections:

1) I remembered Marshall McLuhan. McLuhan's famous quote "The medium is the message," reflected a concern with the new medium of television. He meant to call attention to the idea that the media we use have their own effects on perception and consciousness that are independent of content.

2) I remembered Bill McKibben. In The Age of Missing Information, McKibben reports what he "learned" from a full day of watching television in contrast to what he learned during a day spent outdoors—and asserts that we are becoming ignorant about information that has meant the survival of our species.

3) I was reading philosopher/poet John O'Donohue and this passage jumped out at me:
"We were once enwombed in the earth and the silence of the body remembers that dark, inner longing. Fashioned from clay, we carry the memory of the earth. Ancient, forgotten things stir within our hearts, memories from the time before the mind was born. Within us are depths that keep watch. These are depths that no words can trawl or light unriddle. Our neon times have neglected and evaded the depth-kingdoms of interiority in favor of the ghost realms of cyberspace. We have unlearned the patience and attention of lingering at the thresholds where the unknown awaits us. We have become haunted pilgrims addicted to distraction and driven by the speed and colour of images" (pages 33-34 in Beauty: The Invisible Embrace).

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