RE: [xmca] More questions related to the vast digest of literaryoutput and the tension between individual and cultural development

From: Michael Glassman <MGlassman who-is-at>
Date: Wed Jul 09 2008 - 12:10:08 PDT

This is an argument that has been going on for the better part of a century, perhaps as long as humans have lived in communities. Which is better - a representative democracy or a participatory democracy. At its base this is an argument about information and how people use it. Those who believe in representative democracy believe there should be a well chosen, well trained elite that sifts through information and distills it to the general public. Those who believe in a participatory democracy believe given good information, and enough of it, people will make good decisions, often times better decisions than their purported experts. This was Dewey's argument, if you give people good information they will in the end make good decisions. It is what Friere based a good part of his Pedagogy of the Oppressed on I think - you gain literacy in an attempt to increase access to information.
There are difficulties of course. People have a difficult time assimilating to new information, especially when the ways they already think is important to their identity. In democratic education I think you basically try and get people to listen to each other, to believe a key idea can come from any quarter. People do close off to knew ideas, but experts are at least as capable of this as novices.


From: on behalf of Monica Hansen
Sent: Wed 7/9/2008 1:11 PM
To: 'eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity'
Subject: RE: [xmca] More questions related to the vast digest of literaryoutput and the tension between individual and cultural development

The use and misuse of information

We have the issue of publish or perish and the idea that journals can have
an ISI score and that there are gatekeping entities providing access to
knowledge, or denying it. Well, there are still gatekeeping entities.
Academia/the university is a huge one. Peter talks about the tiers in his
department: how English Lit ranks higher than the others, comp below. Let's
talk about preschool teachers for a minute, and mothers or early care
providers, clearly a source of the language and cognitive development and
pre cursor to literacy. How do they rank in that system of the scholarship?
Beyond the curb. They don't even get out of the street to enter the gate.
The flow of information accessible to the common person, this is literacy in
a very broad sense, being able to use and interpret all of the signs and
symbols in the world, is this empowering? When we make this judgement of the
ability to read, interpret and use knowledge, it has a positive connotation.
But is it positive? Hasn't a certain level of literacy been gained and to
what end? Can people use it autonomously? Or must we qualify their use to
some degree? As a high school teacher, teaching research, this was a most a
serious consideration. It relates to both of these issues. Teaching students
how to find an article is not really the problem. Teaching people how to
find information related to a topic is not really the problem. As Eugene
writes, sources are readily available. With the advent of the internet and
the surge of information available, the issue quickly advances to how to
judge information of quality, both in regard to ideas and use. Both Peter
and Eugene discuss how they use the information they glean, how they qualify
that information systematically. How to discern what would be more useful
and what would be less to their particular goal. If we do not use systems
such as ISI ranking, peer review, reputation, how do we judge the quality of
the information to support our ideas. This is an issue of both agility and
strength. Is every piece of information out there worthy? And given the
freedom of literacy, will those who have been empowered with it, make
choices? Is this phylogenetic or ontogenetic? As the growth of our networks
for assimilated information expands for our culture--the system of
organization which used to be very hierarchical, but is now becoming
exponentially nebulous--does this change the very structure of the mind? Is
evolution of our cultural structure fast enough?

Just some thoughts,

-----Original Message-----
From: [] On
Behalf Of
Sent: Wednesday, July 09, 2008 6:29 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Vygotsky-text-context-thinking

 you wrote:

 We can 'converse' across the oceans, and
with the dead and the not-yet born, in ways that 'pre-literate' peoples
could not imagine. To enable the largest possible part of
humanity to have access to the fruits of literacy is, thus, to empower them
socially, rather than to 'engineer' them.

I like the sentiment, I truely do, but I have met many so called
'pre-literates' that have highly developed mental functions and carry out
incredibly complex activities. This development is the ontogenetic
process. When you generalize to the vast digest of human literary output I
step out into the abyss and state this would be the phylogenetic
development of the human species and not an individual's ontogeny. Does
that make sense or do I float unsupported?


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Received on Wed Jul 9 12:11 PDT 2008

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