Dr Arnold Blumberg is pretty damn cool! Check him out explaining zombies in pop culture studies here as well.
Stalk his zombie side on @doctorofthedead or his Dr Who/Comics side at @arnoldtblumberg
Dr Arnold Blumberg is pretty damn cool! Check him out explaining zombies in pop culture studies here as well.
Stalk his zombie side on @doctorofthedead or his Dr Who/Comics side at @arnoldtblumberg
Postliteracy is basically the idea that there will soon come a time when text and writing will no longer be as dominant as they are now, and we will find other means to communicate.
While the technology of writing has been around for ages, even historically literate societies such as the Chinese only had a small percentage of their population actually literate. Mass literacy is a result of the Gutenberg press and movable type, and subsequent European colonisation.
Reading and writing are too bloody hard. It takes most people at least 10 years of education to effectively read and write in their first language. Increasingly, 15 years of education is the standard.
Reading and writing are specially too hard for people who belong to pre-literate or recently literate cultures. This is pretty much most of the non-European world. While West, East and South Asian civilisations have had scripts for the longest time, even in these civilisations the ability to read and write was often restricted to a privileged few.
This means that people from these communities are severely disadvantaged with access to information. This is seen in negative health and economic statistics, among others. Examples of this are the comparative well-being of Māori and Pasifika people in Aotearoa New Zealand, Aboriginal peoples in Australia and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in India.
A few people think that post-literate ways of communication would be closely related to pre-literate ways of communication. The Pacific islands are full of examples of the use of tattooing, woodwork, speech making, songs and stories as ways to communicate and record culture. So if post-literate strategies are similar to pre-literate strategies, maybe finding what those strategies are will also help communicate import information to people that need it most in the here and now.
Mostly old white men, I’m sorry. At least they aren’t rich, I don’t think. Not very anyway.
My mother belongs to a small tribal group in north east India called the Mizo, based (mostly) in the state of Mizoram. We were litericised and Christianised by Welsh missionaries in the late 1800s. Like everywhere else, this was a complex mix of welfare and destruction. I grew up watching my Mizo cousins wrestle with modern education and literacy, without the cultural underpinnings that highly educated Indians took for granted. Years later my wife and I moved to Aotearoa New Zealand, where I see Māori and Pasifika people struggling with similar issues. Something crystallised, and I have been thinking/reading about postliteracy for a little over two years now.
I am currently studying postliteracy in the context of the Pacific, hoping to find strategies that can be used in the here and now to help societies that were recently made literate. I also hope/expect to specifically study the maker movement as a postliterate strategy, and as a way to engage and communicate with people from oral cultures. Maybe the whole thing is a pipe dream, but it is a good dream if it helps improve the world experience of people from recently literate cultures. We have rich oral cultures, but have been tricked and forced into believing that our cultures are inferior to literate ones. No more.
When not studying, I am a librarian with Auckland Libraries. Yeah, ironic, I know. Reachable on twitter @feddabonn, where I rant and swear a lot.
So following on from the last two posts (YA and Dystopias, YA and Technology), this post is about the human essence and how it’s “under threat” from technology (leading to possible dystopia), but also how that whole idea of ‘human nature’ is problematic anyway in posthuman studies.
“Nature itself, and in particular human nature, has a special role in defining for us what is right and wrong, just and unjust, important and unimportant.”
So the human essence argument goes back to ancient Greece (probably further), but the current mode of thinking in the West is of the Liberal Humanist Self. It is, as I understand it, individualism, a common human nature and human rationality as a superior characteristic. This has it’s problems, it assumes universality, its mostly ahistorical, and positions humans at the top of the living things pyramid. Some use human nature to justify innate morals, values, behaviour – sometimes because of a god, sometimes separate from one.
Technology threatens the human essence, for some like Habermas and Fukuyama, by changing the very nature (genetics) of humanity. Fukuyama criticises drugs that regulate how we feel and our personalities, stem cell research that can lead to massive life expectancy (even as many countries birth rates are in free fall), and the future of selective genetics (for the wealthy, at least). These technologies, he argues, will also affect liberal democracy and politics itself. In one section where he questions whether there is a gene to determine sexuality, he asks if there was a pill to make a baby heterosexual, who would take it? He supposes that many people would, even those who today support GLBTIQ rights, just as they would for removing a trait for baldness or shortness.
What it means to be human finally is not so much about intelligent machines as it is about how to create just societies in a transnational global world that may include in its purview both carbon and silicon citizens.
What is human, what is defined as human, and what it means to be human are all concepts at the mercy of space and time. As with everything else in our world, what something means is not consistent over different cultures and different eras. It separates us even from the very cultures, by assuming that humans are unique and unchangeable. As much as I’m barely beginning to tread into the waters of Foucault, his arguments make more sense to me that people are not free from social forces and institutions*. Foucault’s subject is not natural, but is a product of time and space.
Feminist theorists also criticise this understanding of the ‘self’ for constructing a universal subject that is white, European and male, and thus suppresses and oppresses anyone who is ‘Other’. We know the injustices of the past (and those continuing in the present) when blacks were considered lesser beings, and women not considered smart enough for the vote. The Indigenous people of Australia were even classified under the Flora and Fauna Act (GRR!)! What is human, what is moral, what is valued, is socially constructed. We are not totally controlled by society, obviously, but we do not have an innate or unchangeable nature.
There is the fear, in life and in fiction, that technological progression will lead to to loss of human nature/essence/self. For some, the posthuman is already here. The posthuman is creative evolution at work. The boundaries of what is human itself, separate from animals and machines, is (and some might argue, has for a long time) crumbling. These borders are breached by hybrid creatures – cyborgs. Haraway is credited with shifting the debate from the inhuman and ‘bad’ technologies, to a more positive view. We are shaped and changed by our relationship with technology, and it’s not entirely for the negative. The cyborg disrupts the “natural order”, which has only worked before to make exclusions of who is capable, intelligent, or human.
So this mini-series of blog posts is what I’m working on at the moment. Analysing narrative strategies and subjectivity of Young Adult novels, as they are perpetuating a Liberal Humanist Self, at threat from technology, and then critique the problems that come with that. It’s not really procrastinating from actually writing it, if I’m blogging my research, right?
* as a side anecdote: one of my friends in the US and I can’t see eye-to-eye on gun rights or mandatory voting. In my part of the world, guns are rare and mandatory voting is the responsibility and duty of every citizen. His country has a very different history on both topics.
Following on from my previous post, technology in YA is a bit weird to me.
The fear of technology is definitely not new in science fiction or Western culture. Look at the Matrix, look at Terminator, look at all the billions of books that I couldn’t possibly name them all. Technology is scary! It will rise up against us, or cause our destruction in some way (some zombies are caused because of bio-chemical weapons, testing of new plagues or even for cures). Technology seems to be a pretty persistent social anxiety in modern times, that it will irrevocably change our society and our very nature in some way, Technology is a threat to humanness.
Technology has a great lot to offer us, but in science fiction there’s a decidedly sinister undercurrent. In Technophobia, Dinello demonstrates how science fiction shows technology as subverting human values, changing human behaviour, and doesn’t provide us with the utopia as it promises, “we end up oppressed by our own inventions”. I really enjoyed The End Specialist by Drew Magary, a world where there is a cure for old-age, disease, and most types of deaths. Great huh? Immortality! But then as it gets used and legalised, the real societal and personal problems emerge. No matter how benign the technology may seem at first, it has long reaching consequences that will make us all suffer eventually.
So where I don’t get it is that the recent generations are growing up in a world of ever-increasing technological advancement, a world of wonders with a tablet and smartphone in the hands of every toddler (yes, I’m super-generalising here), and yet there is this imposing of the view that technology is a negative thing into fiction for them. I’m not the first to find it odd, Noga Applebaum has already written a book on this (which I purchased a few days ago and am eagerly awaiting). She states that “young readers, internalising this technophobic message, are in danger of learning to fear the future”. Ball calls YA scifi a socially conservative genre, as it clings to these older traditions that are not the lived experience of the intended readership. These negative attitudes are not so dominant in adult science fiction, so why here? Why now? Why does society produce an overall negative perception of technology for young adult readers?
We think of technology as changing and taking away from human ‘essence’. We cling to these historical perceptions of what is human, without considering that the human essence, and even what it means to be human, is itself a product of cultural context. This firmly sets humans at the top of the hierarchy, but it also assumes universality and denies the ‘Other’, making a certain type of person as the ‘default’ model of human, and thus privileged.
This is what I’ll explore into next, the argument about the future of humanity and posthumanity from both sides.
The aim for this Kickstarter is to create a curriculum for the JFK Middle School that combines video games and learning. The learning aspect will include essays, reviews, and creative writing.
I don’t have the words to say how incredible this looks! I want it for myself <.< But I’m all grown up (and looking into games at university level). I grew up on Word Rescue, Maths Rescue, Treasure Mountain – all educational DOS games. Actually, I just downloaded them recently onto my tablet (DOSBOX FTW) and started playing them again, just for fun.
There are always reports floating about of schools removing creative practice or classic texts for “functional” works. I hate the idea of the school as a factory, or the point of school to create mindless worker drones. This kickstarter, I hope, is just the beginning of a fascinating exploration of learning. Learning is about the funnest thing I can think of (I can also make up words, if I want to …) and one of the best things is to give others the opportunity to learn!
(The below video is an example of learning through video games, not the actual kickstarter)
The Future of Publishing
This symposium was organised by Macquarie University with funding from the Cultural Fund granted by the Copyright Agency. I tweeted this event under #mqfuture, but here’s the nice, organised and formatted version.
Introduction to the Future of Publishing, Professor John Potts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies, Macquarie University
Richard Nash, Culture is the Algorithm
Writing has no future without reading-how then, does writing come to be read? Units of culture-essays, books, poems, songs, movies-come to their audience via algorithmically-based systems: Google’s search engines, Facebook’s social graph, Amazon’s People Who Bought Also Bought. But the integrity of writing will survive its encounter with Big Data for the history of publishing suggests it is possessed of a remarkable resilience, one born simultaneously of a resistance to and an embrace of capitalist modernity.
Richard Nash runs content and partnerships for the US start-up Small Demons. Previous to that he ran his own social publishing start-up Cursor, a semi-conventional independent publisher Soft Skull Press, and an experimental theatre company called Liquid Theater.
Publishing in a Digital Age
Joel Naoum, Who Wants to Read This Stuff?: The Business of Storytelling in a Digital World
New technology has enabled writers to tell stories in ever more elaborate and interesting ways – but does anyone actually want to read this stuff? How much is digital publishing technology actually changing the way we read, publish and write books?
Joel Naoum is a book publisher, editor, blogger and writer. He is running Pan Macmillan’s new digital-only imprint Momentum and recently completed a three-month stint in London for the Unwin Trust Fellowship researching digital publishing experimentation.
Kathy Bail, How Digital Technology is Transforming a University Press
Digital technology is changing all aspects of UNSW Press: from the way books are designed and printed to the multiple formats in which they are published. Sales and marketing strategies are shifting too. What business models are emerging in this experimental and transitional era in publishing and media?
Kathy Bail is the chief executive of UNSW Press, a not-for-profit publishing and retail company owned by the University of New South Wales. It is celebrating 50 years in business in 2012. She has extensive experience in publishing and media management as a former editor of the Australian Financial Review Magazine, The Bulletin/Newsweek and Rolling Stone.
Elizabeth Weiss, Challenges and Opportunities in Digital Publishing
There are numerous challenges as well as opportunities in the wake of changes wrought to publishing by digital and online technologies. This presentation considers some of the most pressing challenges for publishers in a changed publishing environment.
Elizabeth Weiss is Academic and Digital Publishing Director at Allen & Unwin.
The Writer in an Online Environment
Peter Doyle, (Not) Giving Up the Day Job: Writing as Profession, as Pursuit, as Thing You Do
The dream of being a published and financially self-sustaining author has long exerted a powerful pull on would-be writers. But how realistic is it? This paper will look at the practicalities and constraints which have borne on that ambition in the Australian – ie relatively small market – context over the past half century.
Peter Doyle is the author of non-fiction books, City of Shadows and Crooks Like us, as well as the ‘Billy Glasheen’ crime fiction series. In 2010 he received a Ned Kelly Lifetime Achievement Award. He lectures in the Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University.
Chris Allen, Old Dog, New Techs: Learning New Research Technologies and Social Media Engagement in the Digital Publishing Revolution
As a former paratrooper, I embraced the latest digital technologies in researching and writing my Intrepid adventure series, first to self-publish and now signed with Pan Macmillan’s digital imprint, Momentum Books. I examine new opportunities discovered through navigating the digital publishing revolution such as crowdsourcing reader feedback during the writing process, while also using it to address challenges such as performing detailed character and location research from my writing desk in Pymble.
Serving in three Commonwealth armies across two decades and four continents, one of the paratrooping elite, Chris Allen saw the world from under a billowing parachute, often by night, before transitioning into humanitarian aid work during the East Timor emergency. He also served with three major law enforcement agencies in Australia, protecting Sydney’s most iconic landmark in the wake of 9-11 and was most recently Sheriff of New South Wales, one of the oldest law enforcement appointments in the land. Now writing full-time, his first action thriller, Defender, will be released by Momentum in eBook and print formats on 1 November with his second, Hunter, following hot on its heels on 1 December. www.intrepidallen.com
Matthew Asprey Gear and Theodore Ell, The Contrappasso Experiment
Recent advances in print-on-demand and ebook technology offer alternative publishing possibilities on the margins. The editors of Contrappasso, a new independent journal of international writing, discuss the sudden viability of experimental publishing projects.
Matthew Asprey Gear is a writer and lecturer in Writing & Aesthetics at Macquarie University. He was awarded a PhD in Media Studies in 2011.
Theodore Ell is a Sydney poet who took his doctorate in modern Florentine Poetry at the University of Sydney in 2010. He is currently undertaking a Masters degree in editing and publishing.
The Future of the Book
Sherman Young, Me myself I – Revaluing Self-publishing in the Electronic Age
In the book trade, self-publishing has traditionally been dismissed as little more than an exercise in vanity. But the possibilities of ebooks have thrown up examples that force us to rethink their role and reputation.
Sherman Young is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media Music Communications and Cultural Studies with a research interest in the impact of new media technologies. He is author of The Book is Dead, Long Live the Book (UNSW) and co-author of Media Convergence – networked digital media in everyday life (Palgrave).
Kate Eltham, When the Web is the World: Books in the Post-digital Age
The boundary between our physical lives and our digital lives is becoming transparent and permeable and will soon disappear altogether. In a networked reality, books and stories can no longer be bounded by containers, either print or digital. The future of publishing lies in creating and curating the relationships between nodes on the network: people, stories, data, metadata.
Kate Eltham is the Festival Director and CEO of Brisbane Writers Festival. From 2006-2012 she was CEO of Queensland Writers Centre, where she founded if:book Australia, a think-and-do tank exploring book futures.
John Potts, Book Doomsday: The March of Progress and the Fate of the Book
The claims that the printed book will soon become obsolete, replaced by e-books and online publishing, proceed from a belief in technological progress. According to this doctrine, the old media form must inevitably be usurped by its more advanced, more convenient, more modern technological successor. This presentation considers the march of progress in the publishing context, evaluating the prospects for the e-book as well as the printed book.
John Potts is Professor of Media at Macquarie University. He has published six books including A History of Charisma (Palgrave) and, most recently, The Unacceptable (co-edited with John Scannell, Palgrave). He has published widely on media, technology, art history and intellectual history, and is a founding editor of Scan Online Journal of Media Arts Culture.