On Being Human

What does it mean to be human? According to the Medieval Philosophers, it means having reason. While animals have some semblance of reason, it is not the same, in nature as humans. We call this the Chain of Being, and it looks kind of like this:

So what about humans, and particularly our reason, makes us the kind of beings that communicate, and want to communicate? Well, one way we can look at it is that stones don’t really do much. While interesting (and geologists would totally argue with me here), a stone’s existence does not tell us a story, at least not in the way that a human’s life does. Our reason helps us to understand our lives as they relate to time and space; thus, our lives are narratives. Our logic sees the patterns in our life and puts it together as a story. But our reason also sees that our life is not the same as other lives around us, an awareness that does not exist in flames or stones. So we communicate. Granted, that animals (most of them anyhow) have some basic form of communication, but we are able, at least in some way, to actually fully communicate our thoughts. We communicate them in the most substantial way possible: narrative.

A very interesting theory recently developing is the idea that narrative is The Form of Communication. Meaning, it holds within it every substantial form of argumentation and thing that we rhetorically respond to as humans: “tells us about the speaker, the situational context, and the matter under discussion” (237). Everything that one needs to know about what is going on in any particular situation, as well as the why, and reasoning all around the situation is told in a story. It is a basic understanding of how we exist in time and space, and it comes out in a narrative.

As humans, our reason, dictates that we understand the laws of time and space, and so order our lives in a kind of narrative. This is why we share our stories with others, and write them down for ourselves. We know that we can only understand our lives in the context of a narrative, and others can only understand us in context of a story.

Woods, William F.. College Composition and Communication 40.2 (1989): 236–238. Web http://www.jstor.org.libproxy.nau.edu/stable/358142

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On The Beginning of the End

So, what then is the point of all of this rambling of mine? The point, is that whatever we are, in our Western world, we care about others. We care about others, and we want to know where other people are from; we want to know that hero’s still exist and that there are people out there that are going through the same things we are, and different things, and that they are doing okay.

 We care about others, and we want to know where other people are from; we want to know that hero’s still exist and that there are people out there that are going through the same things we are, and different things, and that they are doing okay.

The point of memoir is knowing that we are not alone, but at the same time, knowing that we are different. The human experience is different for every person, and we want to know that we are doing a good job living it. So why read memoir? Because you’re human.

So why read memoir? Because you’re human.

As people, we care about other people. We want to care, we want to experience other things, and throughout the ages, we have looked to books to get away from our own world. It has been happening for ages, and it will continue to happen. Part of the human experience is wanting to experience things outside of ourselves.

Books allow us to experience things outside of ourselves, inside of ourselves. We are able to take scenery and imagery that the author gives us to work with, and make it our own. This is why people get so mad when the movie is not like the book: they owned the book in their own particular way, and the movie, or other people’s interpretation of the same work is not that same way.

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Yes, thank you Doctor, books, memoir, are the greatest weapons in our modern day to combat prejudice, hate, and misunderstanding. Looking through the eyes of another in such a way that you own it and can experience it in your own mind encourages an understanding deeper and far more intimate than any other learning of the world.

This is why we read about other people’s lives, from St. Augustine to Twitter, we use words to communicate in a way that people will process intimately. Through words we are able to communicate what we are thinking, feeling, worried about, and what we have achieved.

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We talk to understand, we talk to be understood.

We talk to understand, we talk to be understood. And, we use words in a particular way when we write it down. The words become immortal. Anyone can forget a word that was simply spoken, but no one can forget a word that has been put down in writing. It will always exist. They exist at the end of a Google search. They exist in the minds of all who have seen them. And they exist forever in the mind that wrote them.

In school, we write papers for a reason. Writing words down on a page or a document help our minds to process the information in a particular way. We take notes in lecture to synthesize and summarize the words another person has said. Writing has an interesting way of making us learn and making us remember. Any teacher knows this. Any student knows this. Memoir does the same kind of thing.

Not only does it help the author understand what has happened, it helps its audience to understand another person’s life.

On Navajo Creation Stories

The Dine’ or Navajo have their own sets of origin stories. In these stories, we see what is held sacred by the Navajo people. The stories move through four different worlds: black, blue, yellow, and white. While the colors do seem to mean more than simply the color of the world that First Man and First Woman experienced, I have not yet found the symbolism. In each world, the First Man and First Woman encounter various beings who travel with them to the next world. Many ceremonies revolve around the experiences depicted in each world and story, as well as simply worldview and way of life understandings. Much of the symbolism that occurs in the stories affects how the Navajo understand the world around them, and understand how they should live. All people wonder where they came from, and why they are here. While the Navajo’s origin stories might not answer the second of those questions, they do answer the first.

Navajo Creation Story Painting by Kee Lee

As Westerners have their own ideas of where they came from and where they are going, so do the Navajo. What I find particularly interesting, is that in some way, the creation stories of the Dine reflect the Western understanding of the history of the world. While not being the exact duplicate of our Western stories, the creation stories do have certain elements that ring true to a more universal understanding of where we have come from. They also are particularly interesting as they are very specific to the Southwestern identity, and certain creatures and experiences that are very Southwestern. For example, the mountains that the First Man and First Woman encounter in the Third world are specific mountains in the Southwestern area (Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico specifically). And, just as the Western ideas of origin and creation shape how we think and act in the world, the Dine form their culture through their stories.

I find the creation stories interesting as they give an insight into how the Navajo people think about themselves and the world around them. Where we come from and where we are going is a major part of the human experience, and the culture’s answer to that question shapes how each person in the culture understands their place in the world. Understanding how a people thinks about themselves is key to understanding their culture and world view. A major part of the Navajo creation stories is the unity between the other creatures, the earth, and the First Man and Woman. Knowing that they understood themselves to all be equal, and even that the Humans were not the ‘first born’, (if you will), helps us to understand their desire to help preserve and take care of nature, and their feeling of unity, even today, with the environment.

 

Epic Data Day

Part 1-

Because that’s all I have to do…

Scratch designers consider learning to be some kind of learning of technological literacy, specifically in the form of code. They seem to think that learning is best achieved through experimentation, trial and error. I am learning just how frustrating the next generation will be. I say this, as I do not have very much literacy when it comes to technology, but they will. If this is the kind of game that they are playing in their spare time, and the kind of thing that they are also learning in school, they will know much more than I do. I did not expect to learn anything, as I didn’t really understand what it was. I did end up learning that this is very frustrating, but also fairly easy once a basic understanding is achieved. The designers of Scratch value the understanding of coding and technology as learning, and understanding. Coding is especially valued in today’s society as most of everything that we do is online. We can see this in the new GE Commercial, when the newly hired programer is expected to be a different kind of thing. It is seen as funny because we understand that it is much more likely for a programer to be hired now than some industrial worker.

On Food Blogs (as Memoir)

So, as I have been scanning the internet for, well another class as well, but also looking for memoir, I noticed a kind of blog that I often frequent that also falls into the memoir category, in an interesting way: food blogs. images-9People, women especially, tend to like food. Really like food. So much so that we even make blogs all about food. But typically, these blogs still revolve around the author’s life. They tend to start with a story, how the person’s week went, or something interesting that happened in their life, or how they discovered the recipe. Then, the author transitions into a step by step through how to make the actual recipe, and finishes with some pun or quip and the recipe written out like a normal recipe. So, even though the entire blog revolves around food, it still has a lot to do with the author’s life.

Eat,_Pray,_Love_–_Elizabeth_Gilbert,_2007This is very similar to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Which revolves around Gilbert’s travels to find herself. The first portion of the memoir is all about her discovery of Italian food. There are even food blogs written about the  kinds of food that Gilbert discovers on her travels. While the majority of the book does truly have to do with Gilbert’s own internal life and her discovery of herself, it also does have a lot to do with food.

We also see this fascination with food through Julie and Julia, the blog, the book, and the movie.

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Both the blog and book (the original media forms) revolve around a person’s life, as she attempts to make all of the recipes in Julia Child’s cookbook. The blog, and thus the following book, followed not only the attempts at cooking, but also the author’s life. The book itself was a success as a memoir, as was the blog as memoir.

images-8 Blogs, even food blogs, are modern forms of memoir. The food is just a cover up for what the blog is still really about: the author’s life. Almost every form of social media is really a kind of memoir. We are so fascinated with our own lives, and learning the lives of others that the modern culture uses every possible outlet to show off our own lives and publish them in order to come to terms with them. Memoir is only possible in and because of our current culture. No other culture would and does really care that much about other’s experiences. images-4

On an Imaginary World

Mom is having a bad day again. I finished my work in like, five hours today. So even though it’s only 11, I have the rest of the day to myself. Of course, I’ll have to go back for lunch at some point, but for now, I just have to get out of the house. I could go ride, but there’s not enough time right now… maybe after lunch… I think. So I just run up the hill to my castle. “Ah! My queen!” my imaginary headmaster meets me at the door of my (both) imaginary school (like Hogwarts (complete with houses (Gondor, Rohan, Rivendell, and Isengard) but for creating and training Knights and Lady’s for my kingdom), and my imaginary castle. “Headmaster, is Professor Legolas in?” I ask. “Always,” the headmaster replies, “Pent up in his office, no doubt. You’re gone far too much. I hear he is thinking of retiring from his position in the High Council of Middle Earth, as well as from his professorship here just so he can run your kingdom in your absence.” The headmaster fills me in as we pass students on the Great Stairs, pass through two secret doors, and stand in the hidden hallway that leads to Professor Legolas’ office. He pauses with a knowing look. As sad as I am that I have been away a lot from my imaginary kingdom, Mom is not well enough to really even run the house at this point, let alone take care of the animals and help me with schooling. I had to make a choice. Something had to give. “I’m sorry to hear that Headmaster, but you both know that I do as much as I possibly can for the kingdom.” “Of course my queen,” the Headmaster relents, and I sit in the hallway for a moment before entering Legolas’ chambers. Maybe I could try talking to Dad about Mom again… but no… that always just ends up with them fighting. I sigh, and re-enter my imaginary world.

A short piece about the thing/person who knows me best. In this case, my imaginary world. The only place I could really go as a child. It know everything that I was dealing with, and was the most understanding and insightful thing. There wasn’t really anyone else who I could turn to as a child, so instead I ran to my imagination.

Data Day 9

Level 1

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Level 2

I would want to find out why certain things are visualized as larger, and certain ones as smaller, and what the relation is to me and each of the tweets that are actually shown.

Question 1: Why are certain tweets visualized as larger or smaller for your particular shot?

Answers:

  • The number of “Likes” the tweets get. But then wonder why it was “liked”: funny, relevant, WHY?
  • Amanda: has to do with who tweets more, who gets more likes, retweets, more interaction
  • Most likes, notes, more attention
  • Sara: my interaction with those tweets or people
  • Mine: Random algorithm

Question 2: What is your relation to the tweets that are larger vs. the ones that are smaller?

Answers:

  • I keep popping up. @npfannen smaller, more frequent, larger with less frequency
  • Amanda: Bigger ones are images that get more attention.
  • some are about the actual class, thought there would be more of the silly ones
  • Sara: the ones I like or interact with more are larger
  • Mine: none, actually. I am strangely popping up a lot.

Reasoning:

I made these questions because this site REALLY confuses me! It seems like it should have rationale, but it doesn’t seem like it actually does. So, I was interested in seeing what other people’s ideas where.

Level 3

Because often we talk to the people at our table a lot more than we do other tables, so it doesn’t give us a complete picture of what the whole class believes.

There aren’t very many implications that matter. All of the information is just out there, so does it really matter if we are looking at it? I don’t think so. If it was more private information, maybe there would be more problems with it. But as public information, it doesn’t seem unethical to be looking at and researching what we are, and specifically this particular thing.

I don’t really mind people studying me, when I know that they are studying me, and know what it’s for. When I don’t know the researcher, I am much more hesitant about answering because I don’t know what they will really do with the answers.

On Anything

See… the thing is that I already have most (meaning all (meaning WAY too much)) data, and it’s all organized the way I need it to be to make the visualizations, and I’m too lazy to actually make the visualizations yet (you know, since we actually have specific classes set for that….). So there’s not too much more for me to do at this point. I mean… I could make an outline… could… but why do that yet? And I could draft some visualizations…. but… no. So basically, current status: same.

On Audience Cont.

I have already reflected on the phenomena of the memoir’s true audience being the author themselves. However, they do seem to also write their memoir, their story of their life for another audience as well. Who are the people who read memoir? Why are they so fascinated with it? It seems to be a movement in our current culture, as I have already explored in part with social media as memoir, but why?

Memoir as literature dates back to around 400 AD with the “Confessions” of St. Augustine. Moved to share his experiences with others, Augustine wrote the “Confessions” to document his life before conversion, his reasons for conversion, and how he came to convert. The first of its kind, “Confessions” to this day stands out as the first document to ever have been written in the first person, documenting what happened to him, what he did, AND how he felt about it all. This trend in literature continued on, and can be seen more recently in Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl.” Taken to a concentration camp in Nazi occupied Germany, Frank’s Diary was originally just that, a diary that she kept to note what was happening to her, and as my last post about Audience noted, deal with the atrocities happening around her and to her.

Since Frank’s “Diary,” the First World culture has seen a major trend  in literature that is written in a first person perspective, regarding the author’s life, or some part of it, that typically deals with some emotional or physical trauma in the author’s life. Why are we so fascinated with this kind of writing? Why read this?

The First World culture, particularly the American culture recently is very fascinated with other people’s stories. It seems to be an escape from the mundane life that we each live into someone else’s life who is, undoubtedly, more interesting and exciting than our own. The rise in communication, starting with the radio, telephone, TV, and now social media has enabled us to learn other people’s stories in the blink of an eye. We hear it on the news all of the time, we look at our phone’s and see it on Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook, reddit. It has become an inevitable fact of our human existence in this world. Our lives have become mundane, and in an attempt to avoid our own lives, we look into other people’s. TV is no longer about Mr. Rogers and how to live the good life, it is MTV and reality TV, and Opera, and Divorce Court, and Dr. Phil. We want to see how messed up other people’s lives are in order to feel good about our own mundane existence.

Is this a good thing? Well, as a philosopher, I’m inclined to say that it is neither inherently good, nor bad, but rather, it depends on both how the author writes, and what kinds of things they enable and encourage people to do, and what the people actually do that matters. A person can say whatever they want (the glory of free speech) but the moral acts that they end up encouraging, and that the people end up acting on are the moral foundation for each particular thing.

Data Day 8

Level 1-

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Level 2-

Making and drawing influenced my understanding of discursive practices by pointing out specific examples of how they work both theoretically and practically.

Level 3-

Rhetoric and discursive practices were represented through imagery of “inside” and “outside” as well as actual rhetorical definitions. Through the imagery, I was able to understand how to start thinking about being an insider or an outsider, and through bullet pointed definitions or examples, the idea became clearer. She also used generic colors and did not make anything overly complicated, making it easy to follow her though process and understanding.

Discursive practices of the class were represented through reasons and bullet pointed items that only those who are in the class could understand, and bullet pointed questions or reactions by those who are not in the class.

Her representation is very similar to mine in that we both use mostly words rather than pictures to show the kinds of things that the class identifies with, and outsiders do not understand. It is different in that I make jokes and poke fun at the ideas rather than taking them entirely seriously as she does. Mostly the differences were just in representation, not as much in interpretation or understanding of the ideas. We simply have different styles of representing the same thing.