Provocative Question by Cyprien Lomas

Near the end of his session, Cyprien raised what was for me a very provocative question. He indicated that he wasn’t sure what to make of these digital, Web 2.0 tools, and he wondered whether or not they might amount to anything. Is this stuff merely a hobby, or can it enhance the practice of science?

9 Responses to “Provocative Question by Cyprien Lomas”


  1. 1 Lee Carleton

    Use of these tools can enhance the practice of science by doing exactly what you said in your exchange with Jon U. – deliberately discussing the process of using them. This ‘metacognitive’ exercise is hugely important and one that I employ in my writing classes that accelerates student learning. Tools can help reveal our thinking processes in useful ways.

    The more we think about our own thinking and examine our tools, perspectives, assumptions and metaphors the further we can advance our understanding of ourselves and each other. An old adage comes to mind: first we shape our tools then our tools shape us – productive reflection on how (and why) we use these tools can ehnance the understanding of any discipline.

    For example, today when Jon U. noted that when he physically passed a specific geographic location the memory of an audio file he’d been listening to suddenly came to him…this observation seems pregnant with unexplored meaning. How do we receive information differently when it comes in only one mode versus two or three? (i.e. when we listen to audio only vs. TV) What can we learn when we *separate* these technologies? What else may we have to learn about hearing and listening in a body? What information is available in the nexus of our biology and our technology? It seems that we have not exhausted our explorations in this liminal area.

  2. 2 Gardner

    We have not exhausted our explorations–not by any means. In some respects, the explorations are not new, either. I think of the idea of “memory theatre” as practiced in the Middle Ages. The idea was memory training that involved visualizing a house or other structure and memorizing things by “taking a walk” through that virtual structure. That narrative frames the memories, and the memories in turn create the narrative frames. Godel, Escher, Bach, in other words. :-)

  3. 3 Steve

    Yes, but Gardner, would scientists recognize this as science, or more specifically as biology or physics or chemistry?

  4. 4 terry kennedy

    While I was listening to Jon’s talk this morning, and now reading your comments about memory–especially about the Middle Ages, I recalled that there’s a wonderful book by Illych called “In the Vineyard of the Text” where he talks about the dramatic shift in literacy from aural to written. Much was made of the fact that St. Anselm could read without moving his lips. Lecture notes were fragments of text that triggered the instructor’s memory. Are we just moving recursively toward that kind of literacy where the hyperlink or the head or whatever is the trigger to a collaborative memory?

    My larger question is about the ethical demand that this kind of learning places on the learner, one that we can’t ‘check’ as it were. The notion of MY webpage, MY blog, MY wiki, MY thoughts, etc. will have to be sacrificed on a certain level, no? We will resist this, but it is perhaps inevitable. Back to the medieval blank space concerning the notion of copyright? Who owns text? Is the text the knowledge, or is knowledge really moving into a different ontological space? Is knowledge only know the hermeneutic significance of text? Tres medieval; tres post-modern.

    Great day.

  5. 5 terry kennedy

    Oops, Gardner explained to me the mystery of linking so I am no longer at the mercy of my son Joe, please see above comment.

  6. 6 Lee Carleton

    I’m reading _Radiant Textuality_ by Jerome McGann, and today I came across a passage that begins to answer to Cyprien’s question as to whether these new technologies can enhace the practice of science.

    McGann discusses visiting with a friend and playing with an image of Rosetti’s “The Blessed Damosel” on Adobe Photoshop:
    “We…began filtering it in a series of playful and random ways. At a certain point we generated an image that startled me. The arbitrary distortion had suddenly clarified a chromatic organization I had never noticed in the picture, familiar as it was.”

    (see his online essay: “Imagining What You Don’t Know”)

  7. 7 Lee Carleton

    “Imagining What You Don’t Know” by Jerome McGann (UVA)
    http://www.iath.virginia.edu/~jjm2f/old/chum.html

  8. 8 Jean-Claude Bradley

    Cyprien – blogs and wikis can certainly serve as efficient vehicles to communicate science. The graduate and undergraduate students working in my organic chemistry lab on the synthesis of anti-malarial agents publish their experiments in a blog, with summaries in a wiki.
    http://usefulchem-experiments1.blogspot.com/
    http://usefulchem.wikispaces.com/

  9. 9 cyprien

    Thanks Lee and Jean-Claude.

    I think the discussion we need to continue shoud be driven by both concrete examples of uses in higher ed _and_ playful ‘discoveries’ of the potentiai of these tools.

    Exciting times ahead I think!

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