Comm lab is full of things to do. In our first week, we were kept very busy. First, I had to construct two websites. Since my knowledge of HTML is pretty much basic at this point, you will get plenty of amusement out of my first attempt to construct web pages. I kind of liked playing with table borders and inserting images.
We also had to go and visit the Waterfall art installment. It was easy to see them since I live just a few blocks from the Brooklyn promenade. Water is what sustains our life in the first place, so I think by nature, people are fascinated by it. Civilizations are built upon water sources, and commerce and trade depend heavily on waterways. At any rate, there are giant waterfalls along the East River that an artist named Olafur Eliasson was commissioned to make. I had heard about the project before they went up on a technology blog. Seeing photos of the falls online, and seeing them in person is quite interesting since they really are huge installments. I’ve seen a lot of natural waterfalls along the Cascade mountain range in Washington, but this was something entirely different. The structures that the water comes out of are modern and man-made, so it is an interesting juxtaposition to see them spewing waterfalls, which is usually a natural phenomenon. The one closest to the promenade has its back facing the viewer from that end, so you get a different perspective on the artwork. The scaffolding and tubing is minimal, and it kind of makes me want to see moss or rocks put on it to give it a more natural feel. The sound of the waterfalls is pretty soothing too, but I feel for those who want them removed because the spray makes their tree leaves fall. However, I would like to see them there all year round if it could be done. If they were solar powered, they’d be even better. I took a couple photos of the skyline and the waterfalls. Have a look:
Finally, I had to read the first four chapters of Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy. In the first chapter he discusses the difference between cultures that communicate solely orally, and those that are literate and use a combination of writing and oral language. He explains that though the literate population would like to think that it is dominant, there are far more cultures that carry oral histories, instead of written histories. He also goes on to say that the written word is actually a recent advancement in the long history of human culture. When he mentions this, I imagine how it was to live back before spoken language existed. I’m sure grunts and some kind of sound allowed humans to communicate, but without the rigidity that languages provide in terms of meaning, I can imagine ideas were hard to get across. We really do take our gift of the written word and language for granted. America in particular needs to step up its emphasis of the importance of reading and writing in its schools. However, when I think back to the time before the written word, I think of things like cave paintings. Archaeologists are fascinated with things like that because they make us think in the context of a time without hardly any technology.
Ong’s second chapter discusses mainly the importance of the retention of knowledge through language. This is what makes language so crucial to any society. The fact that you can inscribe words on pottery and have them discovered centuries later is landmark. The same goes for us now, when we can burn a disc and put it in a time capsule for someone to gather data from centuries from now. They might be using quantum computing by then, but in a sense all things digital will be available to future generations for access, given that the medium they are put on will last through time.
Ong’s third chapter detailed the psychodynamics of orality and presupposes that orally based cultures would get entirely different things out of hearing something than one that is literally based. I feel this is true, because someone who is colorblind will have a completely different outlook on visual meaning than someone who is not colorblind, so this would be true for someone who could not hear, and also someone who could only hear.
His fourth chapter brings to light the notion that with a literal culture, the culture becomes fixed upon the sense of vision. I also agree with this because without sight in today’s age, it would be very difficult to compete, since products and services are designed with the thinking that everyone can see, and not that some cannot. However, some more forward thinking product designers incorporate braille, but that is not enough even now. People need to be able to read emails, the news paper, their friend’s blogs to stay up to date. They need to know how to interpret signs and directions, and which button to press on their ipod (if it has buttons). People derive pleasure from the visual as well, and a stroll to the movie theatre or art gallery will prove this. Overall, I feel that Ong makes a sound analysis on the role of language in society, on both the oral and the literal fronts.