– Still no new sunny, sparkly photo! Weather permitting, will try this weekend, but in the meantime your stuck with overhead lighting from my stove.
Truths and Revelations –
New ways of communicating are constantly emerging, developing, and transforming the way we interact with people, objects, and our environment. No matter how we engage with the world around us, we are always communicating in some way shape or form. There are infinite levels of communicating through various mediums, whether it’s through a device, with our hands and/or voice, our body language, our facial expressions, we express ourselves constantly during our waking life. Most of time we are unaware of the multiple layers of communication that are subconsciously and simultaneously conveyed to others on a daily basis, until, someone points it out by be being offended or hurt or mistakes the meaning behind your signal of communication. It’s only at these moments do we reflect on the impact of our words or signals by replaying a scenario over and over in our heads, thinking of other words we could’ve used or how we could’ve approached something or someone differently.
Communication is so innate to our existence as much as air, water, and food, and just as vital for our survival and without it, dare I say, you would not be reading this text. The inventiveness of the human species to create multiple systems of language is a testimony to our social consciousness and organization, as well as, various other cultural and progressive advantages, which finally brings me to introduce me gratitude in being able to tap into that creative inventiveness for this project. Hundreds of thousands of years of evolution helped my own evolvement throughout this process. As is always with these type of assignments, it seems that the execution of it will be easy enough, but ends up being a challenge. Although my set of expectations remained the same going into the project, they did not stay the same at the end of it. By now, I should’ve evolved my own approach to this assignment and thought about a different angle in which to test a specific element of the learning process. However, maybe by monitoring the discovery process it can’t be called discovery anymore and, thus, just analysis.
Having previous experience with similar creative processes’ assignments, I honestly didn’t expect that I would learn anything new this time around. However, my attitude shifted pretty quickly when I began to realize that there were some significant barriers to creating the text. Because the recycled glass was precut and shaped it limited what I could do with it. I had to improvise and simplify some letters in certain circumstances. It forced me to have to break down each physical component of each letter since I didn’t have malleable material that enabled me to create the fluidity of writing. Essentially, I had to deconstruct all of the letters and simplify my approach to create words and text in a small space. Hindsight, it would’ve been easier had I given myself enough space to work with, but then I wouldn’t have had to re-strategize and think outside of the box. Sometimes limitations can create obstacles, but then those obstacles can create opportunity to discover new methods, ideas, and concepts. Looking at the history of invention, maybe there is that commonality in the process of discovery. Maybe we have to be faced with those challenges to overcome limited thinking to be able to problem solve our environment, thus, changing our relationship with it. The human species evolvement to problem solve has been a survival mechanism since pre-historic times, which has helped insure that we don’t get eaten by predators or swallowed up by the forces of nature. With this primitive mode of thinking and behavior, does that really make us anymore different than our predecessors? The risks and dangers of the environment back then were probably much more apparent and imminent, but could it be possible that this problem solving instinct of survival is exactly the same? Dwelling on these “what if’s? might get us nowhere, but re-thinking these notions could break the mold of linear thinking and circle back to learned patterns and lessons that could be eluding us now.
With the advent of writing, literacy and linear thinking, we interact much differently with the physical world because of our perceived relationship with it as an extension of our physical selves. It is an instrument that creates permanence allowing for a deep, critical, internal analysis. In Walter Ong’s essay, “Writing is Technology that Restructures Thought,” he plays around with paradox of the living spoken word compared to the lifeless, dead text and that without each other none can exist. However, as dead text may seem, it’s power as a technology is its lasting permanence. Ong says on page four, “The dead, thing-like text has potentials far outdistancing those of the simply spoken word. The complementary paradox, however, is that the written text, for all its permanence, means nothing, is not even a text, except in relationship to the spoken word. For a text to be intelligible, to deliver its message, it must be reconverted into sound, directly or indirectly, either really in the external world or in the auditory imagination. All verbal expression, whether put into writing, print, or the computer, is ineluctably bound to sound forever.” He continues to explore the separateness of writing and text as strengthening our thought processes’, enhancing human life, and, most importantly, creating objectivity. Because of this objectivity, it is easier for humans to continue to separate and categorize the world around them and, ultimately, understanding our role and purpose within it. How this relates to our writing invention project seems inextricably linked to the discussion in Ong’s essay and reinforces, as well as, re-constitutes our own thinking and notions about writing and literacy. All of these points begs the question, can someone who is literate after not being exposed to a writing system for the rest of their lives, eventually unlearn literacy? In my own life having been bi-lingual as a young child and then not utilizing one language, I have lost much of that vocabulary. It is not completely gone, but I wonder if someday it will be lost to me forever. I speculate that Ong would reiterate his point about the impermanence of oral speech.
Although I had to re-conceptualize how to create text with recycled glass, it never really occurred to me that creating this communication technology was a technology at all, but more so artwork. Maybe that’s where my modern shortcomings start to rear their ugly heads. I would attribute this notion to my association with clay and broken glass to art classes. Even Dennis Baron points out in his article, “Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technology” when discussing the origins of writing and Sumerian inscriptions on clay, “It is often difficult to tell when we’re dealing with writing and when with art (the recent discovery of 10,000-year-old stone carvings in Syria has been touted as a possible missing link in the art-to-writing chain)…” Clearly, this is something that archeologists and anthropologists also struggle with in determining communication via inscription vs. expression through art. However, thinking about the idea of art facilitating that jump to a written language doesn’t seem all that groundbreaking. Art and writing are both means of expression, just in different forms. Written communication is clearly more structured and universal, whereas art is less so and much more flexible for interpretation. They are both ways in which to make sense of the world we observe and internalize. If we examine pre-historic cave drawings, whether this communication was meant for the clan, enemies, or the gods, whatever the meaning, it was important enough to recreate something that happened and to remember it. It can be looked upon as art or a form of communication or both. The connection from one to develop from the other seems more than plausible.
While it was hard to distinguish this is as not an art project (at times), I knew the task ahead of me was to try and learn something about myself, observe my discovery process, and to understand how various writing technologies affect me. The most important discovery I have made throughout these assignments is realizing that I can’t multitask problem solving and having self-awareness of my cognitive capacity at the same time. I rationalize, develop different approaches and strategies, strive for efficiency, rework everything to create the best possible outcomes; you have all of these various complex thoughts and ideas buzzing through your neurons at light speed, but trying to focus on the processes’ that are the real driving force behind it and the brain stops, my concentration breaks, I have to retrace my steps, and that’s where frustration builds and the progress stops. It’s a gap stop that hinders my development intellectually and psychologically at that moment. Yet, that moment does transpire and eventually take shape. When the connections have congealed, the problems are solved, and it’s all in the past; that’s when the real truths emerge, when feelings of accomplishment and reward take over and I sleep a little better at night.