Tag Archives: Neil Postman

10 (+) Articles for Improving Your Mental Hygiene (Vol. 1.0)

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A list of ten articles dealing with topics such as: leading, following, awareness, mindfulness, constructive living, esoteric thought, greatness, media ecology, critical thinking, and existence.

1. Lee Thayer: There is Only One Way to Achieve Greatness
2. Mindfulness: Finding Our Own Paths: Entering Awareness
3. RAWilson: Robert Anton Wilson: Thoughts
4. Lee Thayer: Excerpt from “The Elusive Laws of Communication”
5. Lance Strate: The Creative Power of Media Ecology
6. Copyblogger: How Good are your Critical Thinking Skills?
7. Constructive Living: Constructive Living Basics
8. Walker Percy: Walker Percy WikiQuote
9. Dr. Zoltan: Dr. Zoltan’s Ideas on Creative Career
10. Mindfulness: The Leader is a Virtuoso Question Asker

What articles or blogs do you recommend for improving mental hygiene? I look forward to learning from you.

EDIT:

11. Dr. Corey Anton: Freedom, Thought, World

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Perception Change

Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner in their book “Teaching as a Subjective Activity,” present the following for our contemplation: “The ability to learn turns out to be a function of the extent to which one is capable of perception change (21).” What this means is that your learning something is dependent upon your capacity for imagining yourself to be other than you are or aiming to properly imagine yourself into the situation that you are faced with. How many times have our perceptions of ourself stifled our potential for taking action or for challenging ourselves in new ways?

Or, said otherwise, when approaching a situation, are you capable of opening yourself to the potentialities of the situation? This seems to follow along the lines of living a great life and being the person that you want to be, becoming the person that you want to be. I remember a meeting with a respectable person, a person whose work I had studied for years prior. When that person told me that, “yes, we could meet tomorrow,” I was overcome with anxiety and fear. However, luckily, I was able to push the fear aside and take the risk of meeting this respectable person. In this kind of situation, what is the nature of the fear? What triggers the panic the could potentially crush the hoped-for situation? In retrospect, it is amazing to find that the panic on my part was severly over-exaggerated. What seemed like a great chasm, was merely a crack in the sidewalk.

It seems that one’s existence is not simply “in one’s head,” but in fact stretched out to the people that one meets and the objects and situations that one is surrounded by. Perhaps we come to know ourselves through the interaction with our environment and with the people in our environment. Our interpretations of how things are are perhaps more important than the things themselves. Perception change can come from wiping off the table or from listening to the wind in the afternoon. However, perception change sometimes does not come easy and it is difficult at times to will ourselves to see things differently. Perhaps, the thinking process returns to an obsessive fear or a hindering shiver of doubt (this is also a mode of perception change). In these times of gloom, it may be necessary to force our body into action, to change our normal routine and to risk “losing face” in order to break the moldy habits that have consumed us. The beautiful thing about a human is that a human is incomplete and in this incomplete existence we can work to change ourselves and to change our lives over and over and over again.

Friendfeed Through a Systems Looking Glass: Feeding the Beast

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The following is a systems approach to the increasingly popular website Friendfeed. Recently, there have been many articles written about this site (I will provide links at the end of this post). I have written what follows through a Media Ecology systems framework with the hopes of “fleshing out” the system known as “Friendfeed.” The inspiration from this piece comes from various writings by Neil Postman.

Where Lies The Purpose

The purposes of Friendfeed are to accumulate and aggregate shared content from different social media websites. In turn, the aggregated content can then be re-shared, commented upon and “liked.” One can find purposes in this such as tracking brand popularity and public opinion, finding other relevant sources that may relate to content that you like or creating a network of information (a “feed”) as deemed relevant by certain “friends” that you subscribe to. Also, there is the purpose of oneself pushing likable or relevant content into the stream.

The Roles

People are assigned the role of “feeder” and “subscriber.” If one achieves a large amount of subscribers, then one’s shared content will potentially reach more people, which then could possibly be fed again back into the system creating a ripple effect of information flow. Subscribing to a large amount of people also results in a dramatic increase in one’s daily information intake depending on the social media activity of the person (or people) whom you are subscribed to.

Assumptions, Keywords and Change

The underlying assumption is that the information that others feed is of importance to themselves, their world, or to those in their knowledge-network. Some keywords that could be assigned to Friendfeed are the following: aggregator, aggregation, social media, lifestream, information-network, media accumulation, sharing and perhaps responsible browsing. The system is changing to the extent that users are starting to post comments about the shared content directly on the Friendfeed stream and not on the particular blog post or shared item’s page. This has upset some bloggers who wish to have their community gather and comment directly on their own blog. Also, it seems that the system will continue to change depending on the social media feeds that are available for feeding. Finally, with the development of various Friendfeed applications, the site is beginning to act as a nexus from which one need not stray too far from. Firefox has already created the “MySocial” Add-on, which neatly integrates Friendfeed into the Firefox Browser.

The effects

The actual effect of Friendfeed on users could be an increased willingness and openness to share content in a public space, the ability to keep track of others through their online activity and even as a search engine function whereby one can search fed content. On a different note, Friendfeed creates a mixing spot where the content that one feeds and “likes” are grouped together under the same feed. Friendfeed works against fragmentation by opening the stream flow of social media, while at the same time creates fragmentation by allowing others to comment on fed material directly through Friendfeed and not through the actual article’s site.

Alternatives and Otherwise

As of writing this post, I am not aware of an alternative to the service that Friendfeed provides and perhaps it is because of this that it has gained so much attention as of late. This leads to the next question: Can we do without Friendfeed? The answer would be “yes, but…” What I mean by this is that due to the fragmention that occurs through the stretching out of oneself via social networking and social media, there is a lot of switching to different websites to keep track of friends and others. Through Friendfeed, one can gather the activity of certain others and monitor activity from a centralized location. Through a Friendfeed application, one can even Tweet through the Friendfeed website itself. While we can do without Friendfeed, it does create an interesting spot from which to perpetuate interesting web media.

This is system is related to other systems of knowing and behaving in a couple ways. First, with the proliferation of social media, there seems to be the desire to “keep in touch” with others, and by keeping in touch I mean, following their web activity. At this point, Friendfeed serves the purpose of being able to stay updated on one’s friends’ social media activity. Also, Friendfeed allows the anonymous tracking of certain others by the creation of an “imaginary” friend, a kind of online social media peeping, in which one can feed the “imaginary friend’s” content. Moreover, this site is a social networking site stripped of its symbolic overload of images and personal self-identification. That is, one’s Friendfeed page is minimal and based solely on streamed content.

Finally, the million dollar Neil Postman question “To what problem is Friendfeed the answer?” It seems that Friendfeed answers the problem of social media fragmentation, information-desire and the interest in anonymous tracking. Also, it acts as a stripped down social networking service constructed solely by one’s and other’s fed content. In this system, the human user is the food that sustains the site, food largely gathered from afar…and shared.

Some articles relating to Friendfeed include, but are not limited to:
Why You Should Use Friendfeed
Ten Friendfeed Visitors Beats 1,000 StumbleUpons Any Day
Friendfeed is This Year’s Twitter, But Why?
Friendfeed Applications
Related articles

Sensitive Empathy or Spending Time With Carl R. Rogers

An old diagram of a male human skeleton.Image from WikipediaCarl R. Rogers provides us with a look at our relationships, with our uniquely human interactions with those around us and with our self-reflective communication (our talk about our talk, our talk to our self). Rogers, in his book “On Becoming a Person,” has compiled many of his essays on self-development, communication, listening, empathy and learning. I originally stumbled across Rogers through Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s book “Teaching as a Subversive Activity” and decided to order the recommended Rogers book. Thus far, I have not spent enough time with Rogers in order to be able to make a part of him a part of me. By fleshing out his work, hopefully something of his work will stick with me (and you, too!). In this entry, I will try to give you a brief introduction to Rogers’ work from his piece entitled “Some Hypotheses Regarding the Facilitation of Personal Growth.”

As his guiding question, Rogers asks: “How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth (Rogers 32)?” That is, Rogers wishes to open a space with the other where the two of them can allow each other to grow as separate individuals while maintaining a space of growth between them. That is, instead of speaking “to” each other, speaking “with” each other. This way of communicating transforms both people involved by its compassionate attempt to achieve transparency with the other.

The hypothesis that Rogers proposes is: “If I can provide a certain type of relationship, the other person will discover within himself the capacity to use that relationship for growth, and change and personal development will occur (Rogers 33).” But, even as Rogers admits, this question is very open-ended and vague. Thus, he continues by breaking down and fleshing-out what exactly he means. For Rogers, a successful relationship encompasses the following:

1. Being genuine with one’s self and with the other, which presents a fragile reality to the situation.
2. A willingness to accept the other on his/her own terms, in all of the other’s unique once-occurring wonder.
3. A “sensitive empathy” toward one’s self and toward the other, a space where real communication can flourish.

For Rogers, in using this approach, a state of “transparency” may be achieved. That is to say, a state of openness and understanding between self and other, a breakdown of the social masks that may hinder true communication. Also, Rogers believes that each person has the capacity for positive change and self-renewal, even though it may be buried, repressed or not yet fully realized. Through working with and experimenting with the above mentioned communicative methods, Rogers hopes to help the other develop and bring to life the realizable self-improving capacities.

As for the outcomes, Rogers writes, “It is my hypothesis that in such a relationship the individual will reorganize himself at both the conscious and deeper levels of his personality in such a manner as to cope with life more constructively, more intelligently, and in a more socialized as well as a more satisfying way (Rogers 36).” Using this as his frame, Rogers provides empirical evidence from case studies and other research as to the efficacy of these methods upon constructive personality change. As Rogers sees it, his proposed findings and communicative suggestions have relevancy not just for those working in psychology or psychotherapy, but for teachers, parents and, generally speaking, human beings in general. As a summary, Rogers provides one (extremely long) and gorgeously structured sentence of hope as to what was presented in this piece and his general mode of thinking in terms of this piece. I will reproduce it here:

If I can create a relationship characterized on my part: by a genuineness and transparency, in which I am my real feelings; by a warm acceptance of and prizing of the other person as a separate individual; by a sensitive ability to see his world and himself as he sees them; Then the other individual in the relationship: will experience and understand aspects of himself which previously he has repressed; will find himself becoming better integrated, more able to function effectively; will become more similar to the person he would like to be; will be more self-directing and self-confident; will become more of a person, more unique and more self-expressive; will be more understanding, more acceptant of others; will be able to cope with the problems of life more adequately and more comfortably (Rogers 38-39).”

I would like to spend more time with Rogers and hopefully in the coming months can flesh out some more of his essays as I think they are constructive and useful to read.

If you like what you read here, please support the work of Carl R. Rogers: Carl Rogers: On Becoming a Person

Me.dium: A Real-Time Graphical Browsing Enivronment or “The Voyeuristic Web Experience”

MediumsvgImage from WikipediaIf yesterday I wrote about Zizek‘s interview regarding “hysteria and cyberspace,” today I began using a quite “hysterical” add-on called “Me.dium.” Generally speaking, “me.dium” provides you with the ability to graphically see your browsing activity. It also shows other me.dium users who are on the same website as you (and surrounding websites) and gives you the ability to interact with them, add them as a friend or simply ignore them. Also, there is a small forum built into the add-on, which allows one to freely post a topic regarding a website or event that one wishes to talk about. One can also peruse the small forum to see what other me.dium users are discussing. Thus, other users, while surfing can post comments in real time and view where other users are in relation to oneself. Moreover, me.dium provides what they deem “relevant” pages that revolve around what page one is currently on, although thus far I am yet to discover a new interesting page or in general to find much traffic at all in the me.dium world. However…

What I like about me.dium is the idea of “responsible browsing”. That is, while privacy is usually the mainstay on the internet, this map allows others to track where you are on the net and click there to join you. Upon clicking, you can see their icon as being on the same page as you. I can see this as being very useful for some work-related project with members located in various offices or even in different countries. Similarly, it can be useful for those who wish to join the bandwagon and see what websites others are using. Otherwise, it can be a bit mesmerizing to watch your icon as you float from one website to another: the self transformed into an orange silhouette.

It seems that me.dium is still in its developmental stages, but if this mapping/interactive function takes off, it could provide an interesting twist in web hysteria. From a Zizekian standpoint, there may be something terrifying about the unknown other being able to follow one’s web activity in real-time (what does the other want from me? Why are they on the same page as me?). Also, it may curb what websites one finds oneself on in relation to how one wants others to perceive him or herself. That is, searching an obscene website knowing that one is openly exposing oneself to it, is visible, may prove quite an uncomfortable experience.

Neil Postman asked the question: “To what problem is this new technology the solution?” So, one could ask the question: “To what problem is me.dium the solution?” Well, it seems that me.dium is working to combat the alienation of the internet, the internet as a private (and perhaps lonely) experience and bringing out the idea of “you are not alone while browsing.” That is to say, it seems to function as a social networking site based not on a flashy profile, but on browsing interests. However, one can also see the business sense in this. Of course, it could become easy, once enough people begin using this function, to track what websites are popular and thus where to advertise. It is also possible to imagine virtual bots used by a company, programmed to converge on a site (perhaps pushing a new product) and thus creating the illusion of their actually “being there.” Also, it should be noted that the sites that appear in relation to your own are not controllable by you, which has its positive points for being able to discover new web content. Postman’s second question: “Whose problem is this actually?” Well, again, it seems that me.dium appeals to those wishing to connect with others knowingly exposing their surfing habits and vice versa those who wish to view others’ pages, the voyeuristic web experience. Moreover, the business person looking to find how people go from one website to the next could take interest in following web habits to determine what is relevant to other people. Postman’s final question: “What does technologies does this new technology obsolesce?” It seems that me.dium is pushing the increasingly popular “visualized” web interface and with the advent of new visualized browsers (such as touchgraph, spacetime, etc.) the text based browser may wither. Also, in creating a real-time graphical browsing environment, me.dium has the capacity to create an interactive and communal browsing experience, which may again affect linear text based search engines.

At its current stage, me.dium is still rather small, but it seems that given the chance and time to grow, perhaps some beautiful things could blossom out of me.dium. Imagine a group of scholars separated by location, converging on me.dium, engaging in chat, while researching some topic of interest. If me.dium were able to set up private spaces for groups to converge and research and chat while viewing the topology of where the others are, then this could benefit the said party, or at least provide an interesting space for discussion and discovery.