02009-06-17 | Uncategorized | 7 comments

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for one media outlet to reach multiple audiences. Here’s Clay Shirky on Twitter, CNN and Iran:

TED Blog: Q&A with Clay Shirky on Twitter and Iran
CNN has the same problem this decade that Time magazine had last decade. They simultaneously want to appeal to middle America and leading influencers. Reaching multiple audiences is increasingly difficult. The people who are hungry for info on events of global significance are used to instinctively switching on CNN. But they are realizng that that reflex doesn’t serve them very well anymore, and that can’t be good for CNN.

Will Santa Fe have a Phoenix climate and Phoenix the climate of hell?
From the United States Global Change Research Program:

Recent warming in the Southwest has been among the most rapid in the nation. This is driving declines in spring snowpack and Colorado River flow. Projections of future climate change indicate continued strong warming in the region, with much larger increases under higher emissions scenarios compared to lower. Projected summertime temperature increases are greater than the annual average increases in parts of the region and are likely to be exacerbated by expanding urban heat island effects.

How does language affect thought?

From the Long Now Blog

In one reported study of several:

“We gave people sets of pictures that showed some kind of temporal progression (e.g., pictures of a man aging, or a crocodile growing, or a banana being eaten). Their job was to arrange the shuffled photos on the ground to show the correct temporal order. We tested each person in two separate sittings, each time facing in a different cardinal direction. If you ask English speakers to do this, they’ll arrange the cards so that time proceeds from left to right. Hebrew speakers will tend to lay out the cards from right to left, showing that writing direction in a language plays a role. So what about folks like the Kuuk Thaayorre, who don’t use words like “left” and “right”? What will they do?

The Kuuk Thaayorre did not arrange the cards more often from left to right than from right to left, nor more toward or away from the body. But their arrangements were not random: there was a pattern, just a different one from that of English speakers. Instead of arranging time from left to right, they arranged it from east to west. That is, when they were seated facing south, the cards went left to right. When they faced north, the cards went from right to left. When they faced east, the cards came toward the body and so on. This was true even though we never told any of our subjects which direction they faced. The Kuuk Thaayorre not only knew that already (usually much better than I did), but they also spontaneously used this spatial orientation to construct their representations of time.”

I wonder how this fits in:
Let’s say you are a self-taught artist, maybe a painter or musician, and through your work and experience you are creating rules or methods for your work that you had no knowledge of and no words for. You did not learn this and you did not know the words for this, and yet, you developed your own vocabulary, based simply on your experience over time.

I don’t think this contradicts the notion that the language you speak fundamentally shapes your thinking – linguistic relativity – but complicates the matter somewhat.

And, isn’t the same true for meditation? Without knowing names for their meditative experiences, without the framework of a religion, without any linguistic background, hermits throughout history have arrived at knowledge through experience.

Make sure you clean you boots really well, when you return from Mars!

Revived Microbe May Hold Clues For ET Lifeforms
Science Daily is reporting that a microbe, Herminiimonas glaciei, buried some 3 km under glacial ice in Greenland, and believed to have been frozen for some 120,000 years, has been brought back to life (abstract). The microbe, some ten to fifty times smaller than E. coli, was brought back over several months by slowly incubating it at gradually increasing temperatures. After 11.5 months, the microbe began to replicate.
(Via Slashdot)


  1. steve

    I don’t necessarily dispute any of what’s written above, but merely ask the question …

    Consider: I have a son that has Autism as well as Down Syndrome. He is non-verbal. Does his non verbal nature imply he is without language? What might his language be? He seems to form ideas, and act with what we might call “agency.” i.e., he dresses himself, eats, watches videos … REQUESTS videos that he prefers by handing them to me. He loves to watch sports on TV. In short, he exhibits preference and chooses specifics based upon preference.

    He demonstrates the use of logic. e.g., I never showed him EXPLICITLY how to turn on and off lights, or to lock/unlock door locks but he knows how to do it. He knows how to turn on the computer which, since it is an iMac involves reaching around behind the unit and pressing a button. I never explicitly taught him that, but he knows it.

    He has his own interpretation of music and “dances” to it.
    (It’s kinda like Elaine Bennis on Seinfeld)

    Finally, he seems to have an appreciation for aesthetics. He will sit and stare at specific photographs or paintings when I take him to galleries. He will look at picture books such as the works of Andy Goldsworthy. And so on.

    How has “language” shaped his thinking? I’d love to know. Superficially, one might say he has no language since he is non-verbal, but clearly something is going on based upon empirical observation.

  2. ottmar

    Steve: I don’t think your example is very different from what I said about artists or meditators arriving at knowledge through experience and not by way of words, yes? And, to complicate matters even more, what about Jung’s Collective Unconscious – which I maintain should be alled Collective Consciousness. (I wrote about this in the Diary three years ago and again here and this is also somewhat related.)

    Many roads lead to Rome?

  3. steve

    I like your term, “Collective Consciousness” … I think my son is pretty dialed in to that current …

  4. Will

    “hermits throughout history have arrived at knowledge through experience”

    Or their experience in that moment is their knowledge, no need to “arrive”, there is no destination in knowledge, no ah-ha moment because it is quickly forgotten or replaced with another ah-ha moment.

  5. Ottmar

    Will: True, but in my experience it takes a lot of practice to arrive at that moment of no destination and no need to arrive.

    It seems to me that effortless is usually preceded by effort. Or, if the music should sound effortless, one has to practice it. Arriving at knowledge through experience to me means to understand through practice rather than through language.

  6. Brenda

    Thought opens doors
    Language closes doors
    Thought creates dreams
    Language stops dreams
    Thought discovers frontiers
    Language remembers yesterdays
    Thought without boundaries
    Language within boundaries
    Thought without words spoken
    Language cages words spoken
    May your days be filled with endless thoughts
    May your thoughts be peace filled languages

  7. yumi

    “…the language you speak fundamentally shapes your thinking – linguistic relativity – but complicates the matter somewhat.”

    Chuang Tzu-
    “Words exist because of meaning; once you’ve gotten the meaning, you can forget the words. Where can I find a man who has forgotten words so I can have a word with him?”


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