What if silence was the route for understanding and theorizing a better world? In a recent debate done at the Institute of Art and Ideas, an author, a former priest, a philosopher of language and musician weigh in on how silence can be a means to approaching deep philosophical puzzles. Is there an implication within silence that necessitates an understanding of society or is it that silence leads to answers? There are three parts to the debate; Unspeakable things, Beyond words, and can silence change the world?
To watch the debate, click here: http://iai.tv/video/the-call-of-silence. The Institute of Art and Ideas (IAI) is committed to fostering a progressive and vibrant intellectual culture in the UK. A not-for-profit organization, it is engaged in changing the current cultural landscape through big ideas, boundary-pushing thinkers and challenging debates.
Have we made a mistake in the way we think? Some believe our very language and thought are inherently male, and that this is a serious shortcoming. Can we create a new way of thinking that is not masculine, and as a consequence create a new world, or is this a misguided fantasy?
The Panel: Scottish feminist linguist Deborah Cameron, feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan and Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn seek new ways of thinking.
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‘The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl”,’ the American politician Shirley Chisholm once said. Exposed in this insight is the miraculous power of language; all that is required for something so fateful to be determined is not biological nature, not even social imposition, but, simply, speech. So seemingly simple is this mechanism, in fact, that some are doing their best to change it. It was revealed this week that a pre-school in Sweden has decided that the use of gender-specific pronouns such as ‘him’ (‘han’) and ‘her’ (‘hon’) is to be prohibited, in favour of gender-neutral terms, in an attempt to reduce the effects of linguistically determined gender-stereotyping.
The school, aptly name Egalia, is tackling an issue which has been firmly on the feminist agenda since Dale Spender’s influential book Man Made Language appeared in 1980. There Spender argued that, far from passively capturing the way that the world appears to us, language actively constructs the way that the world is. More specifically, the state of language, according to Spender, structures the world in a way that promotes males and inhibits females, whether by exclusion, alienation, control, or construction. The claim was supported by the famous studies in linguistics carried out by the American anthropologists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf, whose extensive research on Native American languages led to the hypothesis that the structure of language restricts and determines our cognitive categories. It is hard to report an event in English without using the tense-marked words that the grammar requires, and it is hard to encode a fact in Hopi without marking its testimonial status, that is, whether it is first-hand knowledge, second-hand, third-hand, and so on, as required by the structure of the language. Importantly, it makes it hard to think outside of these limits, and, consequently, hard to behave outside of them. The way that we mark gender according to our grammatical structure is no different, an assumption which the new Egalia policy operates on. Continue reading “Undoing Gender: New Experiments in Social Deconstruction”
A paper recently published online in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (JCAL) has generated lively discussion on how the educational use of Twitter can affect college student engagement and grades. The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades by R Junco, G Heiberger and E Loken was published in November last year. The paper ‘provides experimental evidence that Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students and to mobilise faculty into a more active and participatory role’ (quoted from the abstract).
However, a JCAL reader, Dr Ellen Murphy, has raised some interesting issues about the paper, particularly about the language that is used to describe cause and effect, in a letter she wrote to the JCAL Editor, Charles Crook. Rather than being published in JCAL itself, we think the debate and correspondence between the authors, Dr Murphy and the JCAL Editor is better aired via this blog.
JCAL Editor’s response Letter to the Editor in response to The effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades (E. Murphy)
This letter was submitted with a view to publication in the journal. Our advice on submissions does include the possibility of such correspondence. However, in my 8-year tenure as Editor, this is the first time I have had to consider that possibility. Moreover, ‘letters’ seem scarce items across the whole history of the journal. On the other hand, it is certainly Continue reading “Can Twitter be used as an educational tool?”