Reading 17-23 March 2013

roman_mosaic_pompeiiReading 10-16 March 2013 (ZiR)

Rachael Benavidez, Zeteo Assistant Editor

[One in an ongoing series of posts. For the full series see Zeteo is Reading.]

17 March 2013

Reading an article entitled “A Brief History of Applause” on The Atlantic Monthly website. No one knows exactly when or where applause originated, but what is fascinating about the article is that we have found new methods of “clapping our hands” when our hands cannot be heard.

But we’re reinventing applause, too, for a world where there are, technically, no hands. We clap for each others’ updates on Facebook. We share. We link. We retweet and reblog the good stuff to amplify the noise it makes. We friend and follow and plus-1 and plus-K and recommend and endorse and mention and (sometimes even, still) blogroll, understanding that bigger audiences — networked audiences — can be their own kind of thunderous reward. We find new ways to express our enthusiasms, to communicate our desires, to encode our emotions for transmission. Our methods are serendipitous and also driven, always, by the subtle dynamics of the crowd. We clap because we’re expected to. We clap because we’re compelled to. We clap because something is totally awesome. We clap because we’re generous and selfish and compliant and excitable and human.

Megan Garber observes that while our applause may no longer be heard, through technology, it has gained importance.

Within the great arena of the Internet, we become part of the performance simply by participating in it, demonstrating our appreciation — and our approval — by amplifying, and extending, the show. And we are aware of ourselves, of the new role a new world gives us. We’re audience and actors at once. Our applause is, in a very real sense, part of the spectacle…

But our claps matter more now, in many ways, because they are no longer ephemeral. They are performances in themselves, their praises preserved, their rhythms tracked, their patterns analyzed and exploited. They send messages far beyond the fact of the applause itself. Our applause, when it’s given, is silent. And also thunderous.

Consider this article the next time you Like something on Facebook. You are channeling centuries of power.

18 and 19 March 2013

I have spent the last couple of days reading A Place at the Table: The Crisis of 49 Million Hungry Americans and How to Solve It, the companion book to the film A Place at the Table, now in theaters and available on iTunes. The executive producer of the film is Top Chef and restaurant owner Tom Colicchio, and explores various issues surrounding hunger and health in the United States. The issue is important to me (don’t get me started), and while the book is an interesting and informative read, its subject matter is somewhat alarming.

From the chapter entitled “The Grocery Gap: Finding Healthy Food in America” by Allison Karpyn and Sarah Treuhaft:

Access to healthy foods is a challenge for many Americans, but especially those living in low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, or rural areas. A 2009 Department of Agriculture study found that 23.5 million people do not have a supermarket within a mile of their home. Low-income zip codes have 25 percent few food chain supermarkets and 1.3 times as many convenience stores compared to middle-income zip codes. Predominantly black zip codes have about half the number of chain supermarkets compared to predominantly white zip codes, and predominantly Latino areas have only one-third as many. In rural areas, the issues that give rise to the so-called food deserts are low-population density, longer distances between retailers, and the rapid rise of super-centers and their impact on other food retailers. In the Mississippi Delta, over 70 percent of households eligible to receive food stamps need to travel more than thirty miles to reach a large grocery store or supermarket. Jonestown, Mississippi, with a population of around 2,000 people, 96 percent of whom are African American, is in the northwestern part of the state that has the highest rate of food insecurity in the nation. Mississippi also has the highest rate of obesity.

Various health organizations have named obesity “epidemic.” Perhaps the real epidemic is the lack of availability and affordability of healthy foods.

20 March 2013

Reading pragmatist John Dewey’s Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (1916). In his chapter entitled “Experience and Thinking,” he explores our tendency to confuse words with ideas:

Words, the counters for ideals, are, however, easily taken for ideas. And in just the degree in which mental activity is separated from active concern with the world, from doing something and connecting the doing with what is undergone, words, symbols, come to take the place of ideas. The substitution is the more subtle because some meaning is recognized. But we are very easily trained to be content with a minimum of meaning, and to fail to note how restricted is our perception of the relations which confer significance. We get so thoroughly used to a kind of pseudo-idea, a half perception, that we are not aware how half-dead our mental action is, and how much keener and more effective our observations and ideas would be if we formed them under conditions of a vital experience which required us to use judgment: to hunt for the connections of the things dealt with.

21 March 2013

Still reading Dewey, today it’s Experience and Education (1938). How can educators utilize the experiences of students as educational resources to teach? Dewey notes that traditional education did not need to ask such a question. However, in order to connect education and experience, one must consider the world outside of the classroom–the one in which the students live.

A primary responsibility of educators is that they not only be aware of the general principle of the shaping of actual experience by environing conditions, but that they also recognized int he concrete what surroundings are conducive to having experiences lead to that growth. Above all, they should know how to utilize surroundings, physical and social, that exist so as to extract from them all that they have to contribute to building up experiences that are worthwhile.

As an apparently perpetual student, I am asking myself how I make those connections to what I am learning.

23 March 2013

Reading a posting on The New York Times blog on the death of Chinua Achebe, author and political activist. Achebe is known for changing the face of African writing, or perhaps, creating it and giving voice to Africans on colonialist rule. From a 1994 interview:

There is that great proverb — that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail — the bravery, even, of the lions.

We will miss the voice of this brave lion.


Photo: Roman mosaic of choregos and actors, from the House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii (Wikimedia Commons)


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