Palatability and the Dark Ages

I got a lot out of Concept 1.0 from Naming What We Know. Some seemed so obvious and yet you’d never think of it, while others made me think of things that I hadn’t thought about in years. Today I’ll address three elements that I came across in the reading.

The first part of Concept 1 addressed the audience of who you are writing to. It seems so obvious, like “duh of course I’m writing for an audience”. And yet for someone who hadn’t been writing for anyone in particular for around three years, it’s like I’d almost forgot it. Kevin Roozen mentions, “Writing, then, is always an attempt to address the needs of an audience … writers draw upon many other people … she is always drawing upon the ideas  and experiences of countless others (17). There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start at the top: when you think of addressing an audience while writing I always seem to imagine writing something quote-un-quote “professional”. I don’t think about this so much when I’m writing a novel or a screenplay, though that seems crazy! If you asked me I’d say I was writing for myself, but no I’m not. Even if I’m partially right, that I am writing for myself, I can’t be the only person in the entire world that would enjoy the writing. By writing for myself am I addressing my own needs, and then by default the needs of the audience? I think that I am. The next two statements are again obvious when you think about it, but not necessarily when you are sitting down and writing. I feel people don’t like to think that they are “drawing upon” other people’s ideas. Or more importantly, that they themselves are coming up with completely original ideas. It’s like when you’re in high school for example and you’re going through feelings and emotions, and coming up with ideas and plans that no one possibly in the entire history of the world could ever have come up with before. Looking back now we all can see how naïve we were, and more especially that we never were alone in those thoughts. There’s something nice in that, even though you wouldn’t have thought of it at the time. Benjamin Sledge mentions this in a post from The Writing Cooperative titled “Originality in Writing is Overrated”. Roozen ends his essay stating, “writing can never be anything but a social and rhetorical act, connecting us to other people across time and space in an attempt to respond adequately to the needs of an audience” (18). There’s something really nice about that, that at all times past, present, and future you’re sharing emotions and thoughts with people. It’s comforting to me.

The second concept that jumped out the page at me was 1.4 “Words get their meaning from other words”. Dylan B. Dryer claims that, “there is no necessary connection between any sounds or clusters of symbols are their referents … Any definition relies on words to explain what other words mean … words in a sentence or paragraph influence and often determine each other’s meaning” (24). This IMMEDIATELY reminded me of when I was in high school (again), and I had a lot of band posters on the wall. I don’t know why but I would stare intently at the words “Panic! At The Disco” and “Fall Out Boy” for example. What does “Panic! At The Disco” mean? What does Disco mean? At? The? Panic? Panic at? I would think about these as I fell asleep. So Dryer is completely right, each word is determined by the others. There are no connections, and it’s so bizarre and again I just love it! Language is such a weird thing, as are words and their meanings. I’d like to think that this makes you also think about words and language, and examine sentences or phrases around you. Pulling them apart and dissecting them like you would a science experiment. I tried to find some Ted videos, and ended up finding a whole playlist which touches on a number of different aspects.

My last and favourite concept is 1.5 “Writing Mediates Activity”. David R. Russell made my brain go in a very strange direction. Essentially he explains about how writing is simply a tool, and that it is “nothing more than making marks on surfaces, whether of paper, stone, liquid-crystal screens, or a child’s hand” (26). I hadn’t considered this, but like concept 1.0 it makes absolute perfect sense. Russell claims that, “the marks do not “contain” ideas or emotions or even meaning. People make something of them. They must read them and interpret them” (26). Again this wasn’t something I had ever really considered, but then Russell said something that reminded me of something I had heard in my undergrad. He stated that, “writing has several advantages … writing lasts longer than speech … the marks can be copied and distributed over great distances … People can also return to writing over and over, revise it and shape it relatively easily” (26-27). I agree and also wholeheartedly disagree to what he said here. Like I mentioned it reminded me of something I heard in my undergrad, and that was what one of my professors called a technological dark age. That in if there was a cataclysmic event right now and everything was destroyed, maybe in 200 years when people find and look through everything they’d think that the 20th and 21st century did nothing! Because they wouldn’t be able to access everything that we have stored online, and therefore all of the writing and communication would be lost. Even these blogs that we are working on, if no one had the means to access the internet or even knew the internet existed, then it would seem like we just did absolutely nothing. In 2015 NPR published an article on it called “Internet Pioneer Warns Our Era Could Become The ‘Digital Dark Ages’”. It was crazy when I was reading through the concept and then the connection appeared, because I think about this “Digital Dark Age” all the time! So when Russell said that “writing lasts longer than speech” (26), I had to disagree, partly. He isn’t obviously thinking here about this possible Dark Age we could have. Maybe moving our writing to all online isn’t the right idea, that we need these “marks” on paper that we can tangibly touch. I found another Ted talk on a similar topic.

While not strictly talking about writing, Danny Hillis backs up my claim about loosing what information we have online, and that we need some sort of back up plan.

Danny Hillis talks about the internet failing, rather than writing, but I think the two are/do go hand and hand with one another. Hillis mentions in his talk that in 1982 there was a book published of everyone who had an email address. Today you could never make a book like that. Hillis imagines it would be something like 25 miles thick (“The Internet Could Crash” 00:00-03:11).

I hope this all makes sense to everyone, and I apologize for going so far over on word count. I just got so excited with this week’s reading and research!


Works Cited

Dryer, Dylan B. “Concept 1 Writing Is a Social and Rhetorical Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016. 23-25. Print.

“How language changes over time.”, created by John McWhorter, Erin McKean, Mark Pagel, Steven Pinker, Suzanne Talhouk, Anne Curzan, and Mark Forsyth, Accessed 31 August 2019.

Neuman, Scott. “Internet Pioneer Warns Our Era Could Become The ‘Digital Dark Ages’”. National Public Radio, Inc. 13 February 2015.

Roozen, Kevin. “Concept 1 Writing Is a Social and Rhetorical Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016. 17-27. Print.

Russell, David R. “Concept 1 Writing Is a Social and Rhetorical Activity.” Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies, Classroom Edition. Ed. Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, Utah State University Press, 2016. 26-27. Print.

Sledge, Benjamin. “Originality in Writing is Overrated”. The Writing Cooperative. 23 February 2017.

“The Internet Could Crash. We need a Plan B.”, created by Danny Hillis, February 2013. Accessed 31 August 2019.


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Melinda Grant
September 3, 2019 at 11:30 pm

Hi Miro. I whole-heartedly agree with Roozen when he talks about writing being a social and rhetorical act while “connecting us to other people across time and space in an attempt to respond adequately to the needs of an audience.” I agree with your thoughts about that sentiment being very comforting. Another adjective that comes to mind is profound! I’ve never thought about it before until I read your comments, but live in-person communication ends the second the conversation is over. Writing can preserve thoughts for eternity. As long as it is documented, it will continue to reach audiences years, decades, even centuries into the future. We still study Shakespeare, Chaucer, and also ancient written religious texts. The writings do not change, but the audiences will change. However, I think about all of the “social and rhetorical” conversations, academic lectures, and sermons that I have personally attended that continue to discuss the meanings behind these historical writings. Therefore, I definitely see where the written word connects people across time and space.

The concept about this era having the potential to become the “Digital Dark Ages” stunned me. I have never heard this before, but I find it very possible. Returning to college via the graduate writing program has been very eye-opening for me. I was a non-traditional student when I completed my undergrad, and the digital blackboard was “fairly new.” I had to use it, but by all means the majority of my assignments were still textbook and paper, with everything being typed when turned in as a paper copy. Already, I have learned the extent to which most of my classes and coursework are reliant upon technology and the online learning portal. I laugh at myself because I am still printing off “readings” as I find them easier to review, highlight, etc. than reading on the computer screen for hours at a time. Without my laptop to access digital learning, I am lost in the courses. I am adapting and definitely see the value in the technological side of things, but I will always be the type of person that would rather hold a book in my hands, smell the ink and binding, and flip the pages. When you search for a book through one of the many online vendors, one will find more eBook editions than print; meaning, many books are only offered in digital format, especially self-published works. If something were to happen to the internet, think of all the written works and data that could be lost forever. Yikes!

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