Thursday, June 30, 2005

Ong's Lincoln Lecture Tour

In 1974, Fr. Ong was the Lincoln Lecturer for the United States Board of Foreign Scholarships in Central and Western Africa. As the Lincoln Lecturer, he traveled and lectured, both in English and French, in Cameroun, Nigeria, Senegal, and Zaire. The Lincoln Lecturers were established to commemorate the passage of the Fulbright Act, which in 1945 established an ongoing educational exchange program between the United States and other countries. The Ong Collection contains a large file on the Lincoln Lecturer program and Fr. Ong's trip. | | |

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The new floor in my workspace is down and the walls were painted today. Tomorrow they put down a protective layer of wax on the new tiles, and then I'll get to move back in.

I came across a letter, dated 3 March 1999, from Ong to Bill Moyers. Moyers was interested in interviewing Fr. Ong for a project but at the time couldn't get the funding. What I found most interesting was Ong's suggested topics of discussion. He wrote:

"For our interview, I suggest talking around two things. (1) Why Orality and Literacy (now translated into twelve languages) has been so popular worldwide. Not because it says the last thing on the relationship of orality and literacy -- there is no way to do this. Basically, because it makes evident the falsity of the view of language common among those who can read and write, that is, that languages are normally written, when in fact almost none are ever written (South American Indian, African, North African, Indian, Asian, including the Pacific Islands), many now extinct languages, etc., and most still in use will die before they are written -- there is a huge literature today on dying languages. (2) The work of Denise Schmandt-Besserat at the University of Texas and of others showing that the first writing in the world (Sumerian, in Mesopotamia), did not grow out of drawing pictures but out of hand-made chips -- forerunners of computer chips! No doubt of this now. We started where we are ending! I've tried out these two subjects on several small groups and found they really turn people on."

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Monday, June 27, 2005

"Claude Shannon's Information Theory, Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, and Jean Baudrillard's The Ecstasy of Communication are very dissimilar works. Shannon's paper, A Mathematical Theory of Information, was published in The Bell System Technical Journal in 1948 as a framework for engineers to approach problems related to transmitting information content through communications channels. McLuhan's book was published in 1964 as a warning about the impact of media on the individual and society. Baudrillard's essay was written in 1983 as a commentary on Post-Modern society at the dawn of the age of global telecommunications networks.

"But all share the common subject of communication, each work approaching the subject from a slightly different angle: Shannon developed a theory related to the information content of communication, McLuhan focused on the medium of communication, and Baudrillard discussed the nature of communication networks. Each work also embraces the idea that communication takes place within an environment - a system, a time-and-place context, a node on the web of human relationships.

"In this paper I will discuss each work as a treatise on communication, with the goal of extracting from each work essential ideas about communication that I will attempt to compare and analyze in the final section. In my analysis, I will focus on two aspect of the works: their formal properties, which I believe reflect the transition from Modernism to Post-Modernism, and the content of the works, which together describe a complete communication system."

From Jacobson, Susan. "Perspectives on Communication: Shannon, McLuhan and Baudrillard." (26 June 2005).

Jacobson describes the paper as an unsucessful attempt to bring these three together. See comment. I'm interested in learning more about Claude Shannon. Terry Mockler adds James Joyce to the mix.

Cross posted at Machina Memorialis.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005

I'm still working on doing a first run through the unfiled material. I'm not sure how much more time it will take, but I've gotten through a couple of the boxes. I was on vacation much of last week, and the time I spent in the St. Louis Room was mostly spent preparing the collection and my work area to be moved. My half of the work room is getting new flooring as I type this. They old cork tiles are being removed and there's concern over asbestos, so we currently can't even reach the store rooms off the main area. I've burned through all the folders I'd had on hand, so I'm currently working on digitizing some videos. Today I brought with me a video on Marshall McLuhan titled Out of Orbit: Life and Times of Marshall McLuhan and Dreamkeepers: Oral Traditions, the Printed Word, and Democracy.

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Came across folders for SLU-based lectures Ong gave from 1990-1996. Included are folders for the 1990-1991 and 1991-1992 English Graduate Student Symposium series. Both Symposium series files contain a general overview, talking points for each symposium, and supporting materials (from handouts for the graduate students to essay's Ong draws from).

    1990-91 Series
  1. "History of English as an Academic Subject"

  2. "Orality, Writing, Print, Electronics"

  3. "Under Deconstruction"

  4. "More Under Deconstruction"

  5. "Tools, Body, Brain, and Writing"

  6. "You and Your Students"

    1991-92 Series
  1. "Where does the Study of English Come From?"

  2. "Nouns versus Pronouns"

  3. "Evolution Toward Language: Continuity and Impasse"

  4. "The Alliance of Language (and Thought) with Sound"

  5. "Three Fields of Hermeneutics"

  6. "Writing, Print, and Electronics All Restructure Thought" (the original schedule title was "Computer-assisted Thought"

The 1991-92 series includes a short piece by Ong titled "Text as Technology." His notes say that he found it in a file of correspondence with the Rome-based journal Prometeo, but he never sent it to them.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

I read the text from Lance Strate's "The Flight of MinErvA'sOwl," which was his Presidential Address to the Second Annual Media Ecology Association Convention. It's a great piece which, while clearly rooted in the occasion, makes a number of excellent observations about media ecology and media ecologists from Plato on. The title, a play on Innis' essay "Minerva's Owl" from The Bias of Communication, claims Minerva, Athena, and her owl as patron symbols for media ecology. I also like who the address ends with a call for media ecologists to remain active in education, that education is part of media ecology.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

An interesting study by researchers at Ohio State University finds that there is a direct inverse relationship between "lack of knowledge" and recognition memory:

"Verbatim memory is often a property of being a novice," said Sloutsky, who is also associate dean of research at the university's College of Human Ecology . "As people become smarter, they start to put things into categories, and one of the costs they pay is lower memory accuracy for individual differences."

I can't help but think of Ramus and his classification diagrams and Ong's original title for his dissertation: "The Clunch Fist of Method: Ramus, Topical Logic, and the Hollows of the Mind." The "hollows of the mind" refers to a shift in thinking about the mind, one in which the mind is thought of as a container to be filled with knowledge in the same way a book is filled with knowledge. Ong discusses this in "System, Space, and Intelect in Renaissance Symbolism."

Link found at

Crossposted at Machina Memorialis.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

I started tackling the unfiled material yesterday. I originally thought I'd try to integrate it into the publication and general files which were in the filing cabinets, but we've decided not to do that at the moment. We may decide to integrate some or all of it later, or we may decide to leave it as its own series.

This material comes from Fr. Ong's desk, from papers stacked on the filing cabinets and papers stacked on some bookshelves, and it includes printouts of fonts styles, correspondence he intended to file, correspondence he may not have gotten to or responded to, junk mail, research materials, some completed but unpublished work, some unfinished work, files he'd labeled as "inactive" (including some work dating back to the late 50s or early 60s), etc.

It's my sense that he didn't file anything until he considered it finished or "closed," but it's also clear that the filing cabinets had just about reached capacity at the end and there just wasn't room to filing things like the proofs and correspondence related to things the four volumes of Faith and Contexts, The Ong Reader, and Time, Memory, and the Verbal Arts: Essays on the Thought of Walter Ong. The argument for keeping this unfiled material as its own series is that it would reflect how he himself arranged his records -- what's known in archiving as the primacy of the original order (or something like that). It's possible that future researchers may find it significant that something was "open" or "in-process" rather than "closed" and filed away. And for that reason, I'm leaning towards keeping these materials in their own series rather than integrating them into the larger collection.

It would have been nice if we'd been able to see the material in its original context, but the Jesutis did do a great job of keeping mateiral together and indicating where the items had been found.

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