Archive for the ‘Narrative’ Category

Speak, Listen, Write, and Read

December 3, 2017

Here’s another simple fourfold and maybe sixfold.

Speaking, Listening, Writing, and Reading are commonly presented together in elementary education as interrelated language skills. One is speaking for a listener and one is writing for a reader. One is listening to a speaker and one is reading a writer.

In the computer age another pair needs to be mentioned, that of programming for computers and the execution or running of that code by the computer. In a way, this new pair doesn’t fit, since one is writing code for computers, not people. And the execution of the program is not performed by a person, but by a computer.

(That’s not entirely true. Programs are also written for other human programmers in mind so that they can debug or maintain or modify the code if the original programmer isn’t available. Structured programming is one method to simplify the logical organization of the program so that others can comprehend it more readily. Object oriented programming is another method to allow multiple programmers to work independently without conflict.)

  • Speak – Listen
  • Write – Read
  • Program – Execute

But perhaps there is a different way to understand these duals. A speaker understands that a listener is following their speech by their response. A writer understands that a reader is comprehending their writing by their response. A programmer understands that a computer is ‘understanding’ the code by its response or output when the program is run.

Also, one can consider speech and writing to be encodings of thoughts into physical representations, and listening and reading to be decoding of the representations back into thoughts. Running or executing a program is not really decoding, or is it? But it is something like processing the speech or writing, like a computer is processing the program.

One might say that listening and reading are like processing the speech and text as programs on the computer of our brains. They are normally thought to be processed as data, as in Natural Language Processing, but it is an interesting twist if one considers them as programs. (Actually, I just recalled that the 1992 science-fiction novel “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson used this notion.)

To program effectively the programmer must execute their code in their mind, at least piecemeal and partially, just as a speaker or a writer must listen as they speak and read over what they have written. They can’t understand the full effect of the program’s execution, especially once the program becomes larger than a few statements, just as the full effect of speech or writing that is being processed by another person cannot be completely understood.

Not considered are computers themselves writing programs for other computers to “read” or execute. As the science of artificial intelligence becomes mature, computers writing and reading among themselves may become a common thing. Wasn’t there a news article about that recently? They pulled the plug on that pretty fast.

As digital assistants become more ubiquitous, they are fully participating in our language games of speaking, listening, writing, and reading. Will these so-called virtual assistants program for us next, as in Automatic Programming? That day may already be here.

Further Reading:

https://www.englishclub.com/learn-english/language-skills.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_language_processing

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2017/06/artificial-intelligence-develops-its-own-non-human-language/530436/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automatic_programming

N. Katherine Hayles / My Mother was a Computer: digital subjects and literary texts

Neal Stephenson / Snow Crash

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_assistant_(artificial_intelligence)

Images:

https://www.google.com/search?q=speak+listen+write+read&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi14LrrsarXAhUG6CYKHaugBH4QsAQIVQ

[*9.50, *10.36, *10.46]

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The Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Everything

November 6, 2017

I’ve mentioned several times the fourfold of Who, What, Why, and How, mostly because I perceive an association between it and Aristotle’s Four Causes: Who for Efficient Cause, What for Material Cause, Why for Final Cause, and How for Formal Cause.

Two other “W”’s, Where and When, weren’t mentioned because they add two more to the four, and don’t fit into the Four Causes anyway.

But evidently they are mentioned often with the first four, as the several links below indicate. These six questions are used in elementary education and even beginning journalism to elicit six answers. They also form three pairs as follows:

  • Who – What
  • Where – When
  • How – Why

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Ws

http://seliger.com/2008/07/21/every-proposal-needs-six-elements-who-what-where-when-why-and-how-the-rest-is-mere-commentary/

https://www.webhostingsecretrevealed.net/blog/web-copy-writing/the-who-what-where-when-and-why-of-excellent-blog-writing/

Other Images:

https://www.google.com/search?q=who+what+how+why+where+when&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjwmt31zqDXAhUozoMKHS-AAbwQ_AUICigB&biw=1700&bih=906

[*10.46]

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A Story for Everyone

June 9, 2011

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone had a common story we could all learn and share? A story about who we are, what we are, and maybe even a little about the how and the why. Could it be told in such a way that each of us could accept it as our very own? A film and companion book coming out soon will attempt just that, titled Journey of the Universe.

Previous books by Loyal Rue and Brian Swimme have tried to achieve this ideal. Swimme is involved in this new movie, and is the narrator. Rue’s book is a personal favorite. Astrophysicist Eric J. Chaisson has written many books on this topic. Their common theme is evolution, expanded from the biological to encompass the cosmos. Cosmic evolution, if you will.

Evolution merely means change over time, i.e. transformation. Most people agree that things have changed over time, but many disagree on how much, how long, and how come. How can we decide what information to accept, and what to reject? The great unifier of human knowledge is science, yet science is often disparaged even while making the modern world possible. Partially, I’m sure, for that very reason.

Different cultures have had their own creation stories since the very beginning of humanity. Many have said that a large part of being human is the impulse to tell and the need to hear stories. All narratives are built from atomic parts that answer questions: who, what, how, and why. Or, to cast them into modal verbs: may, can, must, and should. Who may? Intention or agency: the characters. What can? Chance or contingency: the setting. How must? Structure or necessity: the plot. Why should? Obligation or responsibility: the theme.

Would a story simplistic enough for everyone to accept be so dilute as to be worthless? All life as we know it requires water, and pure water is ultimately ‘diluted’. But water is certainly not worthless. Daniel Dennett calls the concept of evolution the ‘universal acid’, an alchemical alkahest. Can we replace the corrosive acid in his metaphor with sustaining and nurturing water?

http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2011/03/31/135008214/journey-of-the-universe-the-challenge-of-telling-everybodys-story

http://www.journeyoftheuniverse.org/

Loyal Rue / Everybody’s Story: Wising Up to the Epic of Evolution

Brian Swimme / The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era–A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos

Daniel Dennett / Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: evolution and the meaning of life

Eric J. Chaisson / Epic of Evolution: seven ages of the cosmos

Marjolein Groefsema / Can, May, Must and Should: A Relevance Theoretic Account, in Journal of Linguistics, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Mar., 1995), pp. 53-79

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