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SCHOOL-IT  September 2006

SCHOOL-IT September 2006

Subject:

Re: More amusement

From:

Tommy Walz <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

School Information Technology Discussion <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 25 Sep 2006 08:15:57 -0400

Content-Type:

multipart/alternative

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (69 lines) , text/enriched (98 lines)

Johannes Gutenberg probably did more to "democratize" words than anyone 
else in history.  Bill Joy's "gradation of quality" may have had some 
validity before Gutenberg, but I think he is off base.  Was there more 
junk after Gutenberg than before?  Undoubtedly.  But we could probably 
find cuneiform "junk," since that term is a  judgment of the beholder.

Also consider that there is a dark mirror side to the "gradation of 
quality."  Before Gutenberg, words were expensive; they were largely 
the domain of the wealthy. The wealthy and powerful controlling the 
media is not a new concept.  In Europe, at least, (don't know about 
other cultures), there was a constant counter-current of "rogue's 
tales" or peasant tales in which the common, downtrodden, poor slob got 
the best of the rich and powerful.  After Gutenberg, some of those 
stories had circulation in print, but they were always present in the 
oral form.  Are such stories "junk" in the societal sense that Joy 
seems to embrace, or are they a democratization of the medium?  Or 
both?

No way am I equating a  shoot 'em up video game with Hamlet.  Nor is a 
rogue's tale the equivalent of Beowulf.  But that they represent 
something different is not  a new issue.  And I would argue they both 
have a  place.  And I would strongly object to any contention that 
neither Hamlet nor Beowulf  was intended as amusement.

Tommy Walz

On Sep 24, 2006, at 1:59 PM, Vince Rossano wrote:

> While I indicated I would not write anything more about the "amusing 
> ourselves to death" issue, I didn't say I wouldn't quote others. :-)
>  
> From the October issue of The Atlantic Monthly, the following is an 
> excerpt from Bill Joy's presentation at the Aspen Ideas Festival last 
> July.  (NB: The Atlantic did the excerpting, not I.)
>  
> ***************
>  
> Bill Joy on the Internet and education
> (Joy, the cofounder of Sun Microsystems, dismissed the suggestion that 
> the online communities formed around Internet games and LiveJournal 
> pages could provide an educational boost for America's young people.)
> This all . sounds like a gigantic waste of time. If I was competing 
> with the United States, I would love to have the students I was 
> competing with spending their time on this kind of crap . [P]eople are 
> fooling themselves that they're being creative in these spaces . [T]he 
> standard of creativity in the world, to be competitive and be a great 
> designer, is very hard: you have to go to school; you have to 
> apprentice; you have to do hard things. It's not about, your friends 
> like something you did. So I think this is setting a false 
> expectation: you can create your own island and people come to it in a 
> video game . and I don't see any correlation between that and what 
> it's gonna take to be a designer and have a skill set to succeed in 
> the world. So I go back to what I said before: we're amusing ourselves 
> to death; there are good uses of this technology, and I don't see this 
> as a good use of the technology .
> [T]he real problem is, by democratizing speech and the ability to 
> post, we've lost the gradation for quality. The gradation of quality 
> was always based on the fact that words had weight-it cost money to 
> move them around. So there was back pressure against . junk .
> [U]ltimately, not everyone can have a million readers, because all the 
> readers have run out of time. So it's a false promise to people, that 
> they can get the big audience. Because in the end-once [you've] gotten 
> to the years when you've got a job, you've gotta raise your 
> kids-you're not gonna have time for this.
Tommy J. Walz
Technology Coordinator
Barre Supervisory Union

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