Writing II: Rhetorical Composing {Coursera / Ohio State University}

 

Assignment 1: Getting to Know You

How writing two hours prior to deadline looks like

 

Dear reader,

Language acquisition skills are divided between productive and receptive. Writing and speaking are productive ones; reading and listening fall into the second category.

{Ok, strike out that first sentence; that’s me being a language teacher. Plus I already sound boring. Let’s just take that from the start.}

Writing is virtually everywhere! We write notes when we study; we make lists and jot down groceries or stuff to do; we write our status or clever quotes on social media platforms.

{Wait…what? Noooooo, I am supposed to write an essay on me as a writer – not what we write, what I write is the point.}

Ok, this is hard. I write. I just do. I mean I like it. I can express myself in writing. I am not a native speaker, so I write primarily in another language. When I do write in English, I sound a bit pompous; I look up definitions, I come up with pleasurable {ha! nice one} vocabulary, I make notes of catchy phrases, I overdo it sometimes. Words are like adding salt to your cooking; too much will make it inedible, not enough and it tastes blunt, unimpressive.

Written speech is powerful. Look at the Bible. Or the Quran.  Or Perez Hilton’s blog. Anyway the point is if you can write effectively, you will have an audience to follow you. Readers are a faithful crowd, dear. You are loved and hated at the same time. And the advice, oh, that wonderful word: “feedback”. Who invented editing anyway? I bet ya, the first editor was a man who hated writers. Virginia Wolf’s “stream of consciousness” would be edited. Blasphemous? Perhaps. True, nonetheless.

{Again I digress. Back to writing.}

So, I like writing and I want to have readers giving me their thoughtful advice.  I want to write about fairytales, myths and legends.

{Great now I sound like the narrator from Xena, the warrior princess. Hmm, that’s not so bad, come to think of it.}

I like writing fiction. I want to immerse my readers in magical worlds and mysterious heroes. I want to figure out plots that are more complicated than George R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire”.  I want to sound educated and polyglot like Umberto Eco. I want to invent a whole other language like Tolkien did.

{k pull yourself together, girl. And ease up a little bit on coffee.}

I never wrote poems as a kid. Every time I tried keeping a diary – so hype back in those days – I gave up after a couple of entries. I did write a small article for my school newspaper. I can’t remember much though. During senior high school I recall writing numerous pages on essay topics like “the importance of historical context” and “cultural aspects” of  blah blah. I didn’ t like that kind of writing.

I like writing for unknown stuff. I like writing about what’s going to happen, I like writing about novelties or premonitions. In 11th grade, I took part in a writing competition. Two students from the school would get to go to the Parliament and talk about their topic of choice in front of politicians and a youth council comprised of students from all over the country. I wrote an essay on Dolly the sheep (google it) and bioethics. My teacher told me I was too preoccupied with something that was completely unknown to – and utterly insignificant for – the general public. The year was 1996.

I like writing on Facebook. I also tweet. Oh, and I blog. Hey, I like writing on the Web, it’s fun, it’s quick, you got followers (aka readers), cool. People say it lacks syntax or grammar; it’s not academia but it’s explicit and conveys information, whether personal or not, almost instantly.

{That’s 630 words by now. I am out of ideas, anyone?}

I consider writers to be vulnerable. They expose themselves to you, dear reader. They write about their character’s thoughts but in effect they are expressing their own. They inform you of something happening in a newspaper; they are trying to exercise caution and protect you. They write scientific articles about the Higgs boson / particle (again google it); they are making a breakthrough. They are translating the works of others for you; they are preserving literature, memory and culture. They are scribbling short stories or poems; they make you laugh or bring about tearful moments.

I beg of you, do not ask yourself what kind of writer I am. In all honesty, I simply feel like one. You yourself are a writer. They out there are all writers. Whether these people are any good or not, it’s for their readers to decide. So ponder on this, dearest friend: What kind of reader are you?

 

{and that’s 817 words *cheers*}

Tools to accompany your MOOC study regime in a MMOG manner

I realized only recently that the amount of work MOOC students are burdened with is huge; especially if you are enrolled as a “hardcore” Mooc player (over 4 MOOCs at the same time). [ as opposed to a “social” MOOC player < participating in 3 MOOCs or less ].

Imagine an average World of Warcraft raider. He needs time to raise up professions (make money to buy gear), go through rep(utation) quests and dungeons ( justice / valor points to get gear) and finally endure the raid finder process (again, better gear). At the same time he is speaking to his guild mates and in the server central forum. He seeks guidance, helps out (or gets into a fight with immature brats, but I won’t go there)

{Notice I am using “he” as a pronoun. Girl gamers just claim they are indeed female. They are shipped to raiding teams immediately. :p}

Imagine the sought after gamer  gear being knowledge for MOOCers (is that really a term?). Now a MOOC student, watches video lectures. Lots of them. So there’s your time.  Naturally he keeps notes, stores PDF files, studies online webpages and articles, answers quizzes and produces written homework. That’s his way of preparing for “end-game” content. Then he is into forums and social media groups, discussing and giving / receiving feedback (or rage, this is really like Wow come to think of it).

Both cases exhibit dedication on behalf of the player. In the end however things are different. Gamers get to keep tokens of their time, efforts and contribution:

  • screenshots or videos to remind them of their best moments in-game.
  • Bank slots and void storage, where their gear (well if it’s pretty enough or rare) is safely stored.
  • Achievements that are -again – bookmarked in their profile
  • The sense of sheer “epicness” when they finally achieve taking down the raid boss.

What do MOOC students get in the end? A lousy digital certificate. Well played, Coursera, well played.

Students immerse themselves as much as an average gamer does. So why not add to that experience and actually keep memoirs of your work? It’s not just a seminar, it’s a legitimate online undergraduate course. I would encourage you to think about the following:

  • All those notes and post-its hanging around on your desk or online, these assignments you worked so hard for, interesting video excerpts or your recorded own voice should go somewhere that matters (not just your desk or OneNote)
  • Start making a e-portfolio with samples of your work and ceritfications. Try Europass or new start ups especially tailored for continuing education. Add those courses to your CV. Try making a visual CVImage, even better.
  • All those interesting articles that appear in the readings section of the course need to be bookmarked and tagged so you can find them later – believe me you will need to.
  • Use the social media hubs wisely: instead of spending hours on end on the course’s facebook group, search what’s effectively going on on the entire Internet based on that particular course using hashtags.

These are only minor examples of what you can use to boost your productivity and mostly end up with all your study time saved effectively. MOOC is not about a damn certificate. It’s the journey that counts.

PS. Wouldn’t it be nice to display that “journey” to potential employers too?

The Language of Hollywood Coursera / Wesleyan Course :A review

Today I am going to shamelessly use this space and promote the newly founded site of  http://moocnewsandreviews.com/ – It contains everything you need to know about MOOCs, reviews, suggestions, how -to’s and lots of interesting ideas.

It also features my first publication http://moocnewsandreviews.com/mooc-review-the-language-of-hollywood/ which I hope you ‘ll find insightful.

 

As always feedback, comments and shares are most welcome….Off to my Mooc studying now…..            

Songwriting assignment 6 {Coursera / Berklee College of Music}

Song title: Your love is a killer

Verse:

Going out, getting away in my car  BACK HEAVY

Wanted out, hurting me feels like a scar  BACK  HEAVY

And the Phone is ringing FRONT HEAVY

So I keep on speeding FRONT HEAVY

Chorus:

Your love’s a killer you’re riding fast  FRONT HEAVY

Against the pillar you stroke me at last FRONT HEAVY

I ‘m in a thriller of visions past  FRONT HEAVY

Your love’s a killer….  FRONT HEAVY

Verse:

You just runt, a king up and high in his throne  BACK HEAVY

All I want is run off and put down the phone   BACK HEAVY

And the car is skidding   FRONT HEAVY

But I keep on speeding  FRONT HEAVY

Bridge:

I exceeded limits on the road to your heart BACK HEAVY

Maybe  we were meant to live apart BACK HEAVY

Babe [pause]  I ‘m bleeding   FRONT HEAVY

Chorus:

Your love’s a killer you’re riding fast FRONT HEAVY

Against the pillar you stroke me at last FRONT HEAVY

I ‘m in a thriller of visions past  FRONT HEAVY

Your love’s a killer….  FRONT HEAVY

 

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise {Coursera /Duke} – Visual image review (draft)

Rozalia Zeibeki

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise

Prof. Denise Comer

“Arthas, The Lich King” (1962) by Maryxyan (www.deviantart.com artist)

Approx.1280 x 811 in.

Digital image (created with Photoshop)

Viewed at http://maryxyan.deviantart.com/art/Arthas-The-Lich-King-96293514 (Retrieved: 22 April 2013)

Depiction of expertise in gaming experience: The World of Warcraft universe

Representational images retrieved from the world of video games are meant to grab the viewer’s attention. They consume you to another parallel dimension, where legend and heroism become intrinsic goals of the player that lead to a decisive victory against a “world boss”.

Arthas_The_Lich_King_by_Maryxyan

 “Your heart…its incessant drumming disgusts me. I will silence it as I did my own.”  

 The dominant subject is that of a man sitting upon what seems to be a frigid throne. Enter Arthas,[1] our protagonist, the prince of Lordaeron,[2] the promised son. He looks skeptical yet one cannot help but notice a small grin; is he contemplating a recent victory or a future one as you glimpse those scarry azure eyes? Despite its static appearance the gaze of Arthas is haunting; the use of cobalt blue heightens the sense of an icy landscape that expands beyond the image: we are now situated at the frozen continent of Northrend. [3] An illuminated sword stands out in front of him, filled with runes and ominous skull details. As all epic swords usually do, this one has even got a name: Frostmourne. [4] Shades of gray intervene with silvery notes as one is immersed in a daunting feeling almost like the dark values within the image; how many lives has that sword taken? For an outsider the horror continues as he notices plenty other skull ornaments in the main character’s armor. A dragon encapsulated in ice soon gains our attention in the bottom right, only to serve as another threat. In the background a barely perceptible black tower amidst the fog beckons (spatial illusion); alas, we are in Icecrown [5] – the land of the cursed undead.

The World of Warcraft [6] universe is considered by many the epitome of Massively Multiplayer Online Role playing Games. Wikipedia quotes:

“As in all RPGs, players assume the role of a character (often in a fantasy world) and take control over many of that character’s actions. MMORPGs are distinguished from single-player or small multi-player online RPGs by the number of players, and by the game’s persistent world (usually hosted by the game’s publisher), which continues to exist and evolve while the player is offline and away from the game.” [7]

Blizzard Inc. boasts about its product’s ten million player subscription base. Multiply that number by hours spent individually to build a character and make it to the prized end game content and you will understand that this game is quite serious and extremely profitable.

It takes a lot of time to reach the top ladder of the aforementioned base. Players tend to be rather social, occasionally logging in and dealing with parts of the game that are plain fun. To quote Colvin: For most people, work is hard enough without pushing even harder. Those extra steps are so difficult and painful they almost never get done”. [8] There are those however that fall in the “hardcore” category. These people literally devour hours on end in order to achieve the highest performance. Many go so far as to stay awake at night, just to get that last piece of equipment that is missing from their “epic” gear or repeat the brutal discipline of their practice routines” [8]. In the end, all efforts lead to a last big successful rundown aka the “boss fight”. Arthas used to be such an opponent of immense power during the “Wrath of the Lich King” [6] expansion. In order to defeat him, players had to learn his tactical maneuvers by heart and deploy countermeasures accordingly. It was a matter of wits, focus, gear level and mechanics. Colvin claims: “You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that’s demanding and painful.” [8] For Wow players it takes weeks or months, not years yet the other portion of the statement stands true: grandeur in gaming takes copious practice. In a way the image is indicative of reaching expertise in the Warcraft universe. The player is granted with an achievement and with a matching title: “the Kingslayer”. [9] The digitalized image of the Lich King might be gruesome to the average Joe; to a gamer it serves as a reminder of paced excellence and ultimate triumph.

References:

  1. Arthas Menethil.” WowWiki. Wikia.Inc. 17 April 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/Arthas_Menethil
  2. Lordaeron.” WowWiki. Wikia.Inc. 21 January 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/Lordaeron
  3. Northrend.” WowWiki. Wikia.Inc. 8 October 2011. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/Northrend
  4. Frostmourne” WowWiki. Wikia.Inc. 29 December 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/Frostmourne
  5. Icecrown.” WowWiki. Wikia.Inc. 3 July 2012. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/Icecrown
  6. World of Warcraft”. Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 16 April 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_of_Warcraft
  7.  “Massively multiplayer online role-playing game.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 15 April 20 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Massively_multiplayer_online_role-playing_game
  8. Colvin, Geoffrey. “What It Takes to be Great.” Fortune 19 October 2006. Retrieved online 22 April 2013 from http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2006/10/30/8391794/index.htm
  9. The Kingslayer”. WowWiki. Wikia Inc. 28 April 2010. Retrieved 22 April 2013 from http://www.wowwiki.com/The_Kingslayer

6th writing assignment: The Modern and the Postmodern {Coursera/ Wesleyan}

“What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts.” — Horkheimer and Adorno

Discuss how the idea of domination plays a role in two of the authors we have read this semester (you may write on Horkheimer and Adorno [as one thinker]).

 

The slave –master dialectic: A critical view in Marx and Engel’s theory of dominant classes versus the Frankfurt School interpretation

 

In the sphere of political theory it was Marx and Engels who first talked about the domination of other human beings within the context of “class struggle”. [Engels & Marx (2005): Section 1, §1] For Marx and Engels the working class (proletariat) is suppressed by the bourgeoisie in the capitalist society. The means to such domination relationship are purely economic; commodities and accumulation of wealth are what discern the classes from one another. In order to undo the class bondages, the Communist manifesto dictates “All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and allowed to live only so far as the interest to the ruling class requires it.” [Engels & Marx (2005): Section 2, §20] The emerging theory of the 19th century political philosophers is summarized accordingly into: “Communism deprives no man of the power to appropriate the products of society; all that it does is to deprive him of the power to subjugate the labor of others by means of such appropriation”. [Engels & Marx (2005): Section 2, §30] Abolition of domination meant to cease the overexploitation of the working force. Both writers’ interpretation of the post Industrial Revolution era was mainly an effort to enhance class consciousness, a way for the working class to define itself against its oppressors, so that in turn another social Revolution would take place.

The Frankfurt school was a neo-Marxist society of thinkers who chose the path of critical theory in order to support their philosophy. Adorno and Horkheimer in particular experienced the rise of National Socialism in Germany and drew at the same time parallel comparisons to Stalin’s regime, witnessing the extremes of totalitarianism in both cases.

In their attempt to define what lures the masses into being under control they placed the roots of modern domination in the Enlightenment tradition, stating that the quest for knowledge was nothing more than a self-fulfilling myth; thus, the Marxist theory of social struggle is reinterpreted within the slave-master dialectic as “Enlightenment stands in the same relationship to things as the dictator to human beings”. [ Adorno & Horkheimer (2002): p.6] The “subject” [Adorno & Horkheimer (2002): 5ff] is no longer promoting its self-awareness within the modern, knowledgeable society. Instead, “The unity of the manipulated collective consists in the negation of each individual and in the scorn poured on the type of society which could make people into individuals” [Adorno & Horkheimer (2002): 9], what makes society even more susceptible to control.

The writers commence their critical claims early on in their work by giving the instrument with which knowledge seeks to enslave us. “Technology is the essence of this knowledge. It aims to produce neither concepts nor images, nor the joy of understanding, but method, exploitation of the labor of others,* capital.” [Adorno & Horkheimer (2002): 2] Adorno and Horkheimer point at the link between the progress of technology and the ensnaring of the human society.  Both writers address the issue of mass culture as another distinct instrument of social domination. “The countless agencies of mass production and its culture* impress standardized behavior on the individual as the only natural, decent, and rational one.”[ Adorno & Horkheimer (2002): 21] The standardized products of human labor, blunt to the senses and leaving little room for thought, serve as a tool to manipulate the homogenized society into passivity.

In comparison to Marx it seems that the proletariat did little to free itself from the materialistic ideals of the bourgeoisie in the years following the “The Communist Manifesto”. One could rather argue it embraced the affluence of goods, further becoming absorbed in a homogeneous, consumerist world; the prized Revolution never came in the capitalist societies and the elite classes retained their dominant roles.

Human history has exhibit extreme cases of domination; power and the will to rule over nature and others is seemingly an insatiable human need to become Gods ourselves. Perhaps that is why man will always seek to dominate nature and other people: “In their mastery of nature, the creative God and the ordering mind are alike. Man’s likeness to God consists in sovereignty over existence, in the lordly gaze, in the command.” [ Adorno & Horkheimer (2002): 6]

 

References:

Adorno, T. W., & Horkheimer, M. (2002). Dialektik der Aufklärung () (G. Schmitt-Noerr, Trans.). In G. Schmitt-Noerr (Ed.), Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments Cultural Memory in the Present Series (pp. 1-34). N.p.: Stanford University Press. Retrieved April 20, 2013, from http://www.sup.org/html/book_pages/0804736324/Chapter%201.pdf

Engels, F., & Marx, K. (2005, January 25). The Communist Manifesto. In Project Gutenberg. Retrieved April 20, 2013

e-Portfolio setup suggestion in MOOCs

Well, it seems that despite potential flaws, the MOOC hype has turned into a MOOC domination: they are certainly here to stay. One could account for a lot of problems – we are still amidst the initial phase of the emerging trend – yet one thing remains an absolute fact: productivity and collaboration in academia were never at its highest.

Personally I am enrolled in a lot of MOOCs, in a variety of platforms. For each and everyone of them I need to watch the videos, come up with notes, do my readings and then of course manage my homework.

Multiple choice tests are not the sole method of evaluating a MOOC although they seem to be quite objective and leave less room for debate. The infamous peer-feedback of the flipped classroom educational practice has amassed plenty of critique and painful reaction among MOOC students. Still, I am not going to enter that debate. Imagine, at this point, the amounts of written text produced as homework for all the MOOC classes. Imagine what it would be like to receive feedback from more than 1-5 peers, even outside their platform.

Since the cloud-based technology is offering huge advantages to education, one should come up with portfolios based on the cloud and in synch with all devices and platforms – thus promoting peer feedback and collaboration in real time from virtually everywhere. As a MOOC supporter I would like my homework from online courses to be effectively stored and shared – yet by all means copyright-protected –  so as to promote knowledge and exchange of ideas. Coursera and other leading MOOC providers should think of an integrated e-portfolio

that would allow the student to save his/her work at one place and make it easily shareable with the rest of the world (not downloadable though). On the plus side, any academic institution or company interested in a CV’s continuing education sector could glimpse the works of potential candidates and deem their overall productivity  in one place.

To avoid any misunderstanding, not only humanities offer written assignments as homework. An e-portfolio could hold a Python program, a gamification scenario, a social science experiment report, etc.

Any thoughts?

 

 

English Composition I: Achieving expertise {Coursera/ Duke} assignment – Critical review (final)

Rozalia Zeibeki

Professor Denise Comer

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise

15 April 2013

 

Review:  Coyle, Daniel (2009).  The Sweet Spot. The Talent Code. Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. New York: Bantam (Extract from Chapter I)

Greatness and its shortcomings

        The human boundaries of excellence in various areas of expertise continue to stretch beyond our expectations. People nowadays are getting faster, stronger – perhaps even more intelligent – and overall better at what they are tasked to do. Given this context of continuous antagonism and effort, certain people always seem to stand out in the crowd: those who are actually better than average, the gifted ones. What makes them arise from mediocre state? One would assume innate, inexplicable “talent” is the first answer that comes to mind; judging by its title, Coyle begs to differ in his book The Sweet Spot. The Talent Code. Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.

      In the first chapter of his book, based on his copious research along nine so called “talent hotbeds” [12] or as a friend more colloquially suggested “chicken-wire Harvards” [11], Coyle delves in the matter of talent and its components. Carefully trying to assign a definition to the term, Coyle introduces us to the world of sports, psychology and flight simulation; the results in all cases seem to deter the notion that talented people are miraculously so. Along with the brief descriptions of his endeavor coylethat took him on what his daughter compares to an alternative “treasure hunt” [12], readers of his work actually come to realize that perhaps the term “talent”[11] is highly overrated; perhaps it does exist in terms of a being prone to a grandeur in certain fields – mainly athletic – but it should be more properly substituted by the term “deep practice” [16]. For Coyle it’s nothing more really than “practice makes perfect” motto reinvented. In page 18 Coyle defines this as a paradox since”… experiences where you’re forced to slow down, make errors, and correct them—as you would if you were walking up an ice-covered hill, slipping and stumbling as you go—end up making you swift and graceful without your realizing it.” Indeed after skimming the first pages of the chapter it seems quite reasonable to the author and the audience as well, that through constant effort we redeem ourselves through our mistakes; we actually become better at what we are trying to do by doing it wrong at first – it is in the human nature to strive for perfection amidst fallacy.

In order to back his assumptions Coyle makes use of the scientific world as well as that of empirical data. Professor Bjork, chair of psychology in the prestigious UCLA, provides the very definition of the chapter’s title: “”It’s all about finding the sweet spot,” Bjork said. «There’s an optimal gap between what you know and what you’re trying to do.  When you find that sweet spot, learning takes off.” [19] In other words it takes really more than just one’s time and strength; one needs to be able to do that efficiently.

However, Coyle uses more practical sightings of his ideas and to do so he implements a worldwide beloved sport: Brazilian football and the “supernatural skills” [24] of Brazilian football players. Coyle’s readers actually discover that unlike Maradona and his infamous hand[1], skills of the sort do not necessarily come as God’s gift. Moreover they are the result of another game, which happens to be quicker and more demanding, yet lesser in scale. “Futsal” [26] left Mr. Clifford – a coach from the other bank of the Atlantic – in awe of its potential implementation. He concurs: “It was clear to me that this was where Brazilian skills were born […] It was like finding the missing link.” [26] Baring witness to the Brazilian wonder, Clifford successfully paved the way to young Englishmen, following the example of their Brazilian comrades. They began practicing futsal “developing a soccer program for elementary and high-school-age kids that he called the Brazilian Soccer School. He constructed an elaborate series of drills based on futsal moves.”[28]. Laughable at first yet it actually worked providing Coyle with ample evidence, that he is on to something. These junior stars later defeated their Scottish peers and even took noted posts on their national team. “More stars, Clifford says, are on the way.”[29]

Coyle’s ideas seem refreshing as they are vividly depicted through numerous case studies. Indeed he captures the sentimental insecurity of his readers concerning potential drawbacks in performance and implies that through rigorous training, miracles are possible. Coyle argues that even Air force pilots benefit from the “opportunity to practice more deeply” [24] and as a result not only do they become more skilled but they also implementing – in this case – a life-saving technique.

As in all cases however there is a problematic aspect of Coyle’s assumptions. The empirical evidence used to support his ideas is distracting; we are being told of cases where hard work and training took a toll on talent but the recount of such stories is deliberately in favor of “deep practice”. Coyle mostly observes groups of people (namely pilots, football players) and not one-of-a-kind figures individually. Didn’t Maradona engage in equally hard training with his fellow comrades? We only seem to remember his name, though. Contrary to Coyle’s scientific theoretical approach, the emerging theory of gamification – as the Gamification wiki (2013) defines it – upholds the idea of “…game design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging.”  As such the user becomes effectively a “player”; players are all equal when onboarding a gaming experience or during the process of scaffolding. Yet the “epic win” outcome – and the bonuses attached – is for those selected few, who might have spent equal amounts of “deep practice” but achieved goals more efficiently.

To sum up, Coyle makes a hard case against talent even from the early stages of his book; it is after all an effort of coming up with a self-improvement title, that might sell well. His ideas are carefully pitched and the examples come from various aspects of life so as to cover enough ground. Nevertheless, I cannot seem to stop questioning his intent: are we to dismiss talent? There are certainly things we are good at and then there are things we are great at; we can unquestionably narrow the margin towards greatness by “deep practice”. But being the best at something takes a lot more, I ‘m afraid.

 

References:

Diego Maradona.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 25 Sept.       2001. Web. 14 April. 2013. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diego_Maradona

Gamification wiki 2013, ‘What is gamification’, wiki article viewed 15 April 2013  http://utas.libguides.com/content.php?pid=27520&sid=289517

 

 

 


[1] Reference to the 1986 World cup football match. Wikipedia recounts “This match was played with the background of the Falklands War between Argentina and the United Kingdom and emotions were still lingering in the air throughout the entire match. Replays showed that the first goal was scored by striking the ball with his hand. Maradona was coyly evasive, describing it as “a little with the head of Maradona and a little with the hand of God.” It became known as the “Hand of God“.

The Modern and the Postmodern 5th assignment {Coursera /Wesleyan}

 

The Kantian echo in the works of Emerson

The Age of Enlightenment bequeathed Europe with challenging ideas. The predominance of faith and kingship were highly disputed, whereas doctrines gave rise to sciences and intellect. Nevertheless, not all of those “enlightened” reached common ground. Delving further into a quest for the philosophical “truth”, men of logic proclaimed different versions for it. 

John Locke’s theoretical approach of knowledge was one of empiricism; we are born as “tabula rasa”, we perceive the world with our sensors from then on, a posteriori. Thus, a child is born without innate thinking but rather the predisposition to imitate his immediate surroundings. He dictates parents as regards their offspring’s upbringing:

Let me give two cautions. 1) The one is, that you keep them to the practice of what you would have grown into a habit with them, by kind words, and gentle admonitions, rather as minding them of what they forget, than by harsh rebukes and chiding, as if they were willfully guilty. 2) Another thing you are to take care of, is, not to endeavor to settle too many habits at once, lest by variety you confound them, and so perfect none. When constant custom has made any one thing easy and natural to ’em, and they practice it without reflection, you may then go on to another”.  [Locke 1693: Sec. 66]

Emerson’s views upon the matter are initially introduced with the phrase: “To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, —that is genius.”  [Emerson 1847: §1] Individualism, according to the great American thinker, is astoundingly more profitable in terms of personal thought and self-development; emulating others is simply redundant repetition of second-hand notions, hardly allowing room for personal growth. Indeed the Transcendentalism movement, which Emerson upheld, seems at odds with John Locke’s theory of Empiricism. So how does one define Emerson as a figure of Enlightenment?

Emerson’s “self-reliance” is expressed in his Kantian motto “Nothing can bring you peace but yourself”. [Emerson 1847: §50] Arts, religion, society or anything devaluing individualism is falsified.  Having given the very definition of the “Aufklärung”[ Kant 1784], Kant instructs the exodus of man from role models imposed upon him. We begin our lives with our sensory organs, we continue with the use of reason but neither experience nor pure thought is above one another.  “Sapere Aude” [Kant 1784] is exactly what Emerson demands of his fellow Americans:

 Our age yields no great and perfect persons. We want men and women who shall renovate life and our social state, but we see that most natures are insolvent, cannot satisfy their own wants, have an ambition out of all proportion to their practical force, and do lean and beg day and night continually. Our housekeeping is mendicant, our arts, our occupations, our marriages, our religion, we have not chosen, but society has chosen for us. We are parlour soldiers. We shun the rugged battle of fate, where strength is born. [Emerson 1847: §33]

The transcendental idea of Enlightenment– first mentioned in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason – is portrayed in Emerson as Intuition versus Tuition [Emerson 1847: §21ff]. A difficult task – even for the thinker himself – to fully understand the metaphysics of the soul, yet one can be sure whether such is present in a man or not. “Here is the fountain of action and of thought” [Emerson 1847: §25], after all.

Emerson understood that perhaps an application of the transcendental idealism version of Enlightenment might not be practically applicable. Nevertheless he preached perfection in an imperfect world, citing Kant as his primary inspiration.

It is well known to most of my audience, that the Idealism of the present day acquired the name of Transcendental, from the use of that term by Immanuel Kant, of Konigsberg, who replied to the skeptical philosophy of Locke, which insisted that there was nothing in the intellect which was not previously in the experience of the senses, by showing that there was a very important class of ideas, or imperative forms, which did not come by experience, but through which experience was acquired; that these were intuitions of the mind itself; and he denominated them Transcendental forms. The extraordinary profoundness and precision of that man’s thinking have given vogue to his nomenclature, in Europe and America, to that extent, that whatever belongs to the class of intuitive thought is popularly called at the present day Transcendental.

Although, as we have said, there is no pure Transcendentalist, yet the tendency to respect the intuitions, and to give them, at least in our creed, all authority over our experience, has deeply colored the conversation and poetry of the present day; and the history of genius and of religion in these times, though impure, and as yet not incarnated in any powerful individual, will be the history of this tendency.[Emerson 1842]

Works cited:

Emerson Ralph Waldo: The Transcendentalist  (1842)

Emerson Ralph Waldo: Essays: First Series. Self-Reliance (1847)

Kant Immanuel:  Critique of Pure Reason (1781)

Kant Immanuel: What is Enlightenment ( 1784)

Locke John: Some thoughts concerning Education (1693)

The Modern and The Postmodern 4th assignment {Coursera / Wesleyan}

ESSAY PROMPT 2: Describe how two of the following thinkers make use of memory or history in their work: Baudelaire, Nietzsche, Freud and Woolf

Memory serving to the hyper-ego

 

                Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud offered society an array of ground-breaking thoughts and stimulated philosophical discussions that constantly raise substantial debate.  To draw comparisons between these two figures or highlight their differences would be most challenging for a scholar; thus it might be of benefit to focus on one emerging commonplace in their works, namely that of history and / or memory.

Civilization and Its Discontents by Freud sheds light to the very first psychoanalytical attempts and the theory surrounding the continuous present struggle of the human nature against our past primal instincts in the name of social conformity. On the Genealogy of Morality by Nietzsche the origins of moral infringements and how these evolved to modern-day prejudices are traced. Specifically, the second essay depicts through the explanation of punishment the infamous “will to power”.

Freud suggests that the power of memory and “preservation in the sphere of the mind” is infinitely stronger as “in mental life nothing which has once been formed can perish”.[16]In fact, he borrows evidence for his assumptions from historical archaeology; the Roman Empire’s past is well preserved amidst ruins and scattered remains, beneath all the modern buildings. [16-17]And yet how is it possible that the same piece of land holds both worlds? How are we to distinguish between a church and the ancient temple upon the latter was built? “If we want to represent historical sequence in spatial terms” Freud remarks “we can only do it by juxtaposition in space: the same space cannot have two different contents”. It seems that for Freud even the history of a glorious city such as Rome fails to provide room for the simultaneous existence of memory and modernity. According to Freud the true grounds, where the past is preserved and can be traced back is the human mind. Only there he concurs “is such a preservation of all the earlier stages alongside of the final form possible, and …we are not in a position to represent this phenomenon in pictorial terms.” [18]

The dominant power of memory and the past emerges in the work of Nietzsche as well.  In the second essay, we find the following statement:

Indeed, there is perhaps nothing more fearful and more terrible in the entire prehistory of human beings than the technique for developing his memory. “We burn something in so that it remains in the memory. Only something which never ceases to cause pain remains in the memory”—that is a leading principle of the most ancient (unfortunately also the longest) psychology on earth. We might even say that everywhere on earth nowadays where there is still solemnity, seriousness, mystery, and gloomy colours in the lives of men and people, something of that terror continues its work, the fear with which in earlier times everywhere on earth people made promises, pledged their word, made a vow. The past, the longest, deepest, most severe past, breathes on us and surfaces in us when we become “solemn.”” [p.3]

Nietzsche insinuates a paradox occurring in modern era. Man is plagued by guilt and “bad conscience”; in his hour of solemnity and remorse he feels the past as a burden, our ill-doings stay with us just like the eternal torment of Sisyphus.  Nevertheless, the past and its people were not regarded as solemn but on the contrast “cheerful”! Through the transaction of “punishment” – freed of all moral repercussions – one could ease the pain inflicted upon him by simply punishing the culprit or redeeming oneself to his debtor. Things were simple in historic times.

Both scholars were considered beacons of thought each in their own time respectively. Nietzsche witnesses the fallouts of the Industrial revolution whereas Freud picks up a lot of similar ideas during the First World War timeline. In both cases, the memory and past serve as liberating forces; Nietzsche’s tribal God-mode opposite the Freudian “oceanic feeling” of wholeness. Intriguingly so, none seems to base those claims on data or empirical analysis; their historical references seem to serve such a purpose; yet one considers their notion of the past a somewhat personal view, elevated strictly on the premises of philosophical theory.    

Works cited:

Freud, Sigmund: Civilization and Its Discontents New York: W.W. Norton (1961)

Nietzsche, Friedrich Genealogy of Morals, essay 2 Leipzig (1887)