Teaching to Transgress (I)

Ivan Illich’s, Deschooling Society, Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress have enabled us to problematize the teaching and learning practices of our Education system. These critical writings have challenged us to view how practices that are employed in our educational system are often dehumanising, silencing and domesticating practices. Hooks takes us to a terrain that imagines education as the liberatory practice of freedom. While we critically examine our educational practices, we have the obligation to factor in the context of education which is rapidly changing with the growing digitization and phigitalization of the internet of things. Gregory Ulmer teaches that we have moved from the world of literacy to the world of electracy. Electracy is to digital media and matches what alphabets were to literacy. Alphabetic writing is an apparatus (partly technological partly institutional) that was the matrix that embedded literacy.

The changing context of education, as well as our society under digitalization, cannot be simply addressed through media studies but nevertheless have to be addressed to understand the transformations that it has introduced in our ways of being in the world. He does have the challenge to reimagine new practices that are required for the world of electracy. Electracy is impacting our lives profoundly. We have to be attentive to the broader cultural, institutional, pedagogical and ideological implications inherent in the transition from the culture of print literacy to a culture saturated with digitalization and electronic media.

We have moved from orality to literacy and now from literacy to electracy. Literacy emerged out of orality on the wings of alphabetic writing with its operating metaphysics that took us from the world of religion and mythology to the world of Science. Ulmer points out that the nineteenth-century vanguard artist of the bohemian cabaret scene in Paris is the electrate ‘Presocratics’ who created Dadaism as a logic of software. If the identity of the individual self and democracy was invented by literacy, we find that these are commoditized by the social media supported by electracy. Electracy does not replace the institutions of orality and literacy but supplements and displaces them with a new order in every dimension. Ulmers succinctly states, “The “Plato” of electracy is Walt Disney–Theme Park is our School, Mickey Mouse our Socrates, Animation our Dialogue, Caricature our Categories–augmenting visceral experience”.

With the rise of electracy, we can see the change in the experience of time. We are trapped in the present moment today. Orality was cyclic and literacy was a linear experience of time. It seems that in a high-speed world of electracy, we are accelerated and have no time for critical thinking or even persuasion through the exchange of ideas and arguments. We as individuals as well as communities are subjected to a bias that intuitive Malcolm Gladwell calls ‘blink’. ‘Blink’ takes us into the realm of prudence or phronesis. We can say that there is a shift in the episteme of our knowledge and being in the world. Hence, Ulmer invites us to move to grammatology as a pedagogy to understand the changing context of our life and being in the world and discern it impacts education.

Grammatology introduces new knowledge practices that occur on the internet and the world of digital media. Thus we have the challenge to unthink the exteriority of writing to speech and speech to thought. We have to overcome the positivist, instrumentalist and technicists view of grammatology. This means we have to overcome or deconstruct the logocentrism of writing/ grammatology. Logocentism of grammatology is connected to the phonetisization of writing. Writing when freed from its phonetic cage will open us to non-phonetic writings. This will enable us to apply grammatology to our digital world. Everything in the digital world remains digitized. We can see it as silent writing. Think of musical notes. They remain in what we call silent writing until we sing or play them with a musical instrument. Now the writings on the web are also silent writings. It can become visual, phonetic, and ideo-graphic when we open the web. This means the silent writings on the web are not subjected to the linearity of alphabetic writings. they are more horizontal and rhizomatic. Therefore it is not so much logic of succession but opens itself to the logic of juxtaposition that controls them.

The logic of juxtaposition opens the logocentric closures. The logic of succession is a logic of opposition. We oppose one thing with the other. It is dialectical. This takes us to what we may say is the science of grammatics. It enables us to read different forms of writing/ grapheme. Applied grammatology cannot be simply opposed to science. Grammatology inscribes and delimits science. Science itself is a form of writing/ grapheme. Within the linear thinking of literacy, we can see how what we consider something as knowledge passes from prescience to science and becomes invested and accepted as truth. Hence, we have the challenge not just to divest the phonetic strains but to strip the picto-and even the ideo-centric strains of knowledge and truth. This means we have to squeeze all logo-centric strains that stain our knowledge and truth.

We have to pass our knowledge through a black hole that will squeeze the semiotic, logical, temporally positivistic (attached to linearity), essentialist (logocentric) strains or traces staining our knowledge and truth. This is happening in the world of electracy. We have already become electrate just as we were literate under literacy. This does not simply mean literacy is dead and gone. It only means electracy has displaced it. When we accept the impact of the changing conditions of electracy, we will accept that we have to change our pedagogies of teaching and learning in our educational system. Old pedagogies will no longer assist us to address the new condition that has already affected our life and being in the world. This is why we have the challenge to transgress the old model of teaching and learning. We have to become more and more critical and transgressive to be responsive to the logic of juxtaposition in the world of electracy. This is required because of the sheer acceleration of life that we face today as well as the intimidation that we experience with the changing experience of time. The linearity of our experience of time has given way to horizontalization of time and we are trapped in a broadening of time that keeps us submerged into a now. The broadening of time is chaosmotic. It can bring us to a new horizon. But we can also lose our ways on the wings of the possibilities of multitasking that it offers us. Hence, the new challenge of the educators is what I call teaching to transgress. It will enable us to respond to information overload as well as the logic of juxtaposition that is intimating our lives both individuals as well as a community.

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