Writing’s Shortcoming

One issue with being a highly text-based society is that writing tends to become minimalist and literal with time. By that I mean that writing/text, since it is static does not grow and change with time well. That is beneficial in some ways, less so in others.

It leads to some interesting problems, how does one “interpret” old texts? Were they potentially all metaphors at the time but, with their physical fossilization the images within have hardened into something “real”?

Then there is legal documents and rules, rules tend to start out as general, over reaching ideas I think. Consider the broad idea of “do unto others as you want done unto you.” Basically covers most right-or-wrong questions technically but, as time proceeds further somehow, that written idea is limited further and further. To the point that we have volumes and volumes of rules/laws to essentially expand that idea.

“Do not hurt others,” has to become you cannot use a knife or gun or other hand-held weapon to inflict physical/bodily damage upon another person. This then leads to fights over what is a person etc. etc. etc. Before writing though, with just a vocal based tradition, the elders/keepers of these traditions could actually reinterpret and retell stories according to their appropriate context leading to, in a way an expansiveness, broadness and flexibility that writing and text does not have.

What if this was part of the wisdom of Plato in disliking writing and finding it problematic while focusing on dialogue as the route to truth? In using dialogue it leads to truth while being constant, also being fluid in some ways.


Customer Service

It seems that a majority of customer service positions need to more closely examine how they treat those “customer facing” positions. Especially if all of the management wants to follow “military-style” leadership books and guides.

These companies make the lower level customer service employees responsible for safety, making sure paperwork is completed properly, making sure money is not counterfeit etc. the low level employees only. Whereas, from my understanding, an enlisted (“lower” level) person is required to make sure that they are capable of listening to their officers and it is the officer’s job to make sure all safety requirements are met then not necessarily being responsible for anything else. Instead, the responsibility of other things begins to move up the chain of command instead of down onto the ground level individuals.

Then, with this load of responsibility, customer’s are asked out the employees perform via surveys. All the while, the employees are not asked what would allow them to accomplish their tasks more efficiently or make them more content as employees. I suspect companies would actually become stronger if higher level management took more responsibility of the actual work of performing whatever tasks or services the company sells instead of simply writing reports for others to report on and began to ask their employees what would allow them to actually do their work better. Then, the mind-blowing thing, would be actually putting those suggestions to real action. Instead of surveying customer’s on how employees do and asking them what suggestions or for improvement, focus on employees and getting them to be able to do their jobs well, I bet that would promote larger institutional and cultural changes then the limited information short surveys from customers give.

So just what would the world look like with supported and employees, on the ground actually heard when it comes to ideas and how to effectively accomplish the goals of the organization?  Hell, instead of reading up on leadership, what would a company look like with a real leader?

Internet Weakening Responsibility

Is the internet responsible for lack of responsibility?  It allows companies to force consumers to do more of the grunt work/paperwork and then come to them for services instead of simply coming to the company.

What if that has changed out society works, unintentionally?  What if, on some level, with companies trying to push responsibility down to customers, their lower-level employees and “others” (contractors, other companies, etc.), individuals have picked up that sort of idea and start performing similar actions in their own lives.  It is far fetched but, instead of simply blaming people for focusing on their screens instead of off of them, what if it is a larger sort of pattern that is being seen with those practices?

Maybe it is not the screen time in-and-of-itself (only that as a problem anyway) but, the technology allowing companies to push responsibility down the ladder and then out of their own buildings onto individuals.  The individuals then, seeing this, have to spend more time doing some of this basic grunt work that companies have shunted and attempt to slough off their own responsibilities and work in a similar way.

Active and Passive Media

How about splitting media types up by their activity. Activity being the sense of “mental activity.” Mental activity is of course incredibly complicated and probably well beyond my expertise (or lack thereof) but, I will do it anyway because I can.

What I mean by mental activity is some sort of mental effort having to be put forth in the sense that the media doesn’t simply “invade” the senses. This is more of a spectrum, not hard divisions but, I suspect media types lend themselves more towards one end of the spectrum or the other.

The easiest pair for me to point at is TV and reading on physical pages. I will be using these as the Pinnacle/extreme ends of the spectrum. TV I consider one of the main examples of passive media whereas reading a physical page is the most active.

I consider TV passive because of the fact that essentially, one immobilizes themself and then just receives the data (images and audio primarily).  One does not have to engage with that data, just receive it.  Of course, one has the option to engage with the material and analyze it but it is not required; not to mention, let us be honest, a majority of the media taken in on TV does not require analysis of that sort.

Reading, specifically, from a  physical page, is one of the more active mediums because, although one immobilizes themselves again (like all media that isn’t purely audio), they actually have to hold onto the material and move it around to an extent and mentally take in the text.  One cannot “read” something without at least deciding to do the reading.  I have yet to figure out how to “turn on” a physical book and just let it run, if there is a skill there that I failed to learn that others know it makes this point moot. (Or, if someone can multi-task while actually reading because I certainly cannot.)

Entirely useless aside, skip to stay on track:

A strange parallel to this comes from all that research on sitting and how it is dangerous.  Although it is probably overblown to an extent, some of the movement systems I am interested in talk about sitting/squatting often.  The sitting they refer to is just sitting on the floor and squatting as a resting position.  Both of those are actually much more “active” than sitting in a chair.  Sitting upright on the floor or squatting down, although a resting position, requires muscle engagement to maintain balance or not simply flop down into a laying position.  Sitting in a normal chair, although not a requirement, lends itself to “passive” sitting, just laying back and letting the chair do all of the work of keeping oneself upright.  It is certainly work well for me right now as I type this. Active sitting vs passive sitting, a new way to get healthier?

Anyway, active/passive media.  TV would be at the passive end, photos would be slightly more center, audio further towards active and then reading would be the most “active.”  Generally.  This spectrum is of course not set in stone and one can be active while watching TV and fairly passive in reading a relatively simple/easy book.

This separation is not particularly interesting in and of itself but, what if this difference leads to a different sort of mind-set?  By this I mean, something like the idea of “you are what you eat” and habits, if someone watches a lot of TV and habitually tends towards the passive sort of viewing, what sort of habit does this cultivate?   It would seem that it cultivates a passive type of habit which then could bleed into the rest of their life and lead to becoming a more passive person overall.  I sometimes wonder if that passivity is becoming more pronounced as more people spend more time watching TV passively and sitting passively.

Asking the Right Questions

That idea, asking the right questions, needs to become a research topic for social sciences/business/government/anything that uses statistics (meaning: everything).

As an example, I am working with an organization that is attached to a national level organization.  The national level has a survey for the individual organizations to fill out which asks about various aspects of the organization.  Filling out this little survey though gives the specific organization I am a part of a pretty bad grade though because this survey fails to ask whether the organization has it’s own building, where the organization is geographically in reference to military and/or minority groups.  Pretty important things that will not be taken into account when filing the paperwork I am sure.

Take a look at grant reports for development work world-wide too;  they bring to mind a phrase I heard once, “Development projects never fail.” None of the grants will ever report a failure although, if you return to those project sites maybe a year later, it will be awfully difficult to find a success.  Take a closer look at the reports though and the things they ask for are “how many individuals are taught x?”; “how many x were built?”; “how much money was made through x-technique?” All factors in a successful development project but certainly not the final factors and, I suspect, not even the most important factors.

This was the strength of journalism: helping show the details lost in the statistics; but, we all know where that discussion goes at the moment.

So, if these questions are unfair, asking the wrong questions or not actually help improve what is going on, it would seem that we need to learn how ask questions properly.  What these questions are, I am not sure yet.  I will state that the questions are not nearly as easy to ask or measure though looks like we might have to step back from our love affair with numbers or, at least, recognize that they are representations of a much more complicated world.  Maybe the first question to ask, what is the specific situation of x in comparison to other places we are measuring?

Computers and Papers

This is just an interesting question that I came to at one point, play nice, it is just thinking, I’m not convinced of this myself.

Is the fact that computers are more affordable causing a lack of good school work for students?  Sometimes it appears so, now that it is pretty much expected that all students have a laptop with them they can do work from anywhere whenever they want, at least that what it feels like is assumed sometimes.  So because of this ability to type up papers and do scholarly work at all times, do we, as students get more busy-work?  I have two classes which require “reading responses,” which are approximately two page short papers responding to our readings, was this the norm in universities pre-computers? How about pre-typewriters?  Did everyone just write these out by hand instead, and is that necessarily worse?  Or did it mean less random writing assignments were given and students were expected to, instead of producing a lot of pages with ink on them all of the time, create good pages with ink on them, if fewer?

Life With Social Media

It’s really interesting how as the internet and technology and social media expand people are more and more coming to have two separate types of lives: their physical, to-be-framed, life and the digital, framed life.

Now, with this technology and social media, all of physical life seems to simply be as yet to-be-framed, a present waiting to be captured by a picture, a video, a tweet, a pin, a blog post and saved and put elsewhere for a future present to look back upon and reminisce about.  More importantly, this framed life, is framed, one can decide not to show parts of the to-be-framed life, one can cut and paste, crop, edit, perfect.  This, among other things that I will not be going into, for me, points towards this framed life being the ideal life for our current society, possibly even the ideal life of human society in general, the life the subconscious wants to live.

One can surround themselves with only the things one wants to hear, one can ignore others and not have to feel guilty about it  one can support everything for free and without actually having to expend any actual effort.  Not to mention, one can present themselves exactly as they as they want to be presented, total control over their social presentation.  Bad presentations never have to exist in the framed life, unless that is part of your presentation.  Plus, one can always control their reactions, it’s impossible to read body language or facial expressions in text, so a reaction can be exactly as one wants it to be nothing more and nothing less.  It’s perfect, for everyone.

So next time you’re taking all sorts of pictures to get the best one for your profile, stop and think about how you’re framing your own life.