Knowledge plays a significant role in all aspects of our lives. It’s facts, information, and skills that are obtained by a person through experience and education. Annie Dillard and Sven Birkerts explore the theory of knowledge, otherwise known as epistemology in their essays “Seeing” and “The Owl Has Flown.” The knowledge we gain contributes to the outcome of our lives, but only we can come to that conclusion with how we interpret this knowledge.
In Annie Dillard’s Essay “Seeing” she describes her beliefs about how people become aware of their knowledge and how the proper perception can provide someone with a greater understanding and appreciation of the world we live in. This appreciation and understanding of knowledge is her answer how to live a fortunate and meaningful life. Dillard supports her beliefs by telling the story of when she was a small child she used to hide pennies leaving a trail of clues for people to find them. “The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But- and this is the point- who gets excited about a mere penny” (Dillard, 39)? When someone sees a sign that says MONEY THIS WAY they are expecting at least a couple dollars not a single penny. (Dillard, 40) After reading this I found it strange as to why anyone would be disappointed for only finding a penny. Yes, they probably got their hopes up hoping to find a million dollars, but shouldn’t the fact that someone was thinking of them hoping for them to smile be enough? People are let down and disappointed in reality because they are expecting to see what they want to see. They are not walking into a situation open minded appreciative of whatever they will find. Growing up we are constantly learning as children.
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. y or extensively, all that matters is what we as individuals make of it. Only you can choose your outcome. Only you can choose to open your mind, and only you can learn from it. Life will flash by in the blink of an eye. There is no time to waist not truly understanding and appreciating the world we live in. Life is a day-to-day journey and you should live each and every one as if it was your last. So take the time to read that book at least one more time, even if you don’t like so that one day that knowledge you gain can help you later in life. And the next time you seek out something you can’t find, stop looking for what your looking for and it just might appear.
Birkerts, Sven. "The Owl Has Flown." Think Vertically! Southlake: Fountainhead, 2012. 29-36.
Dillard, Annie. "Seeing." Think Vertically! Southlake: Fountainhead, 2012. 39-55. Print.
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EXCHANGE: The Gutenberg Elegies
From Chicago Review, Summer 1996
I was gratified to read Wen Stephenson's lucid and concept-focused review of my book The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age ("The Message Is the Medium," Chicago Review 41:4 [Fall 1995]). Read thus one feels seen. Seen, and in some important ways disagreed with, which at some level one wants (and if I don't get rid of this "one" I'm going to drive myself crazy).
I have various quibbles with Mr. Stephenson's quibbles, but I will save those for another occasion. I would like to address myself instead to what I see as our key point of difference, a point which, as I think about it, seems to enlarge itself concentrically until it embraces everything.
It comes down to this: Mr. Stephenson does not think that the medium through or by which the word is transmitted changes in any way its fundamental essence. I maintain that it does. And since Mr. Stephenson more or less recapitulates my argument in the body of his essay, I will not repeat it here. Let me fasten upon his closing salvo, however, the point of which is to reassure us that verbal content survives the transfer between media unchanged. Mr. Stephenson writes:
I jump to another page that I've 'bookmarked,' where I find the poem that's been going through my head for the last few days, ever since I discovered it here on the Internet Poetry Archive site. I open the sound file I've saved on my hard disk, and the soft Irish voice of Seamus Heaney comes over the speakers of my computer. I follow his voice through the eight concentrated lines of 'Song':
A rowan like a lipsticked girl.
Between the by-road and the main road
Alder trees at a wet and dripping distance
Stand off among the rushes.
There are the mud-flowers of dialect
And the immortelles of perfect pitch
And that moment when the bird sings very close
To the music of what happens.
What does happen when I am reading or listening to a poem? And does it matter that it is transmitted to me, voice and word, through a computer? The second part of the question is beginning to bore me by now. The first part I doubt I'll ever answer. And so I print out. Heaney's poems and take them with me to pore over on the train-ride home.
Mr. Stephenson is, of course, playing a game here, representing in a few sentences his reliance on all of our modes of interacting with a given literary expression -- from oral memory ("the poem that's been going through my head") to print ("so I print it out"), to electronic ("since I discovered it here on the Internet Poetry Archive site") to electronic multimedia ("I open the sound file"). It is supremely ironic, however, that the content itself should be Heaney's lovely "Song," the whole point of which is to reenact through language a kind of stripping away of the veils in order to arrive at a pure perceptual recognition, one uncontaminated by any of our myriad devices of mediation.
Mr. Stephenson would no doubt reply that mediation or no, his absorption in the Heaney poem is proof positive that the word is like the patterned energy of one of those knots that can be slipped intact from rope to rope provided that the ends are connected; that, in other words, the medium of transmission is functional and nothing more.
To that I would counter that the sense of presence that literature seeks to create is primarily -- not exclusively -- focused on the private and social circumstance of the individual, and that this sense is fundamentally at odds with the electronic system that would store and present it. That the world that brings us the Web is already at a significant remove from the worlds conjured to exist in a book. So that even if it did not matter on one level -- even if Mr. Stephenson were encountering his text as purely as he claims -- it would matter on another. To deny this is tantamount to asserting that the automobile has had no impact on the natural world because with it we are able to get to more remote places than before. No, the auto has significantly altered the dynamic between man and nature. It is, then, the fact of the new medium, not just its means, that I am talking about.
But the means, I maintain, matter significantly. The tree hiked to and seen is not the tree driven to and seen, even though it is the same tree. The words of "Song" may be the same no matter what context we greet them in, but different media put us in fundamentally different relations. The listener, of course, gets the benefit of presence and immediacy (in the etymological sense of no mediation ). The reader of the lines on the page performs the familiar conversion of printed word into auditory signal. For the person reading the poem on the screen there must be the subliminal awareness that the word has passed through an alchemical bath, has travelled a circuitry. Same word, but. Do we say that a print on paper and a digitalized image on a monitor display are identical, that the image stands free of its context? No, in some elusive way we recognize that the transmission has become part of the content (read again Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction"). Heaney's poem handset on a broadside and the same poem run off on a mimeo-stencil will reach the reader differently. This is not to say that the skilled and serious reader (and I believe Mr. Stephenson is such) cannot peel away the husks or otherwise read compensatorily in order to get at the pure word (rather, its chimera). But to manage this requires discipline and a high degree of awareness, and the ordinary reader generally lacks both.
It is vexing for me not to be able to lay the whole business to rest with a few incontrovertible arguments. But alas -- and mercifully -- we are in subjective terrain. I can only argue what I suppose and my reader/critic can only do the same. I will say, though, that as soon as one allows that the medium affects the message (never mind McLuhan's assertion that it is the message), then the whole electronic transformation of society needs to be examined with great care. If there is no effect, and no change, then there is no problem, other than whatever the problem has been all along.
Wen Stephenson Replies:
I'm reluctant to reply to Sven Birkerts's generous letter in response to my article on The Gutenberg Elegies, partly because he so nicely describes what is perhaps an irreconcilable difference between us, but also because I feel the whole debate over the printed versus the digitally transmitted word has become distracting and even counterproductive. For if Mr. Birkerts and I recognize the extent to which we are allies in a much larger struggle, then this kind of debate starts to look more and more like that between factions of a religious sect (say, the cult of literary-aesthetic experience) arguing over fine points of doctrine while the foundations of their faith are under assault and beginning to crumble. So, rather than try to rebut his arguments, and indulge in further speculation on the nature of verbal experience, I'm more inclined to take his last sentence as a point of departure (or at least to suggest where such a departure might lead).
The digital age is a given. Like it or not, it is the future that my generation has inherited. Whatever the effects, whatever the superficial changes brought on by the latest phase of the ongoing technological revolution, they are the least of our problems -- both as citizens and as readers. Nevertheless, despite the givenness of the digital future, I don't believe we are faced with an all-or-nothing choice between print and pixel. Books and computers can exist side by side, have been known to do so productively, and may complement one another in surprising, delightful ways. No, the choice we face is much more urgent and stark: namely, between a future in which literature has some discernible influence within our culture and one in which it does not. That we are faced with this choice has little or nothing to do with the nature of new media such as the World Wide Web and CD-ROMs, and everything to do with the nature of well-established mass media such as radio, television, and film, and the commercialized mass culture these media have promoted and sustained for decades.
In the struggle for literature (and the values that term implies), it would be a grave mistake to equate the Web and other multimedia technologies with the electronic mass media that have brought us to this pass in our cultural history. The Web is not television. It is neither the movies nor the recording industry. It is something entirely different, entirely new. While it does bring together image and sound, primarily it conveys the written word. Furthermore, not only is the medium based on language but also on the ability -- the imperative -- of individuals to make choices, to seek out and select the kinds of content they want to engage and interact with intellectually. And it is because of these and other essential attributes that the Web has the potential to reawaken an appreciation for language itself, both as a written and a spoken medium, and for literary works. Publishers and educators are beginning to realize that the Web and other new media can be powerful weapons in the struggle for literature and literacy.
More needs to be said, and in much greater depth than I am able to do here, about the significance of the Web as a radically decentralized network for the distribution of literature. Not only is it inexpensive to produce content on the Web, it's getting cheaper to gain access to it, and someday soon it will be as accessible as the telephone, the radio, and the television. There's already a much publicized presidential initiative to bring Internet access to every public school in America.
So let me toss this line to my "unregenerate" novel reader, resolved to go down with the ship of serious literature. The Web may never replace books -- whether novels, or nonfiction narratives, or collections of poetry. I, for one, believe that literature -- both in print and digital form -- will endure, and that the Web itself may play an important role in its survival. For if publishers seize the opportunity, multimedia publishing on the Web could well revitalize, maybe even revolutionize, the role of literary journalism in our culture. It is too easy to be short-sighted, to forget that this medium we call the Web is in its infancy: who knows what sophisticated forms of literary activity it may accommodate in the near future? Imagine the impact such activity could have. Consider the rise of mass literacy, the development of journalism, and the beginnings of the novel in the eighteenth century. As access to the Internet expands, multimedia literary journalism on the Web might play a similar role in generating a broadened interest in and demand for serious literature, even novels, at the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Sven Birkerts is a literary critic and author of The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age (Faber and Faber, 1994). He has recently edited the anthology Tolstoy's Dictaphone: Technology and the Muse (Graywolf, 1996).
Wen Stephenson is editorial director of The Atlantic Monthly 's New Media department. Copyright © 1996 Chicago Review. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Originally published in Chicago Review Vol. 42, No. 2 (Summer 1996).
Technology And Education Essay, Research Paper
Technology: A Tool For Education
More and more each day technology infiltrates deeper into our daily lives and routines. In
fact, it has become such an integral part of society, that mass hysteria and panic would undoubtedly
ensue should it suddenly be taken away. To allow technology to take control would surely lead to
a disintegration of society. Today, most classrooms are connected to the Internet or at the very
least contain computers to help educate the nation?s children. Technology, although useful, is only
a tool and must be used wisely in regards to the education of today?s youths.
Technology holds the promise of delivering vast amounts of information in a very short
time. The Internet alone contains a plethora of information for anyone who has the desire and
ability to use it. With just a click of a button a person can ?surf? the web finding information
ranging from aardvark to zygote. The speed in which information flashes across the screen can be
dizzying. Although general information is readily accessible, obtaining specific data can be
Just the other day, I was on-line searching for information regarding to peritonitis. As is
typical, I logged onto a search site and typed in the subject I wanted. The search found and
displayed about a dozen sites related to peritonitis. However, it also displayed more than three or
four dozen sites on topics ranging from colon cancer to feline leukemia. I can?t figure out just what
relation feline leukemia has with peritonitis. As far as I can tell, they?re like apples to oranges.
Too often these searches seem to take the user to sites that only contain links to other sites, with
links to yet other sites, and so on. It took me nearly an hour to find specific information providing
detailed signs and symptoms of peritonitis. I never could find anything regarding actual treatment
procedures for the disease. Maybe I should have taken a five minute drive to the library and
looked in an antiquated encyclopedia – it would have been faster and easier.
Don?t get me wrong, I?m not saying that technology is a bad thing, but there are negatives to
every positive. Technology does offer an array of options, including those for educational
purposes. Many college students are now able to take courses via television, cable, and the
Internet – only attending classes on campus for taking exams. Although this form of education
provides more scheduling flexibility, it deprives the student of being able to contact their professor
readily. While in an on-campus class, if a student has a question on the material being studied,
they can simply ask their instructor for clarification and receive an immediate response.
Contrarily, by taking a television or Internet course, the student would have to e-mail the professor
and wait up to several days to receive a reply.
School is not just a forum to learn facts and theories. One of the principal functions of
school is to teach children how to behave in groups? (Postman). In other words, by attending
school children learn how to interact with others in a positive and constructive way. By allowing
technology to take over the education of our children we deny them the feeling of being included as
a member of society. For without social interaction, society itself no longer exists. At one time,
many years ago, dialing ?0″ on the telephone connected them to a living, breathing person on the
other end. Several years later technology took over and one had to navigate through a myriad of
computerized menus for information, bringing forth complaint after complaint from customers.
Currently, various phone companies advertise how one can now dial ?0″ and get a living,
breathing person on the other end.
Although technology can provide a nearly endless supply of information, it cannot provide
the tools necessary for understanding. A computer can simply display facts, insight can only be
learned through interaction with others. If a child cannot comprehend a concept, a computer will
not be able to re-explain things in a fashion the child understands; it can only repeat the data. Only
through personal interaction with another person can information be modified into a context the
child can understand and appreciate. Knowledge, certainly in the humanities, is not a
straightforward matter of access, of conquest via the ingestion of data? (Birkerts).
Children today often know how to operate a computer better than their parents.
Educational software, designed to captivate the short attention spans of children, do a good job of
teaching children in information, but fall short of teaching any social values needed to co-exist
peaceably with others. For a child to be able to function as a member of today?s society, both
technological and social teaching need to be balanced. We must always keep in mind that although
technology is capable of many things, it is only a device that helps deliver information, it cannot
teach understanding needed to obtain true knowledge and social conscience.
Postman, Neil. Of Luddites, Learning, and Life. New York: Houghton, 1997
Birkerts, Sven. Perseus Unbound. New York: Houghton, 1997