Read UK accused of failing to promote minority languages by Severin Carrell (the Guardian)
Critical report by Council of Europe calls for more support for Cornish, Irish and Ulster Scots
The benefits of speaking multiple languages are fairly well documented. How can we–as a society–better support additional languages? Why are we constantly sidelining and devaluing people’s mother tongues? 
Read - Reading: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture by Lynne Kelly (Cambridge University Press)
Chapter 5: Animal and plant knowledge in oral tradition
Finished chapter 5: Animal and plant knowledge in oral tradition
Some fascinating research here

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Replied to Learning from indigenous culture by Neil MatherNeil Mather (doubleloop)
Just an interesting linkage that I’ve noticed in a couple of places recently. I’ve seen Chris mention a few times the mnemonic systems used by indigenous peoples. And there was a chapter in Future Histories on lessons to be learned from indigenous communities on ownership and governance.
I read it just after it came out, but Jared Diamond’s book The World Until Yesterday: What Can We Learn from Traditional Societies? has some good material on this topic as well. His work is more toward topics like restorative justice and judicial topics as well as cultural and social pieces we could regain. 

Most of the other work I’m talking about relating to memory methods is less widely known/researched and is closer to the bleeding edge of current anthropology and archaeology. That being said, the research is incredibly compelling.  <>

The Noodlemap is looking pretty cool by the way…

Read Timeful Texts by Andy Matuschak, Michael Nielsen (numinous.productions)
How might one escape a book’s shackled sense of time, extending the authored experience over weeks and months?
It looks to me like Andy and Michael are grasping at recreating with modern technology and tools what many (most? all?) indigenous cultures around the world used to ritually learn and memorize their culture’s knowledge. Mnemonics, spaced repetition, graded initiation, orality, dance, and song were all used as a cohesive whole to do this.

The best introduction to many of these methods and their pedagogic uses is best described by Lynne Kelly‘s book Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

If they take her ideas as a basis and then layer on their own thinking, I think they’ll get much further much quicker. Based on my reading of their work thus far, they’re limiting themselves solely with western and modern cultures or at least those of a post-Peter Ramus world.

As an example, I’ve recently been passively watching the Netflix series The Who Was? Show which is geared toward children, but it does a phenomenal job of creating entertaining visuals, costumes, jokes, songs, dances, over-the-top theatricality, and small mnemonic snippets to teach children about famous people in our culture. Naturally this is geared toward neophytes, but it’s memorable, especially when watched with some spaced repetition. To follow it up properly it needs the next 10 layers of content and information to provide the additional depth to move it from children’s knowledge to adult and more sophisticated knowledge. Naturally this should be done at a level appropriate to the learner and their age and sophistication and include relevant related associative memory techniques, but it’s a start.

I’ll note that our educational system’s inability to connect (or associate) new knowledge with previous knowledge is a major drawback. 

Read Commonplace Books: Networked Knowledge and Combinatorial Creativity (Farnam Street)
Commonplace books are personal knowledge libraries; notebooks full of collected ideas and bits of wisdom all mixed up together. Here, we take a look at their history and benefits.
There is an old saying that the truest form of poverty is “when you have occasion for anything, you can’t use it...

Early compilations involved various combinations of four crucial operations: storing, sorting, selecting, and summarizing, which I think of as the four S’s of text management. We too store, sort, select, and summarize information, but now we rely not only on human memory, manuscript, and print, as in earlier centuries, but also on computer chips, search functions, data mining, and Wikipedia, along with other electronic techniques. 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:38PM

“In his influential De Copia (1512),” writes Professor Richard Yeo, “Erasmus advised that an abundant stock of quotations and maxims from classical texts be entered under various loci (places) to assist free-flowing oratory.”
Arranged under ‘Heads’ and recorded as ‘common-places’ (loci communes), these commonplace books could be consulted for speeches and written compositions designed for various situations — in the law court, at ceremonial occasions, or in the dedication of a book to a patron. Typical headings included the classical topics of honour, virtue, beauty, friendship, and Christian ones such as God, Creation, faith, hope, or the names of the virtues and vices. 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:51PM

Commonplace books, during the Renaissance, were used to enhance the memory. Yeo writes,
This reflected the ancient Greek and Roman heritage. In his Topica, Aristotle formulated a doctrine of ‘places’ (topoi or loci) that incorporated his ten categories. A link was soon drawn between this doctrine of ‘places’ (which were, for Aristotle, ‘seats of arguments’, not quotations from authors) and the art of memory. Cicero built on this in De Oratore, explaining that ‘it is chiefly order that gives distinctness to memory’; and Quintilian’s Institutio Oratoria became an influential formulation. This stress on order and sequence was the crux of what came to be known as ‘topical memory’, cultivated by mnemonic techniques (‘memoria technica’) involving the association of ideas with visual images. These ideas, forms of argument, or literary tropes were ‘placed’ in the memory, conceived in spatial terms as a building, a beehive, or a set of pigeon holes. This imagined space was then searched for the images and ideas it contained…. In the ancient world, the practical application of this art was training in oratory; yet Cicero stressed that the good orator needed knowledge, not just rhetorical skill, so that memory had to be trained to store and retrieve illustrations and arguments of various kinds. Although Erasmus distrusted the mnemonic arts, like all the leading Renaissance humanists, he advocated the keeping of commonplace books as an aid to memory. 

I particularly love the way this highlights the phrase “‘placed’ in the memory” because the idea of loci as a place has been around so long that we tacitly use it as a verb so naturally in conjunction with memory!

Note here how the author Richard Yeo manages not to use the phrase memory palace or method of loci.Was this on purpose?
Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 10:56PM

While calling memory “the store-house of our ideas,” John Locke recognized its limitations.
On the one hand, it was an incredible source of knowledge.
On the other hand, it was weak and fragile. He knew that over time, memory faded and became harder to retrieve, which made it less valuable. 

As most humanists of the time may have had incredibly well-trained memories (particularly in comparison with the general loss of the art now), this is particularly interesting to me. Having had a great memory, the real value of these writings and materials is to help their memories dramatically outlive their own lifetimes. This is particularly useful as their systems of passing down ideas via memory was dramatically different than those of indigenous peoples who had a much more institutionalized version of memory methods and passing along their knowledge.

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:00PM

“Extraordinary Commonplaces,” Robert Darnton 

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:03PM

Neither ought anything to be collected whilst you are busied in reading; if by taking the pen in hand the thread of your reading be broken off, for that will make the reading both tedious and unpleasant. 

This is incredibly important for me, though in a more technology friendly age, I’ve got tools like Hypothes.is for quickly highlighting and annotating pages and can then later collect them into my commonplace book as notes to work with and manage after-the-fact.

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:07PM

The aim of these books wasn’t regurgitation but rather combinatorial creativity. People were encouraged to improvise on themes and topics. Gathering raw material alone — in this case, information — is not enough. We must transform it into something new. It is in this light that Seneca advised copying the bee and Einstein advised combinatorial play. 

I was really hoping for so much more in this essay on the combinatorial creativity, espcially since the author threw the idea into the title. The real meat must be in the two linked articles about Seneca and Einstein.

There is a slight mention of combinatorics in the justaposition of pieces within one’s commonplace book, and a mention that these books may date back to the 12th century where they were probably more influenced by the combinatoric creativity of Raymond Lull. It’s still an open question for me just how far back the idea of commonplaces goes as well as how far back Lull’s combinatoric pieces go…

Annotated on May 19, 2020 at 11:13PM

Replied to a thread (Twitter)
Niklas Luhmann’s idea of Zettelkasten impinges on some of this, but for a deep dive on how indigenous cultures all over the world did this in a pre-industrial setting look at Dr. Lynne Kelly‘s work. Specifically: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and When knowledge was power (2012, Latrobe University, PhD thesis). She’s got a fantastic bibliography on her website as well.

Her TED talk shows quickly how she did something similar, but with birds and bird identification. Her work has examples of how many other cultures did this as well.

Read A garden with a water feature by Jeremy CherfasJeremy Cherfas (jeremycherfas.net)
People have written some interesting things following on from the pop-up IndieWebCamp that Chris Aldrich organised a couple of weeks ago. The Garden and the Stream set out to compare and contrast wikis and weblogs and how the two might be used. It was a terrific success, and I’m sorry I wasn’t a...

Nevertheless, the very fact that I am going through my notes reflects a new habit I am trying to build, of setting time aside every week, and sometimes more often, deliberately to tend the oldest notes I have and the notes I created or edited in the past week. Old notes take longer, because I have to check old links and decide what to do if they have rotted away. Those notes also need to be reshaped in line with zettelkasten principles. That means deciding on primary tags, considering internal links, splitting the atoms of long notes and so on. At times it frustrates me, but when it goes well I do see structure emerging and with it new thoughts and new directions to follow. 

This is reminiscent of the idea that indigenous peoples regularly met at annual feasts to not only celebrate, but to review over their memory palaces and perform their rituals as a means of reviewing and strengthening their memories and ideas.
Annotated on May 09, 2020 at 07:17AM

Replied to a tweet by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (Twitter)
Without checking, I have to think that I carefully couched my wording there. For that audience, I did use the more famous example of Stonehenge, for which there is some pretty solid evidence for my claim. There are other examples in the archaeological record that certainly are older and in other cultural contexts. I can easily think of standing stones that are as old as 12,000 years old for which the same case could be made in borderline agricultural societies. The tough part is that would have required the definition of standing stones and a lot of other pieces which I didn’t feel I had the time to create the context for in that setting.

I imagine that there are potentially examples of this sort of behavior going back as far as 30-40,000 years or more, but there is is no direct (known) archaeological evidence left to make such cases. There are oral histories of indigenous peoples in Australia that indicate memories of things that do exist in the geological record to provide some evidence of this.

I’ll also point out that astronomical use is NOT equal to memory use. To make that claim you’d need a lot of additional evidence. In fact, I might suggest something stronger, particularly about Stonehenge. Stonehenge’s primary use was not an astronomical one. Its primary use was as a mnemonic device. The astronomical one was important for the ritual practice (we would call it spaced repetition in modern psychology and pedagogic contexts), but wholly tangential.

If you’re interested in the underlying evidence, Dr. Lynne Kelly has an excellent Ph.D. thesis on the topic, but you might find her book The Memory Code, which expands on the thesis, more accessible. She’s also got a great bibliography of these topics on her website.

Bookmarked Unsettled by Colin Woodard (Press Herald)

Triumph and tragedy in Maine's Indian country

Staff Writer Colin Woodard spent more than a year researching “Unsettled,” logging thousands of miles and more than 250 hours of interviews with some 70 sources, including past governors of Maine and the reservations, tribal elders, councilors and activists, as well as attorneys, state officials, police officers and academic experts.

This looks like a stunning long read! I love that the Press Herald bundled it up into an e-book as well. I wish more newspapers did this sort of aggregate publishing. 
 
 
Read Don Gellers, victim of state sponsored conspiracy, receives full, posthumous pardon in Maine by Colin Woodard (colinwoodard.blogspot.com)
In a 31-part Portland Press Herald series on the Passamaquoddy tribe's epic struggles with Maine, "Unsettled," I told the story of Donald Gellers, the idealistic young attorney who, in the 1960s, joined forces with Chief George Francis to challenge legal, civil rights, and material abuses of the tribe and its members by state officials, law enforcement, the courts, and local businesspeople. Upon returning home from filing a suit that sought redress for a $150 million trust fund and 10,000 acres of reserved land stolen by Maine -- the fund alone worth $1.1 billion in today's dollars -- he was arrested in a sting and raid that would be comic if its results were not so tragic and charged with "constructive possession" of six marijunaa cigarettes allegedly found in the pocket of a jacket in his upstairs closet.
I’d love to get a bundled e-book copy of this 31 part series. And what do you know the newspaper actually published one! I wish more newspapers would do something like this. Imagine a bound book for big coverage of things like the Trump Impeachment from the Washington Post or the New York Times?
Watched Modern memory, ancient methods by Lynne Kelly from TEDxMelbourne | YouTube

Today, we explore whether memory still has a practical place in the world of big data and computing.

As a science writer, Lynne has written 18 books including The Memory Code. Her research showed that without writing, people used the most extraordinary suite of memory techniques to memorise massive amounts of practical information. This explains the purpose of monuments like Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines and the statues of Easter Island. Her next book, Unlocking The Memory Code explains the most effective memory methods from around the world and throughout time. Lynne shows how these can be invaluable in modern world. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

I had watched this earlier this fall, but thought I’d take another peek for the compactness of the presentation.
Listened to Sources and Methods #34: Lynne Kelly by Alex Strick van LinschotenAlex Strick van Linschoten from Sources & Methods

Interview with Lynne Kelly primarily covering an overview of her memory-related works and focusing primarily on her academic work including her Ph.D. thesis and subsequent archaological-based texts. This appears to have been done prior to The Memory Code and so doesn’t cover those portions of some the more applied areas like her work in rapscallions or the bestiary.

Originally bookmarked on December 14, 2019 at 08:42AM

Listened to The Indigenous memory code by Lynne Malcolm from ABC Radio National
Traditional Aboriginal Australian songlines hold the key to a powerful memory technique used by indigenous people around the world.

Have you ever wondered how ancient indigenous cultures maintain so much information about the thousands of species of plants and animals—without writing it down? Traditional Aboriginal Australian songlines are key to a powerful memory technique used by indigenous people around the world. It's intricately tied to the landscape and it can be applied in our everyday lives.

Duration: 28min 49sec
Broadcast: 

Another Lynne Kelly interview, but this one focuses more on the indigenous peoples of Australia and their memory techniques. Also some discussion of “dreaming” and songlines with Karen Adams here.

Originally bookmarked on December 07, 2019 at 01:13PM