Replied to a tweet by Codex Editor (Twitter)
To break your literacy boundaries, try taking a look at Lynne Kelly‘s work on orality and memory (Knowledge and Power, Songlines, et al.). Duane Hamacher, et al. have a great new book out as well. And try Ong’s work on orality too. There are lots of non-literate tools for thought hiding out there.
Watched Look up! There's an emu in the sky | Duane Hamacher at TEDxNorthernSydneyInstitute by Dr. Duane Hamacher from TEDx Talks | YouTube

A trained astrophysicist, Dr Duane Hamacher is a lecturer in the Nura Gili Indigenous Centre at the University of New South Wales. After studying planets orbiting other stars for two years, his interest in the crossroads of science and culture was too great and he decided to complete a PhD in Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University. He researches in how navigating the boundaries between Indigenous Knowledge and Western Science can show how these ways of understanding the natural world are beneficial to both.

For those who appreciated Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass and want to delve further into Indigenous science, I’m recommending Duane Hamacher and co-authors’ book The First Astronomers: How Indigenous Elders Read the Stars (Allen & Unwin, 2022). This video seems to be a pretty solid, short primer of what to expect.

I’m personally interested in reading/learning about these areas above and beyond the primary education levels which are presented here.

Orality was the original tool for thought. Western culture has forgotten this. 

Replied to The Dawn of Everything – Part 1 by Miriam Ronzoni (Crooked Timber)
I recently finished reading* The Dawn of Everything by David Graeber and David Wengrow; I enjoyed it very much indeed. I thought I’d write a two parts review for CT, and here’s the first – I will p…
I’ve only begun reading the text for a book club being run by historian Dan Allosso who is also doing an experiment in a communally shared wiki/notebook platform Obsidian, but I’m quite curious about the Neolithic pieces relating to the inhabitants at Stonehenge. In particular, I’ve recently finished Lynne Kelly’s research in Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015) in which she touches on the primary orality of those peoples and the profound impact that settling into sedentary lifeways may have had on their culture. If she’s correct, then that settlement was dramatically “expensive” and more complex than we’ve been led to believe. This may have had confounding issues within their society as it grew and flourished. I would suspect that Graeber and Wengrow don’t touch on this portion of the complexity, but it may support their general thesis. I’ll try to report back as I get deeper into the topic.

Incidentally, if folks want to join this Obsidian book club on this text, it’s just starting and is comprised of a number of academics and researchers in a vein similar to CT. A quick web search should uncover the details to join.

Read - Want to Read: Wild Songs, Sweet Songs: The Albanian Epic in the Collections of Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord by Nicola Scaldaferri (ed.) (Harvard University Press)
In the 1930s, Milman Parry and Albert B. Lord, two pioneering scholars of oral poetry, conducted adventurous fieldwork in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and northern Albania, collecting singularly important examples of Albanian epic song. Wild Songs, Sweet Songs presents these materials, which have not previously been published, for the first time.
Replied to a tweet by Dr. Tamar MarvinDr. Tamar Marvin (Twitter)
@tamar_marvin This seems incredibly similar to the traditions of oral cultures as explored by Milman Parry & Albert Lord in their work on orality & followed up by Walter Ong et al. Examples include Homer in the Greek tradition and the guslars of Yugoslavia.

Thanks for highlighting it!

Communication with rocks

I’ve now heard three references to rocks talking in Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer. Along with other indigenous attestations the idea has gone beyond coincidence for me.

It is far from the only source to exhibit this “oddity”. Biblical references from the time of King David exist as well as in Neolithic archaeology.

I’m increasingly confident of a hidden meaning here of which Western culture is unaware (it having been long forgotten) and which is likely that Indigenous peoples may have forgotten (read: had ripped and stolen from their identities during colonialization).

References to this lost knowledge in oral and written sources still remain as evidence of my theory: “communication” or “conversations” with rocks was literally a “bedrock” cultural knowledge underpinning many human cultures and ways of life for millennia.

I’ll define this “communication” more fully shortly as I continue to collect examples in the literature as well as examples in archaeological contexts.

I’d welcome other references from others should they come across them in any contexts.

Bookmarked a tweet by Dr. Tamar Marvin (Twitter)
Read Aboriginal education and The Memory Code by Lynne KellyLynne Kelly (lynnekelly.com.au)
I was so pleased to receive this email from Sue Norman telling me how The Memory Code had been part of the ground work for this wonderful project on revitalising Aboriginal languages. The linked report is from the ABC. It is so rewarding to get endorsement from Aboriginal organisations.
Reposted Thinking About Tools For Thought: Episode 005 – Interview with Chris Aldrich by Andy Sylvester (thinkingabouttoolsforthought.com)

Links from today’s episode:

And for the crazy rhetoric and note taking nerds:

Early Philosophical Texts

  • Aristotle, Topica, written about 350 BCE Venice, 1495.
  • Aristotle, Rhetorica, written about 350 BCE. Basel, 1529.
  • Cicero, De Oratore, written about 46 BCE. Northern Italian manuscript about 1450.
  • Cicero, Topica, written about 44 BCE. Florentine manuscript, about 1425-30.
  • Seneca the Younger, Epistulae morales, written 62-65 CE. French manuscript, about 1175.
  • Quintilian, Institutio oratoria, written about 100 CE. Paris, 1542.
  • Macrobius, Saturnalia, written about 430 CE. Central Italian manuscript, about 1475.
  • Boethius, De topicis differentiis, written about 480-526 CD. English manuscript, about 1275.

Renaissance Handbooks

  • Rodolphus Agricola, De formando studio. Antwerp, 1532; composed 1484.
  • Desiderius Erasmus, De ratione studii et instituendi pueros comentarii totidem. [Paris, 1512].
  • Philip Melanchthon, Institutiones rhetoricae. Wittenberg [1536].
  • Philip Melanchthon, Rhetorices elementa. Lyon, 1537.
  • Desiderius Erasmus, De duplici copia verborum ac rerum. Cologne, 1540.
  • Petrus Mosellanus, Tabulae de schematibus et tropis…. In Rhetroica Philippi Melanchthonis. In Erasmi Roterdami libellum De duplici copia. Paris, 1542.
  • Joachim Camerarius, Elementa rhetoricae. Basel, [1545].
  • Henry Peacham, The garden of eloquence: conteyning the figures of grammar and rhetorick. London, 1577.
    • One of the first handbooks in English
  • Philip Melanchthon, De locis communibus ratio. Augsburg [1593].
  • John Brinsley, Ludus literarius: or, The grammar schoole; shewing how to proceede from the first entrance into learning, to the highest perfection. London, 1612.
  • [Obadiah Walker], Of education: especially of young gentlemen. Oxford, 1673.
I may have broadened the discussion that some of the intended audience on tools for thought may be showing up for, but I can never resist introducing people to mnemnotechniques and research on orality, anthropology, or the history of commonplaces.

I provocatively (with only a modest amount of wickedness) put forward the idea that a rock is as good a tool for thought as Obsidian.md or Roam Research.

Humanity is the medium. Humanity is the message.

While contemplating orality and indigenous cultures and how they used their own memories, conversation, and dialectic as a means of communicating and storing their knowledge, I thought about Marshall McLuhann’s idea “the medium is the message.” In this framing, indigenous cultures certainly got things right: Humanity is the medium. Humanity is the message.

Life imitates art. We shape our tools and thereafter they shape us.
— John M. Culkin, “A Schoolman’s Guide to Marshall McLuhan” (The Saturday Review, March 1967)

Culkin’s framing also makes humanity its own self-contained tool (hopefully for the greater good). We shape our brains and thereafter our brains shape us. While we may use technology and tools, props, and crutches to help us do more or do faster, we shouldn’t loose sight of our humanity. It may be our greatest technology. Perhaps we need to remember to pull it out of our toolbox more often as it’s better evolved and often better fit for more jobs than the tools we’re apt to turn to.

The first session of my Art of Memory course went well this morning.

My favorite part: a student suggested doing a project to memorize knowledge related to (urban) foraging (what’s available, safe, identification, etc.)! Its a fantastic example because this is exactly the sort of practical knowledge many indigenous (primarily oral) peoples have used these techniques for over time.

If you’re late to the game, I think you can still register (and I’m happy to catch people up) before our next session in two weeks on July 24th.

Read Transclusion and Transcopyright Dreams (maggieappleton.com)

In 1965 Ted Nelson imagined a system of interactive, extendable text where words would be freed from the constraints of paper documents. This hypertext would make documents linkable.

Twenty years later, Tim Berners Lee took inspiration from Nelson's vision, as well as other narratives like Vannevar Bush's Memex, to create the World Wide Web. Hypertext came to life.

I love the layout and the fantastic live UI examples on this page.

There are a few missing pieces for the primacy of some of these ideas. The broader concept of the commonplace book predated Nelson and Bush by centuries and surely informed much (if not all) of their thinking about these ideas. It’s assuredly the case that people already had the ideas either in their heads or written down and the links between them existed only in their minds or to some extent in indices as can be found in the literature—John Locke had a particularly popular index method that was widely circulated.

The other piece I find missing is a more historical and anthropological one which Western culture has wholly discounted until recently. There’s a pattern around the world of indigenous peoples in primarily oral cultures using mnemonic techniques going back at least 40,000 years. Many of these techniques were built into daily life in ways heretofore unimagined in modern Western Culture, but which are a more deeply layered version of transclusion imagined here. In some sense they transcluded almost all of their most important knowledge into their daily lives. The primary difference is that all the information was stored visually and associatively in the minds of people rather than on paper (through literacy) or via computers. The best work I’ve seen on the subject is Lynne Kelly’s Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture which has its own profound thesis and is underpinned by a great deal of archaeologic and anthropologic primary research. Given its density I recommend her short lecture Modern Memory, Ancient Methods which does a reasonable job of scratching the surface of these ideas.

Another fantastic historical precursor of these ideas can be found in ancient Jewish writings like the Mishnah which is often presented as an original, more ancient text surrounded by annotated interpretations which are surrounded by other re-interpretations on the same page. Remi Kalir and Antero Garcia have a good discussion of this in their book Annotation (MIT Press, 2019).

page of Jewish text with Mishnah in the center and surrounded by various layers of commentary in succeding blocks around it
Image of a super-annotated page of Torah from chapter 3 of Annotation (MIT Press, 2019) by R. Kalir and A. Garcia

It would create a more layered and nuanced form of hypertext – something we’re exploring in the Digital Gardening movement. We could build accumulative, conversational exchanges with people on the level of the word, sentence, and paragraph, not the entire document. Authors could fix typos, write revisions, and push version updates that propogate across the web the same way we do with software. 

The Webmention spec allows for resending notifications and thus subsequent re-parsing and updating of content. This could be a signal sent to any links to the content that it had been updated and allow any translcuded pages to update if they wished.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:38PM

In this idealised utopia we obviously want to place value on sharing and curation as well as original creation, which means giving a small fraction of the payment to the re-publisher as well.We should note monetisation of all this content is optional. Some websites would allow their content to be transcluded for free, while others might charge hefty fees for a few sentences. If all goes well, we’d expect the majority of content on the web to be either free or priced at reasonable micro-amounts. 

While this is nice in theory, there’s a long road strewn with attempts at micropayments on the web. I see new ones every six months or so. (Here’s a recent one: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLqrvNoDE35lFDUv2enkaEKuo6ATBj9GmL)

This also dramatically misses the idea of how copyright and intellectual property work in many countries with regard to fair use doctrine. For short quotes and excerpts almost anyone anywhere can do this for free already. It’s definitely nice and proper to credit the original, but as a society we already have norms for how to do this.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:46PM

Transclusion would make this whole scenario quite different. Let’s imagine this again… 

Many in the IndieWeb have already prototyped this using some open web standards. It’s embodied in the idea of media fragments and fragmentions, a portmanteau of the words fragment and Webmention.

A great example can be found at https://www.kartikprabhu.com/articles/marginalia

This reminds me that I need to kick my own server to fix the functionality on my main site and potentially add it to a few others.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 02:59PM

We can easily imagine transclusions going the way of the public comments section. 

There are definitely ways around this, particularly if it is done by the site owner instead of enabled by a third party system like News Genius or Hypothes.is.

Examples of this in the wild can be found at https://indieweb.org/annotation#Annotation_Sites_Enable_Abuse.

Annotated on February 09, 2021 at 03:04PM

Replied to a thread by @KerrieDoodles (Twitter)
If people are depressed by this minimal loss since the 60’s, they’re going to explode when they read research like that of Lynne Kelly on what we’ve actually lost from indigenous cultures. Here’s a good place to start: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture though her TED talk gives a bit of the flavor without the heavier, but worthwhile, reading–in part, because it will give us some ideas about how to turn back the clock and recover some of what we’ve lost.

Annotated The Mabinogion (Oxford University Press)
Sioned Davies is Chair of Welsh at Cardiff University. Her special interest is the interplay between orality and literacy, together with the performance aspects of medieval Welsh narrative. 
Oh! This is fascinating. Perhaps some interesting tidbits for my growing theory about the borders of orality and literacy could be hiding in some of her research?