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 - Want to Read: Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue (University of Chicago Press)
Renaissance logician, philosopher, humanist, and teacher, Peter Ramus (1515-72) is best known for his attack on Aristotelian logic, his radical pedagogical theories, and his new interpretation for the canon of rhetoric. His work, published in Latin and translated into many languages, has influenced the study of Renaissance literature, rhetoric, education, logic, and—more recently—media studies.Considered the most important work of Walter Ong’s career, Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue is an elegant review of the history of Ramist scholarship and Ramus’s quarrels with Aristotle. A key influence on Marshall McLuhan, with whom Ong enjoys the status of honorary guru among technophiles, this challenging study remains the most detailed account of Ramus’s method ever published. Out of print for more than a decade, this book—with a new foreword by Adrian Johns—is a canonical text for enthusiasts of media, Renaissance literature, and intellectual history.
Replied to Stones only by Kate Bowles (Music for Deckchairs)
The purpose of Stonehenge is lost to us. There will always be debate about its meaning. Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Wiltshire I grew up in England, although I wasn’t born here. Here. I’m…
I ran across this 5 year old article courtesy of a few recent tweets:

What surprises me is that it’s about education and pedagogy that starts off with a vignette in which Kate Bowles talks about the unknown purpose of Stonehenge.

But I’ve been doing some serious reading on the humanities relating to memory, history, and indigenous cultures over the last few years. It dawns on me:

I know what those stones are for!

A serious answer provided by Australian science and memory researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly indicates that Stonehenge and similar monolithic sites built by indigenous cultures across the world are–in fact–pedagogic tools!!

We’ve largely lost a lot of the roots of our ancient mnemonic devices through gradual mis- and dis-use as well as significant pedagogic changes by Petrus Ramus, an influential French dialectician, humanist, logician, and educational reformer. Scholar Frances Yates indicated in The Art of Memory that his influential changes in the mid-1500’s disassociated memory methods including the method of loci, which dated back to ancient Greece, from the practice of rhetoric as a field of study. As a result we’ve lost a fantastic tradition that made teaching and the problem of memory far worse.

Fortunately Lynne Kelly gives a fairly comprehensive overview of indigenous cultures across human history and their use of these methods along with evidence in her book Memory Code which is based on her Ph.D. thesis. Even better, she didn’t stop there and she wrote a follow up book that explores the use of these methods and places them into a modern pedagogy setting and provides some prescriptive uses.

I might suggest that instead of looking forward to technology as the basis of solutions in education, that instead we look back—not just to our past or even our pre-industrial past, but back to our pre-agrarian past.

Let’s look back to the tremendous wealth of indigenous tribes the world over that modern society has eschewed as “superstitious” and “simple”. In reality, they had incredibly sophisticated oral stories and systems that they stored in even more sophisticated memory techniques. Let’s relearn and reuse those techniques to make ourselves better teachers and improve our student’s ability to learn and retain the material with which they’re working.

Once we’ve learned to better tap our own memories, we’ll realize how horribly wrong we’ve been for not just decades but centuries.

This has been hard earned knowledge for me, but now that I’ve got it, I feel compelled to share it. I’m happy to chat with people about these ideas to accelerate their growth, but I’d recommend getting them from the source and reading Dr. Kelly’s work directly. (Particularly her work with indigenous peoples of Australia, who helped to unlock a large piece of the puzzle for her.) Then let’s work together to rebuild the ancient edifices that our ancestors tried so desperately to hand down, but we’ve managed to completely forget.

The historical and archaeological record:
The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments by Dr. Lynne Kelly

A variety of methods and teaching examples:
Memory Craft: Improve Your Memory with the Most Powerful Methods in History by Dr. Lynne Kelly

Annotated on April 26, 2020 at 08:34PM

Link between Lullism and the Jesuits’ descent into the particular

While reading The Art of Memory by Frances Yates, I ran across the phrase “descending from ‘generals’ to ‘specials'”and it reminded me of the Jesuit idea of “descending into the particular”.

Yates indicates, I think rightly, that this is:

a notion implicit in Lullism as it ascends and descends on the ladder of being [scala naturae] from specials to generals and from generals to specials. This terminology is specifically used of memory in Lull’s Liber ad memoriam confirmandam in which it is stated that memory is to be divided into specials and generals, the specials descending from the generals.

This seems like it is very closely associated with the Jesuit’s concept of “descending into the particular” (or the specials) within their teaching on thinking. (For those unfamiliar, I recall that Malcolm Gladwell has an interesting podcast episode within Revisionist History on this area of moral reasoning.)

Given that Raymond Lull (c. 1232 – c. 1315) has significant philosophical and religious sway in his lifetime, it is highly likely that the Jesuits (founded 1535) may have picked up the foundation of the concept from him. Yates writes this section in Chapter X, in relation to the ideas of memory with respect to Lullism which assuredly influenced Peter Ramus (1515-1572) and his ideas of memory.

I can’t help but think about why the Jesuits didn’t also include the idea of ascension into their philosophy? Perhaps some additional research into the topic will reveal some more direct associations. I think Yates’ link between Lullism and Ramism are pretty solid. I’d like to see some more direct evidence between Lullism and the Jesuits. I’d love to delve into the use of the art of memory within the Jesuit tradition as well.

The scala naturae or great chain of being has had a profound effect (not necessarily a positive one) on religion and modern culture. Far too many people are completely ignorant of what it is or what it entails, yet it underpins a huge swath of Western thought.

Miniature in an illuminated manuscript of Raymond Lull next to a ladder indicating the the levels of being
Scala Naturae or Ladder of Being in Breviculum ex artibus Raimundi Lulli electum – St. Peter perg. 92 [page 13 (5r)]
I’m not as well-versed in the history of educational technology as those like Audrey Watters, but after reading the opening of chapter 10 of The Art of Memory by Frances Yates, I’m prepared to call Pierre de La Ramée (aka Petrus or Peter Ramus) as the godfather of EdTech for his literal iconoclastic removal of the artificial memory from rhetoric and replacing it with his ‘dialectical order’.

To be clear, “Godfather of EdTech” is a perjorative.