Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Literacy and Imagination

So, if you can, come see me participate in this roundtable discussion on Literacy and Imagination, along with my friend and fellow media ecologist Bob Logan, as well as author Jonathan Rosen, this Sunday. The sponsor, The Philoctetes Center, is new to me, and I look forward to learning more about them. Also of interest is a program they are running a day before ours, on January 10th, Helvetica: Typography and Literacy, which includes a screening of a documentary about the font that was created for the modern age (meaning mid-20th century, and by the way, this post is appearing in Arial, the font that is most similar to Helvetica of the choices Blogger makes available to me), and a panel discussion to follow. So, anyway, the next day, Sunday January 11th, is our event, and here's the announcement for it:

at the New York Psychoanalytic Institute

invites you to a Roundtable
Sunday, January 11, 2009 at 2:30pm
The Philoctetes Center
247 East 82nd Street (Phone: 646-422-0544; email:

Literacy and Imagination

We take literacy for granted, but it is a rather recent invention in the evolution of the human species. The advent of literacy was the result of a confluence of factors that have long been the province of evolutionary biology, centering primarily on the development of the cerebral cortex. Mimesis, cave painting, hieroglyphics, ideograms, the invention of primitive alphabets, and the Gutenberg printing press are frequently noted as watersheds in the making of man as a literate creature. From a neurophysiological perspective, literacy itself could be viewed as a shaping factor in the development of the human brain, along with certain verbal patterns that constitute oral traditions and, in turn, literature. Is literacy just an episode in the larger history of human consciousness and intelligence? What are the elements of human imagination that facilitate the growth of literacy? This roundtable will consider the history of literacy from a scientific and humanistic point of view, examining it as an element of brain structure, a path to knowledge, and an expression of the imagination.

Robert Logan is Professor Emeritus in Physics at the University of Toronto. His books include The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind and Culture; The Alphabet Effect; and The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age. His Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan is forthcoming in 2009. He is also working on a project to design a SmartBook which combines the traditional codex book with the e-book.

Jonathan Rosen is the author of the novels Eve's Apple and Joy Comes in the Morning, and two works of non-fiction, The Talmud and the Internet: A Journey Between Worlds, and The Life of the Skies: Birding at the End of Nature. Rosen is editorial director of Nextbook where he edits the "Jewish Encounters" series, published by Nextbook/Schocken. His essays have appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, The American Scholar, The New Yorker, and numerous anthologies.

Lance Strate is Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Fordham University, President and co-founder of the Media Ecology Association, and Executive Director of the Institute of General Semantics. He is the author of Echoes and Reflections: On Media Ecology as a Field of Study, and co-editor of several anthologies, including The Legacy of McLuhan and Communication and Cyberspace.

Events at Philoctetes are free and open to the public. Seating is on a first come basis. If you would like to learn about how to contribute to Philoctetes, please visit our Support page.

The mission of the Philoctetes Center is to foster the study of imagination — funding research, organizing roundtable discussions, offering courses and programs open to the public. The Center publishes a newsletter, Dialog, and is developing a web-based clearing house on work related to imagination. The Center also publishes a journal, Philoctetes. Visit for more information.

And if you want the link to the page on their site where they describe the program in greater detail, here it is: Literacy and Imagination. If you can't make it, I won't be insulted, and I will try to report back on how things went here at Blog Time Passing, as best I can, but don't expect a transcript, or even a terribly accurate summary, it may just be a product of my imagination, literate as it may be.

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