Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

Books: how do they ever get published?

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I love books, I love reading. I love the feel of them, the smell of them. I read almost anything and everything, in any format: I love audiobooks and kindle books for various reasons (mainly accessibility, portability, time efficiency, and my toddler can’t tear them apart) but still like turning pages. But I do have problems with the idea of print. I will share a few anecdotes now, then write a more reflective post later.

It is my thesis defense. The external examiner asks a fundamental question about what critical thinking (the subject of my thesis)means to me. I hate the question because I say explicitly in my thesis that I think it should be contextually conceptualized in a participatory manner. But I answer it anyway. The examiner looks at me quizzically and says, “but those ideas don’t come through very strongly in your thesis”, and I say, “yes. That is because I submitted the thesis before these ideas crystallized in my mind… These are ideas based on Egypt’s recent context, which I wrote about later (between thesis submission and defense time) in my critical citizenship article). And that’s the point. We submit a piece to be read by others, but our thinking does not stop there. It goes on, it evolves, but we lose control over it once it is published. That is a lot of control to give up.

Many scholars write books with ideas that contradict each other. It is good that they are able to retract, modify,etc., but many readers will not have access to all these newer ideas, not older ones. I find Edward Said cited for Orientalism (which I believe he felt misunderstood about) than Culture and Imperialism which was supposed to be a follow-up.

Social media changes that. I know recently of someone who went back and edited a blogpost because of some backlash/misunderstandings parts of it had caused. That is power. I also reminds us of the uncertainty of impermanence of the web… As a researcher, I am now frustrated that I cannot go back and find that part of the blogpost again and refer to it as part of shat had happened at the time.

Two more thoughts: in FutureEd, Descartes is cited for having saying “books cloud the mind” – i wonder if he said it or actually wrote it in a book! Ironic?

Also, I have a very strong view against sanctity of any body of knowledge to be taught/read in edu settings are inherently more valuable than other writing. I also think it is our engagements with text as readers that can result in learning, not simple reading.

I read the Quran often (almost daily) and static though it may seem to be, it speaks to me differently every time. It is the same words and letters. It is not the same meanings each time.

And so it is with all forms of speech/writing… They are all words, they can be interpreted in various ways (e.g. Terry elliot’s impedagogy word!) whether they be oral or written. The problem with books is they seem set in stone and less dynamic than e.g, social media and more formal than e,g, speech, but words represent ideas, and those are never static. We only make mistakes in treating them as such.

8 Comments

  1. Pingback: Books, Internet & Campfires = Revolution | Exploring Digital Culture

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