Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Thoughts on hierarchy and learning

How deeply is written language embedded into our social structure, and our patterns of learning? Can we even separate out our dependency on hierarchy from our written language?

Ronfeldt (1996) on the hierarchical organisation:

'As numerous anthropologists have written, with its rise, hierarchy supplants kinship as an organizing principle.'

Ronfeldt notes that the rise of the hierarchical form was dependent on the information technology revolution of formal writing.

McLuhan & McLuhan (1988, Ch.2): 'It is no accident that the Christian church, dedicated to propaganda and propagation, adopted Graeco-Roman phonetic literacy from the earlist days. The impact of alphabetic literacy is strong enough not only to break the tribal bond, but to create individualized consciousness as well. Phonetic literacy - our alphabet - alone has this power.'

Our dependence on writing, regardless of the shift to digital propagation, has shifted our focus for learning to those faculties that writing promotes: analysis, logic, control, sequencing, and others. But as our world shifts beneath us, we are ill-suited to cope with the change if we rely solely upon this medium, and the associated hierarchical way of thinking.

  • McLuhan, M. and McLuhan, E. (1988). Laws of Media: The New Science. University of Toronto Press
  • Ronfeldt, D. (1996). Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks – A Framework about Societal Evolution. Available at: <http://www.rand.org/pubs/papers/P7967.html> [Accessed September 2012]