What I found most interesting in Donald’s text, aside from the interesting theory of the development of language in and of itself, is his idea of the External Memory Field (EXMF) and External Symbolic Storage (ESS). These concepts mirror Stiegler’s discussion(s) of tertiary memory and proletarianization (did he cite Donald? I don’t remember him doing so), and his connection of these things to Greek culture, I think, lend credibility to the ideas we have been discussing in terms of relating current network culture to ancient Greek culture, and the necessary updates, etc. Donald’s almost oracle-like prescience in his discussion of the EXMF and the ESS within computer networks in 1991 is astounding, thinking about the Internet as it is now as the ultimate ESS. Equally as fascinating is his discussion of the importance of Greek culture in the third transition (from the development of the Greek alphabet to the codification of the ESS in the written word in the Trivium) and how that has not only changed the way our brains work in terms of the development of language, but also set the stage for pedagogy for the next two millenia.

This raises the question of change, then, as well as a possible further effect. Donald touches on the power of networks and their importance in the development of the ESS from the perspective of 1991, at the very beginning of Internet culture, but couldn’t foresee how the over the next two decades (god, 1991 was two decades ago). My question is this: In Donald’s theory of the development of human language (and the brain), certain events, such as the invention of the alphabet are crucial turning points in how language developed as well as how people think (with the exteriorization of language into written language governed by the rules of rhetoric and grammar) … is it possible, then, that the explosion of the Internet and the resulting changes in culture signals another one of these irreversible, crucial turning points? Are we at a fourth transition in human thought and brain development? If we look at the effect the Internet has had on culture writ large, could we compare it to the massive changes that occurred when the alphabet and writing took over in Greece? (Think about Socrates’ distrust with this newfangled technology.) Kittler would say that this began with the gramophone, film, and typewriter, but it could be argued that these developments were akin to the Phoenician alphabet–that is setting the stage for the development of the explosive nature of the Greek alphabet.

With this in mind, looking at Aristotle’s Rhetoric as the codification of the rules of discourse and language in this new paradigm, if we are at the cusp of a new paradigm (transition), which would necessitate new rules, what do these rules look like? Based on our earlier discussions, I think this could be approached in either the more pedagogical sense (how do we teach this) or from the perspective of the common/commons (as in the Internet as a manifestation of the commons and how do we react/function within this new set of rules).


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