Mike’s daisy: spoken

man's left hand holding a 2-flower daisy chain above grass with daisies.
How many daisies does it take to make a chain? Now we have two!

I recorded this ‘daisy’ as a prelude to our symposium, ‘Networked learning and phenomenology: a found chord’, and note it is published one month before the start of the 13th International Conference on Networked Learning.

Mike Johnson, speaking without notes, about speaking.

I promised that I would follow Greta’s recording, however, it was always, following the daisy chain metaphor, going to involve some violence to what she did, in order to ‘attach’ this recording to her’s. Indeed, I felt torn between Greta’s brilliant scholarship and erudition, that she read it out, [even more terrifying for me now is that Greta later informed me that she wasn’t reciting!!!! I am scrabbling at the foot of Greta’s Eiger-like scholarship, but anyway…] and something that Gadamer (2014) discusses concerning recitation:

Reciting is the opposite of speaking. When we recite, we already know what is coming, and the possible advantage of a sudden inspiration is precluded.

(Gadamer 2014, p552, in the Afterword)

Thus, for my recording, I felt compelled to try and speak without notes. Just 10 minutes after all… Should be easy! No. Apart from exposing the huge gulf between my ‘beginner’ level scholarship in phenomenology and Greta’s astonishing expertise, and the danger of my sliding into waffle, part of the dread of this recording is my own reluctance to foist more verbiage into an already cluttered world. You might be able to sense the awkwardness in my voice. So I don’t have a verbatim transcript for you but will add the following…

I wished to link this post with Steve Fuller‘s 2014 argument in his keynote, ‘The Lecture 2.0’, at NLC2014 (watch on YouTube and hear Nina in the questions at the end!), that brand-conscious/savvy Universities ought to only put out content by the ‘best’ performers. That was a provocation, and sat alongside other notable points which I take up here:

  • The lecture is not mainly about the faithful conveyance of knowledge to the next generation. I am bored of the classic medieval image, as can be seen in Wikipedia’s Lecture entry, of some authority figure at the front reading from the only book and students having to write it down to have their own copy of the book. Steve points out that, even then, there was more going on…
  • The lecture, in the enlightenment sense, is someone exemplifying ‘daring to know’ (after Kant). Academic freedom was a ‘guild right’; the academic is someone whose broad horizon can review much, and make discriminating judgements about the field, and improvise upon that, to ‘riff’ off their notes, to think in public, straying from the script, somewhat like a jazz performance.
  • The text is still vital, spoken improvisation is on the basis of text.
  • The student in this setting is training for freedom, in that academic sense of freedom to critique, based on broad/deep scholarship. It is something that maybe only happens formally in viva exams but has many practical and practice-based applications, such as in healthcare within multi-disciplinary team meetings or giving an introduction to a musical performance (I’ve enjoyed Jonathan James (Twitter) doing this for the BBC, here more reciting, here more improvised ).
  • Merely dealing in orthodoxy within lectures strangles the enlightenment ideal of growing the capacity to think for yourself and compete (and win) an argument. Adept at this, I cant be a ventriloquist – I have to take responsibility, weigh, measure, understand the audience and adapt the speech. I’ve explored this with staff in a seminar around ‘learning to think in public’ – mindmap here.

And then… I must also link these ideas with our Networked Learning Conference Symposium paper is that, in our analysis, a zoom breakout room, a virtual meeting, thins out self-revelation, the truth of the person that we cannot filter so well when in-person. Nothing but in-person speaking obliges ‘unplugged’ students to stand behind their words.

Where do spoken words arise from? Is there not something uncanny in the unscripted spoken word?

References

Recorded using Audacity. Photo on Flickr.

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