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Before and After Language

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In 2013, Mike Ridley told a conference hall full of Librarians that language would soon become irrelevant.  Library icon Sarah Houghton provided the best summary of the resulting disbelief and controversy: Internet Librarian 2013 – Beyond Literacy: Exploring a Post-Literate Future

I haven’t stayed in close enough contact with the global librarian community to know if Mike was ever forgiven for his heresy.  It’s safe enough to say that books will not disappear soon, but by all accounts 2016 is the year when Virtual Reality joins the mainstream.  So, maybe Mike Ridley was right.

Babies

My favorite humans are the brand new kind.  I love to nurture and entertain babies, because their reactions are pure, unscripted, devoid of formal instruction, and full of wonder.  Therefore, there is no crime worse than abuse of any kind against a child.  Physical abuse is horrible, but so are mental and emotional abuse.  I have protected children all my life.  First, as an older sister, then as a babysitter, now as a mother and mentor.  I will always be the parent, teacher, friend who lets children play!  Instead of focusing so much on all the things a baby needs to learn, adults should take the opportunity to learn from babies.

Action

I was recently asked: “What language do you think in?”

My answer was: “All languages and none. Language slows me down.”

I surround myself with music throughout the day, and lyrics in Spanish, English, French, Italian, Portuguese and German trigger memories and ideas constantly, because those are the languages I understand.  However, all other music, whether it’s in a language unknown to me, or in an entirely instrumental piece, makes me think and produces a reaction.  Music leads me to action, and brings me back to my own baby days, when the world was new and of my own making.  Songs make me move and think with my whole body.  I’ve retrained my mind to act on impulse, not limited by language.

Burden

The clues to my baby-like thinking presented themselves to me about a year ago, when I was consistently beating enterprise software and complicated algorithms in my data science work.

Think about what a burden it is to translate human thought into a software package, which needs to first be designed, then has to be understood by the sales team, explained to the customer, sold, and finally used.  The training and support are on-going.

When I do what I do, I don’t “think”. I scan, connect, revisit, laugh, remember, contact, cringe, call, and build.  Sometimes, I even cry.  Data Science is the most human of the new disciplines because it is attempting to replicate what each of us can already do instinctively.  But first, we may need to clear our minds of what we have been taught.

teacher-education-learning-properties

Education

We will always need teachers, librarians, and mentors willing to take on new apprentices.  What we don’t need is to crush singularly gifted minds because they don’t fit a mold.  Even if you are not a formal “educator”, you can work your magic keeping the world full of wonder.  Don’t be the adult who tells children: “_________ properly”.

That blank can represent any number of spirit killing admonitions:

“Walk properly”

“Eat properly”

“Write properly”

Whose definition of “properly” are you helping to keep alive anyway?  Your sense of duty should be stronger to the current and future generations, than to those who have already left us, as wonderful as their legacy may be.  Dare to get in trouble with other adults!  As I so often have, for being the auntie who taught her ninja moves to the younger family members, on the forts made from sofa pillows.

Language

Our most sentimental need is to feel understood.  That is why we invented so many languages.  Now, we are focusing on shortening the distances that still separate us.  This is why Virtual Reality is exploding in new products and concepts.  We are moving beyond language, because we finally have the technology to allow us to be like babies again.  What’s more baby-like than reaching out to grab something, and immediately putting it in your mouth? Maybe that’s what we’ve been trying to do all along, we just couldn’t put it into words.

Photo credit: Melanie Schwolert / Kevin Lopez

Silvia Spiva

Silvia Spiva

Silvia K. Spiva is a Multicultural Marketer, creating content for global audiences, from the heart of Silicon Valley. Her passions include children's literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and finding ways to bridge if not crush the #DigitalDivide.
Silvia Spiva

@silviakspiva

People programmer & technology decoder. Community Manager at Cisco DevNet. 👩🏻‍💻 MY tweets. Favorites: #CountryDigitization #Libraries #Sustainability
Silvia Spiva
Silvia Spiva

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Silvia Spiva

Silvia K. Spiva is a Multicultural Marketer, creating content for global audiences, from the heart of Silicon Valley. Her passions include children’s literacy, STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math), and finding ways to bridge if not crush the #DigitalDivide.

2 thoughts on “Before and After Language

  • February 4, 2016 at 1:21 pm
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    This is an interesting take on such a tough subject but as a lover of language and communication as a whole, I think people highly underestimate the power of language. When I’m walking down a mall for example (not in Florida or New York) and I hear a Puerto Rican accent my ears perk up, my senses become keenly aware and I must get to know that person. Point is launguage is not a means to an end but the quickest physical expression to let someone else know, “we’re part of the same tribe”. And at the core of it all, thats what we all want to feel.

    Reply
    • February 6, 2016 at 8:57 am
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      I like what you say about language as a tool to make a quick physical connection, Nick. Being from Argentina, I realize that hearing an Argentine accent means permission to do a lot of other things, too. Suddenly, you realize that it’s acceptable and even expected to kiss that person on the cheek, and raise the volume of your voice in a friendly tone. The codes of the tribe are powerful and hard to explain. It takes a lifetime to learn them.

      Reply

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