Monday, October 15, 2007

On Modernism

I had a feeling I was going to hear about this line:

One thing that drives me crazy about our favorite ed-tech K-12 Web 2.0 rhetoricians is the exclusion of modernity and modernism from the discourse.

The problem is you'd have a tough time finding two people who agree on what "modernism" means, even within the same discipline, so the sentence means considerably different things to different readers. But it was just a comment, so I figured I'd just say what I was thinking without bothering to define terms. Defining modernism would take at least a paragraph, pulling some books down off the shelf, etc.

So anyhow, I don't really like the Wikipedia entry on Modernism. I was thinking of a very broad definition of Modernism. Essentially, "the response to modernity." Or, to quote the last book I read (well, in part) on Modernism:

This was the period, then, in which writers and artists were trying to define a Modernist aesthetic practice that would be an adequate response to the new conditions of life, the conditions of modernity. These conditions included increasing industrialization and urbanization, the growing power of materialistic capitalism which generated labor unrest, the rise of new media of communications, and the struggle of women for equality and independence.

If I wanted to be more specific and concrete, I could have just said "It drives me crazy when history teacher David Warlick (to name one) writes as if the 20th century was a period of tradition and stability until the invention of the Apple II."

9 comments:

Doug Noon said...

But then I wouldn't have had to spend the last few days trying to figure out what you and Bill Kerr might have been talking about.

Downes said...

> I could have just said "It drives me crazy when history teacher David Warlick (to name one) writes as if the 20th century was a period of tradition and stability until the invention of the Apple II."

That would have been preferable.

Tom Hoffman said...

I did literally write "And I am not talking about Stephen Downes" when I originally wrote that line, but I deleted it since I thought it might be even further mis-interpreted.

Bill Kerr said...

Applying the philosophy of modernity to "web2.0" means that as it corrodes and undermines institutions it also corrodes and undermines itself

Initially it has some appearance of looking progressive in general but then it turns on itself, crawls up its own arse and begins to bite

I don't mean that in a cynical way but do believe that those who don't understand this progression will become victims of it

Jennifer K. Lubke said...

Would any of you care to comment on the term "Postmodernism," then? Is that not the moment it starts to "bite" (to borrow Mr. Kerr's colorful expression). Why aren't we framing this newest surge in technological advancement as "Postmodernist"? Or, is that just another rhetorical device to be eschewed? I am really curious about this as I am currently participating in a faith-based study of Postmodernism, and technology is a frequent topic of discussion.

Tom Hoffman said...

Jennifer,
Well... how do you define postmodernist?

Jennifer K. Lubke said...

Hmm, I don't mean to be a smart aleck here, but I'm only two weeks into an eight week study on the topic. Just a few weeks ago I had never used the term in a sentence much less as a frame of reference.

On the first day of class (Sunday school) we literally examined the word "Modernism" and how it is generally understood to mean a period of creativity and innovation stimulated by rapid scientific and technological advancement. And, "Postmodernism" is verything AFTER that.

Pretty sketchy, huh? It makes most sense to me when I think about it in terms of orientation, disorientation, and re-orienation.

Tom Hoffman said...

Clearly what we're demonstrating here is that the best way to get a conversation going on the internet is to make a provocative statement that hinges a word for which nobody can agree on the meaning.

Gnuosphere said...

"[...]a provocative statement that hinges a word for which nobody can agree on the meaning."

Spoken like a true socialist!