Reading through The Public and its Problems

Reading through Dewey’s famous and still very inspiring book on ‘the public’, from 1927. Still 2 chapters to go. Here’s my digest/summary.

All quotes from: John Dewey, The Public and its Problems, Swallow Press, Ohio UP / New York, Henry Holt & Company, 1927.

” [T]he consequences [of human actions] are of two kinds, those which affect the persons directly engaged in a transaction, and those which affect others beyond those immediately concerned. In this distinction we find the germ of the distinction between the private and the public.” p. 12

“When the consequences of an action are confined, or are thought to be confined, mainly to the person directly engaged in it, the transaction is a private one.” p. 12-13

“Yet if it is found that the consequences of conversation extend beyond the two directly concerned, that they affect the welfare of many others, the act acquires a public capacity.” p. 13

“The distinction between private and public is thus in no sense equivalent to the distinction between individual and social (…). Many private acts are social; their consequences contribute to the welfare of the community or affect its status and prospects. In the broad sense any transaction deliberately carrried on between two or more persons is social in quality. It is a form of associated behavior and its consequences may influence further associations.” p. 13

“It is not without significance that etymologically “private” is defined in opposition to “official”, a private person being one deprived of public position.” p. 15

“The obvious external mark of the organization of a public or of a state is thus the existence of officials. Governement is not the state, for that includes the public as well as the rulers charged with special duties and powers. The public, however, is organized in and through those officers who act in behalf of its interests.” p. 27-28

“[T]he problem of discovering the state (…) is a practical problem of human beings living in association with one another, of mankind generically.” p. 32

“[T]he state is the organization of the public effected through officials for the protection of the interests shared by its members.” p. 33

“[O]ur conception gives a criterion for determining how good a particular state is: namely the degree of organization of the public which is attained, and the degree which its officers are so constituted as to perform their function of caring for public interests.” p. 33

“But there is no a priori rule which can be laid down and by which when it is followed a good state will be brought into existence. In no two ages or places is there the same public.” p. 33

“The formation of states must be an experimental proces.” p. 33

“Those indirectly and seriously afffected for good or for evil form a group distinctive enough to require recognition and a name. The name selected is The Public.” p. 35

“What is the public? If there is a public, what are the obstacles in the way of its recognizing and articulating itself? Is the public a myth? Or does it come into being only in periods of marked social transition when crucial alternative issues stand out, such as that between throwing one’s lot in with the conservation of established institutions or with forwarding new tendencies?’ p. 123

“How can a public be organized, we may ask, when literally it does not stay in place? Only deep issues or those which can be made to appear such can find a common denominator among all the shifting and unstable relationships.” p. 140

“Attachement is a very different function of life from afffection. Affections will continue as long as the heart beats. But attachement requires something more than organic causes. The very things which stimulate and intensify affections may undermine attachements. For these are bred in tranquil stability; they are nourished in constant relationships. Acceleration of mobility disturbs them at their root. And without abiding attachements associations are too shifting and shaken to permit a public readily to locate and identify itself.” p. 140-141

“The new era of human relationships in which we live is one marked by mass production for remote markets, by cable and by telephone, by cheap printing, by railway and steam navigation.” p. 141

“The ties which hold men together in action are numerous, though and subtle. But they are invisible and intangible. We have the physical tools as never before. The thoughts and aspirations congruous with them are not communicated, and hence are not common. Without such communication the public will remain shadowy and formless, seeking spasmodically for itself, but seizing and holding its shadow rather than its substance. Till the Great Society is converted into a Great Community, the Public will remain in eclipse. Communication can alone create a great community.” p. 142

en,quotations,reading matter,research,ubiscribe | September 24, 2006 | 21:54 | comments (1) |

60 / 2.16

Zondagrondje Mechelse Heide. 12.00 – 14.30. Bewolkt en warm (26 graden?), soms wat zon. Zomers. Weer langs het kanaal & dan door het bos. Thuis de WK kijken. Kanne – kanaal – Rekem – Boorsem – Opgrimbie – Zutendaal – Gelik – Veldwezelt – kanaal – Kanne

cycling,nl | September 24, 2006 | 21:46 | Comments Off on 60 / 2.16 |

Ballard, Kingdom Come & Sorrentino

Just arrived in the post: Ballard’s new novel Kingdom Come. That’ll be my reading matter for the next days — that is, if I managed to tear myself loose from Sorrentino’s Mulligan Stew, a typical postmodern outfit, about an avantgarde novelist trying to write a murder mystery, with his characters discussing their creator. That sort of thing. All about writing and creation. Lots of display of virtuosity, long Joycean lists, lots of verbal invention. The sort of hyper-metafiction that I assumed I was tired of reading, but that turns out to be strangely attractive…

en,reading matter | September 23, 2006 | 20:18 | Comments Off on Ballard, Kingdom Come & Sorrentino |

45 / 1.48

Rustig zaterdag rondje, ging als vanzelf. Omdat het jaapgpad weer probleemloos berijdbaar is (de werkzaamheden aan de brug zijn beëindigd) eens naar het noorden gereden. En zo verrast door de schoonheid van het Maasdal en hoe dichtbij het bos tussen Rekem en Gelik eigenlijk is. Ik was er niet meer geweest sinds, wat, begin juni? Belachelijk warm, zonnig, zelfs benauwd en bijna windstil. Kanne – kanaal – Smeermaas – Rekem – Gelik – kanaal – Kanne

cycling,nl | September 23, 2006 | 20:10 | Comments Off on 45 / 1.48 |

Huge map of the Meuse – Rhine Euregio

There’s now a huge map of the Meuse – Rhine Euregio on the wall next to my studio at the Jan van Eyck. My neighbour-researchers of the Traces of Autism-project are responsible for it ( They have xeroxed all the 1:25.000 maps & glued them together. It’s exactly the area that my cycling-tours cover. The map has my warm attention & I’ve already spent quite some time looking at it, exchanging knowledge about the area with whomever happened to be there.

Here’s Ron Bernstein — also a cyclist — looking at the map.

cycling,en,research | September 22, 2006 | 15:08 | Comments Off on Huge map of the Meuse – Rhine Euregio |

137.5 / 6.20

Dertig graden. Dertig graden? En dat op 21 september en bij stralend zonnig weer. In het Vesdredal was het ‘puffen’. Laatste langere toch van t jaar (denk ik — tenzij ik op mooie oktoberdagen nog eens de Ardennen opzoek. Het is langzamerhand mooi geweest.) Vandaag een aantal Vesdreklims die ik nog niet kende (Rue Pierre Blanche, Cote de Casmatrie, Col de Ninane, Hansez) en de Rue sur Steppes en de Nid d’ Aiguesses voor een 2e keer. Per ongeluk voorbij Saive ook wat fraaie nieuwe weggetjes gevonden. Het was wel de dag van de wegenwerken — zo kon ik de Bois de Beyne niet rijden (werd juist van nieuw asfalt voorzien) en stootte ik 3x op opgebroken wegen.

Kanne – kanaal – Hermalle ss Argenteau – Wixhou – St. Remy – Housse – Barchon – Saive – Tignee – Evegnee – Retinne – Fleron – Rue de Beyne – Beyne – Vaux ss Chevremont – Chaudfontaine – Rue Pierre Blanche – Lemettrie – Beole – omkeren en afdalen – Casmatrie – Cote de Casmatrie – Lemettrie – Chaudfontaine – Ninane – Beaufays – Rue Walthine – Rue de ‘Abbaye – ri. Trooz – rechtsaf omhoog – door het bos, Rue des Bruyeres o.a. – onverhard – Andoumont – Trooz – Fraipont – Rue sur Steppes – Banneux – Tancremont – Pepinster – Nid d’Aiguesse – Ensival – Pepinster – Nessonvaux – Hansez – St. Hadelin – ri., Ayeneux – Wegimont – Micheroux – Retinne – Tignee – Saive – Housse – St. Remy – Vise – kanaal – Kanne

(hmm, sorry for bad quality….)

cycling,nl | September 21, 2006 | 22:08 | Comments Off on 137.5 / 6.20 |

80 / 3.20

Prachtig nazomerweer. Zon, beetje zuidoostenwind & zo’n 24 graden. 16.00 – 19.30. Rondje Haspengouw via fietsknooppunten (soms wel heel erg draaien en keren, bij Tongeren zelfs rechtsaf en na 5 meter weer rechtsaf, en een raar rondje bij Vechmaal om een extra kerk te zien. Eerst richting Alden Biesen, dan 108 – 109 – 119 – 130 – 120 – 139 – doorsteken via Haren naar Bommershoven – 156 – 157 – 133 – 127 – 118 – 117 – 128 – 129 – 107 – 111 – 113 – 86 – doorsteken richting 87 – 80 – 402; oftewel (min of meer): Kanne – Vroenhoven – Lafelt – Vlijtingen – Grote Spouwen – Alden Biesen – Werm – Neerrepen – Kolmont – Haren – Bommershoven – Heks – Vechmaal – Henis – Berg – Genoelselderen – Herderen – Zichen – Eben – Kanne

cycling,nl | September 21, 2006 | 21:53 | Comments Off on 80 / 3.20 |

But that’s exactly the problem…

I just quoted Dan Perkel: “Certainly, it provides an introduction to the medium, and some even may learn more about HTML and CSS as a part of trying to customize their profiles. However, the way in which the MySpace designers use CSS works completely against the point of style sheets” — and that is exactly the problem with MySpace (or MSN or whatever of those kind of environments). They might on the one hand provide some sort of introduction to learning HTML, learning how to express oneself, but it does it in a (relatively) closed-off environment — it will not dawn easily on the users how easy it is to actually just make a website oneself, that HTML can be used freely, and has many more possibilities than those offered within MySpace &c. (Of course MySpace offers a lot of functionalities very easily that are much more difficult to ‘get’ if one would like to do everything oneself).

What is the “bandwidth” of expressivity that MySpace provides? That a certain kind of blogging-software provides? That HMTL provides?

Rationally I understand why people use MySpace and are attracted to it. Personally, –qua feeling — I must say that I don’t get why people like to spend time in (on) such a ugly, yes even clunky (slow loading, players that don’t work immediately &c.) environment.

But then “they” might find this blog totally unattractive…

en,research,software,ubiscribe | September 20, 2006 | 15:24 | Comments Off on But that’s exactly the problem… |

Two articles, academic

Just quickly read 2 articles that seemed interesting.

“Structure of Self-Organized Blogosphere” — (language: international english of the Chinese variety) — pdf here: Which is ‘one of those’ statistical analyses of linking in the blogosphere. Conclusions: ‘the blogging network has small-world property’ and the distribution of links-in and links-out follows a power-law. In other words: here’s a sort of statistical ‘proof’ of the common knowledge that a few celebrity blogs receive lots of incoming links, and most blogs hardly receive links. I’m not so interested in this kind of network-research, it seems to be more about (statistical/mathematical) network-theory, than about communication, flow of information &c. tho’ it’s possible that I miss the point.

“Copy and Paste Literacy: Literacy Practices in the Production of a MySpace Profile – An Overview” by Dan Perkel strikes me as more interesting: a simple and to the point analysis of how MySpace is used. He argues that one could see MySpace as an “informal learning environment that fosters the development of new literacies”. One could state that of a lot of similar enviroments and softwares, I’d say, yet this overview, accompanied by different theories about ‘literacy’ I found worthwhile reading. It is clear and straightforward in its approach — looking at how copy & pasting of code, links, images, music and video is used in MySpace. Although, again it does not go further than confirming what one (well, I) already believe(s). But that’s no so bad… Text is online here:

Found these papers thanks to

Perkel points to the ‘problem’, for theories of literacy, that copy&paste and remixing is generally not seen as ‘writing’. (Well, he writes: “However, the importance of copying and pasting code does not easily fit in the common conventions of reading and writing, consumption and production.”) But what if we’d go back to antique rhetorics, where learning to deal with the tropes and commonplaces, is part of learning to write & construct an argument. To really make that analogy would be stretching the point — yet I’d say that ‘writing’ is also learning to use “pre-fab elements” in a good way. (And then the question is: what is that good way?)

Nice (well, useful, quotable) quotes:

“Genre is the conceptual glue that binds social activity to technical activity. In order to understand what literacy might be, one must pay attention to the particularities of social activity, to the particularities of media, and also to the generic forms and competencies that groups share in their use of a media.” (p. 3)

“Bakhtin argues that, “genres must be fully mastered in order to be manipulated freely,” implying both a mastery of both recognizing generic forms and using them, or generic competencies (80).” (p. 6)

“HTML and CSS, like other programming languages, encourage a particular way of thinking about problems. For example, learning to use them requires learning how to think modularly. The rhetoric concerning the separation of content and style, however useful, embodies a certain way of understanding communication.” (p. 8)

“The idea that same message in different form is still the same message implies that social context of use, the specifics of the activity, and the specifics of the medium have little importance in determining meaning. Regardless of how one feels about this rhetoric, learning to think this way, uncritically, may have important consequences.” (p. 8)

“[H]ow good of a learning environment is MySpace for mastering the representational form and technical competency of web programming? Certainly, it provides an introduction to the medium, and some even may learn more about HTML and CSS as a part of trying to customize their profiles. However, the way in which the MySpace designers use CSS works completely against the point of style sheets.” (p. 8) (Hear me say: “right you are!”)

Now go on to read: Henry Jenkins, “Learning by Remixing”:

blogging,en,quotations,research,software,ubiscribe,writing | September 20, 2006 | 15:06 | Comments Off on Two articles, academic |


Finally taking a look at SPIP — a CMS of French origin, ‘logiciel libre’. Used most in Spain, Italy and France, and much less for English context:

blogging,en,research,software | September 19, 2006 | 13:15 | Comments Off on SPIP |
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