[-empyre-] post for convergence

katherine hayles nk_hayles at yahoo.com
Sat Jun 12 22:26:29 EST 2010

    Thanks to Michael for his pertinent questions.  What the neurological turn means to me is the indication that in fact changes are taking place in cognitive structures and hence in cognitive responses.  I agree that all such evidence has to be carefully evaluated and skeptically viewed.  Nevertheless, I disagree that cognitive scientists “roll their eyes” at such claims, since cognitive scientists, neurologists and others are doing the research.  This seems to me a way of dismissing the evidence without actually reading and evaluating it.  I have encountered a lot of anecdotal evidence from my colleagues and others at a variety of institutions across the country, but anecdotal evidence (though I myself tend to credit it) is notoriously flawed in trying to answer factual questions.   My questions are these:  are cognitive changes taking place or not, and if so, how long-term are they, how pervasive are they, how are they distributed
 across different demographic groups, and how reversible are they?  Where would one go to answer such questions, if not to current neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, etc?  
         Why are these questions important?  Because they bear directly on what pedagogical strategies will be effective with young people, especially if the evidence indicates (as I think it does) that there are significant demographic differences between, say, my generation, raised, nurtured and immersed in print, and the young people (ages 18-24) whose education is one of my primary responsibilities as a university professor.   If this is correct, I can’t necessarily assume that what I find persuasive, obvious, etc. is going to seem so to my students.  The more I can find out about how they are likely to respond, how they process information, what assumptions undergird their reading practices, the better chance I have of reaching them effectively.  Of course, I can experiment on my own (as all teachers do, I imagine), changing syllabi, trying different assignments, etc., but why would I neglect available evidence that can shed light on
 my questions?  Since I was trained as a scientist, I know something about how science can make mistakes, advocate theories that don’t hold up, etc., but looking at evidence skeptically, reading it carefully and understanding its limitations, etc., is not the same as ignoring it.  `I have now read enough of such studies to be convinced myself that real and significant changes are taking place.   Michael makes a good point when he says the better way in to not to assert but to read, evaluate, and deliberate.  I would like to revise my position accordingly and invite others to undertake the same kind of research I have been doing and come to their own decisions about its validity and what it implies.    `   

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