In two days I will be in Vancouver for the meeting of the Canadian Association for the Study of Discourse and Writing held at the University of British Columbia, where I taught from 1977 to 1987. What a treat it will be to be back in that glorious city! The topic I’m working on is a rethinking of the relationship between speaking and writing, and I have been having a lot of fun tracing this relationship from ancient times to the present. I’ve been pondering the effects that the hegemony of writing has had and the recent resurgence of speaking and orality/aurality as major means of communication, not to mention the importance of sound and soundscapes to understanding, learning, and knowing. (I have also re-read, with admiration, Cindy Selfe’s dynamite article from a decade ago, “The Movement of Air, the Breath of Meaning: Aurality and Mjultimodal Composing” in CCC, June 2009.)
And I am puzzling over the contrast between Plato’s notion of speech as “the living word of knowledge, which has a soul” and the work of artificial intelligence to bring us talking robots and digital assistants who speak to us and seem, according to my students, “almost real.” What to make of these innovative “speakers” and the voice recognition technology that offers both powerful opportunities and perilous pitfalls. How will teachers of writing and speaking define “talk” now that speech is clearly “post-human”?
I will be writing more about these issues soon. But first, I am going to go to Vancouver and immerse myself in its beauty, see old friends, and walk around the campus I once knew so well. And then, I am going to take a bit of a summer break. I’ll be working on writing projects, for sure, but I will also be catching up on the latest Louise Penny books, taking long soaks in the hot tub, and being grateful for all the summers I’ve enjoyed—and hoping for more!
I wish you a summer of rest and restoration, and some happy reading and writing!