The Medium is the Epistemology

Put a group of people in a room. Give them a whiteboard, pens, and markers. Ask them to develop an idea.

Put the same group of people in another room. Give them pipe cleaners, Play-Doh, a stage, a guitar, and LEGO. Ask them to develop an idea.

How different will the ideas be that emerge from the two different rooms? Do these rooms represent a shift from semantics to somatics? Does each room favour a different ontology above the other? Are we culturally enslaved to a kind of linguistic-bound epistemology at the expense of other ways of knowing?

I know many people who are more than happy to play with bristol board and post-it notes who, when invited into the other room, tend to flee in terror. This observation isn’t a value judgment about them as people. It is interesting to me how culturally conditioned we are to ‘think out loud’ with pen and paper, but not so much with just about everything else. Our culture is so deeply embedded in written language that we seem to equate ‘meaningful thinking’ to ‘letters on a page.’

3 thoughts on “The Medium is the Epistemology

  1. Even among modes of written expression there are those who prefer extreme distraction free writing (iA Writer, Drafts, Ulysses, or Alt-v, u in MS Word) or those who insist on good paper and a fountain pen. This suggests that somatics and semantics may be even more entwined or that people will always find ways to have preferences.

  2. If the people are 4 or 5-year-olds they will embrace the second room. Learning through play is encoded in our DNA. It holds our attention, opens our imagination to possibilities and can lead to unique solutions. Playing is serious business.

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