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<nettime-ann> Robert K. Logan: THE SIXTH LANGUAGE
Geert Lovink on Mon, 3 Jul 2006 19:17:50 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime-ann> Robert K. Logan: THE SIXTH LANGUAGE

The Sixth Language by Robert K. Logan

The Internet, the Sixth Language and the Evolution of Notated Language: A McLuhan Perspective
Tonight, on July 3rd 2006, Robert K. Logan will present his new book "The Sixth Language" at the ICT&S Center. Linking McLuhans theories to the revolution in communication and technologies, Logan will present a new way of speaking which is evolving around us. Changes in language and our behaviour and alternative perspectives on communication technologies cannot be divided but should rather be seen as accompanying each other.

The Sixth Language updates the work of Marshall McLuhan by applying his ideas to the communications revolution taking place due to digital information technology.

The talk is based on two books by Robert K. Logan: THE SIXTH LANGUAGE: Learning a Living in the Internet Age and Collaborate to Compete: Driving Profitability in the Knnowledge Era co-authored with Louis Stokes.

The Sixth Language updates the work of Marshall McLuhan by applying his ideas to the communications revolution taking place due to digital information technology. Logan's work interweaves ideas which touch on language, education, work, social class, information technology and management theory. He establishes the theoretical background for his study with a succinct and very readable summary of McLuhan's ideas.

Logan develops a new theory of language by showing that a language is not merely a system of communication but also an information processing tool. He goes on to show that speech, writing, mathematics, science, computing and the Internet form an evolutionary chain of verbal languages. A new language evolved each time the informatic capacity of the previous set of languages was exhausted. Math and writing arose to deal with the information overload associated with economic transactions of the agriculture based city states of Sumer.

The schools that evolved to teach the new math and writing skills gave rise to scholarship and a new form of information overload ensued. Science or organized knowledge arose to deal with the new information glut created by the teachers in the newly established schools. Computing developed out of the need to cope with the information overload created by science and the Internet was the response to the info overload and need for greater connectivity of computing.

As Logan weaves his tale of the development of language he also shows how new educational, social, political and economic institutions arise. He then develops a theory of social class based on the notion that agriculture created the aristocratic class; and literacy, the middle class. He then speculates as to whether computers will give rise to a new social class - computerate class.

Turning to education Logan shows how the evolution of language led to the evolution of education. He explains that the reason our schools are so out of touch is that they are Industrial Age institutions trying desperately to meet the needs of the Internet Age and the Knowledge Era. He suggests a radical new way of remedying the malaise of education by proposing that the core curriculum focus on the generic skills associated with the use of the six languages of speech, writing, math, science,
computing and the Internet. He contends that the actual content of the curriculum, the topics that are studied are not important and should be chosen to cater to the students' interests. Once students have mastered the six languages they are then in a position to learn whatever topics or material they require for their work or their personal interest.

Logan proposes an equally radical rethinking of training and education in the work place. He shows how information technology has completely changed the way in which we work and learn; and more importantly, he exposes how the relationship between work and learning has also changed. He explains that one can no longer earn a living by putting in time; but instead, one must now "learn a living'. The only form of job security is life long learning and a set of up-to-date skills that are in demand. His call for life long learning re-echoes the theme of McLuhan's earlier work and that of today's business management literature.

Logan shows how McLuhan's work, Understanding Media, published over 30 years ago anticipated Toffler's observation of the crucial role of knowledge in the production of wealth (Toffler, The Third Wave, 1980 & Powershift, 1990), Hammer and Champy's technique of business process re-engineering (Hammer and Champy, Reengineering the Corporation, 1993), Tapscott and Caston's notion of the extended enterprise (Tapscott and Caston, Paradigm Shift, 1993), Senge's idea of the learning organization (Senge, The Fifth Discipline, 1993) and finally, Drucker's ideas of post-capitalist society and the demise of the dominance of the nation
state (Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society, 1993).

Logan shows how the Internet recaptures the spirit of oral culture. He demonstrates that the new level of connectivity requires more than the mere re-engineering of business processes such as marketing, advertising, sales, customer support, and market research. According to Logan, it requires an actual alignment of these processes because of the way in which they are integrated by the Internet. Logan also suggests that the Internet has become an environment where learning and work come together and that this medium gives rise to the need for knowledge management and collaboration as well as being an essential tool for its practice.

A Brief Biography of Dr. Robert K. Logan

Dr. Logan obtained his B.S. from M.I.T. in 1961 and his Ph.D. also from M.I.T. in 1965. He spent two years at U. of Illinois as a research associate and came to the University of Toronto in 1967. He is Professor Emiritus of Physics. He served as a member of the board of the McLuhan Program at U of T.

He was cross-appointed to the Curriculum Department of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education where he conducts research in computer applications in education and the social impacts of technology and communications. He was a seniour fellow at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University where he taught and conducted research in the area of the cross impact of science and the environment. He is an active member of the Pugwash movement.

He was a policy advisor to Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau and has edited two collections of essays on Canadian politics, The Way Ahead for Canada; and Canada's Third Option.

Dr. Logan is the author of three books on communications cum linguistics:

The Alphabet Effect (Wm. Morrow 1986; 2nd edition Hampton 2004)
The Fifth Language: Learning a Living in the Computer Age (Stoddart 1995)
The Sixth Language: Learning a Living in the Internet Age (Stoddart Press, Toronto, 2000) which won the Suzanne K. Langer Prize of the Media Ecology Association.
He has also authored:

Collaborate to Compete: Driving Profitability in the Knowledge Economy (Wiley 2004).
The Extended Mind: the Origins of Language, Thought, and Culture (submited for publication).
Another book is in preparation: Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall McLuhan
He is the author of numerous articles and studies in many fields including physics, education, communications, linguistics, knowledge management, science popularization, politics and peace studies. His current research foci are 1. collaboration, 2. the origins of speech and culture using a chaos theory perspective and 3. bioinformatics and biosemiotics.

A selection of his writings can be accessed on the following Web page: http://www.physics.utoronto.ca/undergraduate/SCI_199Y/readinglist.html

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