One of my guilty pleasures masked as ‘research’ is browsing google images. During recent quests I have searched for images related to terms such as ‘learning’ and ‘literacy’, which turned ou to be a fascinating exploration of metaphors that we live and think by. Here are some illustrations that I liked:
This one perfectly sums up how I feel about the Internet, especially when I spend time in my favorite tiny village in the Austrian countryside, a place that does not even have a shop or a pub, and where the houses are dark by 10 pm, so you can see the stars in the night sky unlike near any larger city. There I feel comfortably enveloped by the quiet of nature and at the same time connected to the world of human activity through the computer. Interestingly, the nodes in this image are forming not a network but are branching out like a tree. I could not track the original source of this image – it can be found on multiple sites.
This illustration is by Mads Berg for a Wired article by “Clive Thompson on the New Literacy”. I like the way alphabetic text is represented by scribbles, pouring out of the keyboard as a neverending scroll, opening speech bubbles, scrolling through the phone, taking shapes of flowers and leaves.
Also with this one I could not trace the source. The picture can probably be read in several ways, it is slightly mysterious to me. The little isolated boy in the foreground seems sad. Is it because the other children are having fun exploring the media world, while he is stuck with an oldfashioned desk and paper? Or is he, in his thinker’s pose just contemplating things, happily?
This image by Derek Lee illustrates the essay “Expanding the Concept of Literacy” by Elisabeth Daley published by educause in 2003. It is a pretty illustration, showing a wide range of media from printed paper to the computer, from film scroll to audio speaker. It could be read as a constructivist view – the media machines inside the head creating the world, as the media images are projected from the eye onto many screens. Other people, the social world is missing in this images, as in most of the ones I have picked here.
The Tree of Knowledge, of course, is a powerful image, here appropriated for ‘learning’. (Also with this one I could not trace the source.) The little guy – is he happy and relaxed because he is (yet) oblivious of the pursuit of knowledge, or is he enjoying the fruits of his learning? Learning is represented by books only here.
In that sense I prefer this clip art image, with multimodal fruits hanging off the tree of knowledge. (Again, for both images I could not trace the original sources.)
Almost all of these images include a notion of “the world’ as a circular or encircling entity, and again five out of six, somehow, include the notion of a tree. At least in this selection, learning and literacy seem to be quite lonely activities.