Making the Familiar Strange

In her demo lesson today, Lacy led us to consider the ways in which technologies affect our writing. Given just that description you might imagine that we had a heated debate about cell phones in the classroom or a how to session on Prezi. Instead, we explored some older technologies….

To be clear, I didn’t actually eat the paper, but I did taste it 🙂

Lacy distributed different types of writing paper and after exploring it with our senses we wondered about the following questions.

  • What is the purpose of the lines on the paper?
  • Who decides where the lines go?
  • What do the lines do to or for you?
  • Where does paper come from?

One of the things I liked best about the demo was the way in which it made a familiar technology (paper) strange by inviting us to consider it in ways we might not usually. Lil noted this decontextualization in her tweet.

Lacy then invited to consider how the words on the pages of children’s books varied in their layout from the lines that we saw on the pieces of paper. Finally, we returned to the question that we were invited to write about at the beginning of the demo: How do technologies enable and constrain writing?

I looked at text in Peter Reynold’s Dot

In thinking this evening about the idea of making the familiar strange, I was reminded of the first chapter in Sam Wineberg’s Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts. He describes Bob Alston, a historian in one of Wineberg’s studies, as an “expert in cultivating puzzlement” (21). I love that phrase! Wineberg points out that as history teachers and as students of history we, and our students, are often tempted to “view the past through the lens of the present,” assuming that people in the past acted a we would (19). He notes that we should cultivate a humility toward people of the past by “casting doubt on our ability to know them as easily as we know ourselves” (22). History requires an “education of the sensibilities” and “what allows us to know others is our distrust in our capacity to know them, a skepticism about the extraordinary sense-making abilities that allow us to construct the world around us” (23-24).

3 thoughts on “Making the Familiar Strange

  1. Although you make many interesting points in your writing, the picture of you tasting the paper really says it all for me. Just kidding! Making the familiar strange was a great idea that came out of today’s demo. Thank you for drawing my attention back to it!

  2. I love this idea of “cultivating puzzlement,” it feels very much like “yes, and”ing a person. Listening, thinking, solving, instead of judging or assuming. In addition to puzzlement, I’d throw in curiosity 🙂

  3. I am finding your connection to our lenses on history so useful- The idea of having a humble perspective and trying to see our own lens as strange. I think ivascilate between two extremes of over humility (good girl syndrome) and critique-all (response to own good girl syndrome, be critical of everything). So anyway this pulling together of humility and critique, this blending, is something I really want to work on. Thanks for the help with that.

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