Throughout the 20th century, many considered the relationships between our use of language and our behaviors and attitudes.  New languages were invented -- such as Esperanto and Basic English -- in the hopes that they would become "universal" and, as a result, bring about a more harmonious world.  Others, such as Alfred Korzybski with his General Semantics, proposed that by changing our use of language, we could become "sane" -- individually and collectively.  Still others, including the celebrated Noam Chomsky, searched (in vain) for a Universal Grammar, with which a far more active intervention into "controlling" human behaviors might be mounted.  Some even devised schemes for "self-brainwashing," such as the celebrated Neuro-Linquistic Programming.

However, with the crucial exception of Marshall McLuhan and his colleagues at University of Toronto, these efforts were uniformly ignorant about the effects of technological environments -- typically presuming that "language" is simply a matter of written/spoken symbols.  At the Center, we believe that this entire field of inquiry needs to be fundamentally re-examined in the light of digital technology and its effects on humanity.

Walter Ong, at one time a graduate student of McLuhan's, proposed that electronic media produced a state of "secondary orality" in those habituated to it use -- effectively recalling the mental state of humanity before the invention of writing/literacy (circa 500BC) in what some have called the Axial Age.  We are convinced that digital technology does something different and suspect that this might be understood as "secondary literacy" -- recalling the sensibility which developed in the "middle ages" as learning shifted from oral to become literate under manuscript conditions.

These considerations open a vast array of research opportunities with fundamental consequences.  The Center intends to vigorously explore these areas of research.

Welcome!

Mark Stahlman

The Center for the Study of Digital Life (CSDL) is a not-for-profit strategic research group dedicated to understanding the effects of digital technologies on civilizations -- both East and West.

-Mark Stahlman