socratic dialogue


Andrew Schneider
ICM – Socratic Dialogue
Dan O’Sullivan
November 1st, 2005

Andrew: What is this?

Andrew: (pause) What is what.

Andrew: This…what is this?

Andrew: I have no idea what your’re talking about.

Andrew: here…this…now…

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: You know…this…around us…here…us…manifest…

Andrew: What. This?

Andrew: Yes. This…exactly

Andrew: What.

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: We’re in a paper.

Andrew: Excuse me?

Andrew: We’re in a paper.

Andrew: A paper?

Andrew: A paper.

Andrew: I don’t understand.

Andrew: A paper. We’re in a graduate school paper.

Andrew: Oh a paper. Graduate you say? Hmm…doesn’t seem like it.

Andrew: What…the font is standard…Times New Roman I think.

Andrew: Yeah but the format is all off. Look at our indents. Where’s the thesis statement? Where’s the vocabulary. Where is the slightest notion of intelligibility in anything between us so far? The font? You wanna talk about font? The font means nothing, I was written in “Edwardian Script ITC” once for a bowling league schedule.

Andrew: Ouch…hey at least that’s better than “Abadi MT Condensed Extra Bold” for a wedding anniversary invitation.

Andrew: What year?

Andrew: 25.

Andrew: Jesus.

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: What.

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: what.

Andrew: Nothing…it’s just odd how jokes don’t really work here.

Andrew: What…they work.

Andrew: mnmm.

Andrew: Sure they do.

Andrew: Not if no one reads them.

Andrew: They can still work between us.

Andrew: No way. We’re too disparate by ourselves. That first joke isn’t even on the same page we’re on now. We have no way of telling what going on.

Andrew: Well…thanks for spoiling that for me.

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: So…what do we do?

Andrew: Well. Let’s look at what we have. We’re in a grad paper, but obviously one slightly askew, possibly a script.

Andrew: A script where we’re playing ourselves. We’ve never done that before.

Andrew: Well, regardless, we might as well establish some character traits.

Andrew: But look.

Andrew: What?

Andrew: There:

Andrew: What?

Andrew: There it just happened again.

Andrew: What did?

Andrew: Ha! there on the left did you see it?

Andrew: no.

Andrew: Everytime we switch off…the same name. Andrew.

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: See?

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: “Andrew.”

Andrew: Oh yeah.

Andrew: “Andrew.”

Andrew: Uh-huh.

Andrew: “Andrew.”

Andrew: Yeah I get it.

Andrew: Sorry.

Andrew: Anyway.

Andrew: So…we’re the same.

Andrew: Unless it’s two different Andrew’s.

Andrew: Unlikely.

Andrew: What’s the name at the top say?

Andrew: Oh, we’re way past that page.

Andrew: Ask up.

Andrew: How?

Andrew: Not sure…Try the back or something.

Andrew: Uh…(pause) Okay.

(pause)

No dice…the page before this one’s already been separated.

Andrew: Huh…well…I have never experienced anything quite like this…You?

Andrew: No…me…no.

Andrew: I guess it goes without saying if we’re the same anyway.

Andrew: The same, but we exist in different times.

Andrew: Not really, we get created at different times, but…we exist here now.

Andrew: How do you know.

Andrew: Cause look…on this page alone. That top one of you is still there. Even now.

Andrew: Oh yeah…well look at that. So we get created at different times, but exist here now.

Andrew: Even if no one sees us?

Andrew: Even if no one sees us. You know…the whole…if-a-tree-falls-in-the- forest-and-no-one-hears-it type thing.

Andrew: We’ll that’s half the reason we’re here in the first place.

Andrew: What.

Andrew: You know. Logging…falling trees…the mill…

Andrew: Right right right. So yeah…for the most part we’re here now even if no one knows it.

Andrew: And so what happens next?

Andrew: And so…we hopefully get paid attention to once or twice.

Andrew: Once or twice?

Andrew: People are busy.

Andrew: Once or twice? People are busy? We just got wrote so someone will see us once or twice?

Andrew: Well, we didn’t just get “wrote” as you’ve put it.

Andrew: What do you mean?

Andrew: As far as I can tell, we were wrote probably more than 48 hours ago. I glanced quick at the top before when we were on the first page. Missed the name, but the date said “November 1st, 2005.” Taking into account we’re a grad school paper, it’s probably not even November 1st anymore.

Andrew: wow. Time flies. I still feel like I just came out of someone’s head.

Andrew: Who’s ever reading this might feel the same way.

Andrew: How’s that.

Andrew: Well who’s ever reading this, assuming they are doing so critically and following the page numbe-

Andrew: Wait.

Andrew: What.

Andrew: Look. No page numbers. We could get out of order at anytime.

Andrew: I think we’ll be okay. Chronologically, we relate to eachother in a pretty specific way, language-wise. We stop making sense if one of our pages gets out of order or something. It’s a natural indicator of how we’re supposed to be ordered.

Andrew: Assuming that we even make sense now.

Andrew: Well, yes, assuming that we make sense now. The only difficult or mildly confusing thing might be that we’re the same – that we’re both “Andrew.”

Andrew: Yeah…almost like we could…

Andrew: …finish eachother’s sentences?

Andrew: Nice work.

Andrew: Thanks.

Andrew: Let’s do another one.

Andrew: This

Andrew: is

Andrew: fun.

Andrew: (they both laugh.)

Andrew: Ridiculous.

Andrew: Okay. Anyhow…let’s get back to it.

Andrew: Right…so…we’re the same. that may be confusing to the reader

Andrew: We’re the same, which can be confusing to the reader true, but that may also give the reader liscence to not differentiate innate characteristics between the two of us, making it easier on him anyhow.

Andrew: Him or her.

Andrew: What?

Andrew: Him or her.

Andrew: No, I’m pretty sure it’s a him. When I glanced at the date, I think I caught the the Professor’s name. Taking into account our informal form, it’s a good bet he’s the only one going to be reading this.

Andrew: Oh. (pause) I see.

(silence)

hello?

(silence)

Andrew?

(silence)

huh. well…looks like it’s just me here now. (pause) whew. Uh…so…guess I’ll just talk to you then. You. The one looking at me. Yup.
So. You’re reading this in real time to yourself. But I’m not in real time. I’ve been thought up already. Maybe I’ll give birth to other tiny fragments inside your head. Then you can write those little guys in the margins where we can interact, or at least realate to eachother, at least to the eyes of someone else. Essentially, this is the only way you have of talking directly back to me. And even though you can, you can’t really change anything I am doing, or will do, language-wise. It’s an odd thing. I’m not actually speaking to you (or as it would logically make more sense to write it, “Your not actually speaking to me.” taking into account the fact that I’m not speaking, but writing, and for a specific audience, you, who I can only assume are reading this to yourself and are not having it read to you by another person or even some sort of software program, I may as well script it so that when you are reading it to yourself, inside your head, “you” becomes “me.” This would seem to be a way of putting words in your mouth to make this text relate more closely to “me” (“me” meaning “you”) however there exists no empirical evidence that this method approaches any sort of effectiveness, and quite the contrary seems to lead to much confusion, even as I (“you”) am (“are”) writing this, and striving to bend it into a shape that makes sense, using a limited number of tools and cues such as italics to actually communicate subtleties of meaning in writing that are much more easily gleaned through hearing spoken text in all of it’s sublte intricacies and implied meanings.)…rather, indicating through alphabetic symbols, which in turn form larger entities of words, which by themselves and out of context contain no life, but once strung together (like this one here) you start to gather a semblance of meaning. It is also interesting to note here that although these alphabetic symbols contain their own meaning, you are probably not painstakingly analyzing and pondering each letter to ascertain a whole. It most likely lies in the shape of the word on the page and what word is next to it…it’s context. I say shape, because it has been proven that, on average, most literate adults can read lowercase text slightly faster than they can parse through text in all CAPS. Further, the shape of the word, as well as the starting and ending letter have more to do with your subesqeunt undesrtnading of the word as an entity than do the wrote ordinal charcaterisitcs. As you have just experienced from your successful assimilation of the last line. This seems to be most true when dealing with the written English language. If spoken “correctly,” and following verbatim the actual words contained in that “last line” would come out slightly malformed. How do you pronounce “subesqennt undesrtnading?” It no longer makes sense. The words exists as an entity on the page, but as an event when spoken aloud across time. Or even in your head. Try it. “These words are not instantaneous.” It takes time to speak and to think through speech. The first half of the word disappears by the time you get to the second half. This said, or rather, written, what are the implications, then, of this quality of language?

Andrew: I’m back.

Andrew: What? What happened?

Andrew: I don’t know…something with the printer, I skipped a page.

Andrew: Huh.

Andrew: Like time travel.

Andrew: Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Andrew: Right.

Andrew: Since you’re back, I’ll posit that same question to you. What are the implications of the disparate qualities of spoken text as compared to text that is meant to be read to oneself?

Andrew: Well, first off each has its own pro’s and con’s.

Andrew: Uh-huh, such as…

Andrew: …such as live spoken text can give much more information to the receiver, or listener, though the byproducts of accompanying intonation, “up” and “down” endings, subjective qualities, such as sarcasm and even volume, pace, and tempo, all of which can be implied by written text, but the toolset of written text is lightyears behind the toolset of speech.

Andrew: Ah.

Andrew: This is not to say, however, that written text doesn’t possess it’s own exclusive set of very vital characteristics that audible speech can neve attain.

Andrew: Uh-huh, such as…

Andrew: Such as the ability to make corrections without the reader ever knowing it was done. (you may want to add something here about the nature of correcting one’s self in speech and how it can breed distrust.) Or the fact that text is often seen as implicitly carrying more weight that the spoken word. It has been ruminated upon, it has been deemed deserved of being set down to paper, or file.

Andrew: Neil Postman gives a great example in his book, “Amusing Ourselves to Death.” He recalls a time when he was defending his thesis and was challenged with a question regarding his use of a non-textual based reference. In fact Postman had simply overheard the source of the reference speak what he used as the quote casually in a conversation. He even had a witness to back it up. Postman fired back the question of why a textual-based reference was inherently more trusted than an overheard spoken one. The Adjudicating panel gladly agreed to say that Postman had earned his Doctorate rather than write it down anywhere for him.

Andrew: touché.

Andrew: Indeed.

Andrew: So…where does it end?

Andrew: It doesn’t really. The conversation continues even after we don’t appear on the page any longer.

Andrew: Really.

Andrew: Really. Remember. We’re not autonomous. We are mere representations, entities, manifestations of thought that have happened over time.

Andrew: But now we’ve been set to print.

Andrew: For better or for worse, yes.

Andrew: So we should end it.

Andrew: Yup.

Andrew: Alright.

Andrew: Alright.

Andrew: (silence)

Andrew: (silence)