Monday, April 18, 2016

Final Reflections: Michael Trauntvein

My self-directed learning
I consider the first half of the course to have been the most important for me, academically.  During this time I learned the most as a result of the learning I conducted outside of class.  I studied several original works such as Martin Luther's 95 Theses, Sir Francis Bacon's Novum Organum, and newspaper articles about Jack the Ripper.  I enjoyed going to the sources for my learning instead of reading summaries online or in class - I felt that in this manner I learned more and was therefore more capable of valuing the works and the historical period in which they originated.  I typically began my studies on Wikipedia where short biographies and historical summaries helped me formulate an idea of the individual or concept in question, and then went more in-depth by looking at images, reading primary texts, and visiting scholarly websites to learn more and put it in context.  I did this with Martin Luther on January 7 and William Tyndale on January 9, as well as with Jack the Ripper on January 21-22.  Overall, I am please with what I learned, though I wish we had spent more time on the subjects.  I feel as though I attended a banquet, but was only able to enjoy the appetizer.  In my opinion, a mere month of personal study is not nearly enough to cover the last 500 years of world history.  
My evolving project
My project was born from my Midterm Exam follow-up post in which I talked about similarities between the pattern of events of the 20th Century and the 21st Century.  My topic began changing as a result of the cohesive group collaboration which developed about halfway through the project.  Instead of simply reporting on patterns that I had noticed, I tied the topic into that of communication.  As the class topic finally came to light, it became easier for me to continually rework my project to better align with it.  The final, and most helpful thing, was being able to work in a group with Nathan Lambert and Jonah Hainsworth in which we were able to formulate a single argument and apply it to our individual projects.  As the "Patterns of the Past" group project grew stronger, so did my individual project.  My group members had good suggestions for my project, which helped steer it in the direction that it needed to go.
Communication and History
Communication is a near-constant thing for humans - unless we are asleep or otherwise incapacitated, we are always communicating in some way or another.  Anthropologists agree that it was this vital step in evolution - advanced communication - which set homo sapiens ahead of all other animals.  From the earliest forms of oral communication, language was born, and thereby the ability to convey abstract concepts and ideas.  Written communication came next, and finally cellular and digital communication.  Communication in each of these aspects has played its part in shaping the history of mankind.  In fact, it can be said that history hinges on important communications. 
How does history hinge on communication?  A look at our world throughout the ages provides enough evidence.  I was intrigued when I noticed in my studies that events such as the Renaissance, the Protestant Reformation, the American revolution, and even the War on Terror all stemmed from documents of singular import.  The Renaissance from the rediscovery of the Letters of Cicero, the Protestant Reformation from the posting of the 95 Theses, the American Revolution from the Declaration of Independence, and the War on Terror from President Bush’s 2001 ”Speech to Joint Session of Congress”.  Studying these patterns of the past changes our understanding of how the contemporary world works, and how events today are shaped under similar circumstances.
World events are still shaped by communication, though the medium is rapidly shifting.  In lieu of any single great communication that captures the heart of a nation, we see a single Great Communication in which all people, everywhere, collaborate and correspond digitally.  Texts, tweets, and status updates now achieve the same results as the great documents of the past.  History-changing social reform, religious movements, and philosophical remarks now occur through this Great Communication that has spread throughout the globe – a trend which is unlikely to change until the next breakthrough in human communication.  No more are speeches and declarations written by great men necessary to affect change; all we need is a cell phone and a few million followers to say the same thing as us.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting final idea regarding Great Communication that shows some interesting historical sensitivity. I'm sorry you didn't feel as though a month was enough to cover 500 years of history. Perhaps learning how to do self-directed learning and to research topics for projects will enable you to continue your own education later.